Could the Italian example have saved jobs in the British steel industry?

Iain Wright MP is backing to boost career advice for aspiring workers
Iain Wright MP is backing to boost career advice for aspiring workers

Hartlepool MP Iain Wright has used an Italian example to highlight how Britain’s steel industry could be protected.

He told tonight’s BBC Inside Out North East and Cumbria programme that an Italian town that’s been able to keep its steelworks open offers an example of what could have been done to save thousands of British steel jobs.

BBC Inside Out North East travelled to Piombino in Tuscany where more than £200m of public money has helped offer the town’s historic steelworks a lifeline. The money was used to modernise the site, which was threatened with closure in 2012. The plant remains open and hundreds of jobs have been secured.

Intervention to save steel jobs in the UK was ruled out by the British government as illegal under European law. Yet Italian politicians say they were able to invest in the Piombino plant by taking their “fight” to Europe.

Mr Wright, who is chair of the Business, Innovation and Skills select committee, said it showed what could be done in Britain. Mr Wright told BBC Inside Out North East and Cumbria: “The case study you have found in Italy shows exactly what the problem is.

“European rules, state aid considerations, are just a smokescreen for inaction. Actually what’s stopping saving SSI in Redcar was political will and a real appreciation that steel matters in a modern economy.”

BBC Inside Out North East will broadcast its film from Piombino tonight on the same day as yet more jobs were lost in the British steel industry, including in Hartlepool.

The government has said it will support those who have lost their jobs but in Redcar, where the SSI plant closed late last year, many of the plant’s former workers remain unemployed.

BBC Inside Out North East and Cumbria is broadcast BBC One and the BBC One HD Channel tonight at 7.30pm. It will be available on the BBC iPlayer for 30 days after transmission.