HC Deb 28 February 1972 vol 832 cc24-5
29. Mr. Redmond

asked the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what was the worth of Government investments in private industry realised since June, 1970; and whether he will make a statement.

Mr. John Davies

Industrial Reorganisation Corporation investments which cost about £39 million have been disposed of to date. I am continuing to realise I.R.C. assets.

Mr. Redmond

I thank my right hon. Friend for that reply. Does he feel that this is moving fast enough? Did not the forcing of mergers by the I.R.C. contribute greatly to our unemployment figures, particularly in places such as Lancashire?

Mr. Davies

The realisation is proceeding entirely in line with what I told the House last July, when I said that in disposing of Government held shares or assets for which I am responsible, I should have regard to market values, the need to safeguard public funds, the industrial logic of the sale and, where necessary, any special factors that might be involved; also, expert advice where appropriate. I take note of my hon. Friend's remarks on the subject of the effect on unemployment.

Mr. J. T. Price

Does the right hon. Gentleman realise that a large number of Members of the House, including myself and all my hon. Friends, do not agree that it is sound public finance to dispose of profitable Government investments to the private sector when the Government are still continuing to hold the losing sections of it and the State is responsible for the losing, difficult sections while the profitable sections are being hived off to private investment? This is surely no policy in the present state of our affairs.

Mr. Davies

The criteria I have just stated as being those which guide me do not at all lend themselves to the kind of interpretation the hon. Gentleman has given.