§ The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Energy (Mr. Tony Baldry)
Employee participation will be looked at closely in the context of privatisation proposals for coal which we hope to bring forward in the next Parliament.
§ Mr. Gow
Is my hon. Friend aware that he has the congratulations and best wishes of the House on his first appearance on the Front Bench at Question Time? Is he aware that 85 per cent. of those who work for the water industry bought shares when that industry was privatised? Does he realise that the longer he postpones the privatisation of coal the longer he denies to those who work in the coal industry the opportunity that was rightly given to those who work in the water industry to become worker-shareholders?
§ Mr. Baldry
I thank my hon. Friend for his comments and I commend to the House the excellent speech that he made on 19 January. It is worthy of re-reading by every hon. Member. In it, he clearly set out the merits of the Government's programme of privatisation and its undoubted benefits for consumers, customers, taxpayers and, most particularly, employees.
§ Mr. Lofthouse
Does the Minister appreciate that many thousands of men in the mining industry will be unable to buy British Coal shares because under Government policy, once the contracts between British Coal and the electricity supply industry become operative, 30,000 miners will lose their jobs? What interest will they have in privatisation?
§ Mr. Baldry
I do not accept the hon. Gentleman's premise, but I can tell him that the coal industry, perhaps more than any other, depends on the fullhearted co-operation and enthusiasm of its work force to be successful. Unlike the Opposition, we believe that employees should have every opportunity to buy shares in their own industries and we see no reason why the coal industry should be treated any differently.
§ Mrs. Gorman
Does my hon. Friend agree that when we have returned the coal industry to a shareholding democracy through the market there will be little need for a Department of Energy any more? Will he assure us that we shall not retain that massive Government Department for the nefarious promotion of the efficient use of energy and will he agree with the previous Secretary of State that he looks forward to locking up the doors and throwing the keys into the Thames?