There is huge potential for the UK steel industry to supply major energy projects
Energy Minister Andrea Leadsom has said there is “huge potential” for the UK steel industry to supply major energy projects.
The minister said she was “rattling” developers and pushing them to use the UK supply chain.
However, Plaid Cymru MP Liz Saville Roberts accused the UK Government of prioritising the interests of China – which has been attacked for “dumping” cheap steel in Europe – over those of UK workers and not doing enough to protect the steel sector.
Is Europe doing more to protect steel?
Dwyfor Meirionnydd MP Ms Roberts pointed to how the European Parliament had voted against granting China Market Economy Status, which critics claim would make it harder to tackle dumping.
Speaking in the Welsh Affairs committee, Ms Leadsom turned her guns on Ms Roberts.
She said: “The UK Government entirely supports the UK steel sector. Nobody could have done more...
“I just don’t accept what you’re saying at any level.”
The Minister launched a full-throttle defence of the way the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) had stood up for the industry.
She said: “I think the BIS team could not have done more. They have worked so hard to try and support UK steel and Welsh steel in particular.
“They have absolutely bent over backwards and so I just think it’s actually quite an insult to suggest they are looking after Chinese interests. That’s just rubbish.”
But energy developers could do much more
Ms Leadsom did not hold back in describing her frustration that UK suppliers were not getting more benefit from major energy projects.
She said: “I’m really frustrated that in the offshore wind space unfortunately not only have most of the investors come from abroad but also so has much of the supply chain and I just don’t think it’s good enough.
"I’ve been very clear with developers who are benefiting from the generosity of the UK bill-payer that they need to pull their finger out and make sure that the UK supply chain maxes out their contribution to the build of these offshore wind projects.
“The same is true with nuclear. Here we are, absolutely keen as anything to ensure that the UK supply chain benefits enormously from these projects that are being built at the expense of the UK bill-payer...
“[What] I can tell you is, whenever I meet with developers, I’m really rattling them and saying ‘We want to see more... What more can you give to the UK?’
“So I think there’s huge potential, actually, if we can succeed in that.”
Electricity prices are 'too high'
When asked by committee chairman and Monmouth MP David Davies whether electricity prices were too high, the Energy Minister said:“Electricity prices, yes, I think are too high and I certainly think we are doing everything possible to bring down those costs and in particular to help support the energy intensive industries to deal with those costs.”
However, she said gas prices in the UK were “relatively cheap”.
Blaming past Labour governments for a costly “mess”, she said: “The reason why electricity prices in the UK are higher than elsewhere in the European Union is precisely because nobody invested in the electricity infrastructure and so we’re now making the investment that should have been being made in the last 20 or so years.”