Examination of Witnesses (Questions 380
WEDNESDAY 2 MAY 2001
380. Do the differences in employment law between
the UK and the Netherlands come in at all?
(Sir Brian Moffat) No.
381. Do you not believe, as thousands of Welsh
people do, that the mere fact of it being easier to make a Welsh
worker redundant than a Dutch one has weighed heavily on the board's
(Sir Brian Moffat) No.
382. How much money did you inherit from the
British Steel pension fund?
(Sir Brian Moffat) None.
383. None at all?
(Sir Brian Moffat) None at all. It is a totally independent
fund with its own trustees, union trustees as well as employee
trustees, administered separately and invested separately.
384. You have not in the past used any of that.
(Sir Brian Moffat) No.
385. Or in the future.
(Sir Brian Moffat) No. We are not allowed by law,
as you well know, nor would we. We all have vested interests.
We are all in the same scheme.
386. That is a quite unequivocal answer.
(Sir Brian Moffat) Yes; absolutely.
387. On the question of your own customers,
a company called Toye & Co, who may be customers of yours,
announced losses yesterday of £595,000 on a turnover of £7.83
million. They said in a statement that the plethora of EU directives,
employment laws, institutionalised political correctness and other
Government legislation is to be deplored. It has all gone too
far and business cannot continue to carry these escalations in
costs. What would you say is the stability of your customer base
at the moment? You say demand looks like being steady.
(Sir Brian Moffat) Flat, I said.
388. How many of your customers do you think
are in an unstable state?
(Sir Brian Moffat) I honestly do not know. I think
the SMEs are very much finding the situation, particularly with
all the red tape which goes with it, extremely difficult at the
present time. That is a fact. Whether it is our industry or our
customer base or any customer base, if you talk to the SMEs they
are in great difficulty because of resourcing and trying to understand
and relate compared with their competition wherever it may be.
389. When you gave evidence to the Trade and
Industry Committee you said that you would leave the land you
are vacating in a "fit state for the use it is supposed to
be put to in the future", which you clearly have to anyway.
What assessment have you so far made of the contamination problems
on the various sites?
(Sir Brian Moffat) We have an ongoing assessment.
We have regular audits. We know where we are on each of the sites.
All those sites are registered.
390. I represent Bryngwyn and I understood from
local management and from management at coated metals level a
few weeks ago that at that stage they had not got detailed information
(Sir Brian Moffat) We have not taken test borings
and things like that, not from the Bryngwyn situation, but that
site, as you probably know, is a very old standing and has had
previous workings on it. We have to establish in the sub-soil
what, if anything, those previous workings have left behind. It
was not necessarily steel industry, as you know. It could be other
391. You said in your evidence to the Trade
and Industry Committee that you will quickly do the remediation
(Sir Brian Moffat) Yes.
392. You have told us also that at Bryngwyn
you have reached an agreementif you can call it an agreement.
The workforce have accepted reluctantly that the closure is going
ahead. Should you not have been moving faster to get that sort
of contamination assessment made? Have you made contact with the
local authority to establish future use?
(Sir Brian Moffat) Not as far as I am aware. At the
present time we are using a professional firm to assess what the
situation is. We cannot have meaningful conversations with the
local authority until we know and then can tell them, what the
inheritance from the past is, if we have any.
393. Are you going to be looking for any public
money to clean up these sites?
(Sir Brian Moffat) If there is money available to
help us clean it up, the answer is yes.
394. The steel workers who are still paying
tax, whom you have sent down the road, are going to be paying
for the work on the place they used to work.
(Sir Brian Moffat) If you look at it in a more positive
light, you can say that if we can get grants to help facilitate
and speed up rehabilitating land, on which new factories and everything
can be built, that is in the best interests of everybody.
395. Can you understand how one of those steel
workers would feel? He has seen £700 million paid out to
shareholders. He has seen £2 million paid out to two former
Chief Executives whom you said could not do their jobs properly
and yet those same steel workers in their village in Gorseinon,
the village where there has been a steel works for 120 years,
those steel workers are possibly going to have to subsidise putting
that land right. That is absolutely appalling.
(Sir Brian Moffat) They are not going to subsidise
396. If it requires public money, then it is
tax payers and rate payers who are going to be paying that money,
is it not?
(Sir Brian Moffat) Your own party has just changed
the law to try to improve the taxation benefits to facilitate
restoring land and that is what I was talking about.
397. Yes, and I am asking whether you can understand
how someone you have just sacked will feel to learn that public
subsidy is going to have to go into putting that site right.
(Sir Brian Moffat) If it helps secure an alternative
use for the site and another factory which may give him a job,
I would think
398. Do you not think you should be paying for
that rather than shareholders' payouts and dividends and share
options to senior directors?
(Sir Brian Moffat) I would point out that most of
our employees are our shareholders, as you are probably aware.
They benefit to the extent they are shareholders as well.
Mr Ruane: Do they get to vote on a closure?
399. I should like to revisit the question of
training and retraining. Corus and the unions issued a joint statement
on 27 March to the effect that they would work together to determine
the scope of a Government-supported scheme to provide extended
in-work retraining for steel workers. Could you tell us today
what kind of training is proposed?
(Sir Brian Moffat) Yes. The scheme we talked about
and agreed in outline which the DTI were then going to develop
was a scheme for workers at the end of their employment with us
who would be trained in skills relative to job prospects, which
we would fund 50:50 with Government. That in outline was what
was agreed. It has yet to be developed. That is not a criticism,
that is just the situation we are in because of the sensitivity
of the negotiations round about the closure. People do not want
to talk about or negotiate retraining prior to final decisions
being made about closure, but that will take place now as fast
as possible and that is why I have written on a couple of occasions
recently to Mr Byers to try to get that away and I am sure from
his response to me last week, that is his intention as well.