"Our EU competitors support their industries in ways that we do not support ours"by Chuka Umunna / April 1, 2016 / Leave a comment
Read more: What the Tata Steel crisis tells us about Brexit
There is no doubt about it: the government has been asleep at the wheel in the face of an oncoming crisis. As my Labour parliamentary colleagues Stephen Kinnock, Stephen Doughty and Anna Turley—all of whom represent steel industry communities—have pointed out, it wasn’t as if the government didn’t know that the events of the last few days were a possibility. The Tata Board meeting on 29th March in Mumbai had been in the diary for months. Tata Steel’s board member Koushik Chatterjee underlined this when he told us this week that the company had kept the UK government constantly informed of the realities of the situation.
What is at stake? Tata Steel’s UK business employs 15,000 people with a further 25,000 estimated to be employed in its supply chains. Their largest plant is in Port Talbot, South Wales, with around 10,000 direct and indirect jobs at risk. All these jobs could be lost if no buyer is found in the next few days. Of course, it is not only the jobs, but the knock-on impact on UK manufacturing that needs to be considered too.
The question now is what should be done? UK Steel, the industry body, has made a number of requests, one of which has been met, but the others which sadly the government has failed to meet. They asked for the Energy Intensive Industry Compensation Package, to help with cost of energy, to be fully implemented and as quickly as possible. EU state aid approval for this was granted at the end of last year, but the Treasury took far too long to secure this deal.
UK Steel also asked that business rates for capital intensive firms be brought in line with their competitors in France and Germany, given that UK companies are currently paying between five and 10 times more than their EU competitors. However, no concrete action was taken on this in last summer’s Budget, last year’s Autumn Statement…