HC Deb 10 July 1997 vol 297 cc1063-4
10. Mr. Spring

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will publish the representations he has received from business organisations about the windfall tax. [6186]

Mr. Geoffrey Robinson


Mr. Spring

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his answer. Is he aware of the track record of Anglian Water in improving services for people in East Anglia? Is he further aware that Anglian Water has made it plain that, to pay the windfall tax, it will have to borrow the full amount, thereby adding to its costs and to the difficulties of its investment programme for improving water services all over East Anglia?

Mr. Robinson

As the hon. Gentleman knows, Anglian Water, like other water companies, has paid hardly any mainline corporation tax. Perhaps Anglian should take a leaf from Hyder's book. Its chairman, Graham Hawker, today released a press statement in which he said: Hyder does not intend in challenge the legality of the windfall tax and it will be paid from borrowings. Hyder is confident that it can deliver satisfactory dividend growth. The group remains committed to its current programme of customer rebates and discretionary capital expenditure. Customers are not bearing the burden of the windfall tax. That company probably bears a relatively heavier burden than Anglian.

Mr. Mackinlay

Does my hon. Friend understand that those of us who support the windfall tax are somewhat disappointed about its coverage? What about the people who were able to buy British ports, including my port of Tilbury, at a snip? Time and again, they became millionaires overnight. That is unfair. Some of those massive profits should be returned to the dock communities that created them. The House gave a private monopoly of London's principal airports to BAA, which raked in large sums of money that should be returned to the British people and to the workers whose enterprise created that wealth.

Mr. Robinson

I understand my hon. Friend's feelings on those matters, but he will agree that those organisations did not fall within the tightly drawn criteria that we had to use for the definition of the windfall tax. I am sure that he also agrees that lone mothers, school children and the unemployed, old and young, will greatly benefit from the uses to which we intend to put the tax.

Mr. Ian Taylor

Does the Minister accept that the windfall tax on British Telecom at least tells its directors not to try to do cosy deals with the Labour party? Has he considered what message he is giving to the telecommunications industry? Is he saying that the Office of Telecommunications failed in its job? Can he explain why prices have fallen by 40 per cent. for consumers since 1984 when BT was privatised? What impact on competition does he expect the more than 150 competitors now in telecommunications to have?

Mr. Robinson

I welcome, with the hon. Gentleman, the good progress of BT. The failure—and it was a big one—was the serial commercial incompetence of the Tory Government in selling off public assets far too cheaply and delivering a had deal for taxpayers, which we are going to put right.