The steel industry is an enduring and resilient one. We have been the bedrock of the UK’s industrial landscape for 150 years, since we pioneered mass steel production, remaining a constant presence in communities up and down the country.
I’m delighted that this newspaper remains a champion of Yorkshire-born steel. But it needs more champions. Readers will be well-versed in the challenges our sector has faced, domestically and internationally. Deteriorating market conditions have undermined this iconic industry’s ability to compete, and we’re losing skilled British jobs.
The liquidation of British Steel was a major blow to its employees, and the communities that it support It is a critical part of the wider steel sector, but, fortunately, long-term outlook for steel demand and consumption in the UK, and across the globe, remains positive.
At UK Steel we represent the sector’s interests to Government and celebrate the contribution the steel industry makes. In May, we launched the UK Steel Charter, which seeks to encourage and promote the procurement of British-made steel for major projects.
Heathrow Airport is the latest signatory to this charter and the first major private business to do so. This is a big vote of confidence in the steel industry. And the benefits of it will be felt locally, with the majority of British steel production taking place here in Yorkshire and Humberside or in Wales.
For example, Heathrow will mandate that their contractors must tell them where the steel used in expansion is coming from and they will monitor the levels of UK-produced steel used in everything associated with expansion. This means that British steel companies have the chance to provide hundreds of thousands of tonnes of steel needed for one of the largest national infrastructure projects of our time. But this opportunity will only exist if expansion goes ahead.
There is also extensive public sector support for the Charter, including from the Scottish and Welsh Governments and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. Heathrow might be a long way from Yorkshire, but the benefits of building a third runway won’t be. It’s anticipated that up to 11,000 new jobs will be created and £12 billion in economic benefits for Yorkshire and the Humber as a result of the expansion project. We need this injection now, and so it is essential that the expansion project must be able to progress without delay.
This won’t be the first time that British steel has been integral to the UK’s most ambitious construction schemes. Steel from Scunthorpe built the Olympic Stadium and steel from Teesside built Heathrow’s Terminal 5 more than a decade ago. That’s because steel made in the UK is high quality and based on robust standards. It has a pedigree of innovation and 96 per cent is recovered and recycled to be used again and again.
Heathrow is an example of how British business and infrastructure projects can support the health of British industry and how construction planning can deliver a wealth of skilled jobs. By using UK steel for expansion, they’ll be meeting their commitment to deliver an economic boost for all the nations and regions of the UK. But they went further by committing to setting up Logistics Hubs across the UK, where much of the new runway and additional infrastructure will be built. A number of the shortlisted sites are based in steel-producing communities, including Tata Steel in Shotton and British Steel in Scunthorpe.
UK businesses can create jobs and drive growth for all of Britain through big infrastructure projects. And it’s vital that they do so, or wealth and prosperity will remain concentrated in the South East.
Steel is the foundation of many communities in this region. There are nearly 32,000 people employed directly in the UK steel sector, but another 52,000 are supported through the steel ecosystem and surrounding communities. The steel industry cannot thrive without the mechanisms which keep UK steel at their heart. Heathrow expansion, now bolstered by signing the UK Steel Charter, is one of these. We look forward to seeing others follow their example.
Gareth Stace is Director General of UK Steel.
Source: Yorkshire Post