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Orders of the Day — Electricity Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:28 pm on 13th December 1988.

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Photo of Malcolm Rifkind Malcolm Rifkind Secretary of State for Scottish Office 4:28 pm, 13th December 1988

Nothing that the Government have done in terms of legislation has led to the loss of a single private sector company. Under successive Labour Governments, the opposite has taken place. For example, we know that the nationalisation of the electricity industry led to the nationalisation of some 53 separate Scottish undertakings, some of them municipal and others in the private sector. We know that, when British Shipbuilders was nationalised in 1977, it led to the loss of private sector companies such as John G. Kincaid in Greenock, Swan Hunter at Wallsend, Cammel Laird in Birkenhead and other companies in various parts of the United Kingdom.

When British Steel was nationalised in 1967, it led to the transfer of control to London of Dorman Long and Company and of Colvilles, both from Scotland, of Richard Thomas and Baldwins and the Steel Company of Wales, and of the Consett Iron Company in north-east England. On each occasion that there has been nationalisation, one consequence has been the erosion of the private sector in the English regions and in Wales and Scotland. One of the consequences of privatisation will be a significant move in the opposite direction.

It is not just I who take that view. I am sorry that the hon. Member for Gordon (Mr. Bruce) is not present in the Chamber today. Although, as I understand it, there was a limit on the time available to him in yesterday's debate, I am sorry that he did not repeat the remark he made in Central hall, Westminster, on 12 March, when he remarked that the privatisation of the electricity industry would create powerful corporate headquarters in Scotland, Wales and the regions, which could be engines of growth for these economies. I am delighted that that is the view of the SLD's energy spokesman. One must assume that its members will go into the Government lobby this evening to help facilitate the creation of powerful corporate headquarters in Scotland, Wales and the English regions; if they choose not to do so, I shall be interested to know how they reconcile that decision with their own interpretation of the benefits that the Bill will bring.