Labour Shadow Defence Secretary visits Scunthorpe steelworks and calls for UK steel to be used in defence contracts

A Labour government would back UK steel yards through defence contracts, said a senior party figure on a visit to British Steel in Scunthorpe.

Shadow Defence Secretary John Healey MP was shown around the steelworks with Labour’s candidate for Scunthorpe County constituency at the next general election, Sir Nic Dakin. Mr Healey declared a future Labour government would direct British defence investment first to British business, supporting jobs in the UK defence and steel industry.

It comes as the general election is less than 12 months away, and many Scunthorpe steelworkers face an uncertain medium-term future because of plans to close its blast furnaces. Unions say up to 2,000 jobs could be lost should proposals to replace the town’s blast furnaces with an electric arc furnace go ahead.

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On his visit to Scunthorpe, Mr Healey argued the government does not back the UK steel industry through defence procurement. He highlighted that defence ministers place no requirement on companies to buy steel from UK steelyards.

The Royal Navy’s £1.25 billion programme for five new Type 31 frigates, being built in Scotland, will use only four per cent UK steel. Similarly, the use of UK steel on the Royal Navy’s Type 26 frigates has seen a 100 per cent drop between batches from 50 per cent to 25 per cent. “Within defence procurement, there is huge potential for our steel industry to help strengthen our sovereignty, security and economic growth,” Mr Healey said.

During the visit, Healey and Dakin met with workers and trade union representatives and executives to discuss the plant’s future and what Labour would do if in power. “Labour sees our steel industry – like British steel here in Scunthorpe – as a national asset that is vital to our national security,” said John Healey.

Sir Nic Dakin said: “There is an opportunity to fashion defence procurement that better supports our steel industry not just on military equipment but also the general defence infrastructure like bridges, sheds, airports.

British Steel's CCO Allan Bell and Strategy & Marketing Director Lisa Coulson either side of Shadow Defence Secretary John Healey and Labour's candidate for Scunthorpe County, Sir Nic Dakin
British Steel’s CCO Allan Bell and Strategy & Marketing Director Lisa Coulson either side of Shadow Defence Secretary John Healey and Labour’s candidate for Scunthorpe County, Sir Nic Dakin

“Talking to key partners like British Steel is a great opportunity for Labour to get our policy in the right place to build a better future for the UK steel industry and steel communities like Scunthorpe.” Last week, Unite organised a ‘Steel Not For Sale’ action day in Scunthorpe that highlighted residents’ support for steelworkers.

In January, Conservative Party chair Richard Holden MP visited the town. He confirmed talks are ongoing between British Steel’s owners and the government over a support package, and said there was goodwill on the government’s side to achieve a deal.

“I want to see something sustainable for the long-term,” he said. He wanted disused parts of the steelworks site reclaimed. The council and British Steel are looking into the possibility of an advanced manufacturing park. Mr Holden also praised the town’s Conservative MP, Holly Mumby-Croft, for her steelworks campaigning.

Original artice: https://www.grimsbytelegraph.co.uk/all-about/scunthorpe

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