HC Deb 13 July 1995 vol 263 cc1080-2
8. Mr. Mullin

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what plans he has for further privatisation; and if he will make a statement. [32554]

The Financial Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Michael Jack)

The Government continue to look for opportunities to transfer public sector businesses to the private sector. For example, we are proceeding with plans to transfer the operation of British Rail to the private sector and to privatise the major part of the nuclear power generating industry.

Mr. Mullin

It would be wholly irresponsible, would it not, to use the proceeds of the sale of public assets to fund tax cuts for the purpose of purchasing the result of the next general election?

Mr. Jack

I am rather surprised that the hon. Gentleman, who normally deals with these matters in considerable detail, poses a question in that way, because he will know that, since the process of privatisation was begun, what used to cost this country £50 million a week now is now generating income to the Treasury of £55 million a week in terms of receipts from taxes on profits. That is the benefit of privatisation that we support.

Mr. Tim Smith

I congratulate my hon. Friend on his appointment and welcome him to his first Question Time. Does he agree that privatisation has been hugely successful both for taxpayers and for customers, that we should continue to privatise Government services wherever we can, and that we should export the successes of privatisation wherever we can?

Mr. Jack

I am most grateful to my hon. Friend for his kind words. We debated this matter yesterday and have already had an exchange on it. He is right to draw attention to the tremendous opportunity and contribution that the private sector has given to the Government—£455 million of savings have been posted so far. He is also right to attest to this country's great expertise in privatisation. It is good to see that Britain leads the world in that area.

Ms Primarolo

If the Chancellor is still in charge of economic policy, and not the resident of No. 10a or No. 10 Downing street, will the Financial Secretary tell us whether, in principle, he supports the taxing of income from executive share options and whether he will deal with the scandal of taxpayers who are being ripped off under these privatisation processes?

Mr. Jack

Rewards in this area are extremely important. The hon. Lady touches on a subject which as she knows full well, will be dealt with when Sir Richard Greenbury reports. [Interruption.] It is not a question of Sir Richard Greenbury or anybody else being in charge. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister gave a clear indication that he wanted that area to be investigated. He was entirely supported by my right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor, who has given a robust defence of who is in charge of economic policy. He is and the Government are: the Opposition are not.

Mr. Stephen

Further to my hon. Friend's reply to the hon. Member for Sunderland, South (Mr. Mullin), does my hon. Friend agree that all political parties are in the business of bribing the electorate? The difference is that Opposition Members do it by promising more and more public expenditure, whereas we do it by promising to leave more and more money in the pockets of the people. It will be for the people to make their choice at the next general election.

Mr. Jack

My hon. Friend touches on an interesting area. The only problem with his analysis, if I may take a point of difference with him, is that our economic policies, which are appealing to people, are based on sound fundamentals. We have real numbers to show where we are going; how anybody could be bribed by a blank piece of paper from the Opposition I do not know.