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Some things just can’t be imported

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These are trying times for UK steelmaking, and it’s no surprise that the industry’s problems have sparked off a revived national debate about the balance between manufacturing and services the economy needs, and how essential the place of a domestic steelmaking industry is.

The entire steel supply chain supports the efforts of steelmakers to ensure that government backs their demands for a level playing field in the face of unprecedented levels of steel, produced as a result of overcapacity in other countries.

One positive note that is being struck in the debate surrounding these issues signals that messages about the value of having a UK based steel supply chain are getting through to government. A range of measures have now been announced that will help the UK steelmaking sector. The latest includes a ruling that the previously announced Public Procurement Note 16/15 (PPN 16/15) will now be mandatory for all government projects including National Health Service and local authority projects.

The government has also promised to publish a list of approved steel suppliers who meet the key criteria for being allowed to supply these projects. BCSA and other industry bodies are working with the Crown Commercial Services and the government’s new Steel Procurement Working Group on the criteria.

Procuring constructional steelwork from a UK or Irish steelwork contractor is the best way to support UK steelmaking as UK and Irish steelwork contractors understand the government’s new procurement requirements for steel, and provide the clearest route for compliance. In addition, using a UK or Irish steelwork contractor adds additional value to the economy through the whole supply chain including the fabrication of the steelwork, and the supply of other products and services such as secondary steelwork, metal decking, protective coatings and cladding.

The steel construction sector isn’t asking for a ban on imported steel, far from it; having a measure of fair competition from elsewhere creates a competitive market. The key thing though is that competition is fair. There is no value to society if lower prices for imported raw steel or fabricated steelwork, which are likely to be temporary phenomena, destroy the UK’s manufacturing base.

As you can read in our News section, a report from management consultants KPMG shows that UK steelwork contractors have previously made the investment needed to ensure that there is enough capacity to meet forecast demand.  The KPMG report shows that steelwork contractors have between 205,000 and 406,000 tonnes of  ‘latent capacity’ that can be brought into production if demand rises.

There is then every reason to use a UK or Irish steelwork contractor, especially one that comes with all of the accredited and audited capabilities, and familiarity with the way the UK construction industry likes to work – some things just can’t be imported.

Nick Barrett

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