Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell was right to call for the government to step in nationalise Tata Steel in order to buy time to attract further private sector investment.
It may be the only way to stabilise the industry in the short term and to allow time to make a plan for the future. Tata’s decision to pull out of its British steel business puts 40,000 jobs at risk. The impact will be felt here in Yorkshire as well, as Tata runs plants in Stocksbridge.
Parliament is not due to sit until April 11. The government has made a big mistake in rejecting a petition signed by more than 100,000 people calling for the House of Commons to meet this week. Every day is crucial if a solution is to be found. The government has got to explain why it has not supported higher tariffs around Europe (like in the United States) to stop the dumping of Chinese steel. It is welcome that action is finally being taken by the government to encourage public sector infrastructure projects to use British steel where necessary. We need action not words, however, and the fast tracking of projects like improved TransPennine rail links to make these aspirations a reality.
In Yorkshire we know only too well about the impact of de-industrialisation from the last time the Conservatives were in power. Many factories and mines were closed down but there was no real strategy put in place to bring more business into the areas affected. It doesn’t just affect industrial workers - whole towns and communities suffer. Many former mining villages in the Wakefield area are still feeling the impact of Conservative failure more than 30 years later.
We cannot let the same mistakes happen again. A steel industry is also important for our country’s economic development. How are we going to rebuild our manufacturing base or improve our infrastructure without our own steel? We need to be looking at examples from other countries, where governments have taken the steps needed not to just maintain their steel industries but to
modernise them for the 21st century. Our government needs to move beyond the idea that everything can be left to the market. It needs to start using evidence based policy. The alternative is destroying whole communities and weakening our national economy.