UK Business Secretary accused of ‘undermining’ steel industry
The Business and Trade Secretary has faced criticism over her “undermining” comments about the future of the steel industry.
Kemi Badenoch, asked on Sky News whether the UK “come what may would always need to have a steel industry”, said: “Nothing is ever a given.”
In the interview conducted during her trip to Italy, the Cabinet minister said there was a “bigger picture around steel beyond just saving this particular company or helping this particular community”.
Having only been appointed on Tuesday to head the newly created Department for Business and Trade, Ms Badenoch said she needed to “sit down and look at what exactly has been going on with steel from a business perspective and an industry perspective”.
Labour seized on Ms Badenoch’s comments about the sector’s future, saying the Conservative minister was “out of touch”.
Stephen Kinnock, MP for Aberavon, home to the country’s biggest steelworks, called on the Business Secretary to apologise to steelwork businesses and communities.
But Downing Street defended Ms Badenoch, arguing that the quote being criticised did not reflect the entirety of her sentiments on the steel industry.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “As you’ve seen from her full quote, she made clear that we recognise the importance that steel plays in the economy.
“She said we are working across Whitehall; having the policy sit in one department makes a difference; she wants to look at it both from the international trade perspective, as she has done before, and look at what is going on domestically.”
The spokesman said ministers were “committed to securing a decarbonised, sustainable and competitive future for the UK steel sector”.
Out of touch
Labour shadow business secretary Jonathan Reynolds said: “Comments like this show how out of touch and lacking in ambition the Conservatives are for British industry.
“Steel is integral to the net-zero transition, our national security and manufacturing base as well as being the bedrock of many communities across the UK.
“Labour will partner with the steel industry to deliver green steel and keep jobs in the UK for decades to come.”
Mr Kinnock, chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Steel, said: “In this turbulent world, we cannot rely on importing steel from countries that do not have Britain’s best interests at heart.
“Kemi Badenoch is a Brexit supporter, but she clearly doesn’t believe in strengthening Britain’s ability to stand on its own two feet, given that failing to support Britain’s steel industry would be a hammer blow to our sovereign capability.
“Her words are also a kick in the teeth for firms determined to transition to green steel, and for the tens of thousands of steelworkers, their families and communities who are reliant on these well-paid, meaningful jobs.
“She should withdraw this comment and apologise to the steelworkers who rightly expect the Business Secretary to be fighting their corner, rather than actively undermining their proud commitment to this critically important foundation industry.”
The row follows a recent intervention by the UK Government to save jobs at a British Steel plant in Scunthorpe.
Business minister Nusrat Ghani criticised the timing of the announcement, which is said to potentially impact 800 jobs at the factory, telling MPs last week that a “generous package of support” is under discussion with the Chinese-owned manufacturing company.
The company, owned by the Chinese Jingye Group, plans to cut hundreds of jobs in plans to close its coke ovens in Scunthorpe, and will “optimise” several hundred more, a union source has said.
British Steel employs about 4,000 people across the UK.
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Running down the business that is UK PLC. Can’t afford to leave it? NO CHOICE BUT TO!
What childish language, crude, menacing and melodramatic, it smacks of the unbridled self-importance of the purveyors of the hostile environment so appealing to all the ‘Tory ladies’ on those benches. Where for a hellish moment in history a crazy laughing fairground clown ruined what little respite there was from Tory rule and pitched us into the maelstrom, and she like an automaton from Hades advances upon us once again, oblivious to her own deranged mental condition. Any other place and they would throw in the towel but not that den of iniquity and criminality…
Thatcher run businesses down, these fools are even worse.
What steel workers have to remember is, that the EU wanted tariffs against Chinese steel and other cheap imports, but they were blocked by the Tory UK gov, while they were still able to, as members of the EU. Places like Port Talbot then voted to leave the EU and the protection it offered steel making in Europe, now they have too take their chances with this Tory lot that they backed with that vote.
It’s taken the EU, the UK and us in Wales far too long to recognise what a huge blunder was made when the entire Western world went headlong for cheap Chinese and other “Emerging Nations” manufacture under the banner of globalisation. We are yet to recover, we may never do so as the pain hasn’t really reached our politicians in their cozy bubble. It hasn’t really walloped our financial services sector who contrive to profit from any kind of dirty deal, and our bigger global corporates no longer identify with states of origin other than when it is convenient to… Read more »
A mixture of the Tory Party’s disdain for Wales, and the zealotry of the Net Zero acolytes, will see off Port Talbot and all steelmaking in Wales. The green lobby can then talk about ‘job creation zones’. A pipedream!