Accessing the Research Fund for Coal and Steel
The Subsidy Control Bill will allow the UK to seize the opportunities arising from Brexit and I was therefore pleased to hear the Secretary of State for Business use the debate to talk of his commitment to ensuring a sustainable future for UK steel. And to confirm that our post-Brexit state aid rules will make it easier for us to support research and innovation in the steel industry.
Until the end of 2020, the UK steel industry had access to a £1.6 billion EU innovation fund – the Research Fund for Coal and Steel. This fund was paid for by levies on the coal and steel industries and was designed to support cross-sector research and innovation. The UK steel industry’s share of these funds amounts to approximately £180 million, which will be returned to the UK Government from this year.
This money will be critical in helping the steel industry to face the challenges of tomorrow by researching technology that will enable them to be cleaner, greener, and more efficient. Speaking in the debate I took the opportunity to ask the Secretary of State for the money being returned to the UK from the EU fund to be ring-fenced for use by the UK steel industry.
This is money that the industry itself has invested in its own future, and it seems only fair that they are able to take back control of that funding now that we have left the EU.
I'm also pleased that the Government is already providing funding to industries like steel to help them transition to the net zero economy. Schemes such as the Industrial Energy Transformation Fund will be key to making sure that high-energy industries can play their part in reducing carbon emissions and meeting our target of net zero by 2050.
Subsidy Control Bill - debated September 22
"One of the industries that I hope will benefit from the Bill is the steel industry. As my right hon. Friend will know from frequent and very welcome engagements with me on the issue, Liberty Speciality Steels in Stocksbridge is a key employer in my constituency. Whilst we were in the EU, the industry had access to the EU’s research fund for coal and steel. Now that we have left, £182 million is due to be returned to the UK. Will my right hon. Friend look into the possibility of ringfencing that money, given that it has been raised from levies on the steel industry rather than through general taxation, so that we can have a UK fund for innovation in UK steel?"
In her brief time in the House, my hon. Friend has been an impressive and focused campaigner on behalf of her constituents and the wider industry. As she knows, I am a particular fan of the steel industry, and want to seek a sustainable future for it here in the UK. I cannot give any budgetary guarantees, as she will appreciate, but this system does give us much more flexibility than was the case previously.
(Kwasi Kwarteng - Secretary of State for Business)