HC Deb 10 December 1986 vol 107 cc332-3
8. Mr. Michael Forsyth

asked the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what proportion of his Department's current expenditure goes to support nationalised industries; and what was the comparable proportion in 1979.

The Secretary of State for Trade and Industry (Mr. Paul Channon)

In 1979–80 about a half the Department of Trade and Industry total expenditure was used to support the Department's nationalised industries. For 1986–87, the figure is more like one tenth.

Mr. Forsyth

Do not these figures throw into dramatic relief the success of the Government's policies of privatising the nationalised industries and insisting that nationalised industries are more competitive? Will my right hon. Friend confirm that this must mean that around £900 million is available for health and education and the social services, which would otherwise be squandered on inefficient industry if we were to follow the prescriptions of the Opposition?

Mr. Channon

I entirely agree with my hon. Friend. The success of privatisation and of turning most of the nationalised industries round to be better run and more efficient, with many of them making profits, is a major achievement for the Government. It has had the effect of releasing resources that can be used better elsewhere.

Mr. Hoyle

I have noted the Government's hostility towards nationalised industries. How will our economy be helped by allowing Leyland Trucks to be taken over by an American or Dutch company? Would not such action lead to a loss of jobs and to the destruction of the indigenous lorry industry?

Mr. Channon

If it is hostile to nationalised industries to try to make them pay rather than lose money, that is a curious way to describe hostility. It is in the national interest that nationalised industries should pay their way. That must be good for the economy and for the people working in them, who want a secure future. I answered questions on the whole matter of Leyland and the truck industry the other week and I have nothing to add to the comments that I made then. The hon. Gentleman will know that talks are taking place.

Mr. Gow

Are there any publicly owned industries for which my right hon. Friend is currently responsible through his Department which he hopes will not be denationalised by the end of the next Parliament?

Mr. Channon

I certainly hope that we shall make substantial progress in denationalising during the next Parliament with the enthusiastic support of my hon. Friend. Let us put steel at the top of the list.

Mr. Ashdown

Leaving aside for the moment the question whether the general consumer has benefited from this move—particularly in the case of British Telecom—to convert public monopolies into private monopolies, will the Minister explain to the House why he has taken the money that he has saved and squandered it on this year's accounts instead of reinvesting it in Britain in the long term? Is this not simply a waste of the nation's assets?

Mr. Channon

I do not follow what the hon. Member is saying. I am usually attacked by the Opposition because my Department's budget is not sufficient, yet the hon. Gentleman has accused me of squandering the money. I do not know what the hon. Gentleman has in mind. I thought that the hon. Gentleman's party wanted to increase public expenditure rather than to reduce it. Over the past seven years the Department of Trade and Industry budget has rightly been reduced as we have cut down on wasteful expenditure on the nationalised industries. The money has been used to far better effect in the economy.