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Volume 21: debated on Monday 5 April 1982

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asked the Secretary of State for Energy on what basis he will assess the most advantageous time to put the shares of Britoil on the market.


asked the Secretary of State for Energy if he will arrange, at the appropriate time, for British National Oil Corporation shares to be available for purchase by individual members of the public through the Post Office network.


asked the Secretary of State for Energy if he will make a statement on the criteria by which he will assess the most opportune time to put the shares of Britoil on to the market.

Britoil will be sold to the public this year unless market conditions in the autumn are such that there is a convincing case for delaying until next year. Whenever the flotation takes place, I shall be seeking to secure a wide spread of ownership.

Is not the best way of obtaining wider share ownership the distribution of shares through the Post Office network, to be purchased by individual members of the public? Is it not possible for the national savings certificate system to be used in this regard?

I am grateful to my hon. Friend and also to my hon. Friend the Member for Derbyshire, South-East (Mr. Rost) for putting forward some helpful suggestions. All these ways and means of getting a wider spread of share ownership than is customary are being examined carefully. There are certain practical difficulties, but we are taking the suggestions seriously.

The hon. Member for Dunfermline (Mr. Douglas) will be aware that the Government that he supported made a large offer of BP shares in 1977. That offer was underwritten.

Will the Secretary of State inform the House of, and discuss with it, the actual method of sale before he proceeds?

I am not sure that it is sensible—I cannot think of any precedent—to discuss with the House anything so technical and complicated as the precise methods of sale. If the right hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friends want to put forward any proposals, I shall be happy to consider them.

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. In view of the unsatisfactory nature of the reply I beg to give notice that I shall seek to raise the matter on the Adjournment.