§ Mr. Hickmet
asked the Prime Minister if she will make a statement on the progress of the privatisation programme pursued since 1979, the effects on British industry and the British economy, and the effects thereon of wider share ownership and of employee share ownership.
§ The Prime Minister
The programme of privatisation continues to be highly successful. Fourteen major companies and around 600,000 employees have been transferred to the private sector since 1979. The privatisation of British Gas was the largest flotation ever in Europe or America and survey evidence suggests that this sale alone may have created 2 million first-time shareholders. The privatisation programme is a key element in our strategy for widening share ownership, as a result of which we have succeeded in roughly trebling the number of people holding shares since 1979. The Government have encouraged employee ownership in companies being privatised; nearly 90 per cent. of employees in companies sold by flotation have become shareholders and therefore have a stake in the future of their companies. By transferring these companies to the private sector we have increased their incentives to greater efficiency and competitiveness, thus benefitting their employees, their shareholders and the economy as a whole.