HC Deb 27 June 1985 vol 81 cc1059-60
1. Mr. Hardy

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what estimate he has made of the net receipts from the privatisation of public assets during the next two years.

The Financial Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. John Moore)

The 1985 public expenditure White Paper assumed that net receipts from special sales of assets would amount to £4.5 billion over the next two years. Receipts from council house sales would add about a further £4 billion.

Mr. Hardy

Will the Financial Secretary confirm that those substantial sums will be devoted largely to the relief of income tax, providing significent benefit only to a minority of the population and small parts of the country? Does he accept that that destruction of capital assets should best be described as treasonably feckless?

Mr. Moore

As opposed to the hon. Gentleman's comments, he will know that the privatisation programme sees as its main goal an attempt both to improve the efficiency of the economy and to benefit the consumers and the workers in those enterprises from the increased profitability and efficiency of the structures for which they work.

Mrs. Virginia Bottomley

Does my hon. Friend agree that the privatisation measure that has most dramatically affected more than 750,000 people has been the opportunity to buy one's own home, which has been offered to council house and other tenants by the Government?

Mr. Moore

My hon. Friend is right, and I should like to update her on the figures, which are better than she thought. As at March 1985, 850,000 council houses have been sold, and that number of people are happily the owners of their own homes.

Mr. Carter-Jones

When the Minister has sold off the royal ordnance factories, and paid back all the money owed in pensions, will anything be left for tax relief?

Mr. Moore

What we have instead are enterprises which serve consumers, employees and the nation more efficiently. I wonder what the hon. Gentleman will do at the general election when, I assume, he presents the Labour party's wholesale commitment to the re-nationalisation of all those prime industries, which will be the best imaginable boon for the Conservative party.

Mr. Leigh

Is my hon. Friend aware that, contrary to what the hon. Member for Wentworth (Mr. Hardy) claims, in an average constituency, such as Brecon and Radnor, no fewer than 3,000 householders will have benefited from the sale of British Telecom shares, 1,000 householders will have benefited from the sale of council homes, and many hundreds from the sale of nationalised industries, which we have brought back to real public control?

Mr. Moore

I am delighted that my hon. Friend, in an electoral sense, brings us back to the realities of Brecon and Radnor. Beyond his specific points, the consumer, the nation and the workers will all benefit from privatisation.

Mr. Blair

Do the Financial Secretary's figures include the money that will be raised by the sale of British Gas? Is it not the case that for the Government to retain the last vestiges of their economic credibility they propose to flog off British Gas as a private monopoly to bump up prices and to fund the tax cuts before the election? Is it not, therefore, right that in the Government's eyes privatisation is no longer a virtue, but a necessity?

Mr. Moore

The figures are precisely as I referred to them — those in the 1985 public expenditure White Paper. I am intrigued that so far the official Opposition have not yet referred in the House to their policy on the re-nationalisation of British Gas. The only reference that I can find is in the overseas service of the British Broadcasting Corporation, when the right hon. Member for Salford, East (Mr. Orme) committed the Opposition to re-nationalisation. To the extent that the Opposition seem unwilling to admit their policy, the Government's policy on the issue is clear.