The loss of 750 jobs at the Tata Steel plant in Port Talbot was the subject of a short parliamentary inquiry by the Welsh Affairs Committee (which I chair) last week. In the course of taking evidence from Tata management and the unions, we learned that a major problem for the steel industry is the huge cost paid for energy.
Energy is expensive because governments of all colours have loaded a raft of "green" taxes onto the prices paid by heavy industry. These taxes are then used to subsidise renewable energy schemes, especially wind farms.
So a profitable industry is being made unprofitable because taxes are used to support an industry that could never make a profit without a subsidy. Crazy? Yes. And it gets worse.
Wind turbines require a vast amount of steel. Yet the energy companies collecting taxes from the UK steel industry to subsidise their wind turbines often use cheap imported steel from abroad. Green taxes will not save the planet but they will cost jobs. We need to scrap them before we lose the rest of our manufacturing industry.
Meanwhile, we should tell the energy companies that they will not get a penny in further subsidies levied on UK industry - unless they use UK produce.
To be fair, the government has been trying to hand back some of the taxation it is levying on the industry. But the European Commission (EU) has to give its permission. This has taken many months or years, depending on who you believe. What the point is of levying taxes then handing them back a few years later, or having to get permission from the EU to do so, are questions which we have every right to ask ourselves.
Another problem for the industry has been the length of time it is taking the EU to deal with cheap Chinese imports. The US was able to slap import taxes onto Chinese steel within weeks; the EU has spent a year debating it. UK ministers are rightly indignant at the shambolic role of the EU in this - but quick to defend our membership. I for one will be campaigning for Britain to leave this shambles. It is time for people to be represented by politicians who are able to take decisions and unable to shift responsibility onto an unelected body.
*Published in the South Wales Argus on 15 February 2016*