Penistone and Stocksbridge MP Miriam Cates praises Liz Truss's decision to extend safeguards against cheap foreign steel being dumped in UK

A Conservative MP representing a Yorkshire steel town has praised the Government for extending safeguards aimed at protecting the historic industry from cheap foreign imports.

Thursday, 1st July 2021, 11:37 am
Updated Thursday, 1st July 2021, 1:54 pm

International Trade Secretary Liz Truss announced on Wednesday that she had accepted a recommendation from the new Trade Remedies Authority to axe measures to defend the steel sector from imported metal dumped on the world market.

The Leeds-educated Minister said the Government only had the option of accepting or rejecting the recommendations in full, which said quotas and tariffs should be retained for 10 categories of steel for three years, and revoked in nine others.

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Labour had previously warned that ending trade safeguard measures could see the UK become a "magnet for large quantities of foreign steel" and put thousands of jobs across the North at risk. Picture by Getty Images from Rotherham

However she said she would now introduce a public notice to launch a temporary extension on a further five of the 19 steel products for one year. "Imports outside the quotas will face a tariff of 25 per cent," she said.

Labour had previously warned that ending trade safeguard measures could see the UK become a "magnet for large quantities of foreign steel" and put thousands of jobs across the North at risk.

Paul Blomfield, Labour MP for Sheffield Central, hailed the decision made a few hours before the deadline as a “huge victory for Sheffield steel”.

Miriam Cates the Conservative MP for Penistone and Stocksbridge whose constituency includes hundreds of Liberty Steel workers, was among those welcoming the move.

She said: "These safeguards are vital to protect the UK steel industry from unfair trade practices, and I'm delighted that the Government has recognised the importance of extending them.

"I've been working for months with colleagues in the Conservative Steel Caucus to persuade the Prime Minister and Secretary of State of the need to make these legal changes. They fully agree on the value of a strong UK steel industry to our economy, and the jobs that rely on it.

"Communities like Stocksbridge are built around steel, and I know from speaking to management and unions just how important having a level playing field is for the industry locally."

Mr Blomfield had previously written to the Prime Minister and emphasised the importance of the steel industry to Sheffield’s economy. He told Boris Johnson: “Scrapping the safeguards threatens high quality, well-paid jobs in areas like mine which really benefit from steel manufacturing”.

And he pointed out that “the median steel sector salary is £34,299, 45 per cent higher than the regional median in Yorkshire & Humberside and Wales, where most of the industry’s jobs are currently concentrated.”

He said in a statement: “This is a huge victory for Labour and for the industry, which has fought the removal of these safeguards. The Government’s u-turn at the last minute when they were backed into a corner is a relief, but I remain concerned over their failure to listen to the industry.

“Going forward, we will keep up pressure for the reform of the Trade Remedies Authority to represent the views of workers and industry, and consider the impact of its decisions on communities like ours.

“This shows that we need better scrutiny of the Government’s trade policy, as we’ve seen time and time again that they’re all too eager to throw British industry under the bus to get a quick headline about a post-Brexit trade deal.

"We also need the Government to develop long-term plan for our steel industry, based on investment and modernisation to support low-carbon production.”

Unite assistant general secretary Steve Turner said: "The can has just been kicked down the road. In another year's time, the threat of cheap imports destroying UK jobs will be back again.

"UK steel can't keep limping from crisis to crisis like this. We urgently need a plan and Government support to bring some stability and security to this strategically vital sector."

Last month, a report said Yorkshire and the North could become a world leader in green steel in a move which could save thousands of jobs across the region if Ministers and industry leaders "act now".

The region's historic but carbon-intensive steel industry could achieve net zero status by 2035, according to think-tank IPPR North, by harnessing the potential of electrification, carbon capture storage, and hydrogen technologies.

Its report, backed by many of the region's politicians and business figures, says decarbonising northern steel would cost an average of £267m a year by 2050 but would "help lay the foundations for a stronger, low-carbon and productive industry".

And it says the rewards and acting quickly could be "significant", with economies around the world likely to start imposing extra charges on materials produced with more polluting methods.