Government Trading Funds Bill

Part of New Schedule – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 19th June 1973.

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Photo of Mr Peter Rees Mr Peter Rees , Dover 12:00 am, 19th June 1973

I think that it is our primary responsibility, and the lesson we can draw from the performance of the nationalised industries, which we can apply in relation to this Bill, is that we have not evolved satisfactory methods of control and accounting. It is as much a political failure as an industrial failure. We have set up nationalised industries and, unfortunately, we have not learnt to control them.

I welcome the Bill because it is a modest innovation which will enable us to assess and control various industrial and commercial functions of government. It is not sufficient for us to say that we have a general responsibility to Government, and that we have our debates. The outstanding lesson is that politicians are not very successful when they attempt to run industrial enterprises; and certainly they are not very successful in judging their performance in any critical and impartial spirit. On that basis I welcome the Bill as a modest innovation.

In the future we shall be interested to see the capital structure evolve for the quasi-industrial and quasi-political attitudes. We shall want to see the gearing and what their distribution policy will be, how they will evaluate their assets, and what kind of pricing policy will evolve.

As I said, I welcome the Bill as a modest innovation on which I hope we shall be able to build in the future and, like my hon. Friend the Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury (Mr. Ridley), if it turns out to be a success I hope we shall be able to extend the principles to other aspects of government.