HC Deb 26 February 1987 vol 111 c413
14. Mr. Nellist

asked the Chancellor of the Excheqer what lessons he has drawn from the recent privatisation of British Airways for future flotations of publicly owned companies; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Lawson

The main lesson from the British Airways sale is that there is very considerable popular support for the privatisation programme. Over 1 million people became shareholders in British Airways, including over 90 per cent. of the company's employees.

Mr. Nellist

Why does the Chancellor not admit that the deliberate undervaluation of British Airways cost working people, that is, his beloved taxpayers, £300 million, and that £50 million profit was made on the first day, including Lord King's personal profit of £13,000 in 24 hours? Is it not just like all the other privatisation exercises of the Government—legalised theft?

Mr. Lawson

On the contrary. it is public ownership in the true sense of the word. It is returning savings to the people. As for the hon. Member's expertise in the pricing of new issues, I would have had a little more respect for that if he had predicted what would happen.

Mr. Yeo

Does my right hon. Friend agree that there is one clear lesson to be learnt from the British Airways share sale, and that is that, even without the benefit of a large advertising campaign, there is massive public interest in and support for the Government's policy of privatisation? Is that not conveniently highlighted by the Oppositions determination to reverse our policy?

Mr. Lawson

My hon. Friend is right. That is precisely why we shall continue with this programme throughout the remainder of this Parliament and well into the next Parliament.

Mr. Blair

Is it not the case that foreign speculation on gas, British Telecom and British Airways alone creamed off over £350 million on first-day profits, more than a full year's cost of the Bill introduced by my hon. Friend the Member for Walsall, North (Mr. Winnick) to give free TV licences to pensioners'? Why are the Government so mean with pensioners and so generous with foreign bankers?

Mr. Lawson

The hon. Member's xenophobia, which he cultivates for the benefit of certain elements in his own party, because he himself does not believe in it for a moment, is entirely without the statistical foundation which he attempted to give to the House.