HL Deb 07 July 1993 vol 547 cc1388-9

2.48 p.m.

Lord Spens asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether the market in ordinary shares of British Telecommunications plc on the London and international stock exchanges ahead of the secondary offer for sale on 16th July 1993 is a "true and fair" market.

The Minister of State, Department of Transport (The Earl of Caithness)

My Lords, this is a matter for the London Stock Exchange and the Securities and Investments Board.

Lord Spens

My Lords, given that the Treasury, as spelled out, I think, in Monday's Hansard, is responsible for the basis of allocation of new shares, can the Minister confirm that Treasury policy (as I think was announced by Warburg's) is and will continue to be to reward certain investing institutions with a higher allocation of shares if they purchase shares in the run-up to the secondary offer for sale? If that is the policy, can the Minister explain—at least for my benefit—why not so long ago four men went to prison and had multi-million pound fines for operating an almost exactly similar, if not identical, share support scheme?

The Earl of Caithness

My Lords, the terms of the BT share offer are well known. They have been made perfectly clear. We believe, on the legal advice that we have, that we comply with all the financial regulations.

Lord Richard

My Lords, can the Minister confirm that only about 2.6 million people had registered by last Friday's deadline in respect of what is known as the BT3 telecommunications share sale offer and that that compares with 4.5 million new registrations for BT2, which was the last offer? I wonder whether the Minister saw the Independent on Sunday? Does he share the view there expressed that, given that BT2 was only 1.7 times over-subscribed, the lack of interest this time means that it could be a close-run thing and that the response demonstrates a weariness towards privatisation on the part of the public? Is it not perhaps a privatisation too far?

The Earl of Caithness

My Lords, certainly not. There are more privatisations to come, which I know the noble Lord will welcome.

Lord Richard

My Lords, with respect, the Minister should answer the question. I asked specifically about figures and whether the Minister could confirm them. Can he do so?

The Earl of Caithness

My Lords, the noble Lord asked whether it was a privatisation too far, and I replied to that question. Dealing with his other point, I do not know the figures at the present time. We must wait until the results are fully known.