§ 7. Mr. Simon Coombs
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer how many companies and how many employees have been transferred from the public sector to the private sector since 1979.
§ Mr. Coombs
Will my right hon. Friend remind the House of the proportion of public industry that has been returned to the private sector since 1979 and what other elements of the public sector remain to be returned in the immediate and medium term future, and will he take this opportunity of telling the House about some of the many advantages that privatisation bestows?
§ Mr. Major
Were I to respond in detail to all those points, I fancy that we would run on for rather a long time. Over one third of state industry has been privatised since 1979. As the House knows, we have a continuing rolling programme for the future. Many benefits are increasingly apparent, not least the access to capital markets and greater incentives for management and employees to produce a profitable return, as they are doing.
§ Mr. Ashley
Will the Minister confirm that the workers in most of the companies that have been transferred now have lower wages, job insecurity, lower pensions, lower sickness benefit and fewer holidays? What excuse has he to offer for this shabby transformation?
§ Sir Geoffrey Finsberg
Does my right hon. Friend agree that the result of 11 June shows that the public like the idea of transferring properties from the public sector to genuine public ownership? When will he start this process on the Bank of England?
§ Mr. Blair
If the British Airports Authority is to be sold partly by fixed tender to get value for money for the taxpayer, why was the same procedure not followed on the sale of British Gas, British Telecom and British Airways, when thousands, if not millions, of pounds were lost to the taxpayers through selling those companies off at a knock-down price?
§ Mr. Oppenheim
Does my hon. Friend recollect the dire predictions of doom and gloom when companies such as Cable and Wireless, British Aerospace and Jaguar were 505 privatised? How do those predictions square with the current performance of those companies in the private sector?