Sheffield MP Gill Furniss on her shadow steel minister appointment: 'I was absolutely gobsmacked'

Sheffield Brightside & Hillsborough MP Gill Furniss is the shadow steel minister. Picture: Parliament TV

Sheffield Brightside & Hillsborough MP Gill Furniss is the shadow steel minister. Picture: Parliament TV

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Sheffield's newest MP Gill Furniss had only been elected a matter of months before she got a tap on the shoulder to join Jeremy Corbyn's front bench team.

Gill readily admits being 'absolutely gobsmacked' when asked to become the shadow steel minister but adds the role is one she is getting stuck into.

A worker at Tata Steel in Stocksbridge. Picture: Scott Merrylees

A worker at Tata Steel in Stocksbridge. Picture: Scott Merrylees

Gill is the daughter of a steel worker born and bred in a city which was made famous from the product - the job certainly fits the mold.

But 59-year-old fears the ongoing turmoil battering Sheffield's much loved industry could trigger a new wave of redundancies in the UK, like those which inspired the iconic film, The Full Monty.

However, despite months of gloom and uncertainty there's been some good news at last.

Huge South Yorkshire employer Tata announced it was in 'exclusive negotiations' with Liberty Group to buyout their Specialist Steels business. If the deal is signed, it would secure 1,700 steelworkers' jobs in Stocksbridge and Rotherham.

Workers at Tata Steel in Rotherham. Picture: Scott Merrylees

Workers at Tata Steel in Rotherham. Picture: Scott Merrylees

She said: “After months of worry, steelworkers and their families in South Yorkshire at last have some certainty over what the future holds.

“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 saving steel. Now is the time to act.

She said the Steel MPs, representing constituencies across Sheffield and South Yorkshire were extremely disappointed from the recent Autumn statement.

It had nothing in it to reassure the steel industry," Gill said.

Sheffield Brightside & Hillsborough MP Gill Furniss is the shadow steel minister

Sheffield Brightside & Hillsborough MP Gill Furniss is the shadow steel minister

"I'll be writing to the minister and the PM on this - we need assurances from the government to support this vital industry."

Gill previously served as parliamentary private secretary for energy under Wigan MP Lisa Nandy. But in late September, shadow business secretary Clive Lewis, one of Jeremy Corbyn's most senior cabinet members, asked her to step up.

"He had a word with me at the party conference and asked me if I was interested," Gill said.

"I assumed he asked me to be PPS if I was lucky, so when I got the call to I was absolutely gobsmacked.

Hundreds of South Yorkshire jobs could be saved at Tata Steel after a buyer was found for the UK business

Hundreds of South Yorkshire jobs could be saved at Tata Steel after a buyer was found for the UK business

Gill explained the issues facing the steel industry today and said the issue of 'Chinese dumping' where cheap steel floods the UK market is a 'huge issue'

"This government has to protect the steel workers it's a foundation industry and it's so important for the economy," she said.

"Nissan for instance, a big reason why they're located here is because they can get UK home grown steel which is top quality.

"We need to get more of these promises - the government need to start putting the money where their mouth is in terms getting public contract for home grown steel here in the UK.

"They promised 40 per cent of public contracts and the first thing they did was source steel for the Trident nuclear weapons system from France which is just a real slap in the face for workers within the industry and workers in Sheffield.

Steel runs in Sheffield's blood and people are still as passionate as ever to the industry that plastered Sheffield's name around the world.

"People on the doorstep are very vocal about the industry, especially what happened to Forgemasters when the Coalition government cancelled the loan.

"People were so angry, I've never seen such anger. You were never short of people signing petitions outside Sheffield Town Hall.

"It's a massive industry and in Sheffield especially, we are fiercely proud of our history and our steel heritage."

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