IN the week that we have been celebrating the centenary of the Suffragette victory, their famous phrase ‘deeds not words’ has been ringing in my ears, writes Redcar MP Anna Turley.

On Teesside we have had many warm words spoken in recent weeks about the future of our industry and in particular the SSI site. Yet we still seem disappointingly short of deeds.

Three ministerial visits in as many weeks should have given us reason to be optimistic. Yet on each occasion, the substance didn’t quite seem to live up to the spin. Brexit Secretary David Davis came to try and reassure business that a transition period would ease fears of a disastrous hard Brexit. But there was little comfort to be found in his words, and the much-trailed proposal for Free Port status for Teesport barely warranted a fleeting reference. Words but no deeds on this policy as yet.

This came shortly after the disappointment over Boulby Potash where a public exchange of letters and a dash to London by Conservative MP Simon Clarke wasn’t enough to secure government support for redundant Boulby workers. Warm words from the government again, but cold comfort for the workers with nothing that will make a meaningful difference to their futures.

This all builds on a sense of unease after we were left feeling a little confused by the spin surrounding November’s budget. The budget was heralded by the Mayor as a major historic windfall for Teesside with £123 million for the SSI site. Despite pages of celebration in the papers, closer inspection revealed that, bar £5 million, all of this money was destined purely for keeping the site safe and for security. This is all vital ongoing work which the government was, quite rightly, already undertaking, the only difference being that the funding would now be directed through the Development Corporation. More words, more newspaper copy, more Twitter excitement, nothing new.

This week's ministerial visit by Claire Perry again seemed outwardly positive as Teesside was told we have the chance to be a ‘powerhouse with influence around the world’. Is it churlish to remind people that we already were exactly that before our steelworks was shut in 2015? I spent the day at the Community Union steel conference where another minister’s speech, while positive in tone, contained no action on the issues that had led to the steel crisis in the first place, namely energy costs, Chinese dumping, capital investment and support for research and development. If felt like Groundhog Day as we pressed the same ‘asks’ that we have been doing for over three years now.

Most surprising of all though, was an article published on the back of the ministerial visits about a ‘multi-billion pound energy investment’ bringing thousands of jobs. There was no detail on the proposals and it was simply the trailing of a forthcoming announcement. More words, more newspaper copy, more hype, no detail.

The announcement struck me as particularly odd because there has, as yet, been no formal response to the consultation on the strategic master plan for the site. So it is not clear whether this development is part of that strategy. Moreover the Development Corporation still don’t even own the site yet; it remains in the hands of the Thai banks and the Official Receiver. The major barrier to progressing remains securing possession of the site.

This pre-announcement announcement also begged the question of what it means for the other eighty companies who are keen to invest in the site. Many are still in the process of scoping and submitting bids. What impact does this development, which I hope might be for carbon capture and storage, have on their proposals - could it jeopardise, or does it support, substantial future investment? We have absolutely no information on what criteria is being used to approve bids. All the work of the MDC is done entirely behind closed doors due to ‘commercial sensitivities’ so we are unable scrutinise their decision-making process or ensure the voices of local people are heard. There is no transparency; the public are simply being asked to trust the Board. This announcement felt like it had been pulled prematurely from the pile of bids to make sure there was something to say on the minister’s big day.

It is vital that we are soon able to see and to debate the deeds as well as the words of the government, the Development Corporation and the Mayor. It is not ‘talking Teesside down’ to scrutinise and challenge the activity which is going to have repercussions for the lives of our constituents for generations to come, and to have the very highest demands and expectations on behalf of the people we represent. It is time for us to see the government deliver. It’s time for deeds not words.