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 Margaret Hodge Margaret Hodge , Barking 5:30 pm, 3rd April 1995

I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Oxford, East (Mr. Smith) on his speech, which was excellent and reasonable. It is difficult to understand how anyone could not be moved by such reason. This would be a sad day if Conservative Members were moved by party interests rather than national interests in rejecting this small move to bring to public account an issue that has caused such outrage in the community at large.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Monklands, East (Mrs. Liddell) said, the Prime Minister is on record as saying at Prime Minister's questions that he believes that it is the Government's responsibility to reduce inequality. The new clause strikes at the heart of that obligation.

The hon. Member for Beaconsfield (Mr. Smith) reiterated what many other Tory Members have said—that everybody has benefited from the efficiencies gained from privatising public utilities. Were there efficiencies to be gained, there is no reason why they could not have been gained while retaining those utilities in the public sector. If they were not attained, it is because of the Government's inefficiency and it reflects their mismanagement of those important sectors of the economy. It has nothing to do with privatising the public utilities.

The Labour party wants an economy that is run in the public interest. Two essential features of such an economy are fairness and openness, both of which are severely undermined by the scandal of discretionary share option schemes in the privatised utilities, particularly when low-paid workers are being offered paltry wage increases. We have had considerable interest recently in demonstrations by health service workers about the 1 per cent. pay increase that has been guaranteed nationally. Everybody's sense of social justice—