Government pledges public sector boost for UK steel

The government has announced that British steel companies will be able to compete on a level playing field for contracts across the public sector.

The new measures come as around £300 billion is due to be spent on major UK infrastructure projects over the next five years. The initiatives will support steel suppliers’ ability to compete with international suppliers for major government and public sector contracts.

Reforms include directing that public sector projects that involve the supply of steel should consider responsible sourcing, the training suppliers given to their workforce, carbon footprint, protecting the health and safety of staff and the social integration of disadvantaged workers.

Contractors working for the public sector will also be required to advertise their requirements for steel so that UK firms can compete. The announcement arrives as Prime Minister David Cameron prepares to meet with Carwyn Jones, First Minister of Wales, to update him on the government’s ongoing discussions with Tata and its work to support a sales process.

The government will also establish a list of approved steel suppliers, which meet stringent criteria. The list will be used by the government and its contractors to help ensure a level playing field for those suppliers who meet the criteria.

Matt Hancock, Minister for the Cabinet Office and Paymaster General, said: “We are going further than ever before to support British steel. Taxpayers spend billions of pounds buying steel for public projects. Last year we changed the rules across all central government procurement to ensure buyers take into account the true value of British steel - including local impact and jobs.

“The industry is responding positively to this so I want to go further. Now we will apply this guidance across the public sector so that, from operating theatres to new buildings, public sector buyers will need to consider social and economic benefits, alongside value for money. When public bodies buy steel they must take into account the true value of buying British.”

Business Secretary Sajid Javid said: “I am determined to make sure we do all we can to secure a sustainable future for UK steel and find a viable solution that supports the workers and wider community.

“By changing the procurement rules on these major infrastructure projects we are backing the future of UK steel - opening up significant opportunities for UK suppliers and allowing them to compete more effectively with international companies.”