HC Deb 28 March 1984 vol 57 cc286-8
15. Mr. Andrew MacKay

asked the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if he is satisfied with the progress of selling state-owned companies which are within his Department's responsibility.

Mr. Tebbit

Whilst I am always anxious to make swifter progress, I am satisfied that as many as possible of the public sector enterprises for which I am responsible are being transferred to the private sector as swiftly as practicable.

Mr. MacKay

In the light of that reply, will my right hon. Friend confirm that, whenever possible, the Government will give priority to management buy-outs?

Mr. Tebbit

We always look with favour upon management buy-outs where they are in the best interest of the company, taking into account the interest of the taxpayer.

Mr. Ryman

While the Minister is selling valuable state assets to his friends, will he consider whether he is legally entitled to do so and whether he is selling them at artificially low prices?

Mr. Tebbit

The hon. Gentleman would be right to assume that we are quite certain that we have the powers to undertake the sales, not least through the primary legislation that is being enacted. The sales are sometimes extremely welcome to all concerned, as is the Scott Lithgow deal, about which my hon. Friend the Minister of State will answer a question later today.

Mr. Grylls

Could my right hon. Friend give the House some news about Jaguar? Does he agree that most sensible people wish to see Jaguar returned to the private sector as soon as possible? Like my hon. Friend the Member for Berkshire, East (Mr. MacKay), I hope that when that happens adequate provision will be made for the staff of that successful company to participate in its success.

Mr. Tebbit

I go further than my hon. Friend. All sensible people will welcome the return of Jaguar to the private sector. The discussions taking place within British Leyland and between it and my Department are concerned with the arrangements that must be made if Jaguar is to be returned to the private sector. I hope that that result will be achieved before too long. I hope that there will be appropriate arrangements for the work force to buy shares, as there have been in the case of other returns to the concept of true public ownership—by which I mean ownership by ordinary people holding shares, and not ownership by the state.

Mr. Shore

Is the Secretary of State aware of any other western European country that owns important industrial enterprises and is planning to follow the example of the British Government and simply sell them off? If he does not, I wonder why that should be.

Mr. Tebbit

I am interested to learn that the right hon. Gentleman thinks that wisdom is to be found among foreigners rather than among British people. I am also interested to learn that he is unaware that more of our industry is in the public sector than is the case with most of our commercial rivals. That might have something to do with our commercial failures.