Britain’s fragile steel industry faces a looming crunch after years of “lurching from one crisis to another’, MPs were warned last night (TUES).
Ministers faced calls to speed-up a deal that could pluck British Steel from receivership, saving 20,000 jobs, during a Westminster Hall debate.
The company plunged into liquidation in May, triggering fears for 4,500 workers employed directly and another 15,500 in the supply chain.
Labour MP Nic Dakin, whose Scunthorpe constituency covers the firm’s biggest plant, led the debate on how to preserve the posts and revive the industry, which the Mirror is campaigning to save.
“We are now reaching a crunch time when warm words need to be matched with further actions to close the deal with prospective buyers,” Mr Dakin said.
“Over the last few years we have bounced from one steel challenge to another.
“Too often steel policy responds to the urgent needs of the now but fails to set out a strategic path for this crucial, foundation industry.
“Instead of lurching from one crisis to another the UK needs a Government that will put a plan for steel in place by responding positively to … strategic asks made by steel MPs, steel trade unions and steel employers with one loud, consistent voice.
“The threat of a no-deal exit from the EU is what has sparked the current crisis.
“Anyone who talks blithely of a no-deal exit is risking steel jobs and steel livelihoods throughout the supply chain – no-do Deal risks no steel.”
There were “serious questions about the sector’s future”, he added
Tory MP Simon Clark hit out at British Steel’s former owner, venture capitalist firm Greybull capital.
The company was heavily criticised over its handling of British Steel’s slide into receivership.
Greybull bought the firm for a token pound in 2016 before throwing its future into doubt in May.
Mr Clark said: “It’s a source of immense frustration the way in which they have, frankly, let their workforce down, the way in which they have allowed the company to reach this very sad situation.”
Greybull has previously defended its conduct, saying: “We revived the British Steel name and had clear ambitions to return the business to its rightful place as a world-class steelmaker.”
Labour’s Sarah Champion turned her fire on the Government, saying its record on steel “has been one of abject failure”.
She added: “It’s a vital strategic industry.”
But Business Minister Andrew Stephenson insisted the Government would “leave no stone unturned” in trying to find a buyer for British Steel.
He added: “I want to see the sector thrive and reward the staff whose expertise and commitment is second to none.”