Tuesday 23 March 2021 / 10:30 PM Lucy Powell

Labour calls for stronger Buy British steel guarantees as failure to back steel industry exposed  

Labour is today calling on ministers to back British steelworkers by guaranteeing they want to see UK steel used in all government infrastructure projects.

Analysis by the Party shows that 24p in every pound spent on steel for government infrastructure projects went abroad in 2018/19, the last year that figures are available.

UK Steel analysis shows that sourcing steel from domestic producers has demonstrable economic, social and environmental benefits. In 2018/19, UK steelmakers missed out on a minimum £25 million worth of government funding for infrastructure projects with over 111,000 tonnes of steel imported for UK projects.

If government had prioritised UK steelmakers, the industry could have benefitted from a £25 million boost, creating and safeguarding 1110 jobs, boosting steel communities by contributing £100 million to the UK economy, and reducing carbon emissions by tens of thousands of tonnes on imported steel from the EU or China.

The Government’s steel procurement pipeline shows that the Government plans to use nearly 5 million tonnes of steel over the next decade in infrastructure projects including High Speed 2 (HS2), the construction of Hinkley Point C, the maintenance and upgrading of the UK’s motorway network and the expansion in offshore wind generation.

Labour is calling on government to set targets for UK steel content for major public works with a guarantee to state a preference for the use of UK produced steel through the contracting process.

If the government put in place stronger Buy British steel guarantees it could equate to a boost to UK businesses, workers and communities of:

  • 50,000 jobs safeguarded and created;
  • A £4.4 billion boost to the UK economy including steel businesses and the supply chain;
  • Reduction in carbon emissions from imported steel of between 750,000 tonnes (EU) and 2,800,000 tonnes (China)

If the Government fails to ensure that UK steelmakers benefit from UK infrastructure projects, hundreds of millions of pounds of business, and thousands of jobs will be at risk.

Lucy Powell MP, Labour’s Shadow Minister for Business and Consumers, said:

“Having domestic steelmaking capacity is a cornerstone of our national security, economic prosperity and our fight to tackle the climate emergency, yet ministers are failing to back UK steelmaking with weak procurement practices that undermine these efforts. The pandemic has shown that we need to rebuild the foundations of our economy, and ensure we have resilient supply chains that support jobs and capacity here.

“Labour is calling on ministers to put UK steelmakers and workers first, with stronger Buy British guarantees in procurement notices, to maximise the benefits of infrastructure spending across our country, safeguarding and creating jobs and supporting our recovery, whilst reducing carbon emissions.”