The Government has been criticised in a damning new report published by the Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) Committee.
MPs have slammed ministers after the report claimed the Government was not alert enough to the warning bells – and “washed its hands too quickly” of the Redcar steelworks.
The cross-party BIS Committee found that while the Government identified the steel industry as of vital importance, Whitehall did not have effective warning systems in place to detect and address mounting problems in the industry.
The Committee also found that a lack of action at EU level, and a failure by UK Governments to push for EU action, helped create a ‘perfect storm’ of difficulties for the industry.
Tom Blenkinsop, the Labour MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland, said: “This is a damning report released by the BIS committee that clearly sets out that the government failed to react to the warning signs that preluded the crisis in the UK steel industry.
“Years of inaction, despite numerous calls from a range of interested parties, has almost put the UK steel industry out of business and on Teesside the industry that defined an area has pretty much disappeared.
“Particularly of note in the report is the request for the Government to act on the ‘5 asks’ that came from the steel summit held in October. It has been well over a month since the steel summit in Rotherham, and only one of the five industrial asks has been met despite ministerial assurances that they would be met before Christmas.
“The urgency of this UK steel crisis is becoming more acute, with the situation worsening. Government must act now, and industry must hang in there and not resort to not using the crisis as an excuse to attack workers terms and conditions, nor dissolve strategic UK assets.”
The Labour Leader of Redcar and Cleveland Council, Councillor Sue Jeffrey, called the conclusions of a top level House of Commons Committee “a catologue of confusion on the part of Government” when it came to top level reactions to Teesside’s steel crisis after the collapse of SSI.
“This report shows what many people on Teesside already knew in their hearts, which was that our government had little knowledge of the problems facing steel, and had even less in the way of solutions once the SSI package started to unravel,” she added.
“The reality we now face is that – as the committee says – the prospects of future growth in steel sector have been severely damaged by the irrevocable loss of capacity and skills.
“Thousands of jobs have already been lost and more will go as a result of the impact on businesses in associated supply chains.
“It shows that the Government concentrated on getting together the so-called rescue package, but that was a package designed to give help to individuals after the gates closed – and not before.
“In this context, one conclusion of the Committee is clear “Following the closure at Redcar, we welcome the rapid action the Government took to put together a package for those made redundant, but are not convinced that every effort was put into exploring how the plant could be saved from closure, within state aid rules.
“Central Government must recognise that major steel assets are national strategic assets of critical importance to our economic future and security.”