The UK Conservative party has been accused of a ‘total disregard’ for Britain’s steel industry after buying thousands of tonnes of foreign steel, rather than selecting UK firms.
The Government bought almost 3,000 tonnes of steel from manufacturers based abroad in 2019/20 - despite the same products being available from British producers. Steel purchases worth more than £2.9m – from prison cell doors to hospital structural frames – have been outsourced, according to an analysis of official data. Procurement records show there were five outsourced steel contracts last year that could have been supplied by domestic steelmakers.
A cancer research facility at The Christie NHS Foundation Trust in Manchester was built using steel bars bought from abroad – representing £1.26m of lost revenue for British producers, and The Ministry of Justice confirmed a £1.45m expenditure on imported steel, used for cell doors, gates, windows and reinforcements at HMP Five Wells, a new jail due in Wellingborough, Northants.
“These revelations are shocking and show a total disregard to the steel industry in this country.’’Alun Davies, community steelworkers' union national officer
Community steelworkers' union national officer Alun Davies commented: “These revelations are shocking and show a total disregard to the steel industry in this country. A commitment to buying British steel is an investment in Britain. Contracts should not be awarded solely on the basis of cost, but must properly take into account the social and environmental benefits of sourcing locally.’
“Buying Britain’s steel supports thousands of jobs and livelihoods, benefits our economy, provides value to the taxpayer and is better for the environment'', Davies added.
The Government set up a steel procurement taskforce in March 2021 to discuss obstacles faced by UK steelmakers in competing for lucrative public sector contracts.
“For a multitude of reasons – from tackling climate change, to supporting well-paid industrial jobs, to strengthening our national economic resilience – it has never been so important that the UK Government backs our domestic foundational industries.''Stephen Kinnock, Labour MP and chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Steel
Labour MP Stephen Kinnock, who chairs the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Steel, said: “For a multitude of reasons – from tackling climate change, to supporting well-paid industrial jobs, to strengthening our national economic resilience – it has never been so important that the UK Government backs our domestic foundational industries.''
The UK steel industry is facing increasing pressure due to rises in energy prices, costs of decarbonisation technologies and imposed tariffs which it continues to face, due to its non-EU status. With every governmental purchase carrying weight for its future, the decision hangs between the attraction of the lower price point of imported steel, and the supporting of UK-based industrial economy.