The Steel Industry, 1939-1959: A Study in Competition and Planning

By Duncan Burn | Go to book overview
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Chapter III
FROM PEACE TO PLENTY:
A CHRONICLE
1945-1959

The wartime interlude from the concerted pursuit of the I.D.A.C.-Steel Federation policies for the orderly collective development of steelmaking under supervision came to an end, as the last chapter has shown, before the end of the war. The war organisation, the Control, had evolved ingenious elaborations of pre-war devices which could be applied in peacetime to continue to stabilise relatively low prices, and it had planned wartime capital development. From the end of 1943 preparations were made by the Federation for planned developments for peace, and a start was made on the work and indeed in some of the works.

In sharp contrast the interlude from competition which the war brought did not come quickly to an end. It could be foreseen that the post-war period would begin as a sellers market, but it had been visualised that there would be a day of reckoning, not long to be deferred, when British steel would have to meet either American or Continental competition, and many had supposed that the low United States prices of the war years would then be a menace to exports from Britain both of steel and of goods made of steel, unless productivity and efficiency in the British industry were rapidly increased. Such was the picture continually painted, even by steelmakers, to stress the urgency of thorough rehabilitation of British steelmaking. But the day of reckoning had not come in the form visualised even by 1958.

The year 1958 saw the third and most serious setback since the war in consumption of steel in the 'West'. The first came in 1949, the second in 1953-54. On the first two occasions steel output in Britain and steel exports from Britain continued to

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