Time to speak up for industry

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Cabinet ministers should devote the same amount of energy to boosting manufacturing as they have been giving to controlling Britain’s finances, members of the Sheffield-based British Stainless Steel Association have been told.

The call came from Engineering Employers Federation chief Terry Scuoler, speaking at the Association’s annual lunch in the Cutlers’ Hall.

Mr Scuoler said government ministers had been very vocal and visible when it came to giving their support to British manufacturing and had introduced a number of helpful measures.

However, there were still significant hurdles standing in the way of rebalancing the economy in manufacturing’s favour, including green energy taxes, employment legislation and the lack of scrutiny and limitation of EU legislation.

Mr Scuoler said manufacturing growth had measurably outpaced the growth of the wider economy and there were very positive indicators in some sectors of industry – in aerospace, the automotive sector and food and drink.

Since the end of January, manufacturing had demonstrated its strength in terms of output, employment and intention to invest.

However, while manufacturers had intentions to invest and bring new products to market, there was a measurable gap between the intentions and action on the ground

Earlier in the day, members attending a British Stainless Steel Association forum heard that next year would be “a great year” for their industry – and not just because 2013 marks the centenary of Harry Brearley’s discovery of the metal in Sheffield.

Alistair Ramsay, from the business intelligence company, the CRU Group, told attendees at the forum that consumption of stainless steel would recover during the rest of 2012 and rise further during the anniversary year.

Mr Ramsay predicted that stainless steel producers could be working at 80 per cent capacity, which should bring them back into profit.

Vera Blei from Metal Bulletin told the forum that European demand for stainless steel was still only 95 per cent of pre financial crisis levels, although demand across the rest of the world was now above pre-crisis levels.

Meanwhile, demand for stainless steel scrap in the UK was 25 per cent below levels seen before the crisis.

Despite that there were bright points – particularly in terms of demand for stainless steel from the offshore oil and gas sector and the architectural sector.