North Sea Fortune

Chris Patten

  • British Industry and the North Sea: State Intervention in a Developing Industrial Sector by Michael Jenkin
    Macmillan, 251 pp, £20.00, May 1981, ISBN 0 333 25606 9

With all the enthusiasm which an ornithologist might display on sighting a Dartford Warbler, the Financial Times a few weeks ago reported somewhat breathlessly that it had spotted a youthful example of that rare British species, the offshore entrepreneur. Steve Buxton, we were told, was a 28-year-old who had earned £500,000 in one year, drove racing cars (well, he would, wouldn’t he?) and had just bought a Peterhead Harbour site for £2.8 million. His rise to fame, fortune and notice in the financial press had begun in the pitch-black economy with a little moonlighting, a hired garage, a gang of welders and 100 flotation tanks. Everything he has touched (since his first business went bankrupt, that is) has turned into tenners. What a triumph for supply-side economics! The trouble, as Michael Jenkin tells us, is that there have not been enough Steve Buxtons hovering over the rigs in the North Sea. And in the absence of a sufficient number of home-grown entrepreneurs, ministers and civil servants have felt obliged to see if they could force a few into life with a bucket of departmental fertiliser.

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