I’m sure I’m not the only one who has been disappointed by the news regarding Tata Steel.
Britain is part of a global marketplace, which has disadvantages in addition to the many advantages.
The fact is that because of the scale of Chinese production, they are able to produce huge amounts of steel at cut-rate prices.
Here in Great Britain, that benefits our construction sector and makes building houses and other structures more affordable, but Tata’s steel plants have been losing money for quite some time and it’s understandable they are looking for new buyers.
The Government has been taking a very active interest in both our steel plants specifically and the broader issue of Chinese steel being dumped on to our market.
The figures involved are vast: in the space of 2013-2014, China produced more steel in that two-year period than the United Kingdom has produced since 1870.
Demand for steel in Europe has not yet returned to pre-2008 levels, and this sluggish demand, combined with oversupply, has sent prices tumbling.
Working alongside other European countries, the Government imposed anti-dumping measures on certain Chinese steel products, which has had immediate results.
Imports of Chinese wire rods fell from 62,000 tonnes in 2007 to almost nothing after measures were taken in 2009, and the current Government has supported renewal of these measures to at least 2020.
We’ve also backed higher tariffs on Chinese rebar steel, and there are promising signs this is having an effect – for example, imports of rebar in January of this year were down 99 per cent on 2015.
Some have called for nationalisation, but I’m not convinced that’s the best option right now.
False parallels have been drawn to Rolls-Royce, but the fact is that Rolls-Royce always had an extremely marketable aviation engine operation, which made it uniquely suitable for government help.
Still, the Government is keeping all options open and, following Tata’s announcement, the Prime Minister chaired a meeting of all relevant ministers to ensure the Government is doing everything feasible to ensure a successful sale.
Business Secretary Sajid Javid has visited Port Talbot again to speak with management, unions and workers, and his conversations with Tata have convinced them to keep the plant going while it is up for sale.
There will be no simple solutions, but the Government is doing what it can to help.
Here in our part of Lincolnshire, we can take pride that the first career college for construction is to open in September right here in Gainsborough.
This college is a new concept, which will see industry shaping education to ensure that our young people have the skills needed to compete in the workforce today.
With youth unemployment tumbling since the Conservatives entered government in 2010, skills training now tied to industry needs, and a huge rise in apprenticeships, the Government has been laying solid foundations for the economy of the future to be built upon, and I’m delighted to see this take off right in our own back garden.
Sir Edward Leigh MP