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British Transport Docks Board

Oral Answers to Questions — Transport – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 10th December 1980.

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Photo of Peter Viggers Peter Viggers , Gosport 12:00 am, 10th December 1980

asked the Minister of Transport if he will make a further statement on the capital reconstruction of the British Transport Docks Board.

Photo of Mr Norman Fowler Mr Norman Fowler Minister of State (Department for Transport)

The forthcoming Transport Bill will include legislation to introduce private capital into the board's undertaking. That will reconstitute the board and enable me to sell shares. It will also free the business from public sector constraints.

Photo of Peter Viggers Peter Viggers , Gosport

Is it not encouraging that the board, which has a good record in commercial terms, has welcomed the Government's proposals? What effect does my right hon. Friend think the capital reconstruction will have in terms of investment by private industry?

Photo of Mr Norman Fowler Mr Norman Fowler Minister of State (Department for Transport)

One of the major effects will be that the new company will be free from public sector restraints on investment. The board greatly welcomes that, and I think that it will do extremely well in the private sector.

Photo of Mr Walter Johnson Mr Walter Johnson , Derby South

Does the Minister agree that the British Transport Docks Board has been successful ever since it was set up? Is he aware that even in times of difficulty it has shown profitability and that it has been a successful part of public enterprise? Is he further aware that at this time it does not want meddling interference from people who know nothing about the industry?

Photo of Mr Norman Fowler Mr Norman Fowler Minister of State (Department for Transport)

The hon. Gentleman has just made an extremely good case for the policy the Government are adopting. We are to take away the meddling interference in the board's activities. For the reasons that the hon. Gentleman gave, the board should be responsible for its future.

Photo of John Prescott John Prescott , Kingston upon Hull East

Will the Minister confirm that in the privatisation of the British Transport Docks Board the majority of shares will not be sold to the private sector? If that is so, will the management board of the new company have greater control, with no interference by the Government?

Photo of Mr Norman Fowler Mr Norman Fowler Minister of State (Department for Transport)

First, I welcome the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, East (Mr. Prescott) back to the Opposition Front Bench. The vital issue in this matter is where the control rests. The Government will retain a 51 per cent. stake, but the control of the company will remain in the private sector.