HC Deb 09 November 1988 vol 140 cc298-9
10. Mr. Darling

To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what estimate he has of the likely pattern of ownership of industry in Scotland over the next five years; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Lang

In the past nine years there has been a net increase of around 15,000 registered Scottish companies, and the number of individual shareholders in Scotland has doubled. Given the maintenance of the Government's economic policies, which have created in Scotland an environment in which enterprise can flourish, I fully expect these trends to continue.

Mr. Darling

If Terry Butcher and I can share the same platform in defence of a Scottish company, will the Minister accept that there is a growing feeling that Scottish and Newcastle is merely one company in a line of others that is at risk of foreign takeover in Scotland? Will he accept that the Government's open-door policy to mergers will put the ownership of Scottish industry at risk, and that companies such as Scottish Electricity will be owned by people who are based on the other side of the world, perhaps, and not in Scotland? What will he do to protect Scottish industry?

Mr. Lang

I understand the hon. Gentleman's anxiety about a specific company. As he knows, the Director General of Fair Trading has been reviewing the matter and the Scottish Office has been involved in the consultations. The director general's report has been passed to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, and presumably he will make an announcement in due course.

Sir Russell Johnston

Will the Minister say what advice his right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State has given to Lord Young about the takeover? What estimate has the Government made of job losses in the event of Elders being successful?

Mr. Lang

I am not in a position to disclose advice of that sort to the hon. Gentleman. The result of the Scottish Council's surveys show that there are as many jobs in manufacturing industry in Scottish-owned companies now as there were 10 years ago. The hon. Gentleman is unduly sensitive about that issue.

Mr. Redwood

Does my hon. Friend agree that the most dramatic change in ownership in Scotland could come about in the next five years from a large privatisation programme? Does he accept that that would be a real way in which to return power and control to the Scottish people? That is something that hon. Members on both sides of the House should welcome, especially those who represent parties which cannot decide whether they are for or against devolution of power.

Mr. Lang

My hon. Friend is right. The greatest single cause for the transfer of Scottish companies out of Scotland—the transfers include the famous companies of Colville, Stewart and Lloyd, Scott Lithgow, Yarrow, Kincaid, Robb Caledon, Alexanders and MacBrayne—has been nationalisation under Labour Governments. We propose to denationalise industry. As my hon. Friend says, that will enable electricity companies and bus companies, for example, to be re-established in Scotland.