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Orders of the Day — Utilities Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 5:46 pm on 31st January 2000.

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Photo of John Butterfill John Butterfill Conservative, Bournemouth West 5:46 pm, 31st January 2000

I remember that well. The CEGB chairman was ambivalent about the whole privatisation process. We were told that selling the industry would be difficult, and impossible if nuclear were included.

We took professional advice on the prices that could be achieved. It is also important to remember that the Treasury had a real interest in the price. Many civil servants at the Treasury at the time are still Treasury officials now, and they were extremely worried about how much money privatisation would produce.

It is wrong, therefore, to say that the Government of the day sold off the electricity industry cheaply. We wanted to get as much money as possible, but we wanted privatisation to succeed. We took professional advice on the price that could be obtained.

Everybody was surprised at the success of the enterprise. Labour Members were amazed that privatisation worked. It is wonderful to look back with hindsight and say that the industry was sold off cheaply, but at the time people were astonished that it was sold at all.