THE damage done by the Government’s failure to back the steel industry has been exposed by new analysis by Labour which shows UK steel and metal production nosedived by more than a fifth during a decade of Conservative power, the third largest fall of any European country.
At 21.5 per cent, the UK’s fall in production since 2010 was twenty times bigger than the average fall amongst European countries. The economic impact on our country was stark, with the steel industry’s GVA plunging by nearly £1 billion in real terms between 2010 and 2019.
Over the same period, the steel and metal industry in many other European countries thrived with production rising in Portugal, Greece, Austria, Denmark, Hungary, Turkey and Sweden, amongst others.
Labour’s analysis follows the Government’s failure to even mention steel in the Budget or their ‘Plan for Growth’, the decision to scrap their industrial strategy, and failure to provide adequate reassurance to Liberty Steel workers that they will do whatever it takes to secure their jobs and the UK’s steelmaking capacity. They have also failed to provide the steel industry with the investment needed to support decarbonisation, with funding from the Clean Steel Fund being held back until at least 2023, and failed to tackle the issue of high energy prices.
It also follows analysis by Labour showing that 24p in every pound spent on steel for government infrastructure projects went abroad in 2018/19, the last year that figures are available.
With most of our country’s steelworkers living in Yorkshire, Wales, the West Midlands, and the North East, the Conservatives overseeing a long-term, economically damaging decline in steel production makes a mockery of their pledge to protect jobs in these communities.
While the UK’s steel industry has experienced a decline in production over many decades, this was most acute in the early 1980s. Production also tumbled sharply by 30 per cent in 2016, in the biggest fall since 1980 with the UK producing the lowest amount of steel since 1933. This marked a further significant divergence from production in the other countries.
Some European countries that experienced big losses in steel and metal production in preceding decades, like Denmark, Hungary and Sweden, have gone on to see production sharply increase.
Lucy Powell MP, Labour’s Shadow Minister for Business, said:
“It’s absolutely crucial we protect our country’s steel industry, which provides highly-skilled jobs across the country and equips us to build critical infrastructure like railways, hospitals and schools.
“But a decade of Conservative indifference has seen steelmaking production plummet in a huge hit to our economy, risking jobs and livelihoods, whilst other countries across Europe have backed their steel industries to grow.
“Labour would stand up for our steelmakers with a proper industrial strategy, supporting the industry to decarbonise, and putting in place stronger targets to buy British steel.
“And we would step up, not stand back, and protect jobs and plants at Liberty Steel.”
photo credit: Chris McAndrew / wiki commons