HC Deb 26 February 1987 vol 111 cc410-1
10. Mr. Bright

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what further evidence he has of the latest response to personal equity plans.

Mr. Lawson

The response to the new personal equity plans has been most encouraging. Latest available figures suggest that in the first month of the scheme more than 2,000 people a day invested in personal equity plans.

Mr. Bright

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the present regulations, which mean that people can invest only in 30 or 40 major companies, are too restrictive? Would he look at the possibility of trying to extend this list so that they could invest in some of the smaller public companies and in some of the unquoted companies? Obviously this would help more investors, and especially employees in companies that are not covered at the moment by the scheme.

Mr. Lawson

The Government do not dictate the particular shares that are being invested in. Different plan managers have different arrangements and, indeed, there is a large variety in the number of shares in which people have invested. I do not believe that any change is needed in this scheme. As I pointed out, this scheme, which is the third leg of popular capitalism after the growth, first, of employee share schemes and then the growth of shareholders by privatisation, is proving extremely successful despite the doubting Thomases that there were at the beginning.

Mr. Wrigglesworth

Does the Chancellor not agree that this mouse of a scheme is attractive only to those who are already paying capital gains tax and to those who are already investing in shares? Will he look at the scheme again and make it much more attractive? Will he adopt the proposals that we tabled in the Finance Bill in order to make it attractive for newcomers to buy shares, and not only for those who already have shares?

Mr. Lawson

The hon. Gentleman is mistaken. First, far from being a mouse of a scheme, as I said, in the first month alone—which is the latest figures for which we have records—over 2,000 individuals a day started up personal equity plans. As for the question of making it more generous, the scheme does not apply only to those who pay capital gains tax or to existing shareholders. Indeed, Barclayshare, one of the largest of the plan managers, has already estimated that roughly a quarter of those who subscribe to its personal equity plan are first-time shareholders.

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