Written Ministerial Statements — Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy: Departmental Contingent Liability Notification (23 May 2019)
Greg Clark: Today I lay before Parliament a Departmental Minute describing a contingent liability arising from an indemnity for the Official Receiver acting in the insolvency of British Steel Limited. It is normal practice when a Government Department proposes to undertake a contingent liability of £300,000 and above, for which there is no specific statutory authority, for the Department concerned to...

British Steel (22 May 2019)
Greg Clark: My hon. Friend is absolutely right. The company benefits from very good relationships with customers, and I particularly mention Network Rail. This is important to both sides of that relationship. Network Rail has been particularly understanding and supportive during British Steel’s difficulties, and I hope very much that Network Rail will be part of the solution to resolving the...

British Steel (22 May 2019)
Greg Clark: I am grateful to the hon. Lady for the spirit in which she approached her response to the statement, recognising that there is a total common purpose across both sides of the House to provide the confidence for new investors to be able to take on these assets, and we all, wherever we sit in this Chamber, want this to be a change of ownership rather than something that puts a stop to steel...

British Steel (22 May 2019)
Greg Clark: My hon. Friend is absolutely right. The ceramics industry shares the concerns of the steel industry in needing relief from high energy costs. The industrial energy transformation fund is available to the ceramics industry, and I hope it will come forward with proposals that can reduce energy consumption and, in that way, reduce energy bills, so making industry more competitive—that applies...

British Steel (22 May 2019)
Greg Clark: I agree with my hon. Friend. I was unaware that he had had that early experience in the steel sector. I do not want to make a partisan point, so perhaps I can take this in a historical sense to illustrate that the steel sector has been through periods of turbulence and difficulty in this country and around the world, and it is clearly going through one now. It was the case that steel...

British Steel (22 May 2019)
Greg Clark: I recognise that responsibility, and the intention of the group that the hon. Lady describes is precisely what I have set out. We all need to join forces to provide the best prospect for continuity for these operations. She referred to the important steelworks in Scotland. Sometimes, for the reasons I have set out, it is necessary for a Government to participate in a sector where...

British Steel (22 May 2019)
Greg Clark: My hon. Friend is right that the impact of an industry such as steelmaking extends beyond its own limits, and he gives a good example of that. It is important that those impacts are reflected. Obviously, because the business is trading, suppliers can count on being paid now that they have the protection of the official receiver. I hope that will give them confidence, which was perhaps knocked...

British Steel (22 May 2019)
Greg Clark: I certainly agree with, and will act upon, the first part of my hon. Friend’s question. It is a matter for the official receiver to consider but, during the course of the day—after all, it was just this morning that the company went to court—I have had some early indications of interest. I intend to be active in helping to promote these important assets to prospective investors, whether...

British Steel (22 May 2019)
Greg Clark: The sector deal was proposed in the industrial strategy. I am keen that there should be a sector deal in the steel industry, but the essence of a sector deal, as the hon. Gentleman knows from his work on the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee, is mutual investment by both sides. There is a good plan there, but one difficulty at the moment—British Steel is a good example of...

British Steel (22 May 2019)
Greg Clark: My hon. Friend is absolutely right. We need to do everything we can. The situation is not entirely in the hands of the Government, because the official receiver is obviously responsible for the operations, and the trade unions and local communities want also to participate. This morning, the director general of UK Steel was asked whether he thought that the Government have done everything...

British Steel (22 May 2019)
Greg Clark: I am grateful to the hon. Lady, and I would welcome her Select Committee, on which many Members currently in the Chamber serve, looking into this matter. There may be wider lessons to learn about how assets of such importance, where continuity is important, are held. When it comes to paying the employees’ wages, we should be clear that the official receiver is responsible for that, not the...

British Steel (22 May 2019)
Greg Clark: I grew up in the hon. Lady’s constituency, and I am very familiar with the landscape of steelmaking across Teesside. We need to learn the lessons of this. Across the country, including in Scotland, as we have heard, there have been times when the steel industry has been challenged. Not everything has been done in the best way each time. We should learn the lessons and apply them in this...

British Steel (22 May 2019)
Greg Clark: I am grateful to my hon. Friend, and I will certainly do that. As I said, the official receiver is independent, but it is very much in his interests to maximise the opportunities on the sites that are now in his charge, and I daresay that that study will be helpful. I completely agree with my hon. Friend that we should not take an ideological approach. We need to do what is right for the jobs...

British Steel (22 May 2019)
Greg Clark: I hope the hon. Gentleman will acknowledge that we have taken some major steps. First, we have published the proportion of UK steel procured for each Government Department and, secondly, we have changed the procurement rules so that social and environmental factors can be taken into account in future procurement. Thirdly, we have published a future pipeline of opportunities. We have done all...

British Steel (22 May 2019)
Greg Clark: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his comments. The town that he represents has a proud history of steelmaking, and I want that to continue for many years. It should be making history in the future, as it has done in the past. It is vital in that to reflect the sense of community in the steel industry, both in particular places and across the country. Through my contact with the trade...

British Steel (22 May 2019)
Greg Clark: It is important that we consider and act on the impact on the wider supply chain, and the group I propose to bring together to support British Steel will include representatives of the suppliers. I will set out further details of how we might do that in the days ahead.

British Steel (22 May 2019)
Greg Clark: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for the hard work that he put into understanding and helping the steel industry during his time as a Minister. I know that it was well appreciated. I echo his tribute to Roy Rickhuss. My hon. Friend, the new Minister and I have always had a good relationship with the trade unions. I spoke to Roy Rickhuss and Steve Turner of Unite this morning, and they share...

British Steel (22 May 2019)
Greg Clark: I will continue to do everything I can. It is important to level with the House that I do not run these operations and these assets—they are under the control of the official receiver—but I will do what I can to interest prospective partners with a long-term interest in this. I will continue to leave no stone unturned. As with the solution to the emissions trading scheme problem, I will...

British Steel (22 May 2019)
Greg Clark: I am grateful for what the right hon. Gentleman says. It is important that I should state, and that the House should recognise, that the official receiver is independently appointed by the court. The official receiver has a team of special managers from Ernst & Young who were appointed today, and their responsibility is to secure the best possible resolution for the assets they inherit. They...

British Steel (22 May 2019)
Greg Clark: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that. As I said to colleagues, we should not allow any ideology to influence these decisions, but he is right to draw attention to the accounting officer’s opinion and advice on this, which includes an assessment that makes it clear that the option of whole or partial nationalisation of the company, temporary or permanent, does not change the assessment...


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