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Jeremy Corbyn ready to take case for British steel to China

Published 27/10/2015

The Tata Steel Plant in Scunthorpe
The Tata Steel Plant in Scunthorpe

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has said he is prepared to travel to Beijing to confront the Chinese government about cheap imports of steel which are being partly blamed for hundreds of job losses in the UK.

Mr Corbyn said so-called "dumping" of steel is having a "ruinous" impact on the industry in Britain.

He was speaking during a visit to the Tata Steel site in Scunthorpe, which will face the brunt of 1,200 job cuts the company announced last week as it blamed cheap imports, the strong pound and high energy costs.

Mr Corbyn said he had raised the issue with the Chinese president during his recent visit to Britain, and said he is prepared to make the case in China if required.

He said: "We cannot allow steel to be dumped all over the world at less than the price of production which is so ruinous to highly skilled communities like this, communities which have made steel that has made the trains, the rails, the cars and everything else that we have in this country."

He said the Chinese delegation had promised to "come back to us on these issues", but added: "I f necessary we will go to Beijing and continue that hard work."

Mr Corbyn also argued that the Government should be doing more to preserve the steel industry.

He said: "We have a country that is increasingly a service-based economy, but actually people still need things.

"It's very hard to contemplate the future of a manufacturing base in Britain where we don't make the steel which is vital for it. For the car industry, for the rail industry, for the new railways we want to develop, I can't see it.

"We need a government with an industrial strategy that is prepared to intervene. Unless the issue of dumped steel is addressed, and the Government is prepared to intervene on energy costs and also on investment in the future, then our steel industry is in a dire state."

Steel worker Matthew Cooke, 25, from Scunthorpe, started working at Tata when he left school at 18.

He said: "People can't just see the industry as a numbers thing because it's a community, an industry, which is at stake.

"We're quite detached from London here in Scunthorpe and up in Scotland, but without steel, this town is going to suffer massively."

Tata Steel said about 900 jobs will be lost at the Scunthorpe plant with a further 270 going in Lanarkshire.

The announcement followed the news steel firm SSI, which owns a plant in Redcar in Teesside, went into liquidation with the loss of 2,200 jobs.

The Government has promised more support for the steel industry by lowering energy costs and reducing business rates.

Industry minister Anna Soubry said on Wednesday: "Nobody should ever dare to suggest that anybody on the Government benches has taken any pleasure, happiness or anything else in the unfortunate demise we have seen over recent times of a large part of our steel industry."

She added the Government is looking at state-aid rules and how they can do more on dumping to "protect" the steel industry.

But shadow business secretary Angela Eagle said the Government's response to the steel crisis had been "pathetic".

She said: "It's been far too little, far too late and it sounds like warm words when we really need action. We don't need expressions of sympathy, we need concrete, timely action.

"You have to have a view in a cyclical industry like steel where you get ups and downs that when you are in a difficult place, you look after those assets."

Dave Nicol, managing director of Tata Steel's Long Products Europe business, said the industry has a "crucial role" to play in rebalancing the UK economy.

He added: "We made clear last week the challenges we face - extremely challenging market conditions compounded by unhelpful exchange rates and regulatory costs."

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