HC Deb 11 December 1995 vol 268 c687
8. Mr. Jamieson

To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what assessment he has made of the effect of the takeover of South Western Electricity on competitiveness. [3286]

Mr. Willetts

The takeover was completed only in September and it is too soon to assess its effects, but exposing the utilities to the full opportunities and disciplines of the marketplace has provided an enormous boost to UK competitiveness.

Mr. Jamieson

What has the Minister to say to my constituent, Mrs. Ray, who, with thousands of others in the 1980s, bought shares in South Western Electricity, thinking that she was participating in popular capitalism? Now that Southern Electric of Atlanta, Georgia has taken over the company, she and many others have had their small shareholdings compulsorily purchased against their will. Does the hon. Gentleman understand why shareholders across the south-west are dismayed that the Government have allowed their shareholdings to be taken away and allowed this vital public monopoly utility to be taken over by a wholly foreign-owned company?

Mr. Willetts

The hon. Gentleman does not appear to understand how takeovers operate in this country. It was perfectly clear that as soon as Southern Electric's bid received the requisite majority of support, other shareholders, sadly, would be obliged to accept its terms.

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