It is the Government's firm intention to maintain the momentum of the privatisation programme, and further proposals will be put to the House in the next Parliament.
While it would be unreasonable to expect the Secretary of State to carry out any further examples of reckless irresponsibility or daylight robbery in the next two or three days, will the right hon. Gentleman confirm that the Government do not intend either to denationalise any part of the deep-mining capacity or to proceed with the denationalisation of any opencast activity?
This plan is going ahead and there are two schemes, one transferring the assets to a new subsidiary of the Gas Corporation and the second establishing the appropriate participation arrangements, which came into force a few days ago, at the beginning of the month. The next step will be to transfer the shares in these new subsidiaries to me as Secretary of State and this will require an order that will be laid in the new Parliament.
As for the BGC's existing partners in these holdings, I know that there was a report in the press about one of them, AMOCO, alleging that it was angry about this, but my office received a telephone call today from Mr. Dalton, the managing director, saying that he was misquoted and that the Government have every right to continue this policy.
Will the right hon. Gentleman give the House one clear and categoric assurance, namely, that no decision to sell the Wytch Farm interest of British Gas will be taken before the next election? As the right hon. Gentleman has never had a mandate to sell those or any other energy assets, will he note that the Labour party will seek a mandate to restore them to national control?
Leaving aside the last rather optimistic remarks of the hon. Gentleman, which were singularly empty of conviction, I cannot give the assurance for which he asks, because the Government are not a party to the sale. It is a matter for the British Gas Corporation on the one hand and the Dorset Group on the other. I understand that their discussions are now in the final stages. I also understand that BP's present intention, having examined the bid, is not to exercise its matching rights. It is, of course, the intention that BP should become the operator.