4. Evidence from the unions in November 2000 and
again in February 2001 suggested that Corus, the Anglo-Dutch combination
of the Dutch Hoogovens company and the former British Steel, had
been unwilling to publicise the extent of its difficulties, or
to seek Government help or to raise the burning question of the
In evidence to us in February 2001, Sir Brian Moffat made it plain
that he had not sought and was not seeking help from the Government,
and that the difficulties facing the company arose essentially
from the operation of the market.
It is of course the right of a company to seek to avoid public
controversy and to keep its troubles to itself, whatever their
source. We have a duty to inquire into matters within the remit
of DTI, the supervising department for the industry, and to report
our conclusions and recommendations. The DTI memorandum suggests
that the department is well aware of the industry's concerns.
Oral evidence confirmed that the problems confronting Corus are
common throughout the industry.
Some may be susceptible to remedies in the hands of the public
authorities. The symptoms of the state of the UK steel industry
are all too apparent. Some companies are trading at a loss. Levels
of capital investment are reported to be disturbingly low. The
workforce is shrinking. There is nothing to be gained from papering
over the problems facing the UK steel industry, nor their wider
significance for the UK manufacturing base.