Government criticised for 24 years of inequality and inaction after Liz Truss snubs Cutlers' Feast in Sheffield

Manufacturers at the Cutlers’ Feast in Sheffield were hailed for their crucial role in the pandemic and building a ‘green industrial revolution’ - but the Government was criticised for 24 years of inequality and inaction.

Friday, 17th September 2021, 9:30 am

Senior Warden James Tear, who will become Master Cutler next month, praised his sector for making ventilators, equipment and vaccines in the country’s ‘hour of need’.

Speaking to hundreds of senior figures at the Cutlers’ Hall last night, he also said they would play a key part in the transition to a net zero carbon economy by cutting emissions and developing ‘innovative products, processes and services’.

But there was disappointment after Liz Truss cancelled her appearance less than 24 hours before the event, after being moved from International Trade to Foreign Secretary.

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Principal guests at the Cutlers' Feast including, front from left: the Lord Lieutenant, Master Cutler and Alex Stafford MP, with a guard of honour by the Yorkshire Regiment.

The snub made Mr Tear’s criticism of longstanding inequalities in transport and education spending more poignant.

He said: “Twenty four years ago, our senior warden stood on this very spot and highlighted in his speech that the level of public spending on education and transport in both London and Scotland was over 30 per cent greater than in this region.

“I stand here this evening nearly a quarter of a century later and highlight the same inequalities that my father asked to be resolved.

“We need investment in our schools, our children and our next generation of employees.

The 378th Cutlers' Feast at the Cutlers' Hall, Sheffield.

“We need world class infrastructure systems. I believe this Government is able to deliver the solution. Do this and be assured you can safely leave the rest to us.”

Billed as the most important business dinner north of London, the Feast traditionally attracts top politicians and even the Prime Minister.

It is organised by the 397-year-old Company of Cutlers in Hallamshire, which represents the region’s manufacturers.

It is usually held in May, but was cancelled last year and postponed this year due to the pandemic.

Nick Williams has stayed on for a second year as Master Cutler.

In his speech he remembered ‘those who have suffered and continue to suffer due to the pandemic’.

And he spoke out on the Government’s inaction on steel.

He said: “During my senior warden’s speech of 2019 I criticised the Government on the uncertainties of steel tariffs, the energy price disparity and its own procurement guidelines. No change there then!

“But I must briefly return to the UK’s sky high industrial energy prices that have long undermined the competitiveness of the UK’s energy intensive industries, perhaps most prominently and pertinently for Sheffield, the steel industry.

“This issue, as the senior warden said, is becoming even more urgent with the growing and understandable need to rapidly de-carbonise.

“All options available to us will hugely increase electricity consumption across the sector. How on earth can companies attract massive investment for such a transition in a country with the highest industrial power price in Europe? Some 84 per cent above the European median.

“But we must and will for the sake of our planet strive for that net zero target.

“2021 is a milestone year and the worlds spotlight will shine on the UK and COP26.”

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Thank you. Nancy Fielder, editor.