HC Deb 23 June 1959 vol 607 cc1006-7
16. Mr. Lewis

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer why Her Majesty's Treasury accepted the bid of the Locana Corporation for the British Government's holding of shares in S.I.M.; and why these shares were not, in accordance with the Government's declared policy, made available to the public by the normal system of a public share issue.

Mr. Amory

I would refer the hon. Gentleman to the Answer given on 16th June by my hon. Friend the Economic Secretary to the Treasury to the hon. Member for Langstone (Mr. Stevens).

Mr. Lewis

Yes, I have seen that Answer, but it does not meet any of the points in my Question. Can the Chancellor explain why it was done, in view of the fact that the Tory Party, the Government and the big vested interests—as witness the fact that the Institute of Directors is supporting the Government—have been clamouring and running a ballyhoo campaign for months to the effect that the ordinary public should be allowed to take part in investing money in these companies? Why does not the Chancellor give the public a chance to get in on some of these profitable enterprises? Why does he give it all to a private concern which is, in fact, controlled by his own political friends?

Mr. Amory

I have given the shares to no one. My main duty has been to see that the best price has been obtained in the interests of the taxpayers. In deciding the best and most appropriate field I have to use my judgment, but in this matter I had no other obligation than that of ensuring fairness to those who had specifically expressed an interest in the purchase of these shares.

Mr. Jay

What were the Government's reasons for selling the shares at all?

Mr. Amory

We saw no advantage in the Government retaining them.