Rishi Sunak must save British Steel’s last blast furnace or risk relying on hostile states for high-quality steel, northern Tory MPs warn
- British Steel’s Chinese owner Jingye is preparing to cut as many as 2,000 jobs
Rishi Sunak must step in to stop the closure of Britain’s last remaining blast furnace or risk the UK relying on hostile states for high-quality virgin steel, northern Tory MPs have warned.
British Steel’s Chinese owner Jingye is preparing to cut as many as 2,000 jobs at its Scunthorpe site as part of a switch to greener steel production, which would use electric arc furnaces instead of the current polluting blast furnaces.
The Government, which recently agreed a £500million support package for Tata Steel to fund a similar green transition at its Port Talbot steelworks in South Wales, has offered the Chinese firm £300million to do the same.
But last night the Northern Research Group of Conservative MPs warned that the deal will mean Britain is no longer able to produce ‘virgin steel’ – and would risk ‘becoming reliant on hostile foreign states’.
In a letter to the Prime Minister, Scunthorpe Tory MP Holly Mumby-Croft wrote: ‘Steelworkers understand that the steel industry must decarbonise.
British Steel’s Chinese owner Jingye is preparing to cut as many as 2,000 jobs at its Scunthorpe site (pictured) as part of a switch to greener steel production
The Government, which recently agreed a £500million support package for Tata Steel to fund a similar green transition at its Port Talbot steelworks in South Wales, has offered the Chinese firm £300million to do the same. Pictured: Rishi Sunak
In a letter to the Prime Minister, Scunthorpe Tory MP Holly Mumby-Croft urged Mr Sunak to look at other greener options, such as carbon capture and hydrogen fuel. Pictured: Labour Party Leader Keir Starmer at the Scunthorpe site in June
‘However, the transition must take place in a way that maintains the UK’s sovereign capabilities and jobs in steel communities.
‘Blast furnaces must remain an integral part of the modernisation of our nation’s steel industry.’
She urged Mr Sunak to look at other greener options, such as carbon capture and hydrogen fuel, ‘before any final and irreversible decision to decommission Britain’s blast furnaces is taken, rendering us – for the first time in living memory – unable to make steel from raw materials’.
Northern Research Group chairman John Stevenson added: ‘Manufacturing has historically been the lifeblood of the North’s economy and it is vitally important we preserve the ability to make virgin steel in the United Kingdom.
‘With the reports that the blast furnaces in Port Talbot closing, the Scunthorpe plant will be the only plant in the United Kingdom to produce steel from the raw material.
‘Whilst we still strongly support the idea to decarbonise our manufacturing industry, there will always still be a role for virgin steel and therefore, this capacity must be kept and it must be kept in Scunthorpe.’
A British Steel spokesman said: ‘While decarbonisation is a major challenge for our business, we’re committed to transforming British Steel into a green and sustainable company providing long-term, skilled and well-paid careers for thousands of employees and many more in our supply chains.
‘As part of our journey to net zero, it is prudent to evaluate different operational scenarios to help us achieve our ambitious goals and we are continuing to assess our options.’
A spokesman at the Department for Business and Trade said: ‘Ultimately, it is for British Steel to manage commercial decisions for the future of the company, and we cannot comment on ongoing commercial negotiations.’
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