HC Deb 18 June 1986 vol 99 cc535-7W
Mr. Nellist

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if he will give, for each year for which statistics are available, and to the latest available date, such information that he has as to (a) the cost of the assisted places scheme, (b) the proportion of successful candidates who were already receiving their schooling in the independent section, or who had brothers and sisters receiving such education, (c) the average income of families who have used the assisted places scheme, and (d) what are the ages of transfer of the pupils who have moved from the state sector using the assisted places scheme.

Mr. Dunn

[pursuant to his reply, 16 June 1986, c. 383]: The information requested at (a) and (b) is as follows:

therefore be met from the Consolidated Fund as authorised by the money resolution passed by the House on 10 December 1985.

The gas levy, which is a tax on gas supply from offshore fields not subject to petroleum revenue tax, will decline over time in importance as the proportion of total supply from these fields reduces. The Government have decided that, as provided for in the Bill, the levy will continue at its present rate of 4p per therm.

The value of X in the regulatory formula relates to the onshore component in the maximum price chargeable to tariff consumers. It is important that X should be set so as to provide a continuing incentive for the company to contain onshore costs directly within its control and to ensure that consumers participate in the benefits of cost containment. After careful examination, I have decided that the appropriate value for the initial five-year period of the regulatory formula will he two. This will ensure that the element of the charge to tariff customers covering the delivery of gas is held at a level 2 per cent. below the rate of inflation, while the gas itself will be charged at prices under long-term contracts which are influenced by movements in oil prices, exchange rates and other factors. The formula will set a demanding discipline for the company to meet while leaving opportunities for a profit-oriented management to work for still better performance. The regime will be kept under scrutiny by the Director-General of OFGAS.

It is our intention that British Gas employees, past and present, should have every encouragement to take a stake in the new company and the Government will be offering suitably attractive terms. Most employees will be eligible for free shares worth around £70 plus £2 for each year of service. In addition, the Government will provide two free shares for each share purchased by an employee, up to a maximum of £300 of free shares for £150 purchased. It will also be open to employees to purchase up to £2,000 worth of shares at a discount of 10 per cent. For British Gas pensioners there will be a free offer worth around £75. Both pensioners and employees will be able to apply on a priority basis for additional shares. The free and matching offers for employees will be available to all in continuous employment from 1 May 1986 who are contracted to work at least 16 hours a week.

The British Gas offer for sale will bring within reach of everyone the chance to share in the fortunes of a major and successful enterprise. Details of the special arrangements for share purchase we shall be making available to small investors will be announced at a later stage. These will include arrangements for domestic gas customers who register their interest in advance to purchase a guaranteed allotment of a certain number of shares.

The provisions I have announced today mark a further step towards realising a historic opportunity which will be good not only for gas consumers and all who work in the industry, but for the millions of members of the public who will be able to own shares.

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