Steel is one of the cornerstones of the British economy. It serves a wide range of other key industries such as the automotive sector, and without it the efficiency and affordability of many of the UK’s infrastructure, manufacturing, engineering, and construction efforts would be greatly diminished.
As our economy begins to emerge from the pandemic, and as we chart a new independent course after leaving the European Union, we must now begin to address some of the key choices that face us and decide how we want to secure our future economic prosperity.
A strong steel industry is essential to ensuring that we have a bright future.
The pandemic has shown us just how dangerous relying on fragile overseas supply chains can be. The security of our domestic industries and supply chains after leaving the EU cannot be understated. Why would we want to rely upon steel from overseas to build the infrastructure of tomorrow when we can manufacture it right here?
In 2019 I was elected as the Member of Parliament for Penistone & Stocksbridge, the first Conservative MP for our part of South Yorkshire since the 1930’s.
Stocksbridge is a town on the northern edge of Sheffield with a rich history of steel manufacture. As a new MP, one of my first visits was to Speciality Steels in Stocksbridge, a site more than two miles long and served by its own railway line.
I know first-hand exactly how important steelworks are to communities like mine. I was elected on a promise to “level up” communities in my constituency that have been long neglected by successive governments. For a Conservative government to be taken seriously in towns like Stocksbridge, and to keep our promise to the electorate, we must have a plan for the steel industry and other industries that are so fundamental to the future of these towns.
A strong steel industry will not just help us “Level Up” – it is also essential for meeting our Net Zero targets and infrastructure ambitions.
Every Member of Parliament will be able to attest that more and more of our constituents are concerned about the impact of climate change, and the Government has made tackling climate change and reaching Net Zero by 2050 a key priority.
There is a clear environmental case for producing more of our steel in the UK.
Globally, the industry accounts for nine per cent of CO2 emissions, but UK-produced steel has half the carbon footprint of Chinese imports.
It would be counterproductive to let our domestic steel sector decline while importing dirtier steel from abroad. Ultimately, any environmental solution that will see us offshoring our emissions and our jobs is not a solution at all. As the hosts of COP26 in November, committing to using more UK-produced steel in our infrastructure projects would be an easy environmental win for us as a nation and a clear demonstration of leadership globally.
Supporting British industry – especially one that provides highly skilled and well-paid jobs – sits firmly within our Conservative philosophy, and it’s important that more Conservative MPs and party members have the opportunity to see the potential of the steel industry. That is why I am hosting a panel event with employers, climate experts, and steel unions at Conference in Manchester this year.
It is clear to me, and I hope clear to you, that as Conservatives we need to double down on our commitment to the UK steel industry. For communities across the country, for our economy, and for our planet – we simply cannot afford not to.
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