Column: It’s time for government to act

The steel industry is reportedly a 'low' priority in Brexit talks
The steel industry is reportedly a 'low' priority in Brexit talks
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This government is a complete shambles. We’ve seen them fail to protect our NHS and other vital public services, we’ve seen the leaked memos which prove they don’t have a plan for Brexit and we’ve seen them stand by and watch while insecurity at work is on the rise.

Despite all this, nowhere is the government’s absolute failure to stand up for working people clearer than it is through the steel crisis.

Steelworkers in our region and across the country have lived with a dark cloud of uncertainty hanging over them, their families and their local communities for more than a year as they wait to see what the future holds.

Despite these difficulties, they continue to work hard and to deliver what has been asked of them by Tata Steel.

For months the Labour Party alongside Unite, Community and the GMB have been in discussions with the company and government at the highest levels with the aim of securing a sustainable future for steelworkers in this country and the fight is by no means over.

The recent news that Tata Steel is to sell its Speciality Steels business to the Liberty House Group was obviously welcome – especially as initial reports say that it’s a move which could save around 1,700 jobs – but, as they say, the devil is in the detail.

It is important that we see real job security for the workforce, as well as a commitment to securing the future of the British Steel Pension Scheme and concrete investment plans from the Liberty House Group going forward.

Make no mistake, the latest announcement is a step in the right direction but there are still huge challenges facing the steel industry nationally and we shouldn’t be complacent. On energy prices, on business rates, on procurement – the government has made all the right noises about promoting a strong industrial strategy – and it is clear that saving British steel should be at the heart of this.

But their warm words have not been matched by actions. The Autumn Statement last month made no mention of the steel industry at all, and the Steel Council, which was set up in March to bring together industry, unions, and government ministers to discuss the steel sector’s long-term future, hasn’t met since June.

It is time for the government to show the value of their promises. It is time for them to act.