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Nationalisation (Compensation)

Volume 981: debated on Monday 24 March 1980

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asked the Secretary of State for Industry what steps he is taking to compensate the companies owning assets nationalised under the Aircraft and Shipbuilding Act 1977; and if he will make a statement.

Compensation is not yet determined for 12 out of the 25 companies. Payments on account totalling £60 million have been made in respect of the 12 companies. Arbitration is in progress concerning three of the companies. The position remains open in respect of the remaining nine companies, effectively involving seven negotiations. These inevitably raise some particularly intractable issues. It would not be appropriate for me to comment further on individual cases.

Will the Minister give an assurance that the Government have not been dragging their feet in this matter? It appears that these negotiations have taken an unconscionable amount of time. Can he say whether the possibility of denationalisation has entered these negotiations?

I assure my hon. Friend that Ministers have not been dragging their feet. It is a highly complicated matter and in some cases there is a difference between what is asked by the previous owners and what the Act appears to allow. This dictates a longer period of negotiation. Compensation payments and denationalisation are separate matters, but it remains the firm policy of the Government to introduce private sector capital into British Shipbuilders at an appropriate time.

Does not the hon. Gentleman understand that, despite what he says, he is trying to denationalise an industry which has not yet been properly nationalised? Does he accept that, on the basis of the replies that he has given today, there is nothing in his Bill, and there will be nothing on the statute book if the aerospace denationalisation Bill gets through, to prevent British Aerospace from being either broken up or taken over, lock, stock and barrel, by foreigners?

I am interested in what the hon. Gentleman says about the companies not being properly nationalised, but I understand that, in law, ownership was transferred on vesting day. In regard to the hon. Gentleman's repeated remarks about the aerospace industry, I can say only that there are none so deaf as those who will not hear.