politics

Steel campaigners hail Labour plan to throw energy hungry firms a £600m lifeline


The party will stage a vote in Parliament tomorrow on creating a fund to support companies which require vast amounts of power to operate

A foundryman works with molten metal at the furnace face inside the Corus Steelworks
Labour has set out a plan to help firms which use vast amounts of energy in production

Steel campaigners today welcomed plans to help companies battling sky-high energy costs.

Labour announced it would create a £600million contingency fund to support struggling firms, including “energy intensive” industries.

It said: “This fully-funded measure would be paid for through the party’s plan to fix the broken energy market, which includes a one-off windfall tax on record North Sea oil and gas profits.”

Labour will tomorrow force a vote in Parliament calling for the Government to scrap business rates, reduce the debt burden facing firms and launch the contingency fund.

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Shadow Business Secretary Jonathan Reynolds said: “Soaring energy bills, a wave of cancellations and crippling inflation have left British firms unnecessarily on the brink.







Shadow Business Secretary Jonathan Reynolds
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Image:

PA)

“The Government has been asleep at the wheel, with British firms, especially those energy-intensive businesses, paying the price.

“The Conservatives’ ambivalence towards British business is simply unacceptable.

“Viable firms risk going to the wall because of Government failures over the last decade.”

Manufacturers fear rocketing power prices could jeopardise jobs.

The Mirror revealed a UK Steel report last month that warned how the UK’s “disproportionately high electricity prices have cost UK steelmakers an extra £90million this year” and £345million over the last six years – “the equivalent of almost two years’ capital investment in the sector”.







Steel plants use lots of power as they manufacture products
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Jonathan Myers)

On average, British producers are paying 61% more than German firms and 51% more than French for electricity, it added.

Community steelworkers’ union national officer Alun Davies said: “The British steel industry is the backbone of the UK economy, providing quality jobs, supporting communities and supporting key industries.

“We’re pleased to see Labour acting to reduce energy prices, and hope the Government follows suit to give energy intensive industries the breathing space they so desperately need.”

GMB union general secretary Gary Smith said: “Labour’s announcement is welcome news and may help protect thousands of jobs in energy intensive companies.







GMB union general secretary Gary Smith
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Andrew Neil)

“We will only get proper control over prices and security of energy supply if we create and support domestic industries that bring home green jobs – a move that would create skilled work for the people of our country.

“If you want to tackle fuel poverty, a good start is creating well-paid, skilled jobs.”

Labour’s plan follows a warning from the Energy Intensive Users’ Group that rocketing power prices had put firms at risk.

Chairman Richard Leese said: “On top of already uncompetitive UK industrial energy costs, the current sustained high energy prices, coupled with UK carbon prices at a premium to those in the EU, is driving greater disparity between the UK and its competitors.






The Mirror has been campaigning to Save Our Steel since 2015

“UK Government inaction threatens the inward investment needed to sustain healthy domestic production and, crucially, that needed to meet our shared climate ambitions.

“The threshold for Government action shouldn’t be triggered by imminent business collapse. Energy intensive foundation industries underpin critical UK supply chain resilience.”

A Government spokeswoman said: “We remain absolutely determined to secure a competitive future for our energy intensive industries and in recent years have provided them with extensive support, including more than £2bn to help with the costs of energy and to protect jobs.

“Ministers and officials continue to engage constructively and regularly with industry to understand and to help mitigate the impacts of high global gas prices.







Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng held talks last week with representatives from firms which are intensive energy users
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Getty Images)

“Our priority is to ensure costs are managed and supplies of energy are maintained.

“We have various funds in place to support businesses with high energy use to cut their bills and reduce carbon emissions, including the £315m Industrial Energy Transformation fund.”

The Mirror has been campaigning to Save Our Steel since 2015.





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