Discretionary Share Option Schemes in the Privatised Utilities

Part of New clause 1 – in the House of Commons at 5:30 pm on 3rd April 1995.

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Photo of Mr Barry Porter Mr Barry Porter , Wirral South 5:30 pm, 3rd April 1995

I listened with great interest to the hon. Member for Oxford, East (Mr. Smith). I am sorry that he spoiled his case by using emotive words such as "bosses", and by deploying the envy argument. That is a green argument, not in the environmental sense but in the sense of envy and jealousy. If he had reduced his rhetoric, I might have agreed with him a hit more.

I shall not vote for the new clause, or abstain. It is not merely the forces of envy and jealousy that have reservations about what has happened in quasi-monopolistic privatised industries, because many people believe in rewards for endeavour. I am not arguing that the managers and chief executives of the privatised utilities are being overpaid; I do not know how we can judge that. It must be a matter for the shareholders, which is what the Government have been arguing.

However, I hope that my right hon. Friend the Financial Secretary will outline the framework of what the Government intend to do about the problem. I agree with the hon. Member for Oxford, East that, while the Greenbury committee is of serious importance, the matter cannot be left until we get its report.

I am sure that Ministers are exercising their little grey cells in that direction. I hope that we will get some specific indication, rather than a broad generalisation, of what the Government intend to do, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister having accepted in principle that something needs to be done. I await with interest the Financial Secretary's reply.