HC Deb 06 December 1989 vol 163 cc305-7
8. Mr. Rooker

To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if he will list the golden shares for which he has responsibility and state his policy towards the use of these shares.

Mr. Ridley

I hold special shares in British Telecom, Cable and Wireless, British Aerospace, Rolls-Royce, British Steel, and Jaguar. Decisions on using the rights attached to each of these shares depend on the particular circumstances of each company.

Mr. Rooker

Can the Secretary of State tell the House whether he will dispose of any of those golden shares in the same way as he is to dispose of the golden share in Jaguar, thereby giving the company away to Ford? [Interruption.] Of course it was given away. Was that done in order to stop Ford complaining about being shut out of the secret negotiations with British Aerospace over the Rover group? He cannot object to Ford having Rover because he has given it Jaguar.

Mr. Ridley

The hon. Gentleman should realise that there are two sorts of special share. There are those which are timeless, run for an indefinite period and seek to protect national security interests of one sort or another. The other is time limited. Of the companies that I mentioned, the two which have time-limited special shares are British Steel and Jaguar. The point of those special shares is to protect an industry which is trying to convalesce from the mauling it has had as a publicly owned industry for a few years until it can stand up on its feet and compete in the market. That condition of recovery for Jaguar was abundantly met when I decided to waive the gold share.

The hon. Member for Dunfermline, East (Mr. Brown) said that we threw the company to the wolves, but the hon. Member for Dagenham (Mr. Gould), who was there at the time, did not much like that expression. I must quarrel with the hon. Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr. Rooker). The price of £1.6 billion, which Ford paid for Jaguar, cannot be described as giving it away.

Mr. Roger King

Is my right hon. Friend aware that notwithstanding the rather Neanderthal approach of some Opposition Members, others, namely the hon. Member for Coventry, North-West (Mr. Robinson), have welcomed the opportunity that the Ford-Jaguar arrangements provide? My right hon. Friend's speedy decision on the question of the golden share has enabled that company to join forces with Ford to provide us with a strong element in the British motor car industry.

Mr. Ridley

I am fully prepared to accept what my hon. Friend says, although I do not think that it is for me to comment on the merits or otherwise of any particular bid or takeover. I am sure that both alternatives before Jaguar should have strengthened it and that is a great tribute to the performance of the Jaguar management until now. I do not particularly like special shares because they put one in a position where one might have to make a choice which could be said to be partial. I am more prejudiced against them having discovered that the Labour party is thinking of using them for its nefarious purposes if it ever gained power.

Mr. Hoyle

So that we might have some guidance on future policy, will the Secretary of State tell us what discussions, consultations or assurances he received from Ford prior to waiving the golden share about manufacturing in this country, research and development, and the preservation of the Jaguar mark? What consultations has he had with Ford since waiving the share?

Mr. Ridley

I wish I could have an opportunity to give the hon. Gentleman guidance on a whole range of matters. He certainly needs it. The answer to his question is none.

Mrs. Currie

Does my right hon. Friend agree that it is about time in this trading country that we stopped being so hostile to inward investment? Is he aware that my constituents in south Derbyshire work happily for the Swiss company of NestlÉ and for the Swedish company of Asea Brown Boveri and that we are about to welcome a Japanese company? I honestly do not believe that my constituents in Rolls-Royce are all that bothered either way about the golden share held by my right hon. Friend. Is not a real golden share, and the only one worth having, the share in prosperity that is brought by these companies and this investment to my region and this country?

Mr. Ridley

I should like to agree with my hon. Friend that the role played by inward investment into this country from overseas has begun to fill some of the industrial gaps left by the ravages of the Socialist Government when they tried to have an industrial strategy.