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Burmah Oil (Bp Shareholding Sale)

Volume 889: debated on Monday 24 March 1975

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asked the Secretary of State for Trade if he will call for an investigation under Section 164 of the Companies Act into the sale by Burmah Oil of its shareholding in BP.

Why not? Have not the Government, by twisting the arm of the Bank of England, cheated many thousands of small shareholders and savers, including pensioners, out of at least £100 million?

The hon. Gentleman ought to rearrange his prejudices once in a while. In fact, nobody has cheated anyone in this matter. The hon. Gentleman asks whether Section 164 might be used to set up an investigation. I do not consider that there are adequate grounds for any such action under that section. Moreover, the section is wholly irrelevant to the purposes to which the hon. Gentleman alludes.

Does not the hon. Gentleman realise that many people feel seriously disturbed about this sale, undertaken in a hurry, at what appears to have been a very low price? Many pension funds and unit trusts were shareholders in Burmah Oil. Will not the Minister, therefore, encourage an investigation into this sale?

In my judgment, there are no grounds for an investigation under Section 164 or Section 165 of the Companies Act. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Energy informed the House on 21st February that the price agreed was the average stock market price from 31st December to 22nd January, the day before the transaction was completed, but leaving out of account any day's price below that of 31st December. I should have thought that that was a fair arrangement.