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Government introduces new measures to protect UK steel firms

The government says it wants to help UK steel suppliers “compete on a level playing field” with overseas competitors after introducing a raft of new measures on public sector procurement.

Public sector clients will have to advertise steel demand on each project while contractors bidding for government work will have to include supply chain plans, including the source of their steel.

Procuring organisations, while urged to award contracts on a value for money basis, have also been told to consider “social criteria” in their decision making.

These criteria “include taking into account the benefits of employment and supply chain activity”, meaning procurers should assess the impact on jobs, health and safety, training and the environment when awarding contracts.

The new measures apply to public projects valued at more than £10m, with the government stressing that it wants to “improve visibility of opportunities on major projects such as HS2 and Network Rail, so that UK steel suppliers will be able to bid”.

The measures, drawn up by the Steel Procurement Working Group, come in response to a deepening crisis in the steel industry, caused in part by the importing of cheaper Chinese steel.

Around 4,000 jobs have already been lost following the closure of SSI’s Redcar plant and the downsizing of Tata Steel’s operations in Scunthorpe and Scotland.

Matthew Hancock (pictured), paymaster general and chair of the working group, said: “By asking procurers on major UK projects to consider social and environmental impacts, we are building a Britain that is happier, healthier and better off.

“We will always strive to get the best value for money for taxpayers and we are going to do so in a way that strengthens our economy and bolsters the long-term prosperity of people across the country.

“I don’t want contracts going abroad if the best bid is a British bid with all the social and economic benefits that brings.”

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