HC Deb 27 July 1988 vol 138 cc401-2
13. Mr. Lambie

To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what discussions he has held concerning the privatisation of the Scottish Bus Group and the future of CalMac; and if he will make a statement.

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton

My right hon. and learned Friend has met the chairman and deputy chairman and the board of the Scottish Transport Group. I have met the Scottish Trades Union Congress and the joint Scottish shipping services advisory committees. My right hon. and learned Friend is presently considering the future arrangements for CalMac and the pattern of privatisation of the Scottish Bus Group.

Mr. Lambie

In view of the Secretary of State's reply to my right hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Govan (Mr. Millan) concerning the need for employee participation, will the Secretary of State provide general preferential arrangements for employee bids for the Scottish Bus Group?

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton

Yes. We regard it as particularly important that management and employees are given the opportunity to acquire a stake in their own business, and consideration will be given to how best to encourage that. We are aware that a considerable measure of interest is already being shown by employees, as well as by management, in possible management/employee buy-outs. I hope that privatisation in this case will see a significant increase in employee participation.

Mr Allan Stewart

Is my hon. Friend aware that the Scottish Transport Group and many of the people involved in the industry sincerely believe that privatisation should be on the basis of the existing companies and not on a structure which, perhaps, has purely theoretical merit? Will he assure the House that he will take those representations seriously? Does he agree that bus privatisation will present a major opportunity for Scots and Scottish institutions to take a stake in an important indigenous industry?

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton

Certainly. The Secretary of State's decision was based on the advice of the Scottish merchant bank advisers, Quayle Munro, and has the prime purpose of increasing competition in the Scottish bus market to the benefit of the consumer and to boost enterprise and, in particular, employee participation.