Steelmakers have issued a series of demands to Boris Johnson in a bid to pump new life into the industry.
Trade body UK Steel called on the Prime Minister to secure tariff free access to EU markets for British metals, avoiding UK firms being hammered with extra costs.
It also wants an easing of electricity costs so plants can compete with European rivals and an overhaul of business rates which would benefit the fragile sector.
UK Steel has produced a 10-page “mini-manifesto” – A New Deal for Steel: Laying the Foundations for a Vibrant UK Steel Industry – which it has sent to key ministers in the new Government.
It says: “The steel industry is already a big investor in the UK, averaging £200million every year across the UK’s five major producers. But we want to invest more, in our plants, in our people and in R&D (research and development).
“If the right business environment can be provided, by the steps outlined in this document, the steel sector is ready to commit to increasing capital investment by an additional £100million a year as well an injection of £50million in new R&D funding over five years.”
Community steelworkers’ union Roy Rickhuss backed the call, saying: “Our industry provides thousands of jobs, it sustains families and whole communities across the UK, and it is time the Government gives it the support it needs to survive.
“Each of the key six asks made by UK Steel in this manifesto are asks made by the weight of our entire industry.
“Support from Government in these six key areas would help create the level playing field that our industry needs to be sustainable and prosperous long into the future.”
Many areas where steel mills and factories are based voted for Brexit and could prove crucial battlegrounds in a snap General Election.
The manifesto comes amid the ongoing uncertainty over the former British Steel plant in Scunthorpe, which has been in receivership since May.
However, insiders believe a deal could be struck this week to sell the business, saving 4,500 jobs and another 15,500 in the supply chain.
MPs urged the Government to stand up for the industry.
Shadow Steel Minister Gill Furniss said: “For too long, the Tories have let down our steel sector offering only warm words and no action.
“The Government must now urgently support a steel sector deal to tackle the disparity in electricity prices, business rates and crucially, to avoid a no-deal Brexit which would be catastrophic for the industry.
“The Labour Party will ensure a level playing field for our steel industry.”
The secretary of Parliament’s cross-party group on steel, Labour MP Anna Turley, said: “Successive governments have not recognised the value of steel and the role it has to play in our economy.
“I urge the new government to take a fresh look at UK Steel’s New Deal for Steel. Lets stop lurching from crisis to crisis and back British steelmaking.”
Ms Turley, whose Redcar constituency was clobbered by the closure of the SSI plant in 2015, which more than 4,000 workers lose their jobs, added: “This is about sweeping away the domestic barriers British steelmakers currently face to fair competition, like high energy costs and a business rates system which discourages investment.
“It is also about boosting research and development so that the new and greener steels of the future can be invented and made in Britain.”
UK Steel director Gareth Stace said: “It’s time for the Government to take action on sky high energy prices, reform the business rates regime and back British industry when it comes to big ticket Government contracts.
“It is entirely possible for the UK to have a strong and sustainable steel industry, every other major developed economy does. The steel industry is ready to invest in its future in the UK, all it requires is a partnership with the Government that can deliver those actions and unlock its potential.”
The Mirror launched our Save Our Steel campaign as the industry was battered by thousands of job losses and plant closures in 2015.
Source: Read Full Article