BIll Carmichael: Government policy killed British steel

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THE only surprising thing about the collapse of the UK steel industry is that anyone is the least bit surprised.

As thousands of workers have been thrown out of work in Redcar, Scunthorpe, Lanarkshire and Oldbury in recent days, the cry has gone up blaming cheap Chinese imports and demanding that the Government “do something”.

However, Government action, far from being the solution to the problem, is actually the cause. Because the demise of the once great British steel industry has not come about by accident, but as a direct result of deliberate policy.

The last Labour government signed the UK up to the toughest green targets of any country in the world – and that policy has been enthusiastically embraced by the coalition government and the current Conservative administration.

For example the UK is committed to a 50 per cent reduction in greenhouse gases by 2025 and to sourcing 15 per cent of our energy from renewables by 2020.

Renewables are notoriously unreliable, inefficient and expensive, so the only way we could achieve these targets was by closing our coal-fired power stations and by artificially raising the price of energy by the imposition of green taxes and a carbon price floor designed to punish heavy industry.

As a result, our heavy industries pay twice as much for energy than competing companies in France and Germany and hugely more than places such as China where industries such as steel manufacture are heavily subsidised.

The whole idea of the plan was to cut energy use – and you could say it has been a success. After all a closed coke oven doesn’t require much electricity. Just pity the poor Redcar steelworkers who are the collateral damage of this green crusade.

This should come as a surprise to no one. There were warnings aplenty as long as five years ago that artificially inflating energy costs would make UK industry uncompetitive in world markets and would lead to job losses.

Back in 2011 the EU’s then Energy Commissioner Gunther Oettinger warned that a 25 per cent cut in greenhouse gases (the UK’s figure is 50 per cent don’t forget) would lead to the “de-industrialisation” of Europe. He has been proved right. But all the warning from experts and industry were ignored. Labour peer and sanctimonious eco-warrior Baroness Worthington accused them at the time of “scaremongering”.

Well, as the steel industry collapses and countless lives are ruined, as many predicted, we know who was right.

And it won’t stop there. One of the other expert predictions was that closing coal-fired and nuclear power stations without having anything to replace them other than useless windmills, would inevitably lead to power cuts.

In 2008 Ian Fells, Emeritus Professor of Energy at Newcastle University, warned of repeated power cuts, saying: “Electricity is the life blood of civilisation. Without it we spiral down into anarchy and chaos.”

We’ve had plenty of warning – so don’t be surprised when the lights go out.

Business matters

CHINA is a brutal dictatorship with an appalling human rights record.

But does this mean we should not do business with them? No is the answer.

Outside the Anglosphere and Western Europe (liberated from tyranny, let’s not forget, by the Anglosphere) democracy is actually quite rare and most countries are ruled by brutal regimes.

Of course we should promote liberty and capitalism wherever we can, because quite simply it is far and away the best method of organising human affairs.

But in the meantime we have to swallow our distaste and do business with oppressive countries. That is why this week’s visit to the UK by Chinese president Xi Jinping is so important. It demonstrates that Britain is open for business.

If we are to recover from the economic mess we are in, we are going to have to do business with emerging countries around the globe – and that means China, despite its recent economic problems.

Euro-fanatics often describe those of us with doubts about the benefits of the EU as “little Englanders”.

Nothing could be further from the truth. We want to be free of the shackles imposed by Brussels to do business in China, India, Brazil and other rapidly expanding nations. It is the blinkered, parochial “little Europeans” who can’t see beyond the bloated corpse of the protectionist cartel that is the EU.