Admiral Lord Alan West demanded the UK pulled together its defence industrial strategy or risk losing its ability to produce top-quality metals.
His plea comes after the nation’s steel industry was dealt a crippling blow this week by the collapse of British Steel.
Speaking at the House of Lords, the Labour peer used the sinking of his frigate, HMS Ardent, during the Falklands War as an example of why it was vital the UK protected its industry.
He was concerned Britain had not ‘pulled together’ its defence industrial strategy for new warships and said: ‘In war you need to replace ships, and you cannot always rely on people supplying you with steel – or anything – because they might not agree with what you are doing.’
Responding, business minister Lord Henley said British Steel was not producing large enough quantities for the nation’s defence industry.
‘Having said that, I take the point that the noble Lord made. It is obviously very important to our defence industry and, more importantly, to the defence of the realm to make sure that we can produce steel of an appropriate sort,’ he added.