§ 9. Mr. Greenway
asked the Secretary of State for Energy if he will make a statement about the terms on which he expects shares in British Gas to be made available to the corporation's customers.
§ Mr. Peter Walker
As I announced on 18 June, we shall be making special arrangements for gas consumers and other small investors to purchase shares in British Gas. Domestic gas consumers who register their interest in advance will be guaranteed to receive a certain number of shares when they apply. Full details will be announced before the sale.
§ Mr. Greenway
Will my right hon. Friend confirm that upwards of 16 million households will be entitled to buy shares in British Gas under the privatisation proposals? Will he take steps to ensure that those shares are not confiscated by a possible future Labour Government, as the Labour party proposes to confiscate the shares of the 1.5 million shareholders in British Telecom by nationalisation under another name?
§ Mr. Walker
The 16 million customers of British Gas will, for the first time, have direct participation in the industry of which they are customers. As for the Labour party's plans, I must confess that I am torn between deploring the morality of the proposals and being delighted at the political advantage that they will give to the Conservative party.
§ Mr. Portillo
Does my right hon. Friend recognise that the privatisation of British Gas offers a remarkable opportunity to extend share ownership to the many millions of British Gas customers? Does he agree that it will be more successful than the privatisation of British Telecom? Will he ensure that the terms sufficiently reflect those interesting possibilities?
§ Mr. Walker
I am delighted at the possibility of large numbers of customers, employees, small invest ors and pension schemes having direct participation in the industry. I look forward to successful privatisation taking place this autumn.
§ Mr. Orme
Is the Secretary of State aware that his noble Friend has created some confusion over the proposed sale of the shares? Will he clear that up for the House? May we now have the details of how the shares will be launched, the number and at what time they will be made available to the public?
§ Mr. Walker
On the latter point, I should have thought that the right hon. Gentleman would declare his personal interest in the matter. We will let him have the details, and I will send him a special form as soon as possible. As for the House of Lords, my noble Friend is coducting matters with immense care. I do not think that there is any misunderstanding.