§ 12. Mr. Barron
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what is the amount the Government hope to raise by way of revenue from the sale of nationalised industries.
§ Mr. Norman Lamont
Proceeds from privatisation so far are nearly £11 billion. A further £5 billion is expected in each of the next three years.
§ Mr. Barron
At the end of the first day's trading on both British Telecom and British Gas the shares were found to be undervalued by £2 billion. Can the Minister tell us what protection there will be for the public purse with regard to the selling off of British Airways?
§ Mr. Lamont
The pricing of privatisation issues is based upon the best banking and stockbroking advice available to the Government. I suggest that the hon. Gentleman is totally wrong if he says that the British Gas issue was underpriced. The general verdict of all commentators was that it was rightly priced and gave good value to the taxpayer. Furthermore, the exceedingly good thing was that it attracted a large number of small, first-time investors, and that is something that is welcomed by everybody in this country other than the Labour party.
§ Mr. Forman
Does my right hon. Friend agree that, quite apart from raising useful amounts of revenue, those sales were important to the Government's objectives because they provided an opportunity for widening share ownership, especially to the employees of the undertakings concerned? I refer, in particular, to the excellent record of the National Freight Corporation in recent times.
§ Mr. Lamont
My hon. Friend is right. No doubt he will have noticed that there have been a number of surveys that have drawn attention to the considerable increase in share ownership in Britain. Last week, one such survey, by Dewe Rogerson, suggested that perhaps 20 per cent. of the population now own shares. There are different estimates, but it seems clear that share ownership has probably increased some threefold. That again is something to be welcomed by everybody other than those who have a vested interest in a "them and us" attitude.