HC Deb 27 March 1985 vol 76 cc468-9
10. Mr. Thurnham

asked the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what are the current estimated savings by his Department for 1984–85 as a result of privatisation schemes.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Trade and Industry (Mr. Alex Fletcher)

There have been no privatisations of the functions of my Department in 1984–85. Savings as a result of contracting-out of services are estimated as at least £600,000 in this financial year.

Mr. Thurnham

Will my hon. Friend ensure that small firms are given every opportunity to tender for those schemes?

Mr. Fletcher

Yes, Sir. Several contracts have been placed with small firms for cleaning, data preparation, reprographics, press cuttings, the printing of British Business and workshop services.

Mr. Caborn

What savings have been made by privatising parts of the steel industry, especially with regard to Phoenix 1 and 3? When will there be an announcement on Phoenix 2? Are steps being taken to restructure the BSC engineering steel division before Phoenix 2 is announced?

Mr. Fletcher

All those matters are currently under consideration in the Department.

Mr. Squire

Will my hon. Friend, as a Minister in the Department, underline the position that every company, big and small, in the private sector, as a matter of course, considers its ancillary services to see whether they would be better handled in-house or out-of-house? Does he agree that that message must be hammered home, especially to Opposition Members, who seem to have forgotten that simple fact?

Mr. Fletcher

It is an important part of Government policy to transfer work out of Government Departments when that is commensurate with sound management and good value for money for the taxpayer.

Mr. Alton

How can the Minister justify small savings from privatisation when British consumers and industry can lose so much as a result of procurement decisions by, for instance, British Telecom? Will he assure the House that no decision will be taken by British Telecom to go ahead with systems X or Y until Professor Bryan Carsberg has completed his investigations on behalf of Oftel?

Mr. Fletcher

The Director General of Oftel made a statement on that matter on 22 March. He will consider the implications of any such move.

Mr. Phillip Oppenheim

As it seems extremely likely that British Telecom will acquire some digital exchanges from Ericsson, is my hon. Friend satisfied that Plessey and GEC have reciprocal access to the Swedish telecommunications market, where Ericsson has almost a state-assured monopoly?

Mr. Fletcher

Most European countries do not have easy access to telecommunications. We are anxious to ensure that those markets are open to British industry, just as British suppliers are seeking quotes elsewhere.

Mr. John Smith

Has not the Minister just admitted that the Government abide by the rules, while all our competitors break them as often as they can? Is it not high time that, instead of apologising for that, Ministers took the more robust defence of British interests as their most important objective?

Mr. Fletcher

We make a robust defence of the interests of British consumers.