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Wednesday, 30 March 2016

Ta ta Tata. Hello re-nationalisation?


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The chickens have come home to roost for the conservative Party with the news that Tata Steel said it could not give an "open ended" commitment to keep their UK plants open while a buyer was sought. The UK Business Minister, Anna Soubry, told the BBC that she wants the company to take enough time to find a buyer for the plant. Failing that, other options being considered include 'government support'.

After the slump of the 1920s and the depression of the 1930s, the iron and steel industry was nationalised by Labour in 1949. Privatised by the Conservatives in 1950, it was re-nationalised by Labour under the leadership of Harold Wilson in 1967. Mrs Thatcher sold off British steel along with Gas, Electricity, Telecoms, Water and dozens of other companies as part of her political ideology. "Selling off the family silver" as Macmillan put it. 

In his book "The Slow Death of British Industry: a 60-Year Suicide, 1952-2012" Nicholas Comfort wrote that Britain has shrunk from an industrial giant to an industrial pygmy: "Manufacturing was industry’s bedrock. In 1952, it produced a third of the national output, employed 40 per cent of the workforce and made up a quarter of world manufacturing exports. Today, manufacturing in this country accounts for just 11 per cent of GDP, employs only 8 per cent of the workforce and sells 2 per cent of the world’s manufacturing exports. The iconic names of industrial Britain are history; in their place are the service economy and supermarkets selling mainly imported goods."

Already at the mercy of foreign countries for essential supplies the only protected species in Great Britain are Bankers who, after being bailed out by the State to the tune of a staggering  £850 billion, do their best to ruin small businesses with extortionate charges as they continue to line their own pockets handsomely before awarding themselves bonuses often well beyond the average wage.

The 'British' steel industry must be protected. As Ministers return from holidaying abroad to consider their options, British workers have been waiting anxiously to hear their fate. It is unlikely that human misery will occupy too much of Ministers' time but hopefully they will look at the broader implications of the cost of tens of thousands of workers becoming unemployed with the consequent implications for supporting business and dependent small traders, plus the cost of land reclamation before trying to attract other industries.

The Business Secretary says he is prepared to consider all options, except nationalisation. If re-nationalisation is the only answer so be it. Thatcher is dead. Her political ideology should have died with her. It is time to back Britain.

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