HC Deb 27 July 1983 vol 46 c1176
8. Mr. Ashdown

asked the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what steps he now plans in order to implement the policy set out by him on 24 June, Official Report, c. 266, to continue to encourage employee ownership schemes in private industry.

Mr. Parkinson

My right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer has already taken important steps to encourage employee share ownership. Measures taken include significant improvements to the profit-sharing scheme arrangements, relief for savings-related share option schemes and relief for interest on money borrowed for investment in an employee-controlled company. In addition, a major benefit of privatisation is that employees are given a chance to own a stake in the business in which they work.

Mr. Ashdown

While giving a cautious welcome to that answer, especially as it builds on a Liberal party initiative in the Finance Act 1978, may I make it clear to the Minister that the Liberal party believes that he could go much further on this matter? Does he agree that share ownership schemes have a value that extends well beyond being used as a carrot for the privatisation of nationalised industries? Does he also agree—[HON. MEMBERS: "Too long".]—that, given the success of the share ownership scheme, it is possible to 'provide greater incentives for firms that wish to take advantage of the scheme?

Mr. Parkinson

I agree with much of the hon. Gentleman's rather long question. During our previous period in Government the number of employee share schemes increased from 30 to 600. In each of the past two years more than 250,000 additional people bought or acquired shares in the companies in which they worked. We have not gone as far as he and I wish, but we are moving firmly in the right direction.

Mr. Kenneth Carlisle

Despite the Government's achievement during the previous Parliament, does my right hon. Friend accept that tax relief for profit-sharing schemes is available in practice only for the employees of large companies? Will he urge the Chancellor of the Exchequer to reconsider methods that have been advanced of extending tax relief to the employees of small companies engaged in share schemes?

Mr. Parkinson

I assure my hon. Friend that I shall mention this matter to my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer.

Forward to