Save our steel – and the problems of nationalisation.

I want the government to find  a means  for a new owner or owners of our steel industry to keep open our current plants and to maintain a steel capacity in the UK. There are ways government can and should help bring about a new settlement that offers hope of continuing  steel production. Government can and should respond to demands over business rates, energy costs, anti dumping actions and public sector steel purchases.

The Welsh government could give Port Talbot rate relief, as business rates have shot up in recent years. Very high energy costs have been a problem for sometime. The government says it is doing something, but it needs to do more as I have been urging. The EU has taken some action to deal with dumping by Russia and China, but has imposed lower tariffs than some other countries around the world. More allegations of dumping are being investigated. This is entirely an EU competence, so we rely on them for action.

The UK government is working to secure more orders for UK steel works. the large building programmes it has for railways, utilities and property all require substantial quantities of steel. It needs to ensure UK bidders have good access to the possible contracts.

They need to help the management and workforce negotiate with the current owners, Tata, over the terms of transfer of ownership. If no-one emerges for early purchase Tate will face large closure costs, so government can help persuade it to include a dowry with the plants for the new owner which will still leave Tata better off and free of future liabilities.

 

The problems of our steel industry has led to exchanges over Brexit. What is clear is membership of the EU has not protected our industry, and some EU policies have made the problems worse.

To those who think nationalisation offers a simple solution, I suggest they read the sad history of nationalised British Steel from its establishment in 1967. Government had a bold vision of five new large coastal works to produce and sell 35 m tonnes of steel by the end of the 1970s. They embarked on a huge capital investment programme to construct the plant necessary for the task. The private sector industry they took over produced and sold 27 million tonnes in 1965. Output from the nationalised industry slumped from that figure, despite the large investment in new capacity. In 1972-3 British Steel Corporation  produced 25.1 million tonnes, in 1975-6 just 17.2 million tonnes, and in 1978-9 17.3 million tonnes. In the early 1980s a new Chairman concluded he had to plan for just 14.4 million tonnes of output, 59% less than planned output under the investment programme.

Thousands lost their jobs both under the Labour government of 1974-9 and the Conservative government from 1979 onwards. The workforce of 250,000 in the early days of nationalisation became just 50,000 in the early 1990s. Large numbers of redundancies were needed both because capacity had to be reined in so much and because UK steel productivity was well below US and Japanese levels. Bilston, Cleveland, Consett and Corby all had to be closed. There was still far too little work for the five main new coastal facilities which ran up colossal financial losses for taxpayers. The Conservative government  decided to keep Ravenscraig open despite advice from the Corporation that they  had too much capacity and Ravenscraig had the highest cost base.

Today of course the EU  rules on state aids would not allow any government to pay the huge losses successive governments paid for in the 1970s and early 1980s. They would not allow the £2bn of public dividend capital which turned out to be free money for the business nor the large capital write offs which BSC enjoyed in the 1970s.

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164 Comments

  1. Posted March 31, 2016 at 5:37 am | Permalink

    Thanks for the timely history reminder JR.

    I always like to think it was the guitar rock legend Carlos Santana who said “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it”, but I fear it might have been a 19th Century Spanish philosopher called Santayana instead. Ah well.

    In your conclusion you say: “[The EU] would not allow the £2bn of public dividend capital which turned out to be free money for the business nor the large capital write offs which BSC enjoyed in the 1970s.”

    In principle yes. However by coincidence that’s the exact same sum which is now being investigated by the EU Commission regarding Italy’s alleged illegal state support of its own steel sector over many years. (See : http://facts4eu.org/news.htm) And this is on top of Belgium being found guilty of 6 years propping up their own steel industry.

    I don’t want to think of the damage these actions by our EU partners have done to our own steel industry, which I consider to be a strategic resource which must somehow be protected, even though I’m against state support in general. I like many of your thoughts about this.

    Sometimes the EU has good intent. The problem is the reality. We don’t need an EU superstate structure which occasionally talks a good game but almost never delivers it.

    • Know-dice
      Posted March 31, 2016 at 8:06 am | Permalink

      “I don’t want to think of the damage these actions by our EU partners have done to our own steel industry, which I consider to be a strategic resource which must somehow be protected, even though I’m against state support in general. I like many of your thoughts about this.”

      In a “nutshell” yes…

      It’s time manufacturing was fully supported in this country and repatriated wherever passible. It was done for the banks, now support those that actually need to get their hands dirty.

    • Denis Cooper
      Posted March 31, 2016 at 9:15 am | Permalink

      As the project started with the European Coal and Steel Community in 1951 you might think that they’d got sensible policies on that sorted out by now …

  2. Mick
    Posted March 31, 2016 at 5:45 am | Permalink

    Talk about being two faced our MP Nic Dakin is calling on the government to do something about the crisis yet this muppet is voting to stay in the dreaded eu who have fuelled the problem by allowing cheap steel come in from China,

    • Timaction
      Posted March 31, 2016 at 8:05 am | Permalink

      Supported by the Tory Government who lobbied for tariffs on dumped steel at a reduced 24% when America imposed over 250% to protect its industry and people. It is no coincidence our Business Secretary is in Australia at this time. A bit like Mr Cameron being quoted last week in the media that some other Country would block Turkeys accession to the EU. Why wasn’t he confronted about his support? Propaganda and lies in our corrupt Government.
      We need a clean sweep in Westminster. A reminder to those who rule of what is acceptable and the truth! Reform will come to those in most need.

      • Denis Cooper
        Posted March 31, 2016 at 12:04 pm | Permalink

        To be sure the UK electorate couldn’t block Turkey’s accession to the EU if the UK government decided upon it, Hague having been careful to put a blanket exemption for all accession treaties in his “referendum block” law, so we would have to rely on foreigners to protect us from that happening.

      • acorn
        Posted March 31, 2016 at 5:19 pm | Permalink

        You do realise that if you put import tariffs on steel, or any, products, you are asking our own UK citizens, to pay higher prices and subsidise the steel makers. This is an extremely “socialist” thing to do. Karl Marx would be proud of you. No true Conservative could ever contemplate applying tariffs to free trade markets! You should all be thoroughly ashamed of yourselves!!!

        TATA owned Jaguar Land Rover Cars, use steel from TATA smelters. The cost price of building those cars for export will go up. Very few things that the UK manages to export, get anywhere near being 100% component sourced within the UK.

        The US politicians can get away with massive import tariffs to protect their corporate sponsors; the US public is basically too thick to work it out and if they did, are powerless to do anything about it.

        Reply Free traders like me believe in anti dumping duties

        • Richard
          Posted April 1, 2016 at 9:46 am | Permalink

          It is true that applying tariffs is not something that someone who believes in unfettered free markets would do, and that the free market position is normally thought of as a position to the right. However I’m not sure free markets and market liberalisation at all costs could really be considered strictly conservative (although it is something that ‘Conservatives’ have supported). Conservatism is surely something more pragmatic.

        • Timaction
          Posted April 1, 2016 at 6:52 pm | Permalink

          I think the dumping of unprofitable steel making onto the British market to undermine our industries should have tariffs to protect our industry. I’m by no way a socialist and any tariff on imported Chinese steel in these circumstances is surely the way to protect our steel makers. It wouldn’t effect the UK market price.
          I’m afraid that the Government have included other potential deals in the round and have reportedly lobbied against higher tariffs and against the interests of British workers employed in those industries. Little mention of this or EU competition rules though during msm “patsy” interviews

  3. alexmews
    Posted March 31, 2016 at 5:46 am | Permalink

    Thx John.

    Could you comment on the veracity of claims in the Telegraph today that it is the UK, amongst others, who are foot dragging in the EU on new powers that would help the EU speed up anti dumping measures? Further – they claim this is part of George Osborne’s plan to open up more trade with China, particularly for the City, and the steel industry is to be sacrificed. If there is any element of truth to this – it does colour the debate in a different way and make it not so easy to blame the EU for this sad state of affairs. I am for Brexit but dont want to be accused, esp as other EU steel producers are also going to the wall over this, of apportioning blame where none is due.

    Figures also in the article show the vast scale of Chinese production and that this is not slowing down. Some 50% of global production and rising. Mercantilism on a massive scale and getting worse. European steel, not just British, is being hollowed out. Hard to see in that context, as well as the issues with energy and other costs, that there could be a commercial buyer.

    • Mitchel
      Posted March 31, 2016 at 10:33 am | Permalink

      Talking of Osborne I see he is predictably saying the shocking current account deficit figures released today (7%,Q4:5.2%for the year-both the worst on record) mean we must not leave the EU;not that the abysmal figures have anything to do with him and his six years as Chancellor!

      Falling exports,rising imports and reduced returns on foreign investments……what happened to the “March of the Makers?”and,obviously, losing the steel makers can only make matters worse.

    • Bazman
      Posted March 31, 2016 at 2:30 pm | Permalink

      Here is blinding idea. Try looking for other sources of info other than the Telegraph.

  4. Narrow shoulders
    Posted March 31, 2016 at 5:53 am | Permalink

    As I understand it Mr Redwood, it was Sajid Javid our Business secretary who prevented the EU from removing the WTO lesser duty rule. Removal of the rule as the US has done would have permitted us to raise the duties to as much as 236% as the Americans do.

    Sajid Javid decided that protecting the companies who purchase Chinese steel from the shock of higher prices was more important than removing this rule. I am at a loss as to how we managed to get our own way in this matter in EU decisions when we don’t seem to be able to in most other matters, possibly it was not decided by QMV.

    British Rail and our defence contracts are stating that they need British Steel, why are they paying more for product than is necessary unless British Steel is of much superior quality?

    If we are distinguishing between price and quality then it is worth supporting the industry to the extent of a few hundred million pounds (maybe raised by a further tax on unearned banker bonuses now that HSBC has withdrawn its toothless threat to leave). If the EU prevents us from doing this, rebel.

    • A different Simon
      Posted March 31, 2016 at 9:10 am | Permalink

      Sajid Javid’s action seems consistent with the establishments desire to de-industrialise the U.K.

      His banker friends will have more invested in Chinese industry than they have in the UK .

      Like Cameron , I expect Javid just does what Letwin , the globalists man on the inside , tells him .

      You are right about the quality of steel . It’s not a commodity .

      • Iain Gill
        Posted March 31, 2016 at 6:34 pm | Permalink

        Mr Tata is on Camerons “business advisory committee” cos for Cameron national loyalties are a side issue

    • Denis Cooper
      Posted March 31, 2016 at 9:49 am | Permalink

      To be honest I’d never heard of this rule until I read the transcript of the Commons debate on February 29th. Sajid Javid was taken to task over this, in particular at Column 741 here:

      http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201516/cmhansrd/cm160229/debtext/160229-0003.htm

      “Far from fighting for the UK’s interests, as they would have us believe they are doing, the Government are actually a leading part of a group of EU countries that have moved to block reform of the lesser duty rule. Let us look at the record to date. The European Commission proposed strengthening trade defence instruments in April 2013 to protect Europe from Chinese dumping. That was endorsed by the European Parliament in February 2014. It was then blocked in the Trade Council in November 2014. It was the UK Government who successfully assembled a group of 15 other EU countries to oppose that crucial reform. The Government objected primarily to the abolition of the lesser duty rule and to giving the Commission the ability to initiate anti-dumping proceedings on its own. Perhaps the Business Secretary will let us know whether today’s apparent agreement changes that stance? If it did, that would be most welcome, and it would certainly be a departure from the recent past.

      When the Business Secretary was asked, in evidence to the Business, Innovation and Skills Committee recently, about the Government’s blocking of reform, he said:

      “If duties are applied that are disproportionate, it would have an impact, in Britain and elsewhere”.

      However, Chinese dumping is having a devastating impact in Britain now. We do not need disproportionate tariffs; we need tariffs that will be effective and duties that will prevent the damage caused by illegal dumping. The Government should be arguing for such duties, not conniving with 15 other EU countries to block them.

      On granting market economy status to China as part of its ongoing acceptance into the World Trade Organisation, the Chinese Government regard this as an automatic thing, but it certainly should not be … ”

      However Sajid Javid’s response was that the lesser duty rule was not the problem:

      “Labour Members want us to demand the removal of the lesser duty rule so that the EU can impose tariffs on all Chinese steel. They apparently fail to recognise that the lesser duty rule does not prevent the imposition of tariffs, nor is it a bar to effective action against unfair trading: it simply ensures that duties are set at a level that removes the harm caused by dumping, and no higher.”

      “Under the lesser duty rule, if the dumping margin is 50%, but a duty of 30% is sufficient to remove the harm to industry from that dumping, then the duty is set at 30%. The tariffs recently imposed on Chinese rebar were indeed too low. I am continuing to raise the issue in my regular discussions with Brussels, as I did only last week when I met the EU Trade Commissioner in London.”

      “… as I have said, the lesser duty rule is there to create a level trading field. As I have also said, under the existing rule, tariffs can be higher, and in many cases should be higher. However, they were not set too low because of the lesser duty rule. The problem was the time period used by the Commission in its calculation.”

      I can’t say whether that final claim laying the blame on the EU Commission rather than on the UK government is fair; I just note that one aspect of the EU system of government being a very poor system of government is that it creates far more opportunities for the buck to be passed and the blame to be shifted, and so it makes it more difficult for even parliamentarians, let alone the proverbial man on the Clapham omnibus, to work out where the fault really lies.

      • Narrow Shoulders
        Posted April 1, 2016 at 8:10 am | Permalink

        @Denniscooper

        very instructive. Thank you.

        Your final point is hugely pertinent and very well written

        Sovereignty and accountability should be repatriated from June 24.

  5. Mick Anderson
    Posted March 31, 2016 at 5:55 am | Permalink

    The plants are losing money and are a massive financial liability. Various levels of Government are the problem, not the solution.

    I propose that the Unions should offer Tata a nominal £1 for the steel plant to save them the costs of closure. They could then (try to) run them as a co-operative, thus proving that they have been right all along about how Capitalism is dead.

    They’ll never have a better chance to practise what they preach!

    Reply Why offer £1? Surely they should request a dowry with the liabilities.

    • acorn
      Posted March 31, 2016 at 10:39 am | Permalink

      You forgot the bit where the government takes over the £14 billion of British Steel Pension Fund assets and sticks the taxpayer with paying out the £650 million a year in pensions. It will be the same plan as the Royal Mail Pension Fund.

      Still, Osborne will be able to knock the £14 billion off his net cash requirement (PSNCR) for next year.

      • acorn
        Posted March 31, 2016 at 11:19 am | Permalink

        The snag with running a simplistic “market”, economic ideology that allows foreigners to buy up your primary assets, is when the going gets tough, the foreigners turn the factory lights off and go back to their homelands, particularly when the subsidies and tax breaks run out or get called in, especially if you are a Bank thinking of leaving. Steel plants should get into the recycling business. The vast majority of UK industrial estates, and farm yards, look more like scrap yards every day.

        Mind you, our foreign owned privateer energy suppliers, will not be in a hurry to leave. They have got the UK by the short and curlies, and they know it.

      • JoolsB
        Posted March 31, 2016 at 1:29 pm | Permalink

        And as with the state owned RBS whose non-contributory pension fund is running a massive deficit.

  6. Mark B
    Posted March 31, 2016 at 6:10 am | Permalink

    The notion that we are somehow stronger and have a more powerful voice in the EU has been shown to be the myth that it is.

    Another and more beneficial idea would be to scrap the Climate Change Act and rid us of these expensive and unreliable renewable s. Government seems to be allowed by the EU to fund this sector but, when it comes to ordinary people and their jobs, they can go swing.

    Also. Did not the Taxpayer bailout and fund the banking industry in 2008 ? If we can fund fat cat city people, then what about steel workers ?

    I do sincerely hope that those who are in the unfortunate position of losing their jobs repay the government and the EU by voting for BREXIT. It would only be just.

  7. Mike Stallard
    Posted March 31, 2016 at 6:16 am | Permalink

    Would some kind person kindly explain why:
    1. Germany is building a lot of coal fired power stations? This, of course, reduces the cost of power, and it also it seems, on the face of it, to be against the EU/UK Climate change ideas.
    2. We are actually importing tons and tons of EU steel. Where does that come from? How come they can do it when we can’t?
    3. Why China can produce so much (400m tons) of steel, while we can’t? We more or less invented the stuff.
    4. EU tariffs on steel are currently just 9 per cent, compared with the United States which has levies of up to 236 per cent to deter such “dumping” and protect its steel manufacturers.
    5. Has this got anything to do with Hinkley Point and the agreement with the Chinese?

    • Iain Moore
      Posted March 31, 2016 at 8:12 am | Permalink

      I have wondered about Hinkley point, where the Government is prepared to subsidise a French Chinese power station with exorbitant guaranteed prices, but not prepared to lift a finger to help us have steel industry.

      • Mark
        Posted March 31, 2016 at 1:11 pm | Permalink

        I read that EdF’s engineers have argued that the reactor for Hinkley Point should be completely redesigned to make it lower cost and less complex: they apparently view the reliability of their Areva subsidiary that has designed the plant with extreme suspicion. I agree with them. Alternatively, we could be an off the shelf design that met those criteria from someone else – e.g. South Korea or Japan (where we sold Westinghouse and our own expertise).

        http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/2ef61abe-f5b1-11e5-96db-fc683b5e52db.html

        • stred
          Posted April 1, 2016 at 7:52 am | Permalink

          We sold British Energy to EDF, with RBS lending them the money, and presumably they own the site at Hinkley. One way round the problem would be to give ourselves planning permission on an adjacent site.

          All these projects like HP, HS2/3, huge offshore wind and renewal every 20 years, airport expansion, crossrail 2, more skyscrapers in London etc – where will al that steel be made? China or Germany.

          So it’s Ta Ta TATA and Hello to another big balance of payment deficit.

      • Lifelogic
        Posted March 31, 2016 at 5:37 pm | Permalink

        Hopefully Hinckley Point C will not proceed, it is the wrong project there are far better and cheaper options.

        Why the government back it is hard to fathom. But they they back HS2, lagoons and endless other lunacies.

        • Posted March 31, 2016 at 8:02 pm | Permalink

          So true. Lifelogic !!!!

  8. Jerry
    Posted March 31, 2016 at 6:31 am | Permalink

    Not wishing to repeat what I’ve said before, my previous comments and discussion with our host, regarding the UK steel industry, were made in the “Our EU membership in a few numbers”, starting here;
    http://johnredwoodsdiary.com/2016/03/28/our-eu-membership-in-three-numbers/#comment-807756

    Now for today’s dairy entry.

    Wow, what a lot of lot of, now totally, irrelevant figures from 40 and 50 years ago!

    “Today of course the EU rules on state aids would not allow [..//..]”

    How convenient. So should I take it that you no longer wish for a Brexit then John, after all you seem to be happy with EU rules (when they support your own politics, of course)?

    As for those EU rules, let’s for once do what is correct for our national interests, security, and future economic health, let’s start as those who want a Brexit wish to carry on, tell the EU what they can do with their rules and if they don’t like it then just inform them that any fines will go unpaid and if they wish to kick us out of their club then that will do very nicely indeed – renationalise the steel industry and regain control of our own steel again, and get a Brexit into the bargain, win-win…!

    But what I suspect will happen is, the UK government will concoct some form of state aid, within EU rules of course, that will either help the current or new owner keep the steel plants open for a couple of years (I won’t be so cynical as to suggest late the second half of 2020, oh dear, looks like I just have been…) but then the aid stops, costs increase or the world price of steel fails again and we will be back to were we are today again, and so the cycle and transfer of tax payers money to private companies will have to start all over again. Let’s start using tax payers money to invest in the UK, not increase the profits for our competitors, be it steel, rail or nuclear power.

    At this rate, Brexit or no Brexit, I can see Mr Corbyn marching triumphantly up Downing Street on the morning of the 8th May 2020 -if not before, the current government spin doctors are taking the general public for fools.

    If the above makes me a “Socialist” in some peoples eyes then perhaps the cap does fit and let it sit proud. But then again certain nationalised (or state regulated) industries were accepted, if not liked, under successive Conservative governments between 1951 and 1979.

    • Edward2
      Posted March 31, 2016 at 8:05 am | Permalink

      Can you explain the difference between “state aid”, and your call for the Govt to “invest” in the steel industry and other industries you mention.
      I cannot see the difference nor understand why you feel one is bad and the other is good.

      • Dennis
        Posted March 31, 2016 at 1:19 pm | Permalink

        It appears JR doesn’t know.

      • Bazman
        Posted March 31, 2016 at 2:28 pm | Permalink

        One produces profits for the private sector and the other produces losses for the social sector. One day you will learn edward2.

        • Edward2
          Posted March 31, 2016 at 8:37 pm | Permalink

          Strikes me Baz that both methods spend large sums of money on businesses which individuals would not invest in.

          • Bazman
            Posted April 1, 2016 at 1:02 pm | Permalink

            Like roads and hospitals, education, housing and infrastructure to allow private business to operate edward that type of business, but be sure not to forget underwriting of banks and energy production especially nuclear.

    • Mark
      Posted March 31, 2016 at 1:21 pm | Permalink

      I think that the data from the 1960s demonstrates that the state (in this case the Wilson Labour governments) is typically shockingly bad at making investment decisions, opting for massive over-investment in steel making capacity. Of course, the same has been true in China – not only in steel, but also in photovoltaics (solar panels) and several other sectors, leading to attempts to dispose of surplus production at firesale prices and bankruptcies of the underlying businesses. The further insult to the UK steel industry at present comes from more government attempts to rig markets for energy and the imposition of the carbon floor price, making our steel industry uniquely uncompetitive.

      If Tata loses out perhaps it will be some small compensation for the £1bn they are alleged to have made from carbon credits on closing down Redcar and moving production to India.

      • Jerry
        Posted March 31, 2016 at 5:23 pm | Permalink

        @Mark; There were costs back in the 1960 to 1980s in closing old and opening modern steel plants and mills etc, these days the plants that remain are relatively modern so there would be nothing like the investment/losses needed as there was 30-50 odd years ago.

        Oh and it wasn’t so much the Wilson governments [1] “massive over-investment” from the mid 1960s on (and into the 1980s Thatcher government) that was shocking but the wholesale massive under-investment by the -again- private steel companies between 1952-1967.

        [1] nor that of the Attlee government between 1946-1951

        Reply The private sector had to sell a profitable and large steel industry to the state producing 27 m tonnes a year, a figure the state industry never managed again

        • Jerry
          Posted March 31, 2016 at 8:09 pm | Permalink

          @JR reply; But what happened to all the profits between 1951 and 1966, that should have gone to modernise the industry, what has the amount share holders were compensated by upon (re)nationalisation in 1967 got to do with the costs involved in carrying out what the private steel companies refused to do themselves.

          By 1967 the UK iron and steel industry was basically clapped out or in sited in now unprofitable locations due to the above under investment by those self same private companies [1], and by the time the state owned BSC had been modernised and restructured by the tax payer the government you were a part of sold it off, thus we never actually found out what a fully modernised nationalised steel industry could produce in ‘factory-gate’ tonnage.

          [1] quite frankly Wilson’s government probably did those shareholders you talk of a favour, the industry was already dying on its feet due to a lack of investment restructuring, which is probably Wilson saw the need/opportunity to nationalise and why Heath’s governbment in 1970-71 (before world economic problems intervened) made no move to reverse the nationalisation, like Churchill’s 1951 government did.

          Reply We do know that the nationalised industry produced half its planned output, lost a fortune and sacked thousands of workers under Labour and Conservative

          • Jerry
            Posted April 1, 2016 at 7:12 am | Permalink

            @JR reply; We also know what the post modernisation/restructuring figures are, and there is nothing to suggest that had the industry remained in state ownership those output figures would have been much the same as they were post privatisation, so unless you are going to claim that privatisation has been an abject failure it is just pure party-political conjecture to suggest that continued post 1988 state control would have been a failure.

            Reply We had more than 20 years experience of nationalisation when output slumped and jobs were lost despite huge sums of taxpayers capital and financial support being put in.

          • Jerry
            Posted April 1, 2016 at 5:01 pm | Permalink

            @JR reply; How many more times have I got to repeat historic facts?

            You accused me (in the earlier debate) of telling an “untruth”, so I’ve gone off and checked my facts (and yes I was mistaken on some issues, thank you), but now those facts do not suit either, pure conjecture being now preferred so that it can no doubt be moulded to a political ideology.

            Unless of course neither the post 1974 Wilson/Callaghan government nor the later Thatcher government actually invested any significant state monies in modernisation, nor closed any obsolete BSC plants down whilst the industry was nationalised, all the restructuring, modernisation and closures etc. being done post the 1988 privatisation, which is the only way your suggested figures can stack up – funny that, as I know people who started up a new company in the then Corby Enterprise Zone during 1988/9, were unemployment had topped 30% due to such closures.

            Oh and based on your use of conjecture, because we had 18 years of Tory government between 1979 and 1997, where official unemployment rate hit 12% (1984) and hovered at an average of 8% during the 13 year period, should we now conjecture at future elections that any Tory government will mean unemployment rates of 8 and 12%?…

            Reply What point are you now disputing? The state owned British Steel for more than 20 years, spent a fortune on new investment, wrote off massive losses and ended up sacking people and producing far less steel than when it began.

          • Jerry
            Posted April 2, 2016 at 11:35 am | Permalink

            @JR reply; I am not the one disputing anything! It is you who is disputing the fact that no one can know how a (still) nationalised steel industry would have preformed post 1988, trying to do so is nothing but party-political crystal ball gazing.

            Reply I have not tried to do that. I have reported how the nationalised industry did perform over its long 21 year trial period.

    • forthurst
      Posted March 31, 2016 at 2:26 pm | Permalink

      “Wow, what a lot of lot of, now totally, irrelevant figures from 40 and 50 years ago!”

      On the contrary, I consider this morning’s post extremely relevant and informative. It underlines the fact that steel nationalisation, like all the others, did not benefit the industries concerned, or the long term interests of the employees, because socialists are far worse at running anything than those who are properly qualified to do so. That is not to say that some of the denationalisations also have been a total disaster, but that was because they were undertaken by politicans and civil servants, the same sorts of people who have been deliberately running our energy intensive industries into the ground.

      “We redistribute de facto the world’s wealth by climate policy.” – Dr. Ottmar Edenhoefer

      Brexit now, and there are far better uses for the SAS than attempting to infiltrate Raqqa wearing face paint.

  9. Lifelogic
    Posted March 31, 2016 at 6:40 am | Permalink

    Indeed nationalisation would be a disaster, as it nearly always is. Look at the history and at the current NHS, schools and almost everything else they run so badly. It just destroys more jobs in the companies (that the government will have to overtax) in order to fund the losses in the poorly run nationalised industries. In the end more jobs are lost than saved overall. Nearly government “investment” starts by causing more damage in the tax grab from the productive of the money they use to invest.

    They also have the problem of a large hole in the pension fund, doubless not helped by the appealing Gordon Brown’s misguided pension dividend thefts and Osborne’s many subsequent attacks on pensions.

    • Lifelogic
      Posted March 31, 2016 at 7:01 am | Permalink

      Cheap energy, easy hire and fire, fewer and more sensible regulations, lower rates and taxes, simpler taxation, getting out of the EU straight jacket and lower wages would all help this and most other industries to become more competitive in world markets.

      Alas Osborne and Cameron’s direction of travel is the complete opposite. Oh for some real Conservatives to lead the party.

      Why JR do you think Osborne is so keen to kill the private rental market and push up rent for tenants with his many large and unfair fiscal attacks on the sector. This too will harm competitivity by harming job mobility and pushing up rents. What daft theory is driving this hugely misguided policy? Why too is he trying to kill private pensions?

      • Liz
        Posted March 31, 2016 at 9:53 am | Permalink

        Home ownership means Tory votes, high priced rental with onorous rules mean Labour votes. Mrs Thatcher understood that. Anyone with young relatives knows that buy to let is killing the first time buers’ hopes of home ownership – even for those with decent salaries.

        • Posted March 31, 2016 at 12:51 pm | Permalink

          Your analysis of the position is fundamentally flawed, Liz.

          As a recently retired IFA and long term Buy to Let Landlord, I feel qualified to challenge your view.

          Residential mortgages are much harder to come by than they ever were before. Not just because the lenders are required by Government and themselves want to impose more restrictions but because lifestyles have changed.

          Young people wish to retain more flexibility and often relationships are more transitory than they were years ago.

          Put simply, many young couples are not willing to make such a long term financial commitment as required by a mortgage and selling a property after a short period of ownership is much more expensive than renting would be over the same period.

          If there was no BTL private rented sector, these young couples would have nowhere to live. The only answer to flexibility is to slash the cost and time required to buy and sell a property.

          My own experience of selling a property at the moment is telling : a willing seller and buyer have been waiting weeks for the antiquated, obsolete and expensive legal and land registry systems to enable the deal to go ahead.

          It is often almost impossible to get solicitors to communicate via email and they waste days by sending letters through the post. ( Doctors are just as bad, by the way !)

          Don’t blame those who invested in property for their retirement for the current situation. They are only trying to do their best to safeguard their retirement in the face of successive Government’s attempting to wreck forever the UK private pension system. ( Of course at the same time Politicians continue to pile on debt by persisting with over generous public sector pension schemes that are mostly entirely unfunded.

          The housing shortage is entirely down to Net Migration being allowed to get totally out of control. We are definitely building enough houses and flats for the indigenous population and its growth.

          Even if you believe the Government’s Net migration figures, and now even the UK Statistics Authority (UKSA) is calling them into doubt, the shortfall in housing provision is entirely down to the demand for housing for the additional 236,000 people they say are
          arriving here each year. I suspect the real number is very much higher.

          So there is no doubt that net migration rather than BTL activity is causing the shortage of housing and that leads to an inevitable rise in house prices caused by supply and demand pressures.

          The UK BTL sector is helping solve the housing problem, not create one. It is a matter of considerable shortsightedness that this Government is mistakenly trying to kill it off.

        • Lifelogic
          Posted March 31, 2016 at 1:59 pm | Permalink

          Mrs Thatcher introduced tax incentives to expand the rented sector with the Bes scheme. She sensible recognised you need both rented and owned property for job mobility. Osborne is being very foolish and shortsighted.

          On steel ALISTAIR HEATH in the Telegraph to day is right there is no point in a government rescue other than perhaps a sensible energy policy. It will just destroy more jobs elsewhere. Doubtless Cameron and Osborne will do the wrong thing as usual.

          • Bazman
            Posted March 31, 2016 at 4:49 pm | Permalink

            It a Ritz argument as you well know.
            The mobility holds true, but in fact for most has created tenants being forced to move due to insecure tenancies and unaffordable rents for the majority. How does that held stability in the workforce and employers find employees able to live near their place of work. It does not.
            Unintended consequences and reactionary nonsense.

          • Anonymous
            Posted March 31, 2016 at 7:13 pm | Permalink

            Most people in rented want to own their own home.

            Keeping the properties in landlords’ hands is driving up the prices. In most areas the rent-to-value ratio is well out of kilter.

            The investor’s rule used to be that 12x monthly rent divided into the sale value should not exceed 16. Now it is typically as high as 24.

            The rents are often more than the rentier would have to pay in mortgage – if only he could save a deposit but can’t … because of high rents !

            The amateur btl industry is because pensions are ruined and interest rates punish savers. The give a temporary feeling of wealth to the older generation who are soon to feel as impoverished as the young generation.

            Why ?

            Because this country is poor but pretends that it isn’t.

          • stred
            Posted April 1, 2016 at 8:11 am | Permalink

            All the rental levels in our part of London and other areas are in line with the 16x annual rent/ value but for family housing. The much higher rents are for HMOs, which are expensive to licence and difficult to obtain planning permission. HMG has created a shortage and expensive regulation which pushes up rents.

            In order to make BTL pay, there has to be an amount on top of mortgage costs in order to pay for maintenance, management, voids and often council tax and power.

            Many landlords will find that now that mortgage costs cannot be deducted, they will have to sell. Stand by for a house price fall.

          • Anonymous
            Posted April 1, 2016 at 7:49 pm | Permalink

            Stred – You’ve missed my point.

            The rental at x16 is LOW relative to the estimated value of the property.

            Under normal circumstances no landlord should buy into such a market.

            Ordinary people simply can’t afford to buy into such a market. But the rents are still too high for them to save a deposit.

            House prices are too high. Partly because landlords are hogging so many properties.

            There will be more Labour voting rentiers than Conservative voting landlords. This is what Osborne must be thinking.

        • Bazman
          Posted March 31, 2016 at 2:22 pm | Permalink

          High priced rental with onorous rules isTory. Who sold off all the social housing and created the buy to let market? Read your own post.

          • Lifelogic
            Posted March 31, 2016 at 5:40 pm | Permalink

            People rented out houses long before Mrs Thatcher.

          • Anonymous
            Posted March 31, 2016 at 7:15 pm | Permalink

            “People rented houses long before Mrs Thatcher”

            That’s why they voted Labour.

            Osborne can see this happening again.

          • Bazman
            Posted April 1, 2016 at 1:05 pm | Permalink

            Thatcher sold off the council houses that are now in the hands of private landlords and not replaced lielogic. Square that one off.

        • Lifelogic
          Posted March 31, 2016 at 4:02 pm | Permalink

          What is needed is more homes (or fewer people). Unfairly over taxing landlords and thus tenants does nothing to address this, quite the reverse it will reduce the supply.

          Anyone who thinks you should tax rental losses or that people (whose labour is worth less than the national minimum wage) should be prevented from working by a daft law is clearly totally unsuitable to be chancellor or indeed a Conservative.

          They need to go back to school and learn some sound basic economics.

          Vote leave and be rid of these dopes.

          • graham1946
            Posted March 31, 2016 at 6:19 pm | Permalink

            How is the supply of houses if not sold to BTL landlords going to reduce? Are they going to be knocked down and not replaced?

            The reality is that BTL has put a fire under house prices and first time buyers can’t get a look in whilst wealthy landlords are hoovering up all the cheaper properties. That’s the problem.
            Once people start renting, they can say goodbye to ever being able to save for their own property, whilst filling the coffers of landlords.

          • Anonymous
            Posted March 31, 2016 at 7:18 pm | Permalink

            Lifelogic – The biggest favour you could do your local population is sell your btl houses.

            You are doing no-one any favours. You are getting someone else to pay your mortgage and generate you a profit on a home they should be able to afford to buy themselves.

            So how many Labour voters have you created ?

          • hefner
            Posted April 1, 2016 at 7:52 am | Permalink

            Lifelogic,
            How can you be on the one hand against all sorts of (state) benefits, want a minimum State, and on the other hand, howl when the State insist on businesses paying survival pay so that it can decrease benefits, deficit and debt.

            A bit inconsistent, aren’t we?

          • Margaret
            Posted April 3, 2016 at 5:18 pm | Permalink

            culling?

    • Bazman
      Posted March 31, 2016 at 9:07 am | Permalink

      Indeedy! Look what massive subsidy to private rental housing has done to housing for the average person.

      • Posted March 31, 2016 at 12:53 pm | Permalink

        See my post above !

      • Lifelogic
        Posted March 31, 2016 at 4:05 pm | Permalink

        It has provided lots of flexible accommodation for people rather more efficiently than the state every could or would.

        Not that I get any subsidy myself as my tenants are not on benefits anyway.

        • Bazman
          Posted March 31, 2016 at 4:26 pm | Permalink

          The state does indeedy provide this flexible accommodation though ‘flexible’ for the tenant being an advantage is a laughable spin on tenants rights and costs the state billions, one of the largest welfare costs. As a property owner/landlord you benefit from this massive subsidy in rising property costs and rents in general paid for by the taxpayer. Funny how you cannot see this, but see it in every other industry and business. You know where it is going if you come out into the open don’t you?

          • Anonymous
            Posted March 31, 2016 at 7:22 pm | Permalink

            Even if Lifelogic has no tenants on welfare the whole of the housing market is underwritten by the state and turned into a safe bet.

            A rise in prices becomes self fulfilling. Quite right that landlords should be putting more back into a system set up like that.

    • Lifelogic
      Posted March 31, 2016 at 12:41 pm | Permalink

      What a wonderful economy our misguided PM and his socialist chancellor are indeed delivering.

      The balance of trade deficit for 2015 hits £96.2bn or 5.2% of GDP, the widest since records began in 1948!

      So we have a huge trade deficit (and that is before the inevitable steel production reductions & closures), huge debt, ever higher tax rates on almost everything, ever more tax complexity and over regulation, dysfunctional banks, virtually no wage growth at all, a lack of housing, public services that simply do not work and yet he is still running a massive PSBR.

      Please all vote “Leave” and be rid of this IHT ratting, pension mugging, tenant mugging, nonsense sugar tax pushing, totally misguided chancellor (and his no if no but boss). He is even worse as a chancellor than Major, Brown, Clark, Healey & Howe and they were all dreadful.

      Why is it so easy to see a vet (almost instantly) and yet so hard to get an appointment at a GP’s surgery? Simple, at one you pay and at the other they are tying to deter you from coming as far as can. This as they already have your money. You are thus a liability to be put off wherever possible. Ring back tomorrow between 9 and 9.15 but we might be engaged!

      Or perhaps one is run privately and needs its customers and the other run by the incompetent, dysfunctional state.

      It seems to be an economy supported by selling off expensive houses in central London, but even that Osborne is killing with his OTT stamp duty and misguided attack on nondoms and the rich.

      • Bazman
        Posted April 1, 2016 at 1:07 pm | Permalink

        Answer some of the points above Mr shouty.

  10. alexmews
    Posted March 31, 2016 at 6:52 am | Permalink

    apologies – the articles to which i was referring in my previous comment were here in the Telegraph by AEP

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/business/2016/03/30/britain-sacrifices-steel-industry-to-curry-favour-with-china/

    and here claiming UK is hampering EU efforts to impose steel import tariffs:

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/david-cameron/12207876/EU-row-over-deal-to-save-steel.html

    • Denis Cooper
      Posted March 31, 2016 at 1:52 pm | Permalink

      From the first article, by Ambrose Evans-Pritchard:

      “We may have to face the unpleasant truth that free trade has its limits.”

      It’s a bit late for a dawning of the obvious truth that free trade is not an unalloyed good; perhaps the next realisation will be that beyond a certain point, which we’ve already passed in most cases, it no longer even provides major net benefits.

      UK GDP increased by 0.6% in the final quarter of 2015; at it happens that single quarter’s natural growth at a bit below the long term trend rate is slightly higher than the £10 billion a year boost for GDP which the UK government projects as the total benefit of the proposed EU-US trade deal.

      Which proposed trade deal, TTIP, has of course been presented as some kind of cornucopia and a powerful reason to stay in the EU.

  11. Richard1
    Posted March 31, 2016 at 6:59 am | Permalink

    It has been extraordinary listening to left wing politicians lamenting the possible closure of these steel works – surely if they think combating global warming by cutting CO2 is the over- arching priority, the closure of a heavily fossil fuel intensive industry should be good news for them?

    Also it’s extraordinary to listen to supposedly free market Conservatives (such as an MP called Davis yesterday – not the well know D Davis), urge nationalisation in spite of the past disaster you outline above!

    The EU block on state aid reminds us of the reason many of us supported EU membership in the 80s and 90s – the EU stopped politicians pumping huge amounts of money into loss making protected nationalised industries. If we were not now subject to these rules perhaps political pressure would force the govt to take all these losses – and keep running them in the future?

    • Denis Cooper
      Posted March 31, 2016 at 11:49 am | Permalink

      Unlike you I would never knowingly support any measure or scheme to tie the hands of the sovereign British Parliament, which is what you really mean by “politicians”, except such as gave the power back to the British people whose Parliament it is.

      Whether the scheme involved the EU Commission and/or the governments of other countries and/or the EU Parliament, or some other supranational body, or judges in this country or elsewhere, I would see that as akin to treason.

      • Richard1
        Posted March 31, 2016 at 10:46 pm | Permalink

        Silly posturing language, Dennis Cooper.

        • Margaret
          Posted April 1, 2016 at 6:33 am | Permalink

          it is not posturing …he teaches the subject.

          • Denis Cooper
            Posted April 1, 2016 at 7:27 am | Permalink

            I don’t, but I feel strongly about it not least because some people actually gave their lives to extract some sort of democracy in this country and many others died defending it.

          • Margaret
            Posted April 1, 2016 at 10:05 pm | Permalink

            well you certainly teach me.

        • Denis Cooper
          Posted April 1, 2016 at 7:25 am | Permalink

          So now it’s “silly” to point out that your notion was, and is, profoundly anti-democratic. As Lord Tebbit, no friend of socialism, once said at a public meeting: “If the British people vote for socialism then they should get socialism”. You disagree, you think it’s a clever idea to arrange that the British people may vote for socialism as strongly and as frequently as they like but nonetheless never get socialism. Why even bother giving them the vote, if they are going to misuse it by voting for things that you don’t like? But then of course the same party that took us into the EEC was historically the most opposed to giving them the vote in the first place.

          • Richard1
            Posted April 1, 2016 at 5:44 pm | Permalink

            No, I think it’s absurd – and unpleasant – to accuse anyone who puts forward a different view from your own of ‘treason’. I think it is the use of this UKIP type tone rather than reasoned argument of the pros and cons that will deliver victory to Remain.

          • Denis Cooper
            Posted April 2, 2016 at 11:39 am | Permalink

            It’s not just any old “different” view – in general terms you can have as many “different” views as you like without any of them being considered remotely treasonable – it’s specifically your view that it’s a good and clever idea to bring in external forces to tie the hands of our Parliament.

            How far would you go with that before you recognised it as being akin to treason, if not plain treason?

            Would you say that inviting a foreign army to occupy the country for the purpose of “stopping politicians pumping huge amounts of money into loss making protected nationalised industries” would definitely be treason, or would you still reckon it to be a good thing and bridle at the suggestion that you should not do it or support it?

    • Lifelogic
      Posted March 31, 2016 at 4:17 pm | Permalink

      Indeed was it not the greencrap brigade’s intention to close down such things when they went down the absurd expensive joke renewables route. Or were they just to dim to see the consequences?

      Alastair Heath has it right today in the Telegraph. More jobs will be saved by closing most of it down that by propping it up with money taken of other more viable businesses.

      Doubtless Cameron and Osborne will do the wrong thing as usual.

  12. Know-dice
    Posted March 31, 2016 at 7:04 am | Permalink

    It was suggested yesterday by somebody phoning in to BBC Radio Two, apparently in Belgium there is a steel works where the government pays the workers salaries for 1 week per month.

    So company pays 3 weeks and government pays 1 week, not sure of the details other than this, but certainly shows that “state aid” can be provided under some EU rules…

    Or maybe the government should give the end user (in the UK only) a “rebate” of the difference between open market steel prices and the price UK steel need to sell at to be a viable operation, if the end user purchases UK made steel.

    It certainly is the case that steel is needed for all sorts reasons in this country, so encourage people to buy British. Apparently the new Forth road bridge is being manufactured from foreign steel – that’s just not right and probably doesn’t happen elsewhere in the EU for major infrastructure projects.

    Did the Business Secretary really vote against increasing the tariff on Chinese steel, just to appease them?

    • Dennis
      Posted March 31, 2016 at 1:18 pm | Permalink

      It appears JR doesn’t know.

  13. Anonymous
    Posted March 31, 2016 at 7:06 am | Permalink

    I don’t think that nationalisation is a simple solution but we did it with the banks after the credit crunch.

    The areas around the steel production will end up nationalised anyway – but with welfarism and top-up work instead of skills and production. We have seen this with other industries (we are now bereft of any ability to produce nuclear plants.)

    Rolls Royce was subsidised for a short while and recovered. Who knows what the future holds for a strategic market such as steel ? It makes sense not to produce steel at the moment but this glut will not last.

    And while we are closing down labour intensive factories WHY are we importing more and more strong and pushy young men ?

    • forthurst
      Posted March 31, 2016 at 4:29 pm | Permalink

      “Rolls Royce was subsidised for a short while and recovered.”

      Rolls Royce failed to hedge against an adverse dollar/sterling exchange rate, consequently bankrupting itself. Nevertheless, it remained a viable business which steel, in this country is not, as a consequence of the EU, the SavethePlanet in Europe Only Act and the extremely low calibre of the government.

      • Anonymous
        Posted March 31, 2016 at 7:26 pm | Permalink

        It’s not viable at the moment but we won’t allow the local area to starve. So the industry will be subsidised whether it remains or not.

        Isn’t it a bit premature of Mr Cameron to state that it will not be nationalised – if only for a while ?

        If we vote for Brexit then we can act free of EU control and the picture will be changed completely.

        It would be tragic if the industry went to the wall and we voted to leave the EU a week later.

        (BBC reporting that Premier League footballers from the EU would not be allowed to play here. What tosh !)

  14. hefner
    Posted March 31, 2016 at 7:06 am | Permalink

    Let the market decide, without intervention from the Government, for steel, nuclear energy, and all the rest.

    • miami.mode
      Posted March 31, 2016 at 8:52 am | Permalink

      Fatuous comment hefner. Governments skew the markets by imposing penalties such as the carbon tax or business rates or in some countries give state aid to assist cheaper production.

    • Bazman
      Posted March 31, 2016 at 10:51 am | Permalink

      The Chinese market is dumping steel on ours and when our own capacity is gone massive price hikes will follow. In many cases the free market will mean no industry. Nuclear can only exist when underwriten by the state. Ditto most rail. Dingbat 19th century nonsense.

    • hefner
      Posted March 31, 2016 at 11:56 am | Permalink

      Oh, sorry. I thought this was the blog of “a leading supporter of market-based policies”.

      • Bazman
        Posted April 1, 2016 at 1:08 pm | Permalink

        But not free market nonsense.

    • Anonymous
      Posted March 31, 2016 at 7:28 pm | Permalink

      Let the market decide.

      Well the market makes slaves when it is left to run unfettered.

  15. Ian Wragg
    Posted March 31, 2016 at 7:13 am | Permalink

    France Germany and Italy don’t seem to have the same problems.
    Osbornes stupid carbon tax. Green energy supplements and out of control business rates based not on viability but some notional value.
    Both Osborne and Javid are against tarrifs on dumped Chinese steel. Are they hoping for a job when they get turfed out of office.
    We have lost aluminium production, deep coal mining and now steel.
    All due to the combined stupidity of the UK and Brussels idiots.

    • Iain Moore
      Posted March 31, 2016 at 8:21 am | Permalink

      What with Labour’s insane Carbon legislation , which the Cameron Conservatives took up as religion, combined with free market dogma , where Osborne obstructed any limits to the Chinese dumping steel on us, and the EU which makes it impossible to act in our own nations interests, means we have a perfect storm.

      The only way out of this mess is to get rid of the lot of them. Labour, Conservatives and the EU.

    • stred
      Posted March 31, 2016 at 9:16 am | Permalink

      Javid has been saying one thing and doing another, no doubt instructed by the Treasury, which is counting on CHIFIs to get Hinkley Point at double cost and HS2 off the books.

      The UK is investing more in offshore wind than any other country. The turbines to be built on the Dogger Bank will be 600ft high on huge steel bases. According to the figures published yesterday on Energy Matters, these will produce electricity 40x as expensive as the true cost of CCGT. However, Mr Osborne prefers to have cheap Chinese steel and their finance, while DECC will see a big whack of CO2 off their targets if steel production is tranferred to the Chinese smog belt.

      It would be interesting to know what the likes of Goldman Sachs think about the UK’s veto over effective tarrifs in order to protect EU steel. Perhaps a job for Gideon is lined up when the polished deal from Brussels disintegrates.

      • stred
        Posted March 31, 2016 at 9:21 am | Permalink

        The Ed Hoskins figures on Energy Matters also shoe the figure for the life of an offshore wind turbine- 15 years before replacement. An awful lot of steel to be stuck in the middle of the North Sea. Plenty of work for the Green investment boys, and they need cheap steel.

  16. Hope
    Posted March 31, 2016 at 7:14 am | Permalink

    Yet we read today Osborne might have sacrificed the steel industry to gain business with China. The govt also opposing tariffs against imported Chinese steel. Your party manifesto supports the EU driven Climate Change Act making energy far too costly for homes and business. Judd needs to walk after her recent lies. So should Soubry and Javid.Have the two posh boys (messed ed) up again?

    Reply Do you mean Ms Rudd? And are you referring to her comments on EU membership?

  17. alan jutson
    Posted March 31, 2016 at 7:21 am | Permalink

    The Government need to find out how the other steel makers in the EU are coping with the same problem, if truly so called dumping is the simple reason.

    Me thinks this is rather more complex to solve than it looks, otherwise TATA would not be thinking of sale or closure.

    No point in the taxpayer just throwing money at it in the hope that it will be all right in time.

    Certainly hope something can be done to help resolve the issue, and keep some sort of steel manufacturing in the UK.

    • Dan H.
      Posted March 31, 2016 at 9:57 am | Permalink

      What is happening isn’t economic warfare or “dumping”, but something far more insidious. What we’re looking at is Green activists doing something very unusual: winning an argument.

      Making steel from ore is difficult, and liberates huge amounts of carbon dioxide; it also costs a great deal to do. Making steel from recycled scrap would be much easier, except for a long time nobody knew how to do it, especially as quite a lot of steel has poisonous lead added to it, to make it easier to work. About 20 years ago, a US company called Nucor worked out how to get the impurities out of scrap steel and slowly, oh so slowly the secrets of how to do this spread across the industry.

      About 10 years ago, a combination of things made it very advantageous for Chinese companies to stockpile scrap steel. This financial loophole has now closed, and as they now know how to recycle scrap into virgin new steel, the Chinese companies are getting rid and recycling their steel. They aren’t dumping it; they’re turning a worthless stockpile into money again and are selling at the price the market can stand.

      Imposing import tariffs on extra-cheap raw materials is frankly way beyond stupid and accelerating fast into the realms of utterly barking mad. The Chinese steel recyclers are doing us a favour; several favours in fact.

      Firstly, raw materials way cheaper than we can make; that makes our exports cheaper than everybody else’s.

      Secondly, think of all the carbon dioxide that we’re not having to pay for under the carbon trading scheme.

      Thirdly, all the people employed in dirty, dangerous raw steel production can go do something else, which will likely be nicer, easier and much less dangerous.

      A final point is this: the world has changed. Steel is now being efficiently recycled, and there simply is not the demand for the same volumes of raw steel production that there was back before we knew how to recycle it. The Tata plant is not economic to run now, and will not EVER be economic to run; the demand just got satisfied by cheaper means.

      Now, you can stand around with your fingers in your ears going “La la la I can’t hear you!” and pissing money up the wall until you run out of money, or you can respond to a new situation. The choice is yours.

      • stred
        Posted April 1, 2016 at 8:32 am | Permalink

        Very interesting. We send a lot of our scrap to China on the boats that bring their products. Is it possible that the UK steelworks recycle scrap too and save the CO2 transporting it back and forth? Also, presumably Chinese work produce steel and generate as much if not more CO2 and other pollutants, while the British steelworks have been modernised at great expense and are cleaner. Also, our electricity is now considerably lower in terms of Tons of CO2 per head of population and if it were not for the carbon floor tax, expensive renewables and high business taxes steel making could continue.

        These taxes of course will be lost to the government if the business closes.

    • bigneil
      Posted March 31, 2016 at 10:08 am | Permalink

      Has TATA got plants elsewhere in the world? – if so what is happening with those? or is it only English plants going to be shut/sold?

      • graham1946
        Posted March 31, 2016 at 1:34 pm | Permalink

        They have plants in Holland and it is suggested they would like to close the UK down to protect that. Just shows how short sighted our governments are letting strategic industries be sold off to foreigners for a quick buck for their mates in the City. They owe no allegiance to the UK.

        If foreigners build our power stations too, we’ll be in a tight neck lock.

        We can borrow money to give away, but cannot look after our own people or build our own infrastructure. What a shower!

        • alan jutson
          Posted March 31, 2016 at 5:15 pm | Permalink

          graham 1946

          Whilst I agree with much of what you say, it was our Government at the time which decided that we needed to go further than anyone else in the World to “protect the environment” and thus tie us to high electricity and energy costs.

          The fools in power simply do not seem to understand that business can go anywhere in the World to produce their goods, and will tend to favour low rather than high cost areas, providing it does not affect the Quality of their product too much.

          Blame our Politicians, but not all of them, JR has been warning of this scenario for years.

          Many more companies will follow.

  18. Hope
    Posted March 31, 2016 at 7:27 am | Permalink

    I suppose the two posh boys do not really. Are as they do not have to work for a living. It is just a game to them. Remember Cameron saying recently that if this w the deal on offer when we were out he would join! Idiot! Did he negotiate EU competition rules so he could help the steel industry? Get back th Territorial waters to invigorate the fishing inidustry? Change the CAP to help the farming industry? Get back the social and justice policy? Get anything enshrined in treaty change as it was “essential”? Did he stop child benefit being sent to children in the EU that have never set foot in the country? Ah no, he stopped disability benefit to ur citizens while overseas aid paid for a Lear jet to a dictator, paid £1 billion ………in Belerus, used our taxes to help ISIS beat Assad, waste millions on making Lybia a failed state with all the misery it entails including mass immigration. What I can tell he got wa nothing of substance and pretends, deceives and lies that he won the world. Except the tragedy is thousands will lose their jobs at Port Talbot because of his beloved dream to subordinate our country to the EU project. Is this another price worth paying? I think not. Vote to leave the EU.

  19. mickc
    Posted March 31, 2016 at 7:29 am | Permalink

    The precedent was set with banking. That bailout should have been opposed by the Conservative party. It was not. The Conservative government cannot now refuse to bailout the steel industry.

    • graham1946
      Posted March 31, 2016 at 1:37 pm | Permalink

      Nor should they. A country, the 5th largest economy in the world which cannot produce its own steel is a no mark and on the way to third world status. When prices recover we will again be paying through the nose to foreigners if we let this go. We let big business rip the guts out of our oil to give the big money men yachts etc and we should still have enough to last another hundred years, but no, a quick buck is the way the British work.

  20. Antisthenes
    Posted March 31, 2016 at 7:29 am | Permalink

    Nationalise the steel industry and in the long run it is doomed. Probably a short term solution considering the time frame Tata have given for selling the plants. If I was government I would offer shares to form a company to buy out those plants that the private sector is not ready to. Government under right the shares probably ending up owning most of them maybe alongside workers and management. Investors with steel making expertise could also be encouraged to buy some of the shares as well so engaging their expertise to help turn round the business.

    I believe that way we can circumvent EU rules as a heavy working capital can be injected to keep prices low until things pick up again. Then government sell their shares when the plants become profitable again. I am no expert so no doubt many can find reasons why my idea would not work. We have to keep the heavy bureaucratic hand out of government far away from the business even if it owns most of it. The EU’s heavy hand has done enough damage already and will continue to do so unless we leave it.

  21. hefner
    Posted March 31, 2016 at 7:35 am | Permalink

    Something to consider and mull over (before writing the usual ¥$€%# comments)

    http://www.gov.uk Industrial electricity prices in the IEA Table 5.3.1
    Country. w/o tax. w tax. in p/kWh
    UK. 9.13. 9.38.
    F. 6.06. 7.64.
    D. 5.77. 10.88.
    NL. 5.46. 7.16.
    S. 4.92. 4.96

    USA. 4.05. 4.26

    So, it is slightly more complex that simply say it is all because of the EU. Maybe the MPs who have been in the HoC for almost 30 years also bear some responsibility in the state we are in.

    • Narrow shoulders
      Posted March 31, 2016 at 12:58 pm | Permalink

      Notable that the EU countries have seen the biggest increases since 2005. All around 100% (Germany 135%) whereas the rest of the world excluding Canada seem to have considered the costs to consumers and business alike.

  22. Lifelogic
    Posted March 31, 2016 at 7:35 am | Permalink

    Why is the truth on immigration figures (and their average earnings) still being hidden by the government? Will we find out before the referendum? This so we can see their net costs to the economy and the increased pressure they put on wages levels, hospitals, roads, police, education and the rest. With out proper information it will not be a fair referendum. It will not be anyway thanks to the bias of the BBC and state sector officials like Carney and Jeremy Heywood.

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/immigration/12207625/British-public-must-be-told-truth-about-immigration-figures-ahead-of-EU-referendum-says-watchdog.

  23. Ex-expat Colin
    Posted March 31, 2016 at 7:36 am | Permalink

    Hear all about it….don’t yawn at the back!?

    Commons Select – Tata Steel and Ministers questioned on Port Talbot job losses
    Feb 3 2016

    http://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/welsh-affairs-committee/news-parliament-2015/steel-industry-evidence-15-16/

    “The Welsh Affairs Committee holds a one-off evidence session on the steel industry in Wales. In January 2016, following a fall in the European steel price, job losses were announced at the Port Talbot steelworks. The session examines the future prospects for the industry in Wales and ask what support is being provided to those affected.”

  24. Iain Moore
    Posted March 31, 2016 at 7:37 am | Permalink

    If we cannot make the economic conditions work for steel, then we cannot make it work for much of our industrial base. We either stop the rot here and now and make sure we have an industrial future, or we give up and just concentrate on being able to stack shelves in super markets. One thing you can be sure of , Germany will make dammed sure they have a steel industry, and the next bunch of ‘ here today and gone tomorrow politicians’ will look on even more enviously at Germany’s trade surplus compared to our unaffordable and ballooning trade deficit, then make some useless speeches about becoming a nation of the ‘makers’ then go back to closing down more of our industries.

    I await with interest to see which way the British political classes will jump, will they ditch the virtue signalling insanity which has buried our economy in costs , or will they look to ensure we have an industrial future.

    PS I note the British political classes were prepared to subsidise the Indian economy to the tune of £250 million pounds in Aid .

    • bigneil
      Posted March 31, 2016 at 10:19 am | Permalink

      ” ensure we have an industrial future” – -sadly it seems the only growth industry in the UK at the moment is cash-in-hand, no-tax-paying but claim all you can in benefits, housing and free NHS etc car washing. At the present rate of growth I can see that very soon every business leader will soon have 10 car washers each.

      Maybe our host could do an article on the forecasted cuts to the Border Agency, and the inevitable rise in illegals coming here for free lives. Haven’t we got enough foreign car washers as it is? – never mind criminals fleeing their punishment.

    • Denis Cooper
      Posted March 31, 2016 at 10:57 am | Permalink

      “… stack shelves in (increasingly foreign owned) super markets …”

    • Narrow shoulders
      Posted March 31, 2016 at 1:01 pm | Permalink

      Yes, a real statement of intent could be laid down here. A commitment to quality, value for money and innovation to differentiate us from the rest.

      We are probably not allowed to invest (state money) or differentiate from the market under EU competition rules though.

  25. A different Simon
    Posted March 31, 2016 at 7:56 am | Permalink

    A shale gas industry would help revive the steel industry .

    Ineos have had to construct a fleet of ethane tanker vessels to import ethane from the U.S. just to keep Grangemouth open .

    The transfer of large parts of the chemical industry from Europe to the U.S. is in full swing with BASF leading the charge .

    Demand for ethane will ramp up in the U.S. which will mean that if Grangemouth is to remain open it must source ethane from elsewhere .

    Much of the shale gas in the Bowland basin is in the wet gas maturity window so contains a lot of ethane , propane and butane .

    Chemical works owner Ineos are soon to become the UK’s biggest investor in onshore oil and gas exploration and production and largest license holder of shale gas prospective petroleum exploration and development licenses .

    There is a symbiotic relationship between unconventional hydrocarbon industry and the steel industry .
    If Ineos drill 500 multi-lateral wells per year from multi-well pads , that is quite a few miles of high spec steel casing which will be required .

    Perhaps have a word with Jim Ratcliffe and Ineos . As an incentive provide a massive grant to build a tube mill since there is no longer one which can do the job in the UK .

  26. Bob
    Posted March 31, 2016 at 8:13 am | Permalink

    Don’t worry Mr Redwood, Sajid Javid and Anna Soubry are on the case.

    We have to be reasonable, no one could have predicted that our inability to protect against dumping, high energy costs and business rates would damage UK industry.

    On the bright side, we should be grateful that the EU gave us their permission to zero rate vat on tampons.

    Altogether now “things can only get better…”

  27. Antisthenes
    Posted March 31, 2016 at 8:18 am | Permalink

    I never thought I would agree with a lefty politician but I have to agree with Port Talbot’s MP that the governments response to the steel industries problems has not been good. Shambolic as he puts it. Hopefully today’s crisis meeting at no 10 will come up with a credible long term solution and find ways to do something constructive immediately. My respect for the business secretary has taken a down turn. He plainly has not kept on top even ahead of this problem and has not properly devoted his time and energy to it.

  28. agricola
    Posted March 31, 2016 at 8:20 am | Permalink

    The current low World prices of steel reflect over capacity and a lower level of manufacturing. It is also possible, though I cannot quantify it, that design has reduced steel volume requirements as has the increasing use of composites.

    If China or anyone else is supplying steel at below cost then there should be a total EU block on it or we should unilaterally stop buying it. Last October Chinese steel was about £214.00/Tonne and at around the same time similar steel from the EU was about £268.00/Tonne. The expectation is that this quarter it will drop to £140.00/Tonne, and by the end of the year it will be £117.00/Tonne, perhaps rising to about £176.00/Tonne by 2020. The capacity to supply worldwide needs, to the drop in demand worldwide, might give us some stability.

    The cost of electricity in steel production is thought to be about 6%. There is some government wriggle room by way of 1-2% in policy costs, but that at best brings electricity costs down to 4% of total cost. Not a big factor, but everything helps when margins are razor thin. Much as we all hate the green tax on energy costs, it is more political than real in terms of steel production costs.

    I would also argue that having a whole industry owned by an overseas company is strategically not good, but it does bring home the realities of the market place when the owner sees it as a loss centre and chops it off. Can we make everyone in the EU/UK buy EU/UK steel. I doubt it, and what would it do to the worldwide competitiveness of the end product, ie. a UK made car. No doubt Tata who own Jaguar/Range Rover, will be planning to buy Indian or Chinese steel if they are not already doing so.

    I think government has to bite the bullet. Mothball the steel plants because we could use them in the future. Support and retrain the workforce. If continuous immigration from the EU is largely due to job vacancies in the UK then to a large extent the workforce should be re-trained for many of those jobs. Historically , since the industrial revolution, the UK has existed and blossomed by bringing in raw materials, enhancing their value, and exporting them at a profit. In a constantly changing World market place, the nature of the imported material will always be changing, as will the type of enhancement. The support services in terms of education and training require constant re-assessment and flexibility.

  29. oldtimer
    Posted March 31, 2016 at 8:26 am | Permalink

    The talked about management buyout will not work without an MBO team in place, a sound business plan and financial backers with deep pockets. Tata evidently could not find a solution. So why do the politicians think that if Tata cannot make it fly that someone else can?

    Port Talbot is a strip mill. Is the technology competitive? Is the capacity at a level that permits efficient utilisation and cost levels? What is the demand for its products? Your description of earlier nationalisation and investment plans pointed out the unrealistic nature of the capacity then created. I know next to nothing about the economics of strip mills and developments in strip mill process technology but these are among the first questions to be asked. IIRC the US steel industry revival depended on innovative process technology as well as on low energy costs and the protection provided by congress. Whatever the outcome for Port Talbot, the process will be long, painful and expensive.

  30. margaret
    Posted March 31, 2016 at 8:34 am | Permalink

    The problem is the demand for steel is less. China are also finding this out . The global downturn I prosperity demanded that people cut their cloth according to their means. Building stopped , second hand cars were all the rage at the expense of new ones . Organisational reparation could be undertaken, but whether new owns would make any difference remains to be seen . Tweaking in my experience is better than a clean sweep.

  31. CHRISTOPHER HOUSTON
    Posted March 31, 2016 at 8:45 am | Permalink

    Utterances of Labout MPs, the constituencies of whom include Steel, Coal, Textiles and Fishing are like scavenger seagulls screeching, pecking, and throwing their wings back startlingly over a crab’s leg. What did they ever achieve in their “defences” of their electorates? Over half a century of total failure.
    Perhaps, Labour MPs should keep out of the way in the current talks about Steel as their historic contributions have amounted to zero, even having a negative impact.

    The Coal industry allowed the NUM to dominate local and regional Labour Parties. Of course their desire was the defence of their own electoral positions within unions and in political/ social communities. This defensive position did not allow for believing and planning for inevitable closures. The same was true to perhaps a lesser extent in the Steel, Textile and Fishing industries. No forward planning. Nowhere for the redundant workers to go. Not trained for any other job. No industry standing on the sidelines awaiting the rush of earnest workers with a will to work.

    Nationalisation does not work. Capitalism does not work either. Decisions about the work we do, the life we have, the possibilities we have to fall in love and create a family are determined by people who have meetings in India and Brussels.

  32. jeffrey
    Posted March 31, 2016 at 8:49 am | Permalink

    The steel saga would be more relevant if it was set in the context of the other 99% or so of manufacturing output. The decline of UK manufacturing over the past 15 years has either been shocking or testimony to the UK ‘leading the way’ to a post-industrial, CO2-free, economy. Take your pick. It is still necessary to explain that manufacturing output actually increased 8% in the Thatcher era. It is during the 25 years since she left office that the index has managed a bare 1% increase. There was growth in the late 90’s. Since 2000, or 2007 (either will do), the index has declined more than 7%. No rebalancing here. Indeed, UK manufacturing seems yet another taboo issue (in my experience).

  33. miami.mode
    Posted March 31, 2016 at 9:16 am | Permalink

    Would like to see an honest debate on the quality of various steels that are produced around the world. It’s entirely understandable that low-cost countries can produce cheap steel such as reinforcement for concrete, but if it’s true that steel such as that used in Trident will have to be produced elsewhere, what happens if it is no longer available? A lot of defence equipment has to be manufactured from steel.

    Noticeable yesterday how son of Kinnock seemed to be in the right places and the government’s answer seemed to be Anna Soubry who didn’t appear to know her own policies.

    • A different Simon
      Posted March 31, 2016 at 2:54 pm | Permalink

      Who would you want the debate to be held between ?

      Our elected members or within a quango ?

      A company might get a uniquely numbered billet of steel from Corus with an accompanying certificate which says it came from a particular batch produced on a certain day , was vacuum degassed during manufacture , xrayed for cracks etc .

      It may be completely impossible to prove that the billet has undergone some of those processes .

      Such steel cannot be produced by recycling scrap in the EU’s circular economy fantasy way .

      The purchaser has to trust the supplier before proceeding to spend large amounts of money to turn the raw material into uniquely identifiable components which can be traced back to that billet .

      It’s no use them finding inclusions in the steel which deflect or damage cutting tools , or impurities which render them brittle or unable to accept heat or chemical treatments .

      • alan jutson
        Posted March 31, 2016 at 5:22 pm | Permalink

        Simon, your post takes me back to my old engineering days, where work for the MOD required everything to be traceable to the original source.

        MOD inspectors turned up regularly to give any supplier the once over in some detail to ensure standards were maintained.

        All way before ISO 9000 and a lot more stringent as well.

        • A different Simon
          Posted March 31, 2016 at 9:20 pm | Permalink

          I never got to work in an engineering environment as it was not my line .

          Knew people who did and have a 1960’s Colchester lathe in my garage which came from the tool room of a compressor factory in High Wycombe .

          Getting hold of the raw materials is harder than the machinery to work on it !

          The skills and culture which developed over hundreds of years will be lost , irreversibly .

  34. Mockbeggar
    Posted March 31, 2016 at 9:19 am | Permalink

    I understand that whereas steel imports from China are in the hundreds of thousands tonnes, imports from Germany are in the millions.

    1. Raising tariffs against Chinese imports will simply mean importing more from Germany

    2. How can Germany produce steel so much more cheaply than we can?

    • Dennis
      Posted March 31, 2016 at 1:26 pm | Permalink

      I hope JR is finding out.

  35. The Prangwizard
    Posted March 31, 2016 at 9:21 am | Permalink

    Is Tata telling the truth about the profit/loss situation, is it taking advantage of a weak government? Can they be tested?

    Is it true that your government vetoed an increase in tariff rates?

    • Dennis
      Posted March 31, 2016 at 1:27 pm | Permalink

      I hope JR is finding out.

    • The Prangwizard
      Posted March 31, 2016 at 5:07 pm | Permalink

      I heard the oily Philip Hammond this lunchtime saying, that his and Mr Redwood’s government should concentrate on supporting those who lose their jobs, ie. let the industry go.

  36. Bazman
    Posted March 31, 2016 at 9:28 am | Permalink

    The only subsidy or help the Tories belive in is corperate welfare for the rich and their banker chums. The rest can sink or swim. However as this policy empoverishes millions they may well have problem they understand. Being out of office. Not squeak from anyone though when more than 10k lost their jobs at BAE sytems in the 1990’s. The internet may well prove problomatic this time and in the future for hiding the results of government neglect of the working person Etc ed
    The Tories will have us competing with China. At least some.

  37. Bert Young
    Posted March 31, 2016 at 9:53 am | Permalink

    Allowing China a share in our Atomic Energy provision is one thing so , why not them share in our Steel Industry ?. China has controlled the international mining industries by driving down the price of commodities ; they now are doing the same with Steel . As China grows still further and rebalances its economy , their control over basic commodities will increase ; we either have to compromise with them or bite the dust .

  38. graham1946
    Posted March 31, 2016 at 10:07 am | Permalink

    It’s very telling that when a crisis of this magnitude breaks, the Prime Minister is on holiday and the Business Secretary is on a jolly to Australia. Is any more proof needed that these clowns are totally out of touch, even with their own brief in the case of the terminally useless Javid, who, despite him saying he ‘is in constant contact with his office’ his understudy, Soubary managed to go the totally opposite way to what he said when he commented.. These people are not fit to govern, or more accurately be in office, because that is all they are. Actual achievements are hard to spot.

    Why can’t we intervene to save steel? We did with Rolls Royce, now successful, we did with the banks, now stronger than they have ever been, and with cars. Look at the state of car making in the 90’s and earlier and look now. Its all possible. Just need some competent politicians with a will to do their job.

    • Narrow shoulders
      Posted March 31, 2016 at 1:05 pm | Permalink

      Ms Soubury is a blocker not an attacker.

      She has no finesse

      • Qubus
        Posted March 31, 2016 at 4:32 pm | Permalink

        I fear that Ms Soubry has been promoted beyond her ability. I think that we shall be hearing somewhat less of her in the future.

  39. Pete
    Posted March 31, 2016 at 10:23 am | Permalink

    Why does government have to get orders for steel makers? It’s a business. If they can’t get their own orders it’s not a viable enterprise. Government should stick to it’s usual plan, over regulate, over tax, destroy jobs and generally get in the way.

    Reply Because they are the customer!

  40. Denis Cooper
    Posted March 31, 2016 at 10:54 am | Permalink

    Well, we don’t need to make steel, we can import it. Just as we don’t need to grow any food, we can import it, and we don’t need to produce our own fuel or generate our own energy, we can import them; and in fact in the modern world we don’t need to make anything at all, apart from “financial products” to help pay for all the imports.

    That is no doubt what George Osborne had in mind when he talked about “the march of the makers”, playing to the strength of the City in devising ever more cunning schemes for moving money from once place to another, otherwise known as the “efficient allocation of capital”, without anyone involved having to do anything which might get their hands dirty literally as well as metaphorically.

    And now under his wise stewardship we have a record trade deficit, and balancing that will need more assets to be sold off to foreigners – real assets, but also paper assets which will yield them a future income at our expense.

    http://www.theguardian.com/business/2016/mar/31/uk-economy-growth-record-trade-deficit

    “The current account deficit – made up of the trade deficit, plus losses on overseas ventures – swelled to £32.7bn in the fourth quarter, equivalent t0 7% of GDP. The deficit had stood at 4.3% of GDP in the third quarter. Economists in a Reuters poll had expected the deficit to widen to £21.1bn.

    For 2015 as a whole, the current account deficit hit £96.2bn or 5.2% of GDP, the widest since records began in 1948.”

    But apparently this once again demonstrates that we should carry on as we are and not cause problems by voting to leave the EU:

    “Chancellor George Osborne, who is campaigning for the UK to remain in the EU, seized on the latest figures.

    “… the UK is not immune to risks in the global economy as slowing global growth weighs on our outlook. Today’s figures expose the real danger of economic uncertainty and shows that now is precisely not the time to put our economic security at risk by leaving the EU.”

    Well, maybe he should have mentioned to his boss that this would be “precisely not the time” to hold an EU referendum, as if any time would ever be the right time.

    • Iain Moore
      Posted March 31, 2016 at 11:45 am | Permalink

      Indeed, I have just seen those appalling Current Account deficit figures , and the British establishment are thinking about closing down the steel industry.

    • Mitchel
      Posted March 31, 2016 at 12:48 pm | Permalink

      Don’t worry….the digital/virtual/fantasy(delete as appropriate) economy that Osborne bangs on about will come to the rescue.

  41. Bazman
    Posted March 31, 2016 at 10:58 am | Permalink

    Interesting to see how the dingbat right deals with free market reality and its cost. Like the tabloid reading ex pats They only understand when it effects them personally.
    How many support crackpot right wing fantasy for their own jobs?

  42. Nig L
    Posted March 31, 2016 at 11:11 am | Permalink

    In a mature market the lowest cost provider survives the longest and the clue is in the word cost, presumably the ‘fixed’ aren’t capable of being changed so it is a ‘variable cost’ problem. A very interesting article as ever but as a finance man, JR, why don’t we talk about actual figures. No ‘white knight’ is going to come in, even if Tata give it away liability free, without a clear ROI, so surely it has to be a simple exercise to say that costs need to be reduced by x % and then look at the big ones, energy, labour, rates etc to see if that figure is achievable not forgetting to ‘flex’ the exchange rate to take into account competitive devaluation. What China, George’s best friend, surely not!!

    Obviously there will also be the ‘political fiddling’ over tariffs, hidden subsidies etc but no company in its right mind looking at a 10/20/50? year investment will want to take on a business that can only work if it relies on political input. Do a PEST analysis and shudder!

    Once again we are getting the King Canute solution.

    ps I seem to remember the Labour government giving £400 million? to bail out a part of the car industry that just happened to be in its heartland. Where is that today?

  43. Bob
    Posted March 31, 2016 at 11:51 am | Permalink

    Remind me Mr Redwood, how much foreign aid did we send to China to help them build cleaner coal fired power stations?

  44. ian
    Posted March 31, 2016 at 12:07 pm | Permalink

    All get jobs at the government internet surveillance investment 0f 1.2 billion, seem to be a lot of 1.2 billions this year, I suppose t hat’s the yearly cost, 9w bulb and a computer desk and chair of cos bonus, pension, on top, what not to like.

  45. ian
    Posted March 31, 2016 at 12:26 pm | Permalink

    O a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down
    the medicine go down
    the medicine go down
    o a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down
    in the most delightful way.

  46. Posted March 31, 2016 at 1:04 pm | Permalink

    I don’t know what the long term solution should look like but Steel making capacity is a strategic asset we simply have to keep here in the UK.

    If we were outside the EU, we could chose to exempt steel-making from Green Crap high energy costs, charge zero business rates and take all measure necessary to safeguard the supply until the market improves. Inside the EU I believe that this would be illegal.

    I would be totally relaxed if we were to take steel making into private ownership for a short period like the failing banks and sell it on again when things have been turned around. The only condition would be for the unions to agree in advance not to try and take advantage and press for higher wages and better working condition during the period of state ownership.

    • Lifelogic
      Posted March 31, 2016 at 5:43 pm | Permalink

      Temporary help would almost certainly become a long term or even permanent.

      • Posted March 31, 2016 at 7:59 pm | Permalink

        Lets be entirely realistic, shall we ?

        If Port Talbot closes the unemployment benefit will be permanent as will the additional costs to the NHS for depression, obesity and everything else you can imagine that hard working people who are suddenly without any prospect of a job will suffer from.

        I am not a believer in nationalisation but in this case the case seems to me to be overwhelming. If the steel produced is used for UK production, especially infrastructure projects, it will be worth doing.

        We can only supply it to TATA and other car manufacturers here if we subsidise the price. Surely that has to be cheaper than the alternative and much, much better for the long term interest of the workforce.

        Eventually I am sure that the market will recover and we can sell the plants back into the public sector. In the meantime we can go to the world trade talks and try and get new rules introduced against dumping.
        Many of our old EU allies will support us because they have steel industries of their own to keep in operation.

  47. PaulDirac
    Posted March 31, 2016 at 1:11 pm | Permalink

    JR is wrong, the global overcapacity will stay for a long while.
    Our best policy is to allow them to be closed down (or be sold), spend any money we can on effective mitigation, creation of new industries etc.
    However we should give full support to the unions (McCluskey was very optimistic on R4 today, about the long term prospects of the steel industry here), if they choose to do a workers buy-out with their own money.

    The government energy policy and unconditional support for China has come home to roost, the green energy taxes make our industry uncompetitive and with full decarbonization by 2050 we are well on our way to become a third world country.

  48. Dennis
    Posted March 31, 2016 at 1:32 pm | Permalink

    I don’t understand how we are furious about dumping when we/EU do exactly the same by dumping agricultural products on Africa so destroying their farmers and putting high tariffs on their products. Perhaps we deserve China’s dumping to teach us a lesson.

  49. Dennis
    Posted March 31, 2016 at 1:34 pm | Permalink

    You know who to blame for all this China business – Richard Nixon for opening it up. Who said ‘don’t wake a sleeping giant’?

    • Denis Cooper
      Posted March 31, 2016 at 4:40 pm | Permalink

      Napoleon.

      “China is a sleeping giant. Let her sleep, for when she wakes she will move the world.”

  50. Atlas
    Posted March 31, 2016 at 2:21 pm | Permalink

    … well, well, well …

    “Being in the EU is really good for us” – answer to be written on one side of a postage stamp…

  51. Mactheknife
    Posted March 31, 2016 at 3:06 pm | Permalink

    Various countries in the EU have been supporting their own steel industry via various dodgy financial investments such as money for “environmental compliance”. Everyone knows that it is nothing more than a subsidy. But will the UK do it ? No sir its just not cricket old chap to break the rules.

  52. Shieldsman
    Posted March 31, 2016 at 3:23 pm | Permalink

    It requires a man of bold action, which the Conservative party leader is not.
    Were the Government planning to have HS2 built with Chinese steel?

    Looking at TATA’s purchase:
    The difference between Tatas’ winning bid and Brazilian steelmaker Companhia Siderurgica Nacional’s (CSN) offer was a mere five pence.
    It turned out to be the most costly five pence for the storied Indian business conglomerate.

    Corus Group Plc, code-named ‘Project Colour’ by Tatas, was won by the Indian group in 2007 after a gripping seven-and-half-hour final bidding. CSN, codenamed ‘Cardiff’ during the bidding process, outbid the Tatas by 10 pence a share at every round, while the Tatas, code-named ‘Truro’, pursued the target by increasing its offer by five pence.
    About a decade later, in hindsight, the five pence difference between the two bidders has cost the Tatas dearly, as the commodity cycle went for a toss.
    Now who will buy it?

    So the answer: The Government forgets HS2 for the time being, offers TATA a £1 for the Works, Nationalises it, leaves the EU, directs the subsidised windmill makers and the Navies shipbuilders to use its steel. If and when HS2 becomes viable build it with British steel.

    I am sure the current management and workforce is capable of running a much more efficient and cost effective unit than the BSC you describe. Of course any industrial unit is hamstrung by this Governments high cost energy policy.

  53. DaveM
    Posted March 31, 2016 at 3:38 pm | Permalink

    The PM has said that “the Govt is doing everything it can” and has produced his old favourite “we will rule nothing out” – another useless soundbite.

    It’s not doing everything it can though is it? If it was it could (for a start):

    1. Severely reduce energy prices.

    2. Impose high tariffs on imported steel.

    3. Pass a law (or at least introduce a bill) saying that all Govt contracts requiring steel will use British steel.

    But none of this will happen because:

    1. Osborne (who I don’t doubt is an incredibly capable individual) is utterly obsessed with eliminating the defecit at any cost. He also doesn’t seem to realise that not everyone is cut out to work in coffee shops, call centres, or insurance companies.

    2. Cameron is incapable of dealing with any crisis without consulting his REAL friends in Brussels rather than his plastic friends in Westminster. He has not dealt with a single problem as far as I can see – he runs away abroad to a lunch here, a summit there, or goes on holiday. Oh, and spends a lot of time chairing COBRA meetings.

    3. The Cabinet has been filled with people who – regardless of experience, talent, or acumen – fit in with the PM’s idea of “balance” and support his obsession with the EU.

    4. No solution to any problem can be introduced without the say-so of Merkel, Hollande, Juncker, Tusk, or whoever, and Cameron has absolutely no powers of persuasion or negotiation to ensure the UK gets a good deal.

    We desperately need a PM and a Cabinet who care about our country. Someone who uses OUR money for OUR benefit, whether it be the NHS, Defence, industry, education, etc. Someone who cares about British industry and British people, and who will defend our land and our livelihoods at any cost.

    I have heard from totally reliable sources that the PM is interfering in matters of security and defence – something that no PM should ever do, and certainly not one who has less experience of national security than my dog.

    Mr Redwood, there must be someone in your parliamentary party who cannot sleep at night and who wakes up in despair over what Cameron is doing to the Conservative Party (the only Party which is currently a viable option for Govt) and to our country.

    I’ve said before that I admire loyalty, but this has gone beyond the pale. Loyalty goes both ways, and the PM is loyal to no-one but the EU, the CBI, and himself. Someone who really cares has got to stand up. The Conservative Party is full of talented and brilliant people like yourself, but with the current incompetent Front Bench, this country is going to go from crisis to crisis.

    I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Cameron comes up with some EU-sponsored solution to this steel crisis which will only work if the UK stays in the EU. He’s become that slimy and plays politics with everything because he knows no other world. Because at the minute the public aren’t fooled – there are lorry drivers in Huddersfield (no offence to truck drivers or Huddersfield!!) who are aware that EU energy policies are largely responsible for lack of profit in UK industry.

  54. Mike Wilson
    Posted March 31, 2016 at 3:40 pm | Permalink

    The UK government is working to secure more orders for UK steel works. the large building programmes it has for railways, utilities and property all require substantial quantities of steel. It needs to ensure UK bidders have good access to the possible contracts.

    No, we need to stop messing around and insist that public sector contracts in this country are built using British steel. I don’t give a toss about EU rules or any other rules … this is too important an industry.

  55. Boudicca
    Posted March 31, 2016 at 5:50 pm | Permalink

    It’s been reported that it’s the British Government who organised a blocking vote to prevent the EU from raising tariffs on Chinese steel – apparently to allow car manufacturers to buy cheap steel.

    So when Cameron says the Government is “doing everything it can” he’s lying.

    Of course, the Government can do very little anyway, since the EU controls trade and energy policy, although thanks to Ed Miliband and our idiotic MPs, the Climate Change Act made energy even more expensive than the EU demanded.

    • Jerry
      Posted March 31, 2016 at 7:17 pm | Permalink

      Boudicca; “Of course, the Government can do very little anyway, since the EU controls trade and energy policy”

      Not quite, a ‘Government’ (kitchen cabinet majority more like) that is determined to stay in the EU at all costs can do very little.

  56. Iain Gill
    Posted March 31, 2016 at 6:31 pm | Permalink

    jeremy corbyn got one thing correct on the news…

    that we are in effect exporting our pollution to other parts of the world, by imposing expensive anti pollution measures and taxes here, but allowing uncontrolled imports from countries happy to pollute much more than we have in recent history. wow I thought it a revelation that a member of the political bubble has uttered this obvious fact.

    same as we export jobs to places prepared to run with less expensive, often no, health and safety gear

    same as we export jobs to places prepared to disregard intellectual property rights

    and so very much more

    the world order designed by our political elite is bound to end in these consequences, and they will only get worse if we keep along this track

  57. getahead
    Posted March 31, 2016 at 8:06 pm | Permalink

    “The UK government is working to secure more orders for UK steel works. the large building programmes it has for railways, utilities and property all require substantial quantities of steel.”
    John, what I understand is that energy costs to industry in Britain are much higher than those in the EU. Did I not read somewhere that in 2014 energy costs in the UK were 80% higher than in the EU?
    If that is true, what is the point of acquiring more work for British steel if everything could be produced elsewhere more cheaply?

  58. Lindsay McDougall
    Posted April 1, 2016 at 1:19 am | Permalink

    Venture capitalists – turn around specialists – are willing to acquire the modern, specialist bits of the steel industry, so let them.

    They are not willing to buy the blast furnaces that produce bog standard steel products that are manufactured in 60 different countries. This cannot easily be described as a strategic industry. If we decide that it is, then that is a military matter and the necessary part of the loss making plants should be acquired by our armed forces and charged to the defence budget.

    As to the fact of cheaper energy and steel in Europe, we have only ourselves to blame. Germany has power stations that burn cheap but filthy brown lignite coal whilst we are closing our coal fired power stations. We cannot even begin to tolerate an EU in which there is one law for Germany and another for other Member States. It is the case, is it not, that the recent Energy Bill piloted through the Commons by Amber Rudd was heavily constrained by EU policy and law.

  59. Ken Moore
    Posted April 1, 2016 at 4:19 pm | Permalink

    I have no doubt the steel industry will be ruined because the government believes it doesn’t matter one jot if a value-creating manufacturing job is lost, provided that it is replaced by a value-recycling job (such as a waiter, an estate agent or a “manager”).
    Lunatics are in charge.

  60. Margaret
    Posted April 1, 2016 at 10:14 pm | Permalink

    I read much about juggling interest rates, deficits , devaluation, inflation, gilts , fiat currency ,tariffs etc but know one ever talks about simple supply and demand ,because it is something one cannot measure. They can talk about economical reasons why buying and selling should be more attractive , can quote from all sources ,but the collective psychology of product desirability will change at its own apparently free will or the will of those who initiate that products are needed.

  • About John Redwood


    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, He graduated from Magdalen College Oxford, has a DPhil and is a fellow of All Souls College. A businessman by background, he has been a director of NM Rothschild merchant bank and chairman of a quoted industrial PLC.

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