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Steel Industry: Wales – [Sir Gary Streeter in the Chair] | Westminster Hall debates

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Sir Gary. I am delighted that my hon. Friend the Member for Llanelli (Dame Nia Griffith) was able to secure this debate, and I want to congratulate her on such an excellent speech. She is right: we stand at a crossroads and we risk being left behind. She painted a lovely picture of the tinplate factory—as she knows, that is where my grandfather worked—and how long that has been there.

I also want to mention the other speeches, particularly that of my hon. Friend the Member for Aberavon (Stephen Kinnock), who told us that this is not about the past; this debate is about the future and what the steel industry can become. My hon. Friends the Members for Neath (Christina Rees) for Newport East (Jessica Morden) and for Newport West (Ruth Jones) made, along with others, really brilliant speeches that highlighted the problem incredibly well. I listened carefully to the debate, and I am very proud to have such Members on this side of the House standing up for workers in south Wales.

My main takeaway from considering everything that has been said is: what is this Government for? What are they usefully doing? What is their plan on steel? The challenges we face in Wales have been excellently set out, but let me set out the broader context. The steel industry is badly broken. It has been lurching from crisis to crisis for more than a decade, and there are two fundamental points where the system is not working.

First, the steel industry does not serve the needs of the UK—of our economy or of our security. Companies pursue completely legitimate corporate objectives, but those are no longer aligned with what we need as a country for our security or our economy.

Secondly, the steel industry is not serving the needs of private investors either. Companies are struggling to make money or find opportunities for growth. We have seen investment in the steel industry in other equivalent countries—big investment—but it has been staggeringly low for many years in the UK. It is not working for anyone.

What have the Government done in the face of this challenge? Well, we have the worst of all worlds. They do not know whether they want to be interventionist or not. They do not know whether they want to encourage competition or not. They do not know whether they want to have a plan or not. They dither; Ministers change; obsessions lie elsewhere, so this Government end up treating each crisis in isolation. They support existing players in the market rather than encouraging new ones, failing to tackle the lack of competitiveness and pouring billions of pounds of public investment into the steel industry without any improvement in the sector or any increase in capability. The result has been a significant fall in the amount of steel we are making. What is the overall outcome? Our steel industry is now smaller than that of Belgium, jobs have been offshored and we have damaged our communities.

Labour’s approach could not be more different. We will not pour billions of pounds into an industry without being clear what it is for, what the outcome will be or how the security and economy of the UK will be enhanced. We will not stifle competition; we welcome competition. We will go after new entrants to the market to encourage investment. We want the UK to be the most attractive country in western Europe to invest in steel. Labour’s £3-billion investment in steel will unlock billions of pounds of private sector investment. We will not just shore up a broken model, as this Government are doing. We will not dither. Our industrial strategy will clearly define the objectives for UK growth. We will identify the space in which UK national objectives align with corporate objectives, and we will be agile enough to respond to the different scenarios facing the industry by the time this wretched Government have finished their work.

Labour also has a commitment to primary steel making, unlike this Government. We will not jeopardise the security of our nation.