Steel row rages on over Chinese imports’ impact on Teesside jobs

Tata Steel Brenda Road, Hartlepool. Picture by FRANK REID

Tata Steel Brenda Road, Hartlepool. Picture by FRANK REID

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Steel manufacturers and unions have accused ministers of failing to protect the industry from cheap Chinese imports.

Executives from Tata Steel spoke out on the so-called “lesser duty” penalty in dumping cases and said it puts Britain at a disadvantage compared to countries like the US, which impose harsher tariffs.

They were backed at a House of Commons hearing by Community union general secretary Roy Rickhuss, who said the scrapping of the lesser duty tariff “has to happen”, and Labour MP Stephen Kinnock, who said a move to US-style higher tariffs would be a huge step in the right direction.

But Downing Street said the move might amount to protectionism.

Business Secretary Sajid Javid told the House of Commons Business Committee: “There are companies in Britain that would tell you that if duties got out of control, were much, much higher, that it would cost them jobs and growth and would certainly cut their exports to the people who are using their products across Europe and elsewhere.”

While lifting the lesser duty rule might “in the short term sound like a way to go to try and protect a certain industry”, Mr Javid said: “We also have to remember that in the UK that as well as manufacturers of steel there are also companies that consume steel as part of their production process and the impact that might happen to them.”

Prime Minister David Cameron said the Government had “repeatedly stood up for UK steel” and recognised it was “a vital part of Britain’s industrial base.”

Last month, Tata Steel shed 1,050 jobs including 62 in Hartlepool.