Wednesday, 6 April 2016

Steel Yourself

Been seeing a lot of comments saying that if we baled out the bankers then we surely must bale out the Port Talbot steel plant. The problem is that the comparison with the bankers is not warranted. Had the banks failed, then almost every person in the UK would have suffered some hardship (not that the bale-out didn't hit everyone in some manner). Not only that, but in order for the banks to lend too much the corollary is that there must have been people prepared to borrow too much, ergo all those living beyond their means share the blame for the banking fiasco. The analogy with the steel industry doesn't hold water. In part, the problem with the UK steel industry is the price of energy, which is a result of self-imposed CO2 quotas. Government has to take a share of the blame for that (i.e. the voter).

The choice then is nationalisation or the demise of UK steel. Can't say I'm in favour of the former, as we who lived through nationalisation know that a nationalised industry becomes bloated and inefficient and we end up with even higher priced steel of dubious quality (aka Leyland Cars, et al). Steel is not strategic enough to warrant nationalisation either, it's not as if there isn't enough of the stuff freely available from the free world. Investment in retraining the workforce, and possibly getting them to move, can be the only long term solution.

I see some are calling for the public sector to be encouraged to buy British steel. I can just see a severely cash-strapped NHS preferring to buy expensive British steel to support the workers in Port Talbot. Now if the encouragement includes subsidies, then that's a different matter, but it still all comes from the government coffers and someone is going to have to pay. Close more libraries? Put up tax?


  1. When China sells (dumps) heavily subsidized steel and the EU lets them while not allowing it's own members to do the same it's no wonder that the situation is out of control.

    1. Our steel is still more expensive than steel produced in other EU countries though.

    2. In Holland/Belgium/? their Govt. pays the steelworker's wages 1 week out of 4. Not in the EU rules, of course, but who is going to keep to them?

    3. Is it something you're prepared to see your taxes increase for? An what about the next industry calling for subsidies - dairy farmers, for example. It's not sustainable in the long run and just creates a queue for tax handouts. Better to retrain the people in new industries, surely?

  2. Hell No. It's the uneven deck, lack of sovereignty and lots of other things. Nobody wants to subsidise the milk bottle trade.
    With all these jobs going we all should retrain to the next 'higher' level, we are so short of care workers, nurses, plumbers, teachers, dentists and doctors.