Privatisation

Oral Answers to Questions — Energy – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 9th May 1983.

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Photo of Mr Peter Hardy Mr Peter Hardy , Rother Valley 12:00 am, 9th May 1983

asked the Secretary of State for Energy what further privatisation he expects to require or hopes to initiate in the energy field.

Photo of Mr Nigel Lawson Mr Nigel Lawson Secretary of State for Energy

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.

Photo of Mr Peter Hardy Mr Peter Hardy , Rother Valley

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?

Photo of Mr Nigel Lawson Mr Nigel Lawson Secretary of State for Energy

There is no present intention in either of those regards.

Photo of Mr Trevor Skeet Mr Trevor Skeet , Bedford

I welcome the proposals to privatise the nationalised sector, but what about the sale of the British Gas Corporation's oil assets to the State? Will the partners involved in some of these assets have an option to buy? Will that be continued?

Photo of Mr Nigel Lawson Mr Nigel Lawson Secretary of State for Energy

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.

Photo of Mr Ted Rowlands Mr Ted Rowlands , Merthyr Tydfil

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?

Photo of Mr Nigel Lawson Mr Nigel Lawson Secretary of State for Energy

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.