HC Deb 13 February 1986 vol 91 cc1086-7
8. Mrs. Virginia Bottomley

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will make a statement on the proportion of the population in the United Kingdom who own shares; and how this compares with other Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development nations.

Mr. Lawson

The number owning shares directly is at least 3 million, which is about 7 per cent. of the adult population, and recent market research suggests that the figure may be much higher. I regret that comparable figures are not available for most other OECD nations.

Mrs. Bottomley

While thanking my right hon. Friend for his reply, may I ask for confirmation that although individual share ownership may have more than doubled since 1979, there is still a long way to go in the pursuit of wider share ownership? Does he agree that many individuals, especially employees, who bought shares as a result of the Government's privatisation policies are in great danger from a Government formed by the Labour party, especially if its bite is anything like as bad as its bark?

Mr. Lawson

My hon. Friend is on to an important point, to which we need a clearer answer than the one we have received so far. The right hon. Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley) has said that if by any mischance the Labour party were to get into office and renationalise any companies, the shares would be bought out at the original selling price. That is expropriating the money of millions upon millions of pensioners and holders of life assurance policies. Those pensioners have a right to know which companies the right hon. Gentleman wishes to renationalise and why he intends to rob them in that way.

Mr. Ashley

Is the Chancellor aware that the only reason why more people in Britain own shares is that he is selling national assets to pay tax bribes? All that waffle from him and the hon. Member for Surrey, South-West (Mrs. Bottomley) is false propaganda. The British people want more jobs, not wider share ownership.

Mr. Lawson

We should like to see more jobs, but that does not conflict with wider share ownership. They are in harmony, as those employees who are members of over 1,000 existing employee share schemes would fully bear out.