Minsiters should help Save Our Steel by buying British metal for a string of multi-billion pound government projects, Labour urges today.
In his first major intervention since returning to the party’s frontbench, Shadow Business Secretary Ed Miliband called on the Tories to show their faith in UK industry.
The former party leader told the Mirror: “This crisis has shown once again that we neglect our manufacturing base at our peril.
“It is vital to our success and resilience as a country.
“There is significant potential support in the pipeline. It needs to be brought forward to help secure the industry’s future.”
The struggling steel sector has come under mounting pressure in the coronavirus crisis, with orders “falling off a cliff”, according to insiders.
Experts fear for its long-term future unless action is taken.
In a letter to Business Secretary Alok Sharma, Mr Miliband and Shadow Business Minister Lucy Powell say: “Ministers should boost the steel industry now as a cornerstone sector for a strong and sustained economic recovery.
“Britain will need a resilient and revitalised manufacturing base in order to provide construction and infrastructure projects with a stable supply of domestic steel.
“The Government has signalled its intent to move ahead with £640billion of infrastructure projects.
“These projects could provide important opportunities for UK-based steel manufacturers if the Government does all it can to buy from domestic producers.
“The Government’s HS2 project alone will require two million tonnes of steel over 10 years, and could provide a £1.5billion boost to our economy and safeguard thousands of steel jobs.”
Labour wants steel manufacturers to have better access to loans so operations can continue.
The party also calls for the Government to help the industry “shift to low carbon production methods to support climate objectives and make the industry world-leading” and “commit to placing the UK’s steel sector at the heart of the Government’s economic recovery plans by maximising the economic value to the UK of new public infrastructure investment, by taking a strategic approach to the public procurement of steel”.
The letter to Mr Sharma, seen by the Mirror, adds: “We urge you to move beyond dialogue to action if we are to avoid the decimation of our manufacturing base.
“It’s time for Government to significantly up its game to save businesses and jobs.”
Community steelworkers’ union Roy Rickhuss said: “We welcome the wider call for support for our steel industry.
“The case for action to support UK steel companies through this pandemic is overwhelming and compelling.
“We urgently need the Government to step-up and step-in to support steel.
“We have welcomed the measures government has put in place for businesses but steel companies face some very particular challenges and it needs a bespoke response from government.
“We hope ministers will heed the calls from across the steel sector so that this key foundation industry can survive the coming months, then thrive in the future and play its part in the recovery.”
UK Steel director-general Gareth Stace said: “Steel production is a vital strategic asset to the UK – the very foundations of our manufacturing and construction sectors.
“Steel companies have continued to provide materials to critical sectors throughout this crisis and will be of fundamental importance to the UK’s recovery, not least as part of the Government’s infrastructure revolution and the strengthening of domestic supply chains.
“That is why we call upon the Government to quickly provide all steel companies with the necessary liquidity support required to see us through this crisis, so that the steel industry can support the UK’s long term economic recovery and future prosperity.”
The Mirror has been campaigning to Save Our Steel since 2015 when the industry was hit by plant closures and thousands of redundancies.