Analysis: Why our steel industry is taking a pummelling

Sheffield Forgemasters, Sheffield..8th May 2013.Picture by Simon Hulme
Sheffield Forgemasters, Sheffield..8th May 2013.Picture by Simon Hulme
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The British steel industry has been pummelled by the strength of the pound, high electricity prices and increased competition from China.

British steelmakers have accused China of “dumping” cheap steel on the market, which they say is subsidised by the Chinese government.

Over the past couple of years oil prices have plummeted off the back of oversupply. The US has seen a boom in shale gas production while Opec countries such as Saudi Arabia have not scaled back production, which has had a negative impact on the sector.

Warning of an industry in crisis as 100 jobs are to go at Sheffield Forgemasters

Much of the attention has been on the Government’s response to the crisis.

The Government was accused of not being alert to warning bells sounded by the UK steel industry in a hard-hitting select committee report which was published last month.

It said other European countries took action to safeguard their steel industries and protect jobs and supplies, but there was “little action” from the UK Government, according to the committee of MPs.

Communities reliant upon the sector have been left reeling following the demise of the industry and the Business, Innovation and Skills Committee also criticised UK Governments for failing to push for European Union action, which it said left firms exposed to the dumping of cheap exports from China and a global over-supply of goods.

Speaking last month, Paul Blomfield, Labour MP for Sheffield Central and a select committee member, said: “The key point is that this is a product of the Government’s laissez-faire approach. We cannot just let the market determine the future of our key industries; the Government has to move to protect manufacturing and to protect key industries.”

A Business Department spokesman said while the report recognised the industry had been subject to complex global challenges, it also acknowledged the significant steps the Government had taken to help the steel industry.

He said: “We have taken clear action on relief for energy costs, anti-dumping, procurement and EU emissions directives, meeting key industry asks.”