Steel matters

The announcement of yet more job losses and closures in our steel industry is most worrying. The combined impact of low steel prices and high energy prices here in the UK is squeezing the owners, leaving them with big weekly bills to pay to keep works open. It is exactly what some of us feared as we campaigned against dear energy and warned that we faced industrial loss as a result. The collapse of world steel prices is accelerating the process.

The UK needs to buy substantial quantities of steel. We need them for railway lines and for vehicles, for buildings and for domestic appliances. The UK has a long tradition of making steel and of making high grade and specialist steels which command better prices. Traditionally an industrial country has a basic steel making capability as part of its investment.

So what can we do to stabilise the industry? How could we enjoy the march of the makers?

The first thing is to buy more of our own steel. The government orders many railway projects and other civil engineering structures. It buys vehicles and appliances. It needs to ensure a sufficiently high UK content in what it buys, including the steel. Other EU countries manage this for their own domestic industries, so all the time we remain in the EU we have to find similar ways to show sensible priority within the rules.

In exchanges in the Commons on Monday I pressed the government on the impact of EU procurement directives on buying UK steel. The Minister said they have been relaxed, but was unable to confirm that the UK state sector can simply require its purchasing officers to buy UK steel for all needs paid for out of tax revenue. There is still enough potential UK competition to allow sensible prices whilst specifying UK steel.

The second thing we need to do is to slash our energy bills. I have written and spoken regularly about how we can and should so this.

The third thing government needs to do is to look at its range of taxes and impositions on the industry to see if it can alleviate the burden of rates and other levies.

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111 Comments

  1. Lifelogic
    Posted January 21, 2016 at 5:32 am | Permalink

    Indeed it is important for a nation like the UK to retain as much industrial capacity we reasonably can. Cheap energy, lower rates and taxes, purchase from the UK as fas as possible and fewer daft regulations all round are what is needed. Unfortunately we get the complete opposite from this green crap government and from the EU.

    Is the appalling George Osborne really going to further thieve from people’s pensions pots? He is already taking the cap down to the absurdly low £1M, is he now going to kill pensions off almost fully by restricting relief to the basic rate too? The man is far worse than Brown. It is not even tax relief anyway it is only a deferment of taxation (in the main) until the pension is actually taken. Furthermore the absurd restrictions on allowed investment within the fund and the many complexities & costs of running them are very damaging too.

    He certainly seems determined to tax until the pips squeak, damage the economy in the process and make himself very unpopular indeed. Why not just kill all the endless government waste, the absurd projects and total incompetence. Start with HS2 and Cameron silly happiness index perhaps. Then sort out the totally dysfunctional NHS.

    Still Cameron tells us he is a “low tax conservative at heart” alas not in any of his actions.

    • graham1946
      Posted January 21, 2016 at 1:39 pm | Permalink

      Sorry LL, I don’t think many people share your view and will shed few tears for people who have a million pounds in the bank (pension pot) and want yet more help from the tax payer- its more than most people earn in a lifetime. Similarly with tax relief – people on twice the national average get far more relief on pension payments than the average tax payer to boost their pensions at the cost of the tax payer – why? You say it is a deferment of tax – maybe, maybe not.

      I have more sympathy with a female friend of mine who recently turned 60 and was told pretty much out of the blue that she would not be getting her pension for another 6 years – 6 years of work she doesn’t want and is not very fit to do and 6 years of fraud against promises made in her lifetime by all governments. 6 years at the new rate would be the thick end of £50,000 is how much she is defrauded by the Bullingdon boys who have no notion of life at the lower or even middle of society. It’s criminality, made legal by our sycophantic MP’s. who of course want to do CMD’s bidding, however wrong headed and unfair. No danger to their pensions of course.

      • JoeSoap
        Posted January 21, 2016 at 3:07 pm | Permalink

        Frankly both of these are wrong.
        The government has breached its contract with your friend and many others, but try taking that to court.
        As for pension reliefs, they WILL be taxed later, both as income and VAT. The Conservative (yes Conservative) government is discouraging aspiration, saving and entrepreneurship and basically taking just one more step in screwing generations hence to appease today’s public. But try telling them that too.
        The only way is to vote this government and all its works OUT.

        • Lifelogic
          Posted January 21, 2016 at 5:39 pm | Permalink

          Indeed but the only real alternative, Labour would be even worse.

          • JoeSoap
            Posted January 21, 2016 at 8:07 pm | Permalink

            Sad indictment.

          • Bob
            Posted January 21, 2016 at 8:55 pm | Permalink

            @lifelogic

            ” the only real alternative, Labour”

            You’ve fallen for that old lie, I’m surprised at you.

        • graham1946
          Posted January 21, 2016 at 7:05 pm | Permalink

          Joe Soap.

          Of course its not actionable – it has been legalised as I said but it is immoral. Many are affected but didn’t vote on it because the opposition is frankly, worse. It is notable that the pensions minister when not in the government’s employ was of a decidedly different opinion to that she holds now.

          Of course pensions will be taxed when taken, but my point when I said maybe, was that it is possible that tax relief on contributions will be at 40 percent but tax when the pension is taken may be at 20 percent on current arrangements. VAT etc is irrelevant as it applies to all and is most especially regressive on the lower paid. I don’t think aspiration will be affected by this – most people will be wanting to get ahead for career advancement and to earn more salary than a bit of tax relief on pensions. It’s like the old ‘the rich will leave if you do this’ argument – it simply doesn’t happen.

      • Anonymous
        Posted January 21, 2016 at 8:52 pm | Permalink

        Graham – Sexual equality should cut both ways.

        It’s always seemed unfair that men work longer and yet have lower life expectancy.

        • graham1946
          Posted January 22, 2016 at 10:47 am | Permalink

          I agree and it was being addressed and the previous timetable was agreed. It’s the speed with which this was done that created unnecessary unfairness. It could never have been achieved painlessly, but why single out only a certain number of women who just happen to have been born in a certain time period? The saving is peanuts in government terms and is dwarfed by waste elsewhere

        • Cliff. Wokingham.
          Posted January 22, 2016 at 11:03 am | Permalink

          There was a good reason for it however, like so many things in modern Britain, we threw the baby out with the bath water.

          When the state pension first came into being, few women worked full time, unlike now.
          The different gender based retirement ages were based on the fact that, back then, most women, were on average, five years younger than their husbands. This simple, practical, non PC policy, allowed couples to retire together and thus enjoy their retirement together as a couple.

      • Lifelogic
        Posted January 22, 2016 at 6:38 am | Permalink

        Apart from the 25% tax free it is just tax deferment, you pay tax on the pension when you draw it.

        • graham1946
          Posted January 22, 2016 at 10:53 am | Permalink

          Yes, but not quite equitably LL – you seem not to understand the tax system. As I mentioned in a previous post which has not been published, it is very possible and indeed very likely that you can get a 40 percent relief on the pension contributions and yet pay only 20 percent on the income provided when the pension is realised.

          • hefner
            Posted January 23, 2016 at 5:36 pm | Permalink

            Graham,
            Thanks for pointing this out. A small number of people even get a 45% relief on their pension contributions and if somewhat clever only pay 20% tax on the income realised at retirement age.
            A tiny bit frustrating for those lower down the tax scale.

      • Richard1
        Posted January 22, 2016 at 11:45 am | Permalink

        This language is a bit silly – it would be better if political debate wasn’t conducted in these hyperbolic terms. Of course equalising the pension age between men and women is not ‘criminality’ or a ‘breach of contract’. On that basis you could say any change at all in any benefits entitlement or tax law is a breach of contract, therefore no changes can ever be made to a policy once implemented. We are told constantly how men and women should be treated equally and how much better everything would be if only more women were in charge – how can it be defensible in this context to have unequal pension ages, especially when women have longer life expectancy?!

      • stred
        Posted January 22, 2016 at 3:25 pm | Permalink

        Graham. They wanted equality but had to make women work longer rather than men make less. If they had left it as it was, some men would have gone transgender and declared themselves women, getting the money early and saving themselves from hard work, as recently proposed by the ex culture minister, Mrs Miller.

    • stred
      Posted January 22, 2016 at 3:33 pm | Permalink

      Having just spent half a day doing my online tax, I can confirm that Mr Osborne’s favourite civil servants have made it even more difficult. Anyone with any foreign savings interest or earnings and trying to put it in the foreign section will find a notice in red telling the unfortunate payer that the service will no longer work and they will need to get a commercial tax package. My rotten interest from an IOM account where I had to stick my Euros was about £400. My bird earns even less from a US consultancy. The world of accountancy is prospering. The calculator is slow too, so you have to guess how much to pay them.

  2. CHRISTOPHER HOUSTON
    Posted January 21, 2016 at 5:35 am | Permalink

    So the US financed and orchestrated iron ore producers in South America and elsewhere have continued to over-produce. Year on year losing themselves money. They flooded Australia’s customers with over cheap iron ore which was far less than production/mining costs making redundant their workers. Some Aussie commentators thought it was a deliberate act by the US to run them out of business and also to ruin the smaller scale Chinese producers into the ground too. China is said to support its producers in a very communistic way perhaps unthinkable to US economic strategists. So the ploy hasn’t worked. The Chinese now have ridiculously cheap imported and domestically produced iron ore. Well of course they are going to make steel with it. Cheaper than anyone else courtesy primarily of adversarial US economic strategy.
    How to remedy the situation? Ban US cars from Europe unless they have 85% European components and commodities. Should get their ear.

  3. Lifelogic
    Posted January 21, 2016 at 6:12 am | Permalink

    I see that Daniel Hannan is spot on in the Spectator today.

    http://www.spectator.co.uk/2016/01/what-brexit-would-look-like-for-britain/

    What JR are the real reasons for Cameron & most of the Tory party, the LibDims, Labour, the Greens, the SNP, the establishment, the BBC and Plaid Cymru all being in favour of in when the case is so very clearly in favour of Brexit?

    • DaveM
      Posted January 21, 2016 at 7:13 am | Permalink

      “What JR are the real reasons for Cameron & most of the Tory party, the LibDims, Labour, the Greens, the SNP, the establishment, the BBC and Plaid Cymru all being in favour of in when the case is so very clearly in favour of Brexit?”

      More importantly, IMO, now that David Cameron is effectively leading the In campaign, who is going to lead the Out campaign?

    • MikeP
      Posted January 21, 2016 at 9:23 am | Permalink

      Lifelogic I fear the answer is that our entire political class – with the notable exception of our host and a few dozen others – are scared witless at the thought of having to pick up and manage so many things on our behalf that they’ve delegated to Brussels.
      Life would become complicated again, they’d have to earn their crust, become properly accountable, and there’d be far fewer hiding places for their incompetence!!

      • Mark B
        Posted January 21, 2016 at 4:35 pm | Permalink

        Spot on !

    • Denis Cooper
      Posted January 21, 2016 at 10:19 am | Permalink

      “To summarise, then, Norway gets a better deal than Britain currently does, and Switzerland a better deal than Norway. But a post-EU Britain, with 65 million people to Switzerland’s eight million and Norway’s five, should expect something better yet.”

      As the government and its various allies are already telling lies about the positions of Norway and Switzerland I doubt that they will delve into what that “something better yet” might be, and what does it matter that the UK is so much bigger than those two countries when it no longer has the British Empire and is much smaller than the “post-imperial empire” which has emerged on the continent? And run by people who are our lovely “European partners” while they can have a large hand in the government of our country, but apparently will turn really nasty if we say that we no longer wish to be part of that EU system of government.

      • Lifelogic
        Posted January 21, 2016 at 12:15 pm | Permalink

        This EU “turning really nasty” is not a reality. It is not like a bitter divorce with two totally unreasonable parties trying to destroy each other, in any way they can.

        The EU and the UK will reach agreements as it will be in their interest to do so.

        They can do far more harm to the UK while they are inside the EU using the laws, EU court and treaties (oh sorry they are no longer treaties once ratified some claim).

        We also have the advantage that we are larger, not land locked like Switzerland & rather flatter too – also rather warmer than Norway.

        • Denis Cooper
          Posted January 21, 2016 at 12:42 pm | Permalink

          But Fraser Nelson, a Tory supporter who wants us to stay in the EU under their thumb, has recently written in both the Telegraph and the Spectator that they could be irrational and vindictive if we said we wanted to leave and govern ourselves. It would be interesting to know whether our Prime Minister secretly shares this very negative view of our “European partners”, the other members of the “club” or “family” that he wants us to stay in.

          • Richard1
            Posted January 21, 2016 at 1:40 pm | Permalink

            This seems to me a very sensible line of argument – it is quite possible the EU will wish to penalise the UK post-Brexit pour encourager les autres.

          • Lifelogic
            Posted January 21, 2016 at 2:25 pm | Permalink

            They might be irrational and vindictive but what would that gain them? They can and do inflict far more damage with us in (through poor and over regulation and green crap than out).

            Why would we want to be a members of a club if the members are really like that. It is our moral duty to show the door to any others who might sensible follow.

          • Denis Cooper
            Posted January 21, 2016 at 5:52 pm | Permalink

            So, Richard1, which of the other EU governments do you think see trade as a useful weapon for political domination, and which do you think will look upon that idea as a potential threat to themselves? Of course they have all signed up to EU treaty articles saying exactly the opposite, but as we know it doesn’t really matter what it says in the treaties if some provision is getting in the way of what they want to do – which I would say is actually another good reason for leaving, we cannot trust some of them an inch.

    • Lifelogic
      Posted January 21, 2016 at 10:38 am | Permalink

      Most of the Tory Party’s leadership & MPs that is – not the membership and Tory voters who are mainly for out.

      As the polls move to show a Brexit is becoming more likely what will Cameron do? His current strategy seems to be to try to rush the referendum through quickly so the out side cannot have much time between his fake non renegotiation results and the vote.

      I also read that a “right to a family life” in the human rights act is now being used by the UK courts to allow people from Calais to come to the UK & seek asylum, when they were perfectly safe in France.

      How did Cameron get on with his Human Right Promise? Was it a Cast Iron or No ifs No Buts promise I cannot remember?

      • graham1946
        Posted January 21, 2016 at 7:33 pm | Permalink

        Well, LL, like all Cameron’s principles, his rush to a referendum is variable. Tonight I hear on the news that he has told the World Government in Davos that he is no longer in a hurry as he has until 2017 to get HIS (not our you will note) referendum, because he needs to get the right deal. Make of that what you will, but I conclude he’s going to try to time it according to the opinion polls. He forgets how wrong they can be, but then modern Prime Ministers know little or at least understand little of history, hence the cockups they make time and again.

    • Bob
      Posted January 21, 2016 at 12:23 pm | Permalink

      @lifelogic

      “What JR are the real reasons for Cameron & most of the Tory party, the LibDims, Labour, the Greens, the SNP, the establishment, the BBC and Plaid Cymru all being in favour of in when the case is so very clearly in favour of Brexit?”

      That’s the $64,000 question. I can only think that it’s a conspiracy to eliminate the inconvenience of elections and referendums.

      The sad thing is how easily people allow themselves to be brainwashed into supporting dictatorships, we’ve seen many examples of this in the past with communism and national socialism. If we do not learn from history…

      I read in the Telegraph about a 15-year-old boy who amputated his own hand after mistakenly raising it when his imam asked if anyone did not believe the teachings of the Prophet Mohammed. This illustrates the gullibility of the human mind.

      • Lifelogic
        Posted January 21, 2016 at 2:31 pm | Permalink

        For good people to do bad things it usually takes extreme religion. The religious indoctrination of young minds tends to ensure it continues.

        But the movement does seem to be in the right direction, in most countries anyway.

  4. CHRISTOPHER HOUSTON
    Posted January 21, 2016 at 6:32 am | Permalink

    Aluminium or aluminum, in American-speak , its military version, thanks to pioneering adaptation by Ford and others is fast replacing steel. Even aluminium though more dangerous than copper is being used at least in China in commercial wiring. Traditional commodities like steel do not necessarily have a good future.
    More railway lines here should be cancelled. What were the reasons for Dr Beeching’s cutting of railways? Well cheap oil and petrol was one reason.There was relatively home produced cheap steel, cheap coal for the engines and rail connections between coalmines and steel works. With their workers on a rail route. Perfect. So the roads in many places in Yorkshire caught up…say 10 years ago with the rail closures. Many of the homes and commercial buildings were in the wrong places for roads. Now they are not. Now more railways are desired. By government. Not thinking of the big picture.But by no-one else.

    Government should try looking forward for more than a Parliamentary session. The UK is full of rails, roads and people. Like the local corner shop so exampled by the late Mrs. Thatcher , in this case, don’t over-stuff your shop with shelves, containers and show cases. Keep it simple. Stop trying to tart it up. Know when to leave alone. Know when to get rid of clutter.

    • oldtimer
      Posted January 21, 2016 at 4:40 pm | Permalink

      If you are referring to Ford’s adoption of aluminium for its new F-150 truck, that technology was developed by Jaguar over many years. I recall seeing Jaguar backed R & D at Warwick University’s manufacturing centre in the mid to late 1980s. When Ford sold Land Rover and Jaguar to Tata they took the technology with them and several key staff who had worked on it – confirmed by the Ford Chief Engineer at the time of the F-150’s launch.

      Land Rovers have used aluminium for ever, though its use in a unibody (without separate chassis) dates from the launch of the 4th and latest generation Range Rover. Prior to Jaguar’s work on aluminium, Spen King the man who conceived, engineered and designed the original Range Rover also, while in BL Technology at Gaydon, designed, engineered and built a concept small car of aluminium and plastic capable of c100mpg, exploring the potential of adhesives – that was c1980. It has been displayed from time to time at the Heritage Museum at Gaydon. Such is the DNA of the current generation of Jaguar Land Rover products.

      • acorn
        Posted January 21, 2016 at 6:12 pm | Permalink

        At this very moment, my mate is leaving my drive in a powder blue Jaguar XJ8 with its aluminium body. A third generation XJ8 (X350). Poetry in motion.

        • CHRISTOPHER HOUSTON
          Posted January 22, 2016 at 9:58 am | Permalink

          Doubtlessly you wish him a thoroughly British “TATA for now”

        • Lifelogic
          Posted January 24, 2016 at 10:55 am | Permalink

          Sounds like a lot of depreciation to me, but if it gives him pleasure and fuel is cheap now too not having run out in 1990 as we were told. At least until Osborne ups the fuel taxes I suppose.

          I shall stick with my 12 year old Volvo and 10 year old golf convertible I think, combined value perhaps £1500.

      • CHRISTOPHER HOUSTON
        Posted January 21, 2016 at 7:38 pm | Permalink

        Then that accounts why Land Rover (got into difficulties before Tata investment Ed)New technology. Cheaper and better than its rivals. Now not a British company. Nevertheless an interesting very British history. Heaven knows how the Empire was lost. I guess it depends on who writes the history.
        The fact remains the Humvee as the supreme battle vehicle of its class using actually secret… technology unavailable to the British is the direct ancestor of Ford usage of aluminium.
        The British can paw through its biased history and think of its great moments “Clive of India” and be teary eyed about the movie, not the film (note ) Zulu Dawn but South Africa and everything else on the map is no longer pink…. except the world-famous well-known pinking of British motor car engines.

  5. Anonymous
    Posted January 21, 2016 at 7:10 am | Permalink

    If we have to ignore our own steel manufacturers and buy from elsewhere more cheaply then we should not forget to add to that cheap cost all the extra welfare we will be paying to our redundant steel workers. And the cost of future insecurity when we will be unable to provide such strategically important things for ourselves.

  6. Mike Stallard
    Posted January 21, 2016 at 7:11 am | Permalink

    Mr Redwood, well said. You are totally right.
    I have been thinking about the range of taxes and impositions on industry about which I know very little detail.
    Isn’ one of the major causes the fact that the government is supporting far too many people on its payroll? The massive bureaucracies which are being allowed to build up – despite the very best efforts of the ministers involved is shocking.
    Why?
    Well, to do anything at all, you have to get permission. This was brilliantly illustrated last night in that programme about the tax avoiders. They had to get permission from HMRC. You mentioned dredging which is a classic example of bureaucracy gone mad with two brand spanking new bureaucracies built in the last couple of years in this area alone. Both of them do not think dredging is that important.
    Bureaucracy deadens things. It makes doctors angry. It ruins schools. And, of course, it closes the steel industry by putting the price of electricity through the roof. which industry comes next I wonder. Cars?
    But touch bureaucracy and you have every single Union at your throat!

  7. Antisthenes
    Posted January 21, 2016 at 7:23 am | Permalink

    Government interference caused the problem by introducing energy and other policies that would ensure that manufacturing and other business costs would go up. Politicians and bureaucrats appear not to consider the consequences of their actions beyond that they fulfil the goal of promoting their own vested interests . They put idealism, righteousness and ideology before any practical considerations. Consideration of the harmful effects of their actions apparently is not their remit because it is not their livelihood or standard of living that is threatened.

    Now the question is what can be done to alleviate the damage being done by the idiocies of our public servants and their bosses. We all know the answer to that and that is to repeal or change those harmful policies so that they reflect economic realities but will it happen? No is the short answer. So once again we are stuck with the situation whereby we can only treat the symptoms but not the cause. A costly and self defeating exercise. The taxpayer will have to stump up and pay to keep these companies in business that will in the end probably fail anyway. All because of the many government bodies EU and domestic intransigence and high mindedness.

    The natural response is protectionism when the real response should be free and open trade in a market place that all private sector businesses foreign and domestic can compete on equal terms. That can only be achieved if governments severely restrict their interference or at least only interfere to the point that it does not harm competitiveness. Especially when that interference is not uniform and is not applied in equal measure by all the competing groups be they nations or regions. A unusual situation as this is a case where the lowest common denominator needs to be applied.

  8. Richard1
    Posted January 21, 2016 at 7:49 am | Permalink

    It is remarkable that leftists like Jeremy Corbyn are wringing their hands and accusing the government over the steel crisis, when the principle reason for the crisis is the green policies championed in particular by the left.

    • Lifelogic
      Posted January 21, 2016 at 12:23 pm | Permalink

      Indeed you are right, but Cameron (with Huhne, Davey, Rudd and many others) and his vote blue get green/hug a husky drivel was doing it too and still are.

      It does seems that they have rowed back a little, rather quietly & behind the scenes. They are still however pissing vast sums of money down the drain on expensive greencrap unreliables wind, PV & bio.

      Is the idiotic Swansea “Lagoon” now finally dead?

      • Richard1
        Posted January 21, 2016 at 1:43 pm | Permalink

        As you say they are rowing back gently. We have seen cuts to subsidies and as far as I’m aware onshore wind is now dead. Some obeisance to the green god is probably inevitable given the stridency of the green religion and the fact is shared (officially at least) by so many governments and international bodies. So long as its mainly talk I dont mind. What does matter is when a real believer like Ed Davey or Ed Milliband gets his feet under a ministerial desk.

        • Lifelogic
          Posted January 21, 2016 at 2:38 pm | Permalink

          Do even people like Huhne, Davey, Debden, Yeo, Clegg and Ed Milliband really believe?

          I find it very hard to believe they can be that daft and lacking in science. Even if you accept the catastrophic warming c02 exaggeration wind and pv still make no real sense.

        • Denis Cooper
          Posted January 21, 2016 at 6:07 pm | Permalink

          I suppose you realise that not only did the Tory MPs all vote for the Climate Change Act 2008, with just a few exceptions, but during the debate they were also claiming credit for having started it off.

          http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200708/cmhansrd/cm081028/debtext/81028-0021.htm

          “Greg Clark (Tunbridge Wells) (Con): I regret that there is little time to thank individually all the people who have contributed to the Bill during its passage, both inside the House and out of it. I would like to pay tribute to my right hon. Friend the Member for West Dorset (Mr. Letwin), who first pressed for the Bill to be taken up by the Government, and my hon. Friend the Member for East Surrey (Mr. Ainsworth), who previously stood in my place … This Bill has attracted an unusual spirit of cross-party co-operation in both Houses. That is appropriate, because to succeed the Bill must lay foundations that endure from one Parliament to the other and indeed, eventually, from one generation to another …”

          “The House having divided: Ayes 463, Noes 3.”

          Reply Indeed. I did not vote for it and urged my party not to do so.

  9. Jerry
    Posted January 21, 2016 at 8:00 am | Permalink

    “Traditionally an industrial country has a basic steel making capability as part of its investment…”

    It is also what many campaigned about when these vital assets were allowed to be sold to non UK interests (and by some, if not the private sector).

    “So what can we do to stabilise the industry? How could we enjoy the march of the makers? The first thing is to buy more of our own steel.”

    Err, find words John but how can we do that if the UK is not producing any or enough steel of the correct grade?…

    “The government orders many railway projects”

    Indeed and then orders the trains (locomotives or multiple units) from abroad, at best to be merely assembled in the UK from components shipped in, will it really be economic to ship UK steel to our competitor nations, will they allow it?

    “Other EU countries manage this for their own domestic industries, so all the time we remain in the EU we have to find similar ways to show sensible priority within the rules.”

    As you say, Germany’s DB do not seem to have a problem ordering trains made in Germany, from German owned companies, nor does France, thus the root cause of our problem must be closer to home, closer to our domestic politics, closer to how our economy has been ruin over the years… Once again, rather than the usual constant criticisms of the domestic/EU politics found in Germany and France -especially by some contributors to our hosts site- perhaps we need to be far more like those two countries.

    “There is still enough potential UK competition to allow sensible prices whilst specifying UK steel.”

    Perhaps we need to define what a “sensible” price is first, for example very few would suggest that it is the cheapest possible that adheres to the specification (but the UK state/tax payer to then end up paying tens of millions of GBP out in JSA and on workfare schemes etc), or perhaps they would?…

    “The second thing we need to do is to slash our energy bills [..//..] The third thing government needs to do is to look at its range of taxes and impositions on the industry”

    A bit late, in the case of steel, after the horse has bolted… A blast furnace is not like switching a light bulb back on, it will take millions of GBP investment to restart, even if it had been correctly shut down and mothballed.

  10. Antisthenes
    Posted January 21, 2016 at 8:20 am | Permalink

    TfL is dropping the idea to punitively punish Uber taxis and instead lighten the burden of taxi regulations for black cabs. An attack of common sense doing what is right for the consumer and not for a vested interest. Pity that other politicians have not followed Boris’s lead and lightened the economic burden for UK and EU other businesses.

    • Lifelogic
      Posted January 21, 2016 at 12:27 pm | Permalink

      Good, black cabs rather like the legal profession have had far too cosy deal going for far too long already. Why on earth can mini cabs not use bus lanes too? Indeed as cars are more efficient than taxis and buses then why can they not too?

      This as taxis spend a lot of driving round empty between jobs.

    • Jerry
      Posted January 21, 2016 at 2:59 pm | Permalink

      @Antisthenes; “An attack of common sense doing what is right for the consumer and not for a vested interest”

      I hope you are correct, and that we do not find out later that the dropped regulations were actually needed, by way of the Crown or Coroners courts.

      • Anonymous
        Posted January 21, 2016 at 7:55 pm | Permalink

        Lifelogic – Your car is effectively empty until you’ve got your shopping in it. Or picked up your relative from the station – or kid from school…

        A car is not an efficient way to travel into a city, with parking charges etc.

        Jerry – Very well put. I’m unimpressed by Uber drivers as a whole.

      • Antisthenes
        Posted January 22, 2016 at 9:08 am | Permalink

        A reason can be found for any regulation, rule or law and they do not have to be really sensible ones hence there are so many of them. They are introduced to stop humans doing harm to one another and often to stop them doing harm to themselves. That is the theory at least although in practice sometimes that is not the case at all.

        However many of them are introduced without consideration of what harmful side effects they may have. It often transpires that a regulation etc., introduced to protect one group has an adverse effect on other groups. The trick is to get the balance right so that the least number are harmed. As what ever is done it does not fully protect even those it is designed to do and someone or some group who it is not designed to protect may be seriously harmed in one way or another.

        With or without regulation Crown or Coroners courts will be kept busy.

  11. acorn
    Posted January 21, 2016 at 8:26 am | Permalink

    “… that the UK state sector can simply require its purchasing officers to buy UK steel …”. Surely a laissez faire, neo-liberal, conservative government, true to its ideology, would let the “markets” take care of the problem! Isn’t this the destructive bit of Osborne’s creative destruction mantra?

    • Anonymous
      Posted January 21, 2016 at 8:00 pm | Permalink

      I prefer the ANZAC model. Our skilled workers emigrate to those well run countries because they are better appreciated, get a better work-life balance, better pay and a better run state. And nor will they let any old (foreigner ed)come in without qualifications and compete with you for your job and your house.

      The problem with Britain is no longer with the workers.

  12. Iain Moore
    Posted January 21, 2016 at 8:41 am | Permalink

    I see that Government Ministers and pretty much the whole British political establishment, aren’t prepared to boast about the success of their expensive energy policy.

  13. Know-Dice
    Posted January 21, 2016 at 8:50 am | Permalink

    The EU certainly seems to tie our hands when it comes to tilting the balance in favour of purchasing items made in the UK.

    But I have to question, can some of this be put down to our Civil Servants “Gold Plating” EU diktats and/or our Government in general following EU guidelines more strictly than say the French or Germans do?

    This is my worry that when we hopefully leave the EU it will be the same “jobs worth” civil service in place here, the same government that seems much too willing to tax and waste 🙁

    • Bob
      Posted January 21, 2016 at 12:43 pm | Permalink

      @Know-Dice

      “This is my worry that when we hopefully leave the EU it will be the same “jobs worth” civil service in place here, the same government that seems much too willing to tax and waste “

      Well that’s in the hands of the electorate, and unfortunately lots of them are victims of state education and are easily conned and bribed by self serving politicians.

      You can’t vote to change the laws of economics. Will Spencer

    • hefner
      Posted January 21, 2016 at 12:51 pm | Permalink

      and unfortunately more or less the same bunch of populist MPs, who talk, talk without remembering, it seems, that with Mrs Thatcher they encouraged the laisser-faire, neo-liberal, conservative idea of “letting the markets take care of the problem”.
      And what if the “market” does not bring what they were expecting? That seems very much the situation today.

      Reply Conservatives including Mrs Thatcher saw a role for the law, and for some state involvement in economic life.

  14. Denis Cooper
    Posted January 21, 2016 at 9:08 am | Permalink

    “In exchanges in the Commons on Monday I pressed the government on the impact of EU procurement directives on buying UK steel. The Minister said they have been relaxed, but was unable to confirm that the UK state sector can simply require its purchasing officers to buy UK steel for all needs paid for out of tax revenue.”

    Why was he unable to confirm it? Because he didn’t know? Or because he and nobody else CAN know, until the EU Commission decides exactly what the EU law is, or how it is to be applied in this particular case, and the EU’s Court of Justice has eventually pronounced on any legal challenges which may be brought before it by one party or another?

    Meanwhile, on a related matter, also in the category of “nothing whatsoever to do with the EU”, as far as most of the establishment media are concerned, I suppose:

    https://euobserver.com/economic/131927

    “EU competition chief lashes out at steel state aid”

    “The EU Commission has ordered Belgium to recover state aid and opened a probe into Italian aid, in two cases concerning the European steel industry, a sector shaken by growing Chinese competition.

    In the first case, the commission estimated that aid granted by the Wallonia region to the Duferco steel group was a distortion of competition and ordered Belgium to recover some €211 million.

    In the second, it said it “will examine whether measures facilitating steel producer Ilva’s access to finance for modernising its plant in Taranto give the company an unfair advantage not available to its competitors.””

    “The decision came amid worries in the European steel industry about Chinese competition and the means to face it.

    Last week, the college of commissioners started a discussion on whether to grant China market economy status at the World Trade Organisation before the end of the year.

    No decision has been taken nor has an opinion been issued, but an EU official said the legal case for not granting China the market economy status e “weak”.

    If China is granted this status, “most of the EU steel industry may disappear”, warned Axel Eggert, the director general of Eurofer, the EU steel industry body.

    Eggerts said this made it more difficult for the EU to impose anti-dumping measures to protect the EU steel industry from Chinese companies.”

    “But the EU competition chief also warned European steelmakers that they were “a key industry” and would have to adapt to the global competition.

    “The EU steel industry needs to be competitive globally [but] it cannot rely on public funds to survive,” she said.

    She warned that unlawful aid “distorts competition and it risks to lead to a harmful subsidy race between member states” and that “EU state aid rules don’t allow public support for rescuing and restructuring of failing steel makers”.”

    Well, that sounds like good Conservative policy, doesn’t it, so presumably the present government supports the Commissioner on that; and if it ends up with the UK, or indeed the whole of the EU, totally dependent on imported steel in the future then so be it; steel may matter, JR, but economic dogma is far more important.

  15. Bert Young
    Posted January 21, 2016 at 9:15 am | Permalink

    If you build something the key has always been – get the foundations right . Having a profitable and successful steel industry is a key foundation to much of the manufacturing in this country and the present dilemma must not be ignored . The problem is not just China dumping its output around the world ; the energy cost factor in the UK is as much to blame , for this , we have to point the finger at the EU. At the present moment PR Cameron is about to make a speech at Davos asking for the support of business leaders in his campaign to stay in the EU ; this is at the very time basic industry is struggling to survive ! – how idiotic can you get !.

    The innovative skill we have in this country is capable of producing things the world wants and needs ; it can do so but it relies on imports . If we do not get the right combination of manufacturing and product costs right we are sunk . The ingredient of energy cost should not be allowed to fritter away our initiative ; it is something that must be under our control . Manufacturers in the EU have a similar dilemma , so , the message at Davos should be to free industry from the stupid bureaucracy in Brussels .

  16. CHRISTOPHER HOUSTON
    Posted January 21, 2016 at 9:23 am | Permalink

    Before any subsidies however masked are given, a complete overall of the British education system is necessary. It most certainly has not escaped the attention of leading politicians and even those of somewhat humbler ranks that in any TV discussion for example, people are unable to think out of the box.

    Supreme academic achievements of people in whatever disciplines in say a BBC Question time audience and Panel, elicit and produce written-in-stone ideological replies and “analyses”. Someone, perhaps an outlandish journalist, actor or shock-jockey is thrown in fulfilling the historic role of court jester. Their remarks that the King isn’t wearing any clothes usually fit into the audience’s mental box labelled “Conspiracy Theory” and is dismissed with a grin and a dumbcluck giggle within seconds.

    So “the public” as manifested in MPs from Steel Works Valley, Coalmining Central, Alwis Dunnitlykethis South, Weeoylnarlock want sand-subsidies to stick their heads in. Well you can’t retrain people either in trades, skills, or politics if you have a school teaching and further education teaching profession who are obviously making their students learn by rote, effectively awarding them academic qualification certificates indicating they have a good memory but with minds in an eternal loop. Such minds are absolutely necessary for repetitive factory work as creative thinking is counter-productive and makes a long day seem like a year.
    But for innovative industry and more human-like jobs our minds need access to far more mental windows and software. Unfortunately the teaching profession has its own mental box which is impenetrable due to their inflated salaries, minimal hours and days of work plus over-generous praise from politicians which lets them slide into a social box marked “Middle-class-don’t- touch- me, nor-listen-I’m-beyond-you”. They’re beyond the pale, certainly.

    • Anonymous
      Posted January 21, 2016 at 8:10 pm | Permalink

      Well if you want others to *think out of the box* a good start would be for you to refrain from using such a hackneyed, banal and worn cliche’ as *think out of the box*

      So. Can YOU think out of the box then ?

      • CHRISTOPHER HOUSTON
        Posted January 22, 2016 at 11:10 am | Permalink

        Of course, I shall change my online nickname to Anonymous which is unique.

        • Anonymous
          Posted January 22, 2016 at 8:43 pm | Permalink

          It’s certainly unique on this forum … or is it ?

          You shall never know.

  17. MikeP
    Posted January 21, 2016 at 9:28 am | Permalink

    John isn’t the approach taken by, for example Italy and other states, the issue of “National Strategic Interest”. If it’s sufficiently important to a nation, on economic, security or survival grounds, a procurement decision can favour your own industries over open competition ?

    Since we play cricket and rugby so well, we tend to abide by the rules, whereas some of our EU partners regularly flaunt them or at best bend them to suit themselves ?

    • hefner
      Posted January 21, 2016 at 1:59 pm | Permalink

      “Since we play … rugby so well”, as exemplified by England in the last rugby World Cup?

  18. Ian wragg
    Posted January 21, 2016 at 9:53 am | Permalink

    A voice in the wilderness John. The Green blob led by the silly Rudd are delighted that steel works are closing and reducing CO2. They have no interest in the good of the country much like Dave and his EU at any price.

    • fedupsoutherner
      Posted January 21, 2016 at 11:58 am | Permalink

      Ian, I fear we have left it too late to engage in a sensible cheap power system. The march of wind farms under the umbrella of the SNP has already gone too far. The bill for the whole of the UK because of this stupidity will affect us all. An example of the stupidity is laid out here in a letter published today in the Herald Scotland.

      DESPITE more than five million trees felled to make room, Hundreds of miles
      of bulldozed tracks, our finest landscapes trashed by multinationals, giant
      pylons scarring our beautiful countryside, Drumochter Pass completely
      vandalised, thousands of tons of concrete dumped on our fragile upland
      ecosystems, millions of birds and bats needlessly slaughtered, wind farms
      visible from 60 per cent of Scotland, tourists deterred by industrialised
      landscapes, the highest energy bills in Europe, countless millions extorted
      from the poorest bill payers, multinationals and landowners trousering
      millions – despite all this, during our coldest night so far, when we need
      power most wind’s contribution to the National Grid, to the nearest round
      figure is zero (precisely 0.15 per cent).

      It is utterly unbelievable that this government without the shackles of the Lib Dims have not sorted this out.

      • Lifelogic
        Posted January 21, 2016 at 5:45 pm | Permalink

        Indeed total insanity but then some earn nice “consultancy” fees on the side.

        • fedupsoutherner
          Posted January 21, 2016 at 6:47 pm | Permalink

          Absolutely correct Lifelogic but don’t forget the landowners who are becoming millionaires in just a few years. Still, at least they might go out and buy British cars like our neighbours who are bragging that the whole family will be able to afford Range Rovers!!! So much for saving CO2 which was the pretence put up when they signed up for having turbines on their land while the rest of us just saw our property prices fall dramatically!!!!!!!!!!!

          • fedupsoutherner
            Posted January 21, 2016 at 6:49 pm | Permalink

            REply to my own reply. Why hasn’t the government recognised that property prices have been reduced when near to wind farms???? I note there is plenty of compensation for others with HS2 and airport expansion but not for wind farms.

      • Anonymous
        Posted January 21, 2016 at 8:12 pm | Permalink

        Fed Up – The Lib Dims were a cover, not a shackle.

  19. English Pensioner
    Posted January 21, 2016 at 10:09 am | Permalink

    Reading today’s news, it seems that the only industry that is expanding in this country is the ‘enquiry industry’. Almost every day when I open my newspaper there is either to be a new enquiry into something, or some other enquiry is reporting its findings. It would be interesting to know what the total cost is each year!

  20. Denis Cooper
    Posted January 21, 2016 at 10:09 am | Permalink

    Off-topic, if anybody would like to read the government’s response to this petition:

    “Stop Cameron spending British taxpayers’ money on Pro-EU Referendum leaflets”

    then it is here:

    https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/116762?reveal_response=yes

    Apparently the government will inform the electorate about:

    “examples of countries that do not have EU membership but do have other arrangements with the EU.

    all of which will be found to have serious disadvantages, at least on their false analyses, but it seems that they will not also speculate about what different arrangements, largely free from those supposed disadvantages, that the UK might be able to negotiate.

    • graham1946
      Posted January 21, 2016 at 7:57 pm | Permalink

      Thanks for the heads up, Denis.

      I’ve signed the petition.

  21. Ex-expat Colin
    Posted January 21, 2016 at 10:10 am | Permalink

    Been an awful lot of work on the lines out of Birmingham and here its a line from Port Talbot…now very quiet. So its soon China steel and followed by imported Chinese workers and sets it off a real treat?

    The insanity in UK is quite something to behold. Must be money…what else?

  22. Ian Hunter
    Posted January 21, 2016 at 10:13 am | Permalink

    For a start,drop the 5% VAT added to energy bills. Lets not forget the 9% government levy on energy bills for it’s Green policies!!!

    • fedupsoutherner
      Posted January 21, 2016 at 12:00 pm | Permalink

      That figure won’t stop at 9%. It started out at something like 2% a few years ago and I think it depends on who your provider is as to how much this figure can be. I am sure some are higher as it seems it is not a fixed price.

    • Colin
      Posted January 21, 2016 at 2:46 pm | Permalink

      “For a start,drop the 5% VAT added to energy bills.”

      If you are saying that the 5% VAT is an additional cost to the steel industry you are overlooking the fact that most businesses can reclaim VAT on costs as input tax. It’s neutral.

  23. oldtimer
    Posted January 21, 2016 at 10:17 am | Permalink

    Mr Peter Lilley MP drew arrention, in the energy debate you reported on yesterday, to the extraordinary impact the recent Paris COP agreements will have on the UK. It seems that whereas outside the EU countries made their own national commitments, inside the EU the commitment was for the EU as a whole. This will be shared between EU countries. Because the UK has committed itself, via the Climate Change Act and consequent regulatiions, to the greatest reductions in CO2, other countries in the EU now need to make smaller reductions with less cost to their own economies. Thus UK consumers and industry will be forced to bear a greater burden for ever and ever!

    Who were the clowns who agreed to this absurdly damaging agreement? The names Amber Rudd, David Cameron and their assorted “expert” advisors spring to mind. Perhaps this is an early manifestation of the “reformed” EU we are being asked to support by the Prime Minister. Coughing up c£12 billion a year contribution to the EU, and running a c£45 billion a year trade deficit is, evidently, not enough. In addition we must also swallow the lions share of the CO2 reductions as well. With people like this in charge, there is no hope for the steel industry – it is as good as gone, soon to join aluminium smaelting and other high energy use industries that have departed these shores.

  24. formula57
    Posted January 21, 2016 at 10:19 am | Permalink

    Indeed steel matters very much and the government must take measures to see that it is an industry that can flourish in the UK. Why the timidity and delay?

    Although we may fondly suppose serving exotic coffees to one another whilst pretending we are made rich through ever increasing property prices represents a sound economy, allowing creators of real (in contrast to illusory) wealth to perish is akin to taking the wages of sin.

  25. The Active Citizen
    Posted January 21, 2016 at 10:32 am | Permalink

    Yesterday the EU Commissioner for Competition, Margrethe Vestager, belatedly announced an investigation into Italy’s support of its steel industry, to the tune of €2 billion euros in the form of loans, state-guarantees and direct subsidies. She also announced that Belgium must repay €211 million euros of state aid to its own steel industry.

    No doubt the pro-EU lobby would say that this shows the EU has teeth. I would counter that it simply shows how other EU countries regularly ignore EU laws to the detriment of the UK. In the two cases above, the Italian and Belgian companies concerned have benefited for years. I wonder what damage this did to our steel industry’s competitiveness during this time? I also wonder how many other cases of state support have gone uninvestigated throughout the EU?

    I support your three items above, JR. The UK state sector should buy British steel wherever possible, energy bills must be slashed, and taxes, rates and other levies need to be looked at.

    Unfortunately I fear you’re whistling in the wind. I’ll bet you a pound to a Euro cent that if you pursue this you’ll find that EU rules prevent us from achieving any of your three objectives for the British steel industry, or for any other industry for that matter. Needless to say, the blame for this will never be placed at the EU’s door by our Government or by our media.

    Nevertheless I applaud you for raising this in the House.

    Source: Politico.eu

  26. They Work for Us?
    Posted January 21, 2016 at 10:33 am | Permalink

    There is an answer to Lifelogics question as to why Cameron and others oppose Brexit.
    It has to be asked whether they represent the voters they purport to represent or are they skewed towards “People Like Us” ie themselves.

    • forthurst
      Posted January 21, 2016 at 2:13 pm | Permalink

      “It has to be asked whether they represent the voters they purport to represent or are they skewed towards “People Like Us” ie themselves.”

      As it an Englishman and a patriot, it rather easy to feel excluded by the likes of Lord Feldman and Goldman Sachs, both keen investors in preventing Brexit and thereby destroying my nation and my nationhood.

  27. a-tracy
    Posted January 21, 2016 at 10:33 am | Permalink

    Exactly if we can’t beat the system, join them in what they do. Where does all the steel come from for all the building projects in London? When it is so heavy to transport, ship etc why is it so much cheaper to buy in from abroad and do we buy it from within the EU who have the same rules on energy etc as us.

    Do French and German hospital junior doctors work Saturdays as part of their working week? How do pay rates compare basic, overtime and enhancement pay, how do hours compare? I’m getting curious now we’re being ask to support them removing our paid for service with no reduction in our payments.

  28. A.Sedgwick
    Posted January 21, 2016 at 10:46 am | Permalink

    Steel is a national strategic commodity, only the unbelievably wrong headed Governments we have endured in recent decades would have permitted its perilous demise.

    Would we have survived WW2 importing steel ? Daft question I know but not as daft as some in Government.

  29. Atlas
    Posted January 21, 2016 at 10:57 am | Permalink

    Watching the news and even the ‘Daily Politics’ coverage of this I’m left with the impression that both Cameron and Osborne are floundering over this. Rhetoric meets reality…

  30. A different Simon
    Posted January 21, 2016 at 10:57 am | Permalink

    The U.K. has failed to address strategic issues like energy security , food security and retaining skills and manufacturing capability .

    Recycled steel of unknown provenance with contaminants is not suitable for producing engineering grade materials . The EU’s circular economy fantasy does not apply to steel .

    Where are British manufacturers supposed to buy precision engineering steel from to make critical parts ?

    They can’t buy it from China because they can’t trust the material which will be delivered .

    The Alibaba approach is laughable and how anyone thought it could work for anything other than tat is worrying .

    If shale gas takes off in the U.K. , there will be increased demand for well casings etc which should stimulate a steel industry – let’s make sure it is ours .

    John , is there a middle class chic effect at work in Whitehall where procurement officers perceive foreign goods to have a certain cache ?

    Or do they just lack patriotism ?

    • fedupsoutherner
      Posted January 21, 2016 at 12:02 pm | Permalink

      Simon, I will be amazed if the shale gas industry ever takes off in this country. Our politicians are too ready to do what the greenies want.

    • miami.mode
      Posted January 21, 2016 at 11:50 pm | Permalink

      Agree with your comments Simon. All too often in a price war the first casualty is quality.

    • stred
      Posted January 22, 2016 at 4:01 pm | Permalink

      I read recently that a US firm with an advanced design for a small modular nuclear reactor was hoping to manufacture and build them within 10 years in the UK, and export them. As the reactors need special high quality steel, there will be little hope of this business coming here if all the best steelworks are closed. Money for research this type of reactor was allocated in the budget.

  31. Roy Grainger
    Posted January 21, 2016 at 11:38 am | Permalink

    I’m amazed you are proposing the government should buy UK-made steel with taxpayer’s money rather than the cheapest steel possible. Protectionist moves like that would damage UK if our trading partners followed the same approach across others goods and services.

    Reply We do buy UK goods for defence for good reasons.

    • ian wragg
      Posted January 21, 2016 at 12:21 pm | Permalink

      Where are you going to get the steel from for the new Type 23 ships and replacement submarines now you’ve killed off UK steel and much more.

    • Graham
      Posted January 21, 2016 at 12:27 pm | Permalink

      Roy

      The protectionist movement has been alive and well in the EU since inception and the comments above about Italy and Germany just again illustrate this. Also coal fuelled power stations in Germany using the infrastructure from our dismantled ones (

      Germany rules ok!!

      Can’t believe that you have really missed that tbh.

    • A different Simon
      Posted January 21, 2016 at 12:47 pm | Permalink

      Roy Grainger ,

      Bit short sighted isn’t it ?

      Once state subsidised international competitors in countries which shirk their obligations to their poor and sick have driven our capability out of business , the prices will surely go up .

      By that time the skills base in the U.K. built up over a century and a half will have disappeared making the transition irreversible .

      The City of London and Wall Street have not only been persuading Western manufacturers to move manufacturing facilities to the Far East .
      They have been lobbying for extra rules and regulations to hobble Western manufacturing .

      Are there any other countries beside the U.K. which are not protectionist ?

      • forthurst
        Posted January 21, 2016 at 6:02 pm | Permalink

        “The City of London and Wall Street have not only been persuading Western manufacturers to move manufacturing facilities to the Far East .
        They have been lobbying for extra rules and regulations to hobble Western manufacturing .”

        link?

    • Anonymous
      Posted January 21, 2016 at 8:23 pm | Permalink

      Roy – Most other countries are protectionist. Britain takes the free market to an extaordinary degree – except with (quite possibly because of) welfare.

      So now we have a vast tract of industrial wasteland with state subsidised welfare towns around it.

      Is that subsidy added to the cost of the imported steel ?

      As with coal, the free market was applied half heartedly. And so we ended up with welfare Britain – and economic black hole rather than what it should have been: former miners and industrial workers moving to where new work was, turning Britain into a brightly burning white dwarf economy instead.

      Now our welfare system is world famous and the EU demands that we give it to the world by means of anyone who can be bothered to turn up here.

  32. miami.mode
    Posted January 21, 2016 at 1:04 pm | Permalink

    I am astounded that a wholly Conservative government fails to see the strategic value of a steel manufacturing industry particularly with regard to defence and infrastructure. Jeremy Corbyn may yet get his wish as I am sure I read that the UK will no longer have the ability to manufacture the special steel needed for Trident.

    Self sufficiency should be the watchword for frontline politicians – a stint in the Army might help.

  33. The PrangWizard
    Posted January 21, 2016 at 2:14 pm | Permalink

    I think I may have raised this before, but I would like Mr Redwood to list what he defines are the UK’s and particularly England’s strategic industries and how they should be protected. And does he think it is right for a strategic industry like steel production to be foreign owned? Who owns our special steel production, who makes the steel for our ships and especially our submarines, for example – is that foreign owned? Perish the thought we are may even buying it from abroad. Russia perhaps?

    It is all well and good now saying we should buy our own steel, – the words stables and doors come to mind – but we have had the policy for the last two or three decades of selling off our property, land, infrastructure and businesses to foreign buyers. Not only have we lost control, but it has done no good.

    This is down to perverse and incompetent government thinking; they know nothing because they’ve learned everything from paper and books, and looked at life from the comfort of their cosy clubs. How many layers of bureaucrats are there between a Minister and the ‘coal face’ where the money is earned and the real work is done?

    Years ago government used to tell us that a negative trade balance was offset and not so bad because we had overseas assets and profits and dividends from them to help plug the gap.

    How is it therefore for the last two or three decades has there been a complete change and it has become the right thing to sell off our assets and call it inward investment? Whose bright idea was it? Perhaps they could justify it.

    Profits and dividends from these foreign owned assets now leave the country, as have all the patents these businesses owned no doubt. No wonder we find it difficult grow our nation.

    If our policy of selling is correct, it follows that the buyers are making big mistakes. No doubt we will hear that foreign buyers have invested money and so on; some have, but they haven’t neglected their business at home, they have simply expanded here.

    It has been in their best interests to do what they have done, they didn’t do it in ours.

    Reply What matters is to have production in the UK and to buy enough of our own products to sustain the jobs. I buy UK made cars, as they are fine and help circulate our money within our own economy.

    • The PrangWizard
      Posted January 21, 2016 at 6:01 pm | Permalink

      What I would like is proper answer to my serious questions some time.

    • Anonymous
      Posted January 21, 2016 at 8:36 pm | Permalink

      Reply to reply: What matters is to have large corporate revenues paid to the Exchequer.

      Jobs are fine but the increasing national debt proves that it is corporation tax that is missing.

      Having production in the UK is not enough.

      Ownership is everything.

      Selling off the family silver has been a disaster.

      • Handbags
        Posted January 22, 2016 at 4:13 pm | Permalink

        Corporation tax and profits are miniscule compared to the wages these companies pay.

        Whether the companies are foreign owned or not is irrelevant – each employee pays tax, pays a mortgage or rent, drives a car, buys goods, pays VAT – and so keeps the economy working.

        Ownership doesn’t matter – it’s jobs that count.

        • Anonymous
          Posted January 22, 2016 at 8:40 pm | Permalink

          Handbags – A certain internet company avoided £100m in tax according to reports.

          If those firms are employing people on low wages then they are being subsidised with taxpayers’ money – particularly if they are importing ‘cheap’ migrant labour to do their work.

          • Handbags
            Posted January 23, 2016 at 2:23 pm | Permalink

            If these companies didn’t employ people – whether on low wages or not – most of them would be on the dole and carried by the rest of us.

            We need more companies to come here and provide work – and if we have to offer tax breaks (or no tax at all) to get them here then that’s what we must do.

            Tax is irrelevant – it’s spending that drives the economy – and that needs jobs.

          • Anonymous
            Posted January 24, 2016 at 8:20 pm | Permalink

            Handbags – Domestic spending is not income.

            If that spending is subsidised by taxpayer funded in-work top-ups (to make depressed wages liveable) then it is definitely outgoing – as the national debt attests.

            The corporations are not contributing to the economy in the proportion that they should be.

            Many of them are drawing profit from our welfare system.

            The figures prove that I am right and that you are wrong.

  34. ChrisS
    Posted January 21, 2016 at 4:02 pm | Permalink

    For far too long “The Market” has been allowed to totally dominate our economy and political decisions related to it.

    I am certainly not a protectionist in the French mould but a Country like ours simply has to consider its strategic interests above most things. This we have singularly failed to do. We only need to look at shipbuilding for an example.

    It is true that much of the blame for the loss of shipbuilding capacity can be put down to poor and ineffective management and unions that refused to give up restrictive practices and allow plants to be fully modernised.

    How much better it would be if the companies that made up British Leyland had been able to rid themselves of outdated working practices before they went bust. It took the Japanese to come to the UK and recruit new workers on green field sites to demonstrate that, unfettered by the restrictive practices and attitudes of the past, British workers can be among the most productive in the world.

    What remains of our shipbuilding industry can only produce warships which are impossibly expensive, being built on a cost plus basis. By camparison, Commercial vessels are almost always built abroad because of excessive cost.

    Turning back to steel, there can be few industries of less strategic important than the production of raw materials used in the construction of military vehicles and much else. We therefore have to retain a capable steel industry. I’m not sure how efficient the Tata-owned plants are, but, however modern, they would certainly need state support in the current market.

    We should not be afraid to support the steel industry, even though when they return to profit that profit will mainly disappear to India.

  35. Cheshire Girl
    Posted January 21, 2016 at 5:25 pm | Permalink

    I have some knives that were given as a Wedding Present 47 years ago. They bear the proud boast ‘Made in Sheffield’ and are still going strong. I remember when that was a byword for quality. How sad that we no longer make them. The ones we import are inferior.

  36. ChrisS
    Posted January 21, 2016 at 7:46 pm | Permalink

    This is not an original thought of mine, I picked it up from the Times comments section and I know you will all like it :

    It was posted in answer to the following article :

    “A new planet up to ten times the size of Earth is moving through the outer reaches of the solar system, according to calculations by two of the world’s leading astronomers.

    The looping orbit of what would be the ninth planet in the solar system is so vast that it takes at least 10,000 years to circle the Sun. Yet the pull of its gravity is strong enough to send ripples through the vast ring of space rocks beyond Pluto, the scientists claim. ”

    A contributor using the name “Baba knows best”
    Posted this brilliant quip :

    “We’ve wondered which planet Juncker, Merkel and the other idiots came from.

    Now we know.”

    As I said, Brilliant !!

  37. Aatif Ahmad
    Posted January 21, 2016 at 10:36 pm | Permalink

    How much of the Redwood portfolio is allocated to steel? If it’s a strategic industry that no private investor will touch doesn’t it need nationalisation?

  38. Margaret
    Posted January 21, 2016 at 11:31 pm | Permalink

    Question Time had a hands up in/ out vote and sadly the ins won.

    • Denis Cooper
      Posted January 22, 2016 at 10:00 am | Permalink

      Now that’s a surprise.

  39. Pete
    Posted January 22, 2016 at 11:27 am | Permalink

    High energy prices in the UK are caused by taxation, guess we have to blame the Conservative government for that.

  • About John Redwood


    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, and graduated from Magdalen College Oxford. He is a Distinguished fellow of All Souls, Oxford. A businessman by background, he has set up an investment management business, was both executive and non executive chairman of a quoted industrial PLC, and chaired a manufacturing company with factories in Birmingham, Chicago, India and China. He is the MP for Wokingham, first elected in 1987.

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