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Column 735principle, and I noted my hon. Friend the Minister's personal support for it. Employee participation is particularly important in an organisation such as AEAT, and it should be a major consideration in pointing in the direction of a flotation as a way of dealing with privatisation.
Seventhly, we must also recognise that although the nuclear role of AEAT has diminished, it is still of critical importance in providing the integrated services required by Britain's nuclear generators and by NIREX. If AEAT withers and fragments, the only alternative to customers will be to go overseas, which will lead to the further erosion of the British technology base.
Eighthly, technology transfer is critical to the success of a technologically oriented economy and happens routinely within the present structure of AEAT. Fragmentation would make that more difficult, and in particular it would reduce the impact that AEAT can have in helping small and medium-sized enterprises to benefit from technology transfer.
When the privatisation decision was announced in November, I wrote to my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade to press the Government to give assurances about their intentions regarding the future structure of AEAT. I pressed for the privatisation to be accomplished by a flotation, rather than by an offer for sale, as being the most likely means of producing the structure we need. I received a reply on 15 December from the then Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Industry and Energy, who recently left the Government in rather odd circumstances, in which he said:
"I appreciate that you and other colleagues in the House will be looking for some statements on our intentions".
We have been given some helpful clarification by the speech of the Minister of State, and I particularly noted my hon. Friend's words about selling AEAT as a single integrated whole. That is an important commitment on the part of the Government, and it is one that I take seriously.
However, I was not convinced by my hon. Friend's remarks about the core business of AEAT, a topic about which we had some exchanges during his speech. Nor was I satisfied by what my hon. Friend said about the role of Parliament in relation to the final decisions which the Bill will enable.
The other major issue that arises from the privatisation concerns the vexed issue of the continuity under new trading conditions of employee rights and privileges which have been built up over the years in the public sector, the most important of which concern pensions. I am sure that we will have an extensive debate about that in Committee. I note what my hon. Friend said about the Government's desire for a fair and just settlement, and I am sure that they will honour that commitment.
The trade unions at AEAT tell me that they are seeking a continuation of index-linking and that they expect the rights of employees to be protected in this Bill on the same basis as they were when the atomic weapons research establishment was contractorised. There may be a significant parallel in that case, although I am aware that it is not completely analogous. I would be grateful if the Minister could state where he sees the points of similarity or difference between this privatisation and the contractorisation of the AWRE, with special reference to pensions.
Column 736The unions have also made sound points about the management of redundancies, and they have pointed out that redundancies become more difficult to resolve when the size of the employer decreases. They argue the case for dealing with redundancies in common across all the companies, so that the best possible use of redeployment and retraining opportunities can be made while avoiding unnecessary costs and unnecessary additional redundancies.
The unions are arguing that each company into which employees are transferred--whether it is publicly owned or not--should have redundancy rules and payments to mirror those of the UKAEA. That would, of course, be a constraint on the new management, but there may be a case here which deserves consideration, as does another union point concerning general redeployment across successive companies. There are many employees who have a breadth of experience and many areas of skill within AEAT and, therefore, potentially in the successor companies. It would be of benefit if employees were able to apply for vacancies in any successor companies, as long as they remain in public ownership.
I believe that the Bill is to be welcomed in principle, but the way in which the privatisation is to be effected raises a number of serious questions on which Parliament should expect to continue to be consulted. In one of my interventions during the speech of my hon. Friend the Minister, I noted that the Bill gives the Secretary of State powers to reorganise or transfer parts of the UKAEA, or to approve such action, without further reference to Parliament. I am not happy about that. The Government should give an indication in Committee of how they will provide further opportunities for parliamentary debates and votes once the Bill has been passed and the privatisation process has begun.
Mr. Andrew Miller (Ellesmere Port and Neston): I shall outline one or two general points of interest to hon. Members before I come to the thrust of my comments. I approach the debate without the single fixed ideology that seems to exist on the Government Benches, that everything that is in the public sector is best in the private sector. Nor do I take the view that everything in the private sector is best in the public sector. I take the view that we need to take a balanced approach to the needs of the British economy and British science.
I shall illustrate my point by bringing to the attention of the House the Office of Population Censuses and Surveys. I thought that it was entirely wrong for the OPCS as an institution to be privatised, but I could see that there was a sound logic in privatising the purchasing and provision of its computer hardware. That area could best be dealt with in the private sector, and the public sector could not move fast enough to meet the needs of the rapidly changing technology.
When the Select Committee on Science and Technology took evidence from the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster on the scrutiny review, we were given an assurance that issues in the interests of British science would take precedence over the Government's ideology. But once again, we see in this debate that that is not the case. The Government start with the ideology and fix their arguments around it to ensure that they end up with the formula that they want.
Column 737I worked for several years in geology using X-radiation as an analytical tool. In that period of my life, I took a great deal of interest in the work of the Atomic Energy Authority and many of its spin-off technologies, which have been discussed in today's debate. I have the British Nuclear Fuels location at Capenhurst in my constituency. I reinforce the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Kirkcaldy (Dr. Moonie) in response to an intervention from the hon. Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury (Mr. Clifton-Brown), who has now looked up from busily scribbling his notes, that BNFL and more recently Urenco, the newly floated subsidiary and partnership with the Dutch and German industries, has worked remarkably well within the public sector, but outside the constraints of the Treasury rules. Those models can and do work. If the Government woke up to the opportunity, they could be applied to other industries. The Post Office is well at the top of my list, but other parts of the public sector could also be considered.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Industry and Energy (Mr. Richard Page): The hon. Gentleman keeps referring to how commercial activities can be run under some sort of state umbrella. Why did not the Labour Government do that for British Telecom in the late 1970s when it badly needed money for development?
Mr. Miller: The Minister raises an interesting point, but the difference between now and then is the enormous technological leaps that have been made in the science base of that industry since that time. System X was not on stream then. It is on stream now. It has taken us into a new generation of technology and the arguments have changed dramatically. If the Minister wants to come back and use the same argument for any other industry that has a science base, I can find an equally logical argument for him. As it happens, I know a little about the technology of the telecommunications industry. [Interruption.] I think that the Minister said from a sedentary position--I do not want to put words in his mouth--that it would not wash. It will wash. That fact can be demonstrated by a careful examination of the telecommunications industry.
Mr. Clifton-Brown: Is not the real reason why a public company cannot operate within any public sector rules that industries always come behind the vital public services such as our national health service, education and everything else in the queue for investment? Therefore, companies such as the Post Office and AEA Technology are always starved of investment funds. That is why companies such as British Gas, which has tripled its investment since privatisation, have become worldwide successes.
Mr. Miller: The hon. Gentleman makes an interesting point in the context of the Post Office as it is currently formulated, but the Government have allowed BNFL and its new subsidiary Urenco commercial freedom to raise money in the markets. The answer is that if the Treasury rules need to be changed, let us change them. If there is joint interest among hon. Members on both sides of the
Column 738House in achieving a balanced approach in the interests of British science, those Treasury rules could be changed immediately.
Mr. Keith Mans (Wyre): The hon. Gentleman mentioned BNFL. Clearly, a way was found in the past to give a certain amount of commercial freedom to BNFL. Does the hon. Gentleman agree that the classification recently suggested for BNFL by the Central Statistical Office highlights the problem of public companies in the public sector trying to act like private companies? A much simpler solution is to put them in the private sector to avoid the problem that has occurred.
Mr. Miller: The hon. Gentleman looks for a simple solution. I think that it is a simple solution based on a one-track ideology. If there are problems based on the Treasury rules, the answer is to change the rules.
In the past 18 months I have had the privilege of undertaking a study of Nuclear Electric under the auspices of an Industry and Parliament Trust fellowship. Some of the points that have come out of that study are inappropriate to the debate and it would be unfair to Nuclear Electric to bring them to the attention of the House. I am committed to making a presentation to the company early in April. That experience has been particularly enlightening.
It was interesting that the Minister failed to respond to the observations that I made about the effect of this privatisation on Berkeley Technology Centre. I know that the Minister has been there. He visited the centre just a few weeks before I did. It is interesting that in his speech he failed to understand that there were overlapping areas of research. They deliberately overlap at present for the clear reason that it is necessary to separate the power generators' responsibility from the responsibilities of the parts of the industry that provide advice to the Health and Safety Executive. I understand that that is the principal reason for that overlap.
Given what the Minister said, it is difficult to see how we can be assured, without knowing what is in the nuclear review, that those commitments can be maintained. We heard from the hon. Member for South Dorset (Mr. Bruce) that he and, as we know, other Conservative Members want to dispose of the nuclear industry. One can easily envisage a commercial link in a free market between Berkeley Technology Centre and parts of what is currently the Atomic Energy Authority. Such a link would not be in the public interest. There seems to be no provision in the Bill to deal with that. We have no prior knowledge of the content of the nuclear review. That fact alone provides a powerful argument for deferring any decisions on taking forward the Bill.
The House should congratulate the Library on its publication 95/32. It has provided an extremely well set out series of points for hon. Members participating in the debate. I intend to draw on the document in a few moments, but, first, I should like to comment on a few of the points that the Minister made. His first sentence was that the Bill did not lead to nuclear privatisation. I wonder whether the Under-Secretary will make a statement to the House on whether the Government have dropped the idea of nuclear privatisation. The debate would be far more logical if we had an understanding of what the Government were doing. We have pressed on several occasions for information about the review and we have not obtained an answer.
Column 739I do not know what is in the nuclear review. I guess, because he is not intervening, that the Under-Secretary does not know what is in the review. If he does know, he has chosen to withhold the information from the House. That puts the House at a disadvantage in this important debate.
Mrs. Anne Campbell (Cambridge): Does my hon. Friend agree that the difficult position in which we find ourselves is caused by the Government's lack of any energy policy and the difficulty that that creates in many other Government Departments?
Mr. Miller: I hope that my response to my hon. Friend does not bring about the demise of some of the people whom I have met during my study of Nuclear Electric, but the one consistent theme has been that the only energy policy that the Government have is to have no energy policy. If that is the message that comes from the heart of an industry that provides about 25 per cent. of our power supply, it does not bode well for the future of the country's energy policy.
Mrs. Gillan: If the hon. Gentleman is so preoccupied with what he perceives to be a lack of balance by Conservative Members, perhaps he would care to outline for the House, especially following the redrafting of clause IV, exactly what the Labour party's energy policies are. Do you intend to take privatised companies back into the state sector, and what are your party's policies vis-a -vis the nuclear review?
Mr. Miller: I shall not rise to the bait of asking whether the Office of the Speaker has a policy on energy. To answer the hon. Lady's question, it is obvious that the Labour party envisages a role for a balanced economy in which the private and the public sector will play a role. I think that the hon. Lady invites me to recite the new clause IV, but I think, Madam Deputy Speaker, that you might, on a few marginal points, rule me out of order because some of the international aspects of it are not relevant to the debate. The Minister said that the Bill presents new opportunities and new horizons for the employees. If that is correct, why do the employees--not in information that they have provided to Opposition Members, but in information that they have obviously provided to Conservative Members--express such anxiety? They are less than confident about the new horizons that are described, and it seems to me a little unfair of the Minister to make that comment.
The Minister dodged the issue on Berkeley Technology Centre, which emphasises the fact that his ideas of new horizons and new opportunities float around in his head but have no substance. The hon. Member for Wantage (Mr. Jackson), in an intervention, asked what the core business of AEA Technology is. All Members of the House could perhaps agree on one matter-- that the core business is based on people, and that the role of people in the industry is very important.
Column 740Naturally, the Minister would have great difficulty in defining precisely the core business of the industry because, as his opening speech made clear, the company in its current form has engaged in research and development in a wide spectrum of activities that have stemmed from its original responsibilities to the atomic energy industry, but there have been some remarkable spin-off technologies. Indeed, the hon. Member for South Dorset referred to that. Given that that is the case, it is extremely difficult to envisage a way in which currently prevailing opinion in British industry will properly manage a people-based organisation that is a science institute in itself, when the overriding dogma of the boardroom today is to dispose of non-core activities. The only solution is for the company in its new form to engage in a proper system of management by objectives.
I have observed, in recent studies, some areas where the proper application of management by objectives has resulted in the reversal of the traditional British boardroom dogma of getting rid of non-core activities. Obviously, there are occasions when some companies may not be best equipped to provide their own canteen services, and therefore dispose of them as a non-core activity to a third-party specialist company. One may accept the logic of that.
However, in a company as complex as AEA Technology, to engage in a debate about what is the core of the business understandably gives rise to the anxieties that employees express at present. As no one can define the core business, no one can define which part of the company will have a safe group of employees in it. Therein lies the problem that gives rise to the major part of the anxiety being expressed by employees.
The hon. Member for Amersham--
Mr. Miller: The hon. Member for Chesham and Amersham (Mrs. Gillan), to give the full title, referred in an intervention to the issue of employee participation. I am glad that she did so, but I hope that she noticed that the Minister dodged, in his response, any suggestion that the employees might have full voting stock in such a company, or control of such a company. No; the Minister has fixed ideas about the nature of any flotation and, frankly, I believe that he should have clarified to the House exactly what he meant.
I said that I would refer to some of the comments in the Library brief. There is an interesting observation on page 7 about the history of the position in which we find ourselves today:
"An important development which influenced the proposed privatisation of AEA Technology was the publication, in 1992, of a Monopolies and Mergers Commission report on the service provided by the UKAEA."
That was described in a written answer on 13 May 1992. A question was tabled by the hon. Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Riddick). I do not know what his interest is in the industry. It was responded to by the then Under -Secretary, the hon. Member for Tatton (Mr. Hamilton). Both hon. Gentlemen have moved on somewhat since that time. The hon. Member for Colne Valley asked the President of the Board of Trade "when he proposes to publish the Monopolies and Mergers Commission report on the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority; and if he will make a statement."
Column 741The hon. Member for Tatton said:
"The report is published today."
That is, 13 May 1992.
"The commission was asked to carry out an extensive inquiry into the efficiency and costs of and the service provided by the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority".
It is obvious what the interest of the hon. Member for Colne Valley was on that occasion. It was a planted question.
"The commission reports that it was . . . impressed by the expertise, enthusiasm and dedication of the AEA's staff".--[ Official Report , 13 May 1992; Vol. 207, c. 144 ]
That is an important issue. Hon. Members on both sides of the House have expressed worry about the effect of the proposals on the confidence and morale of staff, and I think that the Government should have paid heed to the MMC's observations about that before rushing through with their views.
The hon. Member for Chesham and Amersham also gets a mention in the Library brief. It refers to the debate of 21 November 1994, and quotes her as saying:
"I do not want the benefits and the position of the
nuclear-related companies strangled by the provisions that might be deemed necessary for their parent industry".--[ Official Report , 21 November 1994; Vol. 250, c. 422.]
The hon. Lady hit the nail on the head. I suspect that she was not quite thinking in these terms, but it struck me that the parent company in this case is Her Majesty's Government, who seem to be on a self-destruct course in whatever they do. Perhaps they will be strangled rather than any part of this country's science base.
Mrs. Gillan: I thank the hon. Gentleman for giving way and I am flattered that he chose to quote me from an earlier debate on the subject. As to his point about morale, has he visited AEA Technology in the past year to talk to staff about morale and the way in which they are reacting to the proposed privatisation?
Mr. Miller: I shall refer to observations from some of the AEA Technology staff representatives later in my contribution and I hope that the hon. Lady will take note of the serious points that they raise.
The Barclays de Zoete Wedd terms of reference set out a number of points of which the House should take note. It is curious that BZW has been given the task of carrying out a study with incomplete terms of reference. I do not believe that that is the correct way to undertake an objective analysis of the problems perceived by the Government. The BZW terms of reference contain nothing about the impact of any conclusions on publicly funded science. They do not refer to pensions or to the knock-on effect of privatisation for other Government Departments. I shall refer to those points in some detail later in my speech.
The fact that the Government set the terms of reference in order to minimise the costs for the British Government sticks out like a sore thumb. They do not seem to have considered the interests of British science. Hon. Members know--perhaps some better than others--that one of the major problems facing Britain today concerns our nation's failure to convert the fruits of our scientific base into profitable manufactured goods. If one adds to that the attempted destruction of part of our scientific base, one can see how the situation will worsen.
Column 742Perhaps the Minister will explain in his winding-up speech why BZW's terms of reference do not require it to analyse the effects of the proposed privatisation on our national research and development and scientific base. That is a major omission. I shall refer to pensions in some detail in a moment. However, I hope that the Minister will also explain why BZW--although not all merchant banker firms have good reputations these days, presumably it has some expertise in managing pensions--did not make any observations to the Government on pensions. Why was that not included in its terms of reference? Was BZW asked to analyse the effects of the proposals on other Government Departments? The Government were interested only in minimising the cost to Her Majesy's Government in achieving their ideological goal of privatisation.
Extensive reference has been made to the problems of
decommissioning and, once again, it is a very complex area. There is widespread dispute within the science community about decommissioning, with different factions arguing about the right course to take. Some important activities are going on at the moment. The hon. Member for South Dorset referred to Winfrith and, as the Minister is aware, a couple of other stations are currently in the process of decommissioning.
The complexity of the engineering process--it is not simply a question of dismantling office buildings; it is far more complicated than that--means that there are new engineering and science achievements on a daily basis. I do not think that we are maximising the potential of that exciting spin-off in this country. As hon. Members saw from the exhibition in the Upper Waiting Hall a few weeks ago, some extremely exciting engineering developments have emerged from those technologies and there is a world market for them. The tools that have been devised by Berkeley and similar innovations by the Atomic Energy Authority for accessing the core of active power stations represent quite extraordinary engineering feats. We are undoubtedly ahead of the world market in exploring those technologies. Given the uncertainty of what is happening in terms of the nuclear review and in the context of the legislation, there is a powerful argument for standing still and awaiting the results of the nuclear review. We could then reach a rational decision in the best interests of the exploitation of science and engineering in the long term.
Mr. Nirj Joseph Deva (Brentford and Isleworth) rose --
Mr. Deva: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving way. Does he agree that there is much work to be done in eastern Europe in the decommissioning area and in order to make safe nuclear power plants that have out-of-date technology? We could assist those countries in that task.
Mr. Miller: If the hon. Gentleman had listened to the Minister's speech, he would have heard him praise the work that the Atomic Energy Authority is doing in eastern Europe. However, that valuable work is being done today; there is no evidence that that science and engineering skill will advance any faster under a privatised company. It is happening now while the company is in its present form.
Column 743There seem to be a series of problems relating to the pension fund. There are no real guarantees on what will happen after the takeover. One problem is that, whoever the previous owner of a company is, it is extremely difficult for that previous owner to exert any real long-term control over the development of a pension fund after the business has changed hands.
In my previous life I negotiated on major pension fund takeovers, some of which were extremely controversial, such as the merger between GEC and Plessey, the partial sell-off to Siemens and the involvement of Ferranti-- very complex pensions issues. It is not reasonable to expect the previous owner of a company to give guarantees in perpetuity. Because of that, the Government have a solution at their disposal--to do precisely what they did with Amersham International and protect the employees by giving them the opportunity to remain within the civil service pension scheme until such time as individuals choose to move out of it. That is what happened with Amersham International.
The Government have changed the rules since then, not because there was any logical pension argument for doing so, but because the Treasury required them to do so. The forward commitments of a pension fund are clearly matters which, under the current Treasury rules, are seen as impinging upon the public sector borrowing requirement and it is clear that the Government have reached that conclusion because their intention is to lower the PSBR and not to look after the best interests of the Atomic Energy Authority work force.
Last year, when the House debated the change to the milk industry--a slightly different industry, but the pension argument remains precisely the same--a similar series of questions were posed in relation to the transfer of the milk marketing board pension scheme to Milk Marque. It is clear that at the time the Government had no adequate answers to the logical comparison that was drawn with Amersham International. There is clearly no logical argument throughout the series of privatisations. The Government could quite simply build in a protection in the interests of the pension fund members, which they claim to hold dear to their heart, by offering them the opportunity to have the same provisions that were available at that time. Obviously, the civil service scheme has moved on, so the actual application would be slightly different, but the principle remains valid.
Why are the Government structuring the Bill in such a way? Why can they not treat the work force in the same way as that of Amersham? It is clear that different groups within Government Departments have different interests in the matter. Even if the Minister were able to convince the House on the merits of the privatisation in the interests of science and of the British economy, I suspect that he would fail to convince his Treasury colleagues on how best to protect the interests of the pension fund members. The Minister must remember that the TUPE regulations did not extend to pension schemes, but the principle can be extended by the will of the parties engaged. I looked carefully at the paragraphs in the explanatory and financial memorandum to the Bill under the heading "Financial Effects". It is interesting that the Government have included phrases that could potentially let them off the hook. The third from last paragraph starts:
"If transferred employees transfer their accrued pension rights in the Authority's pension scheme".
Column 744I suppose that the Government could get themselves off the hook by working on the word "if" and changing their mind, without any great embarrassment. It appears that all the Minister has to do is convince his Treasury colleagues of the logic of that proposal.
Reference was made earlier to the role of Sir Anthony Cleaver in the creation of Procord. The Minister, in a blunt intervention, made it clear that Sir Anthony Cleaver had stood away from his responsibilities within AEA when Procord was being created. A statement issued on 7 March makes it quite clear that Sir Anthony must have known an awful lot about the way in which Procord was going to perform in the marketplace and what was being offered by the Government. He is quoted extensively in a press release, in very buoyant terms:
"I am confident that Procord will be an excellent employer". I wonder whether that view will be held by everyone. He continued:
"and I am sure that FSD staff will find new opportunities as part of a company whose core business is facilities service and management."
The entire press release is very buoyant and seems to reflect a detailed knowledge of the company. One has to draw conclusions from that.
The hon. Member for Chesham and Amersham asked about my knowledge of the industry. She will be aware that Risley is a stone's throw from my house. I can see a large part of the industry from my house. In the past, I had a great deal of contact with people on the Harwell site.
In a letter to my hon. Friend the Member for Warrington, South (Mr. Hall), whose constituency incorporates a large part of Risley, the staff representatives refer to the UKAEA letter setting out the proposals:
"The UKAEA letter says that they"--
"are committed to safeguarding terms and conditions of employment for employees in each divestment. However, despite many requests, UKAEA have not offered any agreement on: index-linked pensions security of redundancy payments or protection beyond the legal minimum offered by TUPE."
That is the view of the staff representatives.
One must express concern about the Government's failure to take into account the interests of the employees to the fullest extent. The Minister said that he would give a great deal of weight to management and staff. If he is serious about that, these are the specific points that concern the staff. I put them on the record because they set out some powerful arguments about why the Government need to think again.
I offer the House a series of explanations. First, the Bill is defective because it says nothing about the existing organisation and retention-- [Interruption.] The hon. Member for Chesham and Amersham laughs. Is she not interested in the views of the staff?
As I was saying, the Bill says nothing about the organisation and retention of UKAEA under direct Government control, dealing with decommissioning old reactors and safe nuclear waste disposal. That concern has been raised by a number of hon. Members in the debate, although they hold different views about the future of the nuclear industry. Given that that view comes from the heart of an organisation in the industry whose sole core is its people, the Government should take note of that point.
Secondly, the Bill says nothing about AEA Technology being retained as a comprehensive undertaking. The fragmentation of its renowned collective skills and
Column 745expertise would destroy valuable synergy and make it difficult to present for sale. The Bill may become a charter for cherry picking. Given some of the spin-off technologies that have emerged from the business in its current unified state, that is another powerful argument. Some of those spin-off technologies, which have benefited the national health service, for example, are unlikely to emerge if we allow a cherry-picking operation to prevail.
Thirdly, the Government are expected to announce the outcome of the nuclear review very shortly. It is likely that that will have implications for the future of UKAEA. The Bill should not pre-empt those recommendations. I have made that point already and shall not dwell on it.
Fourthly, the Bill would specifically prevent employees' existing pension rights being transferred to the private sector. I stress the word "existing". Proper employment protection, including underwriting of redundancy rights, should be incorporated in the Bill as it was with the recent privatisation of the Atomic Weapons Establishment. I have covered that point as well.
Fifthly and crucially, the Bill leaves wide open options as to how UKAEA is to be split up and AEA Technology might be sold. It could either be kept together or split up in a series of trade sales. There are huge uncertainties about the form of privatisation, which the Bill does not resolve. The Government have yet to clarify the extent to which they would accept a management-employee buy-out. Would they be prepared to allow a scheme whereby management and employees had all the voting stock spread among themselves? The Government need to think carefully about that proposal.
Finally, the Bill gives the Secretary of State powers to reorganise or transfer parts of UKAEA, or to approve such actions, without reference to Parliament. Colleagues on both sides of the House who express concern about what is down the line from the Bill should take careful note of that observation. Parliament should have the power to approve such actions.
The Bill is driven by a one-sided ideology based on the Government's determination to dispose of a jewel in the crown of British science. They do so only because that will provide a few more pennies in the Treasury's coffer.
Mrs. Gillan: I object to the idea that this is one-sided ideology. Is the hon. Gentleman aware that AEA Technology conducted a MORI poll among its customers, 84 per cent. of whom said that privatisation was desirable for AEA Technology?
Mr. Miller: The hon. Lady has a background in marketing and could sell ice-cream to the Eskimos. The simple fact is that two other constituencies matter: first, the work force within the company; and, secondly, Great Britain plc. There has been no analysis of Great Britain's interests nor a specific analysis of the interests of the work force, otherwise the Government would have included those requirements in the terms of reference that they set out to Barclays de Zoete Wedd in the first place.
The one-sided ideology based on the interests of the Treasury, not those of British science or the company's work force, must be addressed again. I invite the Government to think carefully about some of the observations that hon. Members on both sides of the
Column 746House have made about the genuine concerns that exist. Those concerns are based not on a one-sided ideology on the part of the Opposition that nothing can ever be privatised--I made that clear in my opening remarks--but on a determination that any changes in ownership should first deal with those key points.