HC Deb 16 November 1983 vol 48 cc832-3
2. Mr. Allan Roberts

asked the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what proposals he has for the future of the Girobank.

The Minister for Information Technology (Mr. Kenneth Baker)

The Post Office board is responsible for the development of the Girobank. But it is for the Girobank management and work force to ensure the bank's success by continuing to improve productivity and competitiveness against other financial institutions.

Mr. Roberts

Will the Minister congratulate both the management and work force of the Girobank on having continued to develop successfully and profitably? Will he give an assurance that he will resist any pressures from banking or commercial interests to curtail the activities of the Girobank or to privatise it?

Mr. Baker

I echo the hon. Gentleman's remarks. The management and work force of the Girobank have done a good job. There are no immediate plans to privatise the Girobank. However, as the House will know, an important part of the Government's policy is to reduce the size and scope of the public sector, and options for privatising each nationalised industry, as a whole or in part, are kept under review. The Girobank is not excluded from that review.

Mr. Wrigglesworth

Why should an organisation such as the Girobank be considered for privatisation when it is fully in competition with other sectors of the banking industry? What is the justification for even considering privatisation?

Mr. Baker

The reverse of that question is why should the Girobank be in the public sector? Its privatisation would be a complicated matter, because we cannot consider it separately from the counter network, a large proportion of which is already in private hands through the sub-post offices.

Mr. Ewing

Is the Minister aware that his statement that the Girobank is under continuing review for possible privatisation will cause widespread uncertainty among those who bank with it and work for it? Will he seriously reconsider what he has said and accept that under no circumstances should the Government privatise the Girobank?

Mr. Baker

I have said what I have said. I wholly refute the suggestion that there is any uncertainty. It is fallacious for Opposition Members to believe that through privatisation jobs are at risk. That is not necessarily the case, as we are discussing during the Committee stage of the Telecommunications Bill.