Steel bosses want support to become more environmentally-friendly (Image: Jonathan Myers)
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Ministers are ready to back an overhaul of the steel industry to make it more environmentally-friendly, MPs were told today.
Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said the Government wanted to support the sector as it battles to slash emissions.
“The kind of principle behind any long-term future for the industry, which I passionately believe in, means some deal around decarbonisation – Government support for the industry,” he told the Commons Business Select Committee.
“We are definitely looking at a potential steel consultation – steel deal, if you like.
“It's definitely something that's being considered.”
The industry is a heavy consumer of energy – and a big polluter
(Image: Media Wales)
The Steel Council – a forum of ministers, company bosses and union leaders – meets on Wednesday to thrash out plans.
Mr Kwarteng also insisted ministers wanted to avoid the industry lurching from one crisis to another.
Steel firms have faced repeated threats of closures, redundancies and plant sales over the past six years – creating uncertainty for workers and communities.
The chaos has also hampered attempts to switch to greener methods of production while competing with foreign rivals' cheaper metal.
Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng
(Image: NurPhoto/PA Images)
Mr Kwarteng said: “In the next few months we should have more clarity about what we will be coming out with, but I definitely hear the arguments that we have to think of steel on a longer-term basis because I and a number of my predecessors have dealt with steel crises over the last five or six years now on an ad-hoc basis.
“We had the Tata Steel crisis in 2016, we've had an ongoing issue with British Steel and Greybull and selling it onto (Chinese firm) Jingye after a period where it was being looked after by the Official Receiver (and) we've got issues now.
“I want to have a much more sustainable approach.”
Community steelworkers' union operations director Alasdair McDiarmid said: “Safeguarding the long-term future of our strategic industry means we have to decarbonise, which can only be achieved with government leadership and the full engagement of all stakeholders.
Community union operations director Alasdair McDiarmid
(Image: Community union)
“Steelworkers must be at the centre of decision-making and a fair transition will require extensive investment that protects jobs and steel communities.
“There’s no doubt a strong British steel industry is essential for delivering our climate objectives.
“It should be a no-brainer because either we make the steels here, supporting tens of thousands of good jobs, or we give up those jobs and rely on high-carbon imports from countries playing by different rules.”
Labour MP Stephen Kinnock, who chairs the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Steel and Metal-Related Industries, said: “When he was asked about whether the steel industry would be granted the type of sector deal awarded to industries such as automotive, aerospace and construction – all of which are underpinned by UK steel – the Business Secretary replied, almost satirically, ‘We are definitely looking at a potential steel consultation’.
MP Stephen Kinnock chairs Parliament's cross-party group on steel
“It is this type of vague non-commitment that has led UK steelmakers to wonder if the UK Government is really committed to the industry, and if it has any concept at all of how important UK steel is to our defence, our infrastructure, our national resilience, our industrial communities and to greening our economy.
“The Government must commit to a sector deal for steel, with decarbonisation and a just transition for workers at its heart, along with action on sky-high industrial electricity prices, and a commitment from UK Government agencies to buy British.”
The Mirror has been campaigning to Save Our Steel since 2015 when the industry was hammered by plant closures and thousands of redundancies.