Privatisation Policy

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Unfortunately, this is not a joke.

Margaret ThatcherWikipedia-W.svg, May.04.1979 – Nov.28.1990 (she died after an 87-year battle with dementia)ref.

Thatcher sold her privatisation policies on the basis of "efficiency". Before Mrs Thatcher came to power in May.1979, individuals held ~40% of shares in UK companies. By 1981, it was less than 30% and, by the time she died in Apr.2013, it had slumped to under 12%.[1] An ever-growing body of work is asserting that the true forceful driver was to stimulate capital accumulation - IOW, to benefit shareholders. Consumers are merely the captive means to this end.[2]

The reality of privatising essential services is that what is being sold is not infrastructure, but bill-paying citizens, and what is being privatised is not infrastructure, but taxation. The govt is selling the right to tax customers through their bills; and because the hidden taxes in electricity bills take no account of people’s ability to pay, the poorer you are, the bigger contribution you make.

Does it matter that our infrastructure no longer belongs to us? Thatcher said privatisaton was giving "power back to the people", and that competition would free British enterprise to lead the world. It is now clear that the result of privatisation has been to take power away from the people.
What has happened is not what Thatcher's Conservatives promised or intended when they put Britain’s state-owned industries on the block - but the result of their actions is that decisions are no longer Britain's. Thatcher promised less state involvement in industry, but the future of Britain's infrastructure now hinges on Li Ka-shing (Hong Kong), CK Hutchison Holdings (Hong Kong), the PPL Corporation (USA), Iberdrola SA (Spain), Macquarie (Australia), and so on.
The problem with the ideal of competition is that there are winners and losers. The competition has now been held. It is over, and Britain lost. From the point of view of technology and capital, Britain is no longer a centre; it is another centre’s province.ref (paraphrased)

Thatcher's Conservatives - and its ideologues following since - have cheerily (or ignorantly) overlooked the origins of the word "privatisation". It comes from the German word "Reprivatisierung", first used in academic literature in an analysis of Hitler's programme. The author wrote that the Nazi Party 'facilitates the accumulation of private fortunes and industrial empires by its foremost members and collaborators through "privatisation" and other measures, thereby intensifying centralisation of economic affairs and government in an increasingly narrow group that may for all practical purposes be termed the national socialist elite'. Quarterly Journal of Economics, Sidney Merlin, 1943 And so it has turned out.

  • "It was one of the central means of reversing the corrosive and corrupting effects of socialism," she declared.[3]
  • Thatcher changed that, radically, though much of the impetus came from former trade secretary Sir Keith Joseph. "She realised managers had to be free to manage businesses," said former P&O chairman Lord Sterling, a senior adviser at the Department of Trade & Industry between 1982-1990, during the major privatisation programme.
  • During the Thatcher years, more than 50 companies were sold or privatised – including the dozens from the power and water industries – raising more than £50bn for the Exchequer.
  • "By the late 1970s, the nationalised industries accounted for 10% of Britain’s GDP, 14% of investment and 8% of employment."


  • HoC, Privatisation, Nov.2014 - contains a mini-history. "This paper examines the economic policy which came to be known as ‘privatisation’ – the transfer of responsibility for an industry or the ownership of a company from the public to the private sector. ... this paper presents a brief history of the policy." link More info here (have to do a web search on the PAC report title). Yet more here, from the Cato Institute.
  • Government to float Royal Mail on stock exchange 'in the coming weeks'. link
  • A short history of privatisation in the UK: 1979-2012, link
  • Margaret Thatcher: one policy that led to more than 50 companies being sold or privatised. link
  • Where Sid won and lost. Railtrack, BP, Associated British Ports, Cable & Wireless, British Aerospace, BAA, British Airways, British Steel, Amersham, British Gas, British Telecom, Rolls-Royce, Norweb, Seeboard, Manweb, Eastern Electricity, South West Electricity, Southern, National Power, PowerGen, Northern Ireland Electricity, Scottish Hydro, Scottish Power, Northumberland, Welsh Water, North West Water... link
  • British Shipbuilders, HoC link
  • Britain:1945 to Present. link
  • The Privatisation of British Telecom: A Case Study of the Extended Process of Legislation. link
  • The Privatisation of British Telecom (1984). link
  • The Official History of Privatisation Vols I and II, David Parker, link
  • BT Archives (web), link
  • History of UK Cable, link
  • Cable, Rediffusion, Swindon Cable, Croydon Cable (Now Telewest), Atlantic Cable/Aberdeen Cable, Eurobell (Now Telewest), Cable London (Now fully owned by Telewest), Cable Comm (Now NTL), Cable Tel (Previous name for NTL), Com Cast (Now NTL), Cam Cable (Now NTL, Diamond Cable (Now NTL), General Cable (Now Telewest), Convergence (Now Telewest), East Coast Cable (Now NTL), Yorkshire Cable (Now Telewest), Telewest Communications (Now called Telewest plc), Videotron (Now NTL), Nynex (Now NTL), Wight Cable, OMNE-UK (Now Wight Cable), Eurobell. link
  • Rediffusion search, DDG
  • ITV/IBA info, link
  • Excellent overview/timeline w/pics, link
  • The Financial Times: UK Infrastructure


The Stationery Office

  • Office of Public Sector InformationWikipedia-W.svg + The Stationery OfficeWikipedia-W.svg, TSO website, BetterCaring (established by the Stationery Office in 2001).
  • The National Audit Office's report on the sale of The Stationery Office was highly critical (understatement of the century) of the manner in which the entire sale process was conducted.ref
  • Following privatisation of the trading functions in 1996, HMSO retained vital public responsibilities. HMSO continues with its core responsibilities for the management of Crown copyright and the statutory responsibilities for production of legislation and the official Gazettes while providing advice and guidance for departments on official publishing matters. With the implementation of the EU Directive on the re-use of Public Sector Information in 2005 it was decided that there was a need for a dedicated body to be the principal focal point for advising on and regulating the operation of public sector information re-use. The Office of Public Sector Information (OPSI) has been established for that purpose. It will be at the heart of information policy, setting standards, providing a practical framework of best practice for opening up and encouraging the use of public sector information. HMSO continues to exist and perform its core activities operating from within OPSI.
  • The Controller of HMSO remained Queen's Printer of Acts of Parliament and retained the role of administering Crown copyright.
  • Sept.2017: American private equity firm Advent International Corporation acquired a controlling interest in the Williams Lea Tag group. The Stationery Office Ltd was ultimately acquired by Al Wertheimer Holdings Ltd as part of this acquisition. ([AR-Dec.2017])
  • 2014: TSO began working with the local govt sector.
  • Jan.2007: TSO was sold to business process outsourcing company Williams Lea Group, majority-owned by logistics company Deutsche Post.ref
  • 1999: Electra Fleming sold TSO to its existing management team and private equity firm Apax Partners.ref,ref
  • Jan.2007: Williams Lea Group, a subsidiary of Deutsche Post AG, acquired the parent holdco The Stationery Office Holdings Ltd. (AR-Dec.2006)
  • Jan.1999: All freehold property and leasehold interests were sold to TSO Property Ltd,[x OC], via a loan made to TSO Property from The Stationery Office Ltd. The properties were subject to the usual tax-avoiding leaseback arrangement. (AR-Mar.1999)
  • 1996: The Stationery Office: most of HMSO's publishing functions were privatised via TSO, a private company;ref the takeover was through a consortium of: Rupert Pennant-Rea, former deputy governor of the Bank of England (4.66%); Orbis Trustees Jersey Ltd (6.22%);OC Richard Martin (3.11%); Ian Bonnar (1.55%); Fred Peckett (1.09%); Electra Fleming Private Equity (59.4%);OC Electra Club 1996 LP (59.40%);OC EF Nominees Ltd (3.13%).OC Three TSO executives purchased stakes in the business.AR-Dec.1996 66% of TSO was purchased by the Publishing Group, a vehicle owned by Pennant-Rea and Electra Fleming,ref an investment trust co-owned by Electra Investment and investment bank Robert Fleming & Company.ref,ref The consortium drove the price down,ref and also received a sweetener.ref The HMSO continued as a separate part of the Cabinet Office, as a small organisation consisting of 24 staff.
  • Sept.1996: HMSO was separated into two entities: The Stationery Office, and Her Majesty’s Stationery Office, which remained in the public sector. The Stationery Office took over most of the business of HMSO, including its publishing, printing, consultancy services and sales of stationery, office machinery, books, furniture and information technology equipment. Its main customers were Parliament, Govt Departments and Agencies, and the wider public sector. In Sept.1996, the assets of HMSO were acquired by The Stationery Office Ltd, owned by The Stationery Office Group Ltd,OC(AR-Apr.1996).
  • Sept.1995: Minsters decided to privatise HMSO.
  • 1992: Following a review, Ministers decided that HMSO should remain in the public sector.
  • 1988: HMSO had been a Department in its own right since 1786; it was now given Executive Agency status.ref
  • Apr.1980: Funding: HMSO became one of the first trading funds operating on a commercial basis instead of being funded by Parliamentary Vote.
  • 1889: HMSO was granted Letters Patent as "printer to Her Majesty of all Acts of Parliament". The letters patent also appointed the Controller of HMSO as administrator of the rights of Crown copyright. HMSO also took over publication of the London Gazette in the same year.[1][2][3] HMSOt was the publisher of virtually all govt material, such as command papers, legislation and official histories.
  • 1882: HMSO was made the official publisher to both Houses of Parliament from Hansard.ref
  • 1830: Competition: John Church, as comptroller, suggested that HMSO take over the printing duties reserved for Luke Graves Hansard's enterprise. Hansard managed to hang onto the printing, but Church's suggestion that work for the government be awarded under competitive bid took hold.
  • 1824/1825: Funding: HMSO was financed by its own Vote in Parliament, instead of collecting payments from each department for goods and services supplied, a system which was to last over 150 years.
  • 1822: Allegations of irregularities: after a Select Committee review, all govt departments were required to buy stationery through the open competitions and tenders operated by HMSO.
  • 1806: The Treasury ordered that paper, parchment, pens and sealing wax should be bought by public and open competition. This regulation was extended in 1812 to the purchase of all forms of stationery.
  • Apr.1786: His Majesty's Stationery Office: HMSO was established as a new Department of HM Treasury, with 15 staff.ref HMSO operated as the agent for various govt departments.
  • ?date?: The creation of the Office was a result of the advocacy of Edmund Burke for reforms of the corrupt, expensive and inefficient Royal Household and the Civil Service.
  • ?date? The Crown granted exclusive right for the supply of stationery; the patentee could buy these supplies cheaply and then charge highly inflated prices.
Additional Sources: The History of Her Majesty’s Stationery Office, [ NAO: The Sale of The Stationery Office], Company Histories: Her Majesty's Stationery Office, Records of the Stationery Office

Local Government

  • Michael FootWikipedia-W.svg's Labour opposition gained control of town halls as the economic policies of the early 1980s started to bite and many Labour council leaders saw themselves as warriors against the Conservative govt – she certainly wanted to neutralise them.[4]
  • 1979-80: There were cuts in govt funding for councils. The Local Government, Planning & Land Act 1980 introduced a new 'block grant' and compulsory competitive tendering (CCT) for direct labour organisations. The block grant allowed the govt to impose grant penalties on councils which exceeded expenditure targets, and CCT was a deliberately-aimed blow at the union-dominated public sector which had been involved in strikes during the winter of discontent during the final year of the James CallaghanWikipedia-W.svg's Labour government.
  • Powers were taken away from local govt in London Docklands and Merseyside and, instead, development corporations were imposed. Enterprise zones, with tax breaks, were also introduced. Michael HeseltineWikipedia-W.svg, as Thatcher's Environment secretary, oversaw an interventionist style of urban regeneration which has proved influential ever since. Despite the original opposition of councils in the areas where these policies were introduced, the redevelopment policies pursued in Liverpool and London are now seen as effective. Indeed, Heseltine is today one of the few Tory politicians popular in the urban North.
  • Rate-capping, which restricted the spending of councils, on the other hand utterly divided local and central govt. Even Conservative councils and leaders were opposed, though it was a number of radical urban Labour leaders who decided to adopt a policy of not setting a rate. Councils such as Sheffield, Liverpool, Islington, Lambeth and Haringey set out towards illegality as part of a rebellious strategy to confront the Thatcher government and generate mass opposition. See Rate capping rebellionWikipedia-W.svg. In the end, all authorities backed down, though a number of Liverpool and Lambeth councillors were eventually surcharged and disqualified as a result of financial losses incurred.
  • Mrs Thatcher's govt also moved to abolish the Greater London Council (GLC) and the 6 metropolitan county councils. GLC leader Ken Livingstone embodied everything the Thatcher govt saw as bad in local govt. He supported contact with Sinn Fein and pursued 'equalities' policies which, though the norm in 2013, seemed dangerous to the govt of the day. Moreover, the Livingstone GLC hung banners on County Hall (easily seen from parliament) proclaiming London's unemployment figures. Despite a massive campaign to stop abolition, it went ahead in 1986. Four years later, the Inner London Education Authority was also abolished.
  • But it was with the Community charge, universally known as the poll tax, that Mrs Thatcher overstretched herself in her war with local govt. She was a convert to the idea and pursued it with the zeal of one. Millions of households were left worse off by the redistribution of the local tax burden and the tax was seen as seriously unfair. It led to protest marches and a riot in Trafalgar Square and contributed to her downfall in 1990. No government since has failed to be cautious in dealing with local taxation.
  • Thatcher's legacy to local govts was increased centralisation and the willingness of her successors to cap, limit and control local democracy in England. This country is one of the most centralised of western democracies, which is an odd legacy for a politician who so prized individualism and freedom.




British Railways Board: todo

  • Mar.1996: Quality and Safety Services Ltd: the first privatisation from the British Railways Board. Kleinwort Development Fund plc provided part of the financing for the management buy-out from the BRB. The College of Railway Technology provides instruction and training for technical personnel such as signalmen. Its business is complementary to that of QSS.AR-Jul.1996, p.7
See main article: Railways


  • Feb.1982: National Freight Corporation privatised




British Technology Group: The National Enterprise Board was combined with the National Research Development Corporation to form a new, non-statutory body.ref It primarily acted to license and commercialise the use of publicly-funded developments. In 1992, BTG was soldgifted to private equity group Cinven, and floated on the London Stock Exchange in 1995. It was taken over by USA firm ref Boston Scientific Corporation in Aug.2019.

NHS / Medicine

  • Dec.13.2018: Patients pay £1bn to jump NHS queues. Patients spent more than £1 billion on private medical treatment for the first time last year, as NHS rationing and rising waiting times pushed out-of-pocket spending up by more than 50% in 5 years. Long delays for NHS treatment and tighter restrictions on procedures such as hip replacements and cataract removal forced more people to pay for treatment directly rather than through health insurance, according to a study. Some NHS hospitals are profiting as their private units see more paying patients, with revenue up by 20% in 5 years to £620m, according to analysis by the healthcare market intelligence company Laingbuisson. Demand for private treatment is rising by more than 7% a year. More than four million patients are on NHS waiting lists, the highest for more than a decade, and waiting time targets have not been met for more than two years. Chris Smyth, The Times.


Defence Evaluation and Research Agency

ToDo: See Defence Evaluation and Research AgencyWikipedia-W.svg and QinetiqWikipedia-W.svg

Aerospace + Airports

BA's float in 1987, under one of Thatcher's favourite businessmen, John King, Baron King of WartnabyWikipedia-W.svg, was heavily oversubscribed. Since then, the fleet has grown from 164 aircraft to 273 and annual passengers have risen from 17.3m to 37.6m. British Airways is now owned by International Airlines Group.

  • A number of big companies, including British Airways (now owned by International Airlines Group), were privatised under Thatcher.
  • Jul.1987: British Airports Authority (BAA) was privatised
  • Feb.1987: British Airways privatised. BA's float in 1987, under one of Thatcher's favourite businessmen John King, was heavily oversubscribed. Since then, the fleet has grown from 164 aircraft to 273 and annual passengers have risen from 17.3m to 37.6m.
  • 1981: British Aerospace privatised in Feb.1981
  • 1977: Labour nationalised aerospace
  • See Dec.2017 a/cs, p.3 re Edinburgh Airport's background from 1916-1987, when it was privatised.


A number of big companies, including Jaguar (now owned by India’s Tata) and the FTSE 100 engine maker Rolls-Royce were also privatised under Lady Thatcher.

  • May.1987: Rolls-Royce privatised
  • Aug.1984: Jaguar privatised
  • 1974: Labour nationalised British Leyland

The Rover Group plc/Ltd

Ownership of the original Rover Group marques is currently split between BMW (Germany), SAIC (China), and Tata Motors (India), the latter owning the Rover marque itself with its subsidiary Jaguar Land Rover owning much of the assets of the historic Rover company.
The Rover Group initially included the Austin Rover Group car business (comprising the Austin, Rover, Mini and MG marques), Land Rover Group, Freight Rover vans and Leyland Trucks. The Rover Group also owned the dormant trademarks from the many companies that had merged into British Leyland and its predecessors such as Triumph, Morris, Wolseley, Riley and Alvis.

  • 2005: the much smaller MG Rover Group comprised the Rover and MG marques. It went into administration, bringing mass car production by British-owned manufacturers to an end. MG and the Austin, Morris and Wolseley marques became part of China's SAIC, with whom MG Rover attempted to merge prior to administration.
  • 2000: Ford acquired the Land Rover division
  • 1994: BAe sold the remaining car business to German company BMW
  • 1988: British Aerospace

British Leyland Motor Corporation

British Leyland was an automotive engineering and manufacturing conglomerate. It incorporated much of the British-owned motor vehicle industry, which in 1968 had a 40% share of the UK car market,[1] with its history going back to 1895.

  • 1986: After much restructuring and divestment of subsidiary companies, BLMC was renamed as the Rover Group.
  • 1975: It was partly nationalised when the UK Govt created a holding company "British Leyland", later renamed BL in 1978.[2][3]
  • 1968: British Leyland Motor Corporation Ltd was formed, following the merger of Leyland Motors and British Motor Holdings.

British Motor Holdings Ltd

British Motor Holdings Ltd was a British vehicle manufacturing company, created as a holding company following the BMC's takeover of both Jaguar Cars and the Pressed Steel Company in that year.

  • May.1968: BMH merged with Leyland Motor Corporation Limited, which made trucks and buses and owned Standard-Triumph International Ltd, with BMH becoming the major part of British Leyland Motor Corporation.
  • Jan.1968: British Leyland Motor Corporation: under direct pressure from the Govt, BMH merged with Leyland Motor Corporation (Standard-Triumph, Rover and Alvis cars, Leyland trucks and buses, Alvis fighting vehicles).[4]
  • Dec.1966: British Motor Holdings Ltd: name change
  • ?date?: British Motor Corporation Ltd.[British Motor Takes That New Label The Times, Dec.15.1966; pg.17 Issue 56815]

British Motor Corporation

BMC was a UK-based vehicle manufacturer, formed in early 1952.

  • Dec.1966: BMC changed its name to British Motor Holdings Limited (BMH).[British Motor Takes That New Label, The Times, Dec.15.1966; pg.17; Issue 56815]
  • Sept.1966: BMC merged with Jaguar Cars.
  • Sept.1965: BMC took control of its major supplier of bodies, Pressed Steel, acquiring Jaguar's body supplier in the process.
  • Apr.1952: BMC was formed to give effect to the agreed merger of the Morris and Austin businesses.[City News in Brief. The Times, Apr.21.1952; pg. 9; Issue 52291] BMC acquired the shares in Morris Motors and the Austin Motor Company. Morris Motors, the holding company of the productive businesses of the Nuffield Organisation, owned MG, Riley, and Wolseley.["Morris-Austin Merger Company Named." The Times, Feb.29.1952; pg.9; Issue 52248]
Morris Motors Ltd
Austin Motor Company Ltd


Engine maker Rolls-Royce. See Rolls-RoyceWikipedia-W.svg. A horrible tangle to unweave.

Docks and Ports

Feb.1983: Associated British Ports privatised - see Associated British PortsWikipedia-W.svg,

  • 1983: Privatisation of the British Transport Docks BoardWikipedia-W.svg as Associated British Ports. Subsequently floated.
    • 2006: Sold to a consortium led by Goldman Sachs


  • 1985 onwards: British Shipbuilders privatised
  • 1977: Labour nationalised shipbuilding

British Steel plc

  • See also Sahaviriya Steel Industries, Redcar Steelworks, link, link
  • UK Steel is the trade association for the UK steel industry, and EEF’s voice of the country's steel manufacturers.[5]
  • May.2016: MEPs passed a resolution saying China should not be granted market economy status by Brussels, which could make it harder for officials to impose punitive tariffs on Chinese steel. Brussels is due to make a ruling this year. Conservative MEPs came under fire for failing to back the motion. European efforts to stem the tide of Chinese steel come as the UK industry is in crisis, having shed more than 5,000 jobs since last summer.[6]
  • Mar.2016: Business Secretary Sajid Javid brought together representatives from industry, the unions, government and ministers from the devolved administrations for the first meeting of the Steel Council.[7][8] Set up this year to help deal with the crisis gripping the industry.[9]

British Steel and Jaguar are/were owned by India’s Tata Group.

  • May.2019: British Steel asked for state help to avert 'Brexit related' collapse. The money is intended to cover a bill from the European Union over its carbon dioxide emissions.[f]
  • May.2019: British Steel received £120m govt loan to cover an EU bill for carbon dioxide emissions, after the delay in reaching a Brexit withdrawal deal forced it to intervene. British Steel has been unable to obtain its free carbon emissions credits for the year under the EU’s Emissions Trading System, after the European Commission suspended the UK from the scheme in Dec.2018 in preparation for a possible no-deal Brexit. British Steel faced a fine of £500m from the European Commission, on top of the £120m cost of buying the allowances, which polluting industries must have if they continue to emit greenhouse gases.[e]
  • Apr.2019: Explosion at Tata steelworks in Wales. Two employees suffered minor injuries.[h]
  • Sept.2018: British Steel cutting 400 jobs at its sites in the UK and elsewhere in Europe as it blamed a weak pound and euro for driving up costs. The firm said it was shedding almost 10% of its 5,000-strong workforce in a bid to “streamline” its operations and secure a long-term future. The firm posted a £21m profit for the first three months of 2018.[b]
  • Jun.2016:
    Tata Steel completed the sale of its long products business to Greybull Capital LLP for £1, in a deal that was supposed to preserve 4,400 UK jobs and revive the British Steel name. Workers accepted a temporary 3% pay cut and changes to terms and conditions in April as part of the deal to salvage the business, which will be renamed British Steel.[c]
  • Apr.2016: For the first time public sector steel contracts must specifically consider UK steel. [10]
  • Mar.2016: Tata Steel announced plans to sell its loss-making UK steel business, putting at least 15,000 jobs at risk at sites including Port Talbot, Llanwern, Rotherham, Shotton, Corby, Redcar and Hartlepool.[d] But its £15bn pension fund is proving to be a stumbling block for the seven firms interested in a deal.[11]
  • Mar.2016: Two Lanarkshire steel mills were saved from closure after metals group Liberty House Group bought them from Tata Steel, in a deal brokered by the Scottish govt.[12]
  • Oct.2015: Guidance introduced in October 2015 already means that all central government departments must consider the social and economic impact of the steel they source across all major projects, including on HS2, where over 2 million tonnes of steel will be needed. This means that steel contracts for this £55 billion project will not go abroad if the most competitive bid is British.[13]
  • Oct.2015: Tata Steel announced nearly 1,200 job losses at its plants in Scunthorpe and Lanarkshire. The jobs are in a division that Tata failed to sell earlier in the year. The industry has blamed a flood of cheap steel being dumped on the global market by Chinese manufacturers.[14] The TUC says that the government should nonetheless apply for state aid permission to support steel in the way that other countries have supported their coal industries, through three to five year programmes.[15]
  • 2014: Govt blocked EU plans to impose tougher sanctions on “aggressive” Chinese steel dumping while the industry stands on the brink of collapse..[16]
  • 2007: Indian company Tata Steel acquired Corus, four times larger than itself. UK steel workforce: 23,000. To fend off a Brazilian rival, Tata had to pay a 70% premium over the stock price. Tata paid only $4bn (£2.8bn) of the estimated $14bn final price out of its own funds – the rest was borrowed, mainly from Indian public sector banks.
  • 2002: Closure of Ebbw Vale steel mill in latest round of Corus cuts as it seeks to stem losses. [a]
  • 2001: Three men were killed and 12 injured in a blast at the plant. [h]
  • 1999: The company merged with Koninklijke Hoogovens to form Corus Group. British Steel merges with Dutch company Koninklijke Hoogovens to form Corus Group. UK steel workforce: 28,900.[a] The brand of the former state-owned industry disappeared in 1999 with the creation of Corus.[c]

British Steel Corporation

  • 1992: After the UK slid into another recession in the early 1990s, demand for steel declined. Ravenscraig steelworks closed, ending steelmaking in Scotland.[a]
  • 1989/90: The company made a pre-tax profit of £733m. UK steel workforce: 55,000.[a]
  • 1988: British Steel Corporation was privatised as a public limited company, British Steel plc.
  • 1980s: Margaret Thatcher re-privatised British Steel Corporation as British Steel plc. Under private control, the company dramatically cut its work force and underwent a radical reorganisation and massive capital investment to again become competitive in the world marketplace.
  • 1980: Margaret Thatcher’s Conservative government, elected in 1979, set out to cut British Steel’s losses at a time of overcapacity in the industry, rising energy prices and a deepening recession. 1980 began with the first national strike by steel workers for more than 50 years, over pay and the threat of plant closures. A deal was eventually struck after ~14 weeks, but in May the govt appointed Ian MacGregor as British Steel chairman to drive through its savage rationalisation programme; by the end of the year Consett, Corby and Shotton steelworks have closed, with the loss of 20,000+ jobs. Total employment in the industry almost halved between 1979–1981, from 156,600 to 88,200. [a]
  • 1970s: The Labour govt's main goal was to keep employment high. Since British Steel was a major employer in depressed regions, it was decided to keep many facilities operating at a loss.
  • Jul.1967: British Steel Corporation was formed from the assets of former private companies which had been nationalised. The industry was again nationalised under another Labour govt, becoming British Steel Corporation. Harold Wilson’s Labour government passes the Iron and Steel Act 1967, renationalising the industry and bringing 14 big private companies – about 90% of UK production – together as the British Steel Corporation, with a workforce of 268,500.[a]
    But by then, 20 years of political manipulation had left companies such as British Steel, with serious problems: a complacency with existing equipment, plants operating below full capacity (hence the low efficiency), poor-quality assets, outdated technology, govt price controls, higher coal and oil costs, lack of funds for capital improvement, and increasing competition in the world market. (Iron and Steel Act 1967)
English Steel Corporation

The English Steel Corporation Ltd was a UK steel producer, jointly owned by Cammell Laird and Vickers. It was formed to bring together their basic steel making interests, principally in the Sheffield area but also including a plant in Openshaw, Manchester.

  • 2005: MBO: the business was acquired by a management buy out and renamed as "Sheffield Forgemasters".
  • 1999: Vickers Ltd was acquired by Rolls Royce.[17]
  • ?date?: subsequently privatised.
  • 1967: Vickers Ltd was absorbed into British Steel Corporation.
  • ?date?: renationalised
  • ?date? de-nationalised.
  • 1951: nationalised, becoming part of the Iron and Steel Corporation of Great Britain.
  • 1829: George Naylor joined forces with his son in law Edward Vickers,[18] and established Naylor Vickers & Co.[19]
  • 1750s: ...

Iron & Steel Holding & Realisation Agency

The Agency sold off all of the nationalised companies with the exception of the largest, Richard Thomas & Baldwins. This remained in public ownership, and was absorbed into the British Steel Corporation when the industry was re-nationalised in 1967 by the Labour government of Harold Wilson.

  • 1953: Winston Churchill’s Conservative govt replaced the ISCGB with the Iron & Steel Holding & Realisation Agency, which privatised most of the industry. Only Richard Thomas & Baldwins, the UK’s largest steel company and owner of the Ebbw Vale works, stayed in public ownership.[a]

Iron & Steel Corporation of Great Britain

The Iron and Steel Corporation of Great Britain was a nationalised industry, set up by Clement Attlee's Labour govt. Nationalisation of steel production was strongly resisted by the Conservative opposition. On returning to power, they instructed the Corporation to make no change to the structure of the industry and instead made plans for its return to the private sector.

  • 1951: Clement Attlee’s Labour govt, under the Iron and Steel Act 1949, nationalised the industry via the Iron & Steel Corporation of Great Britain, which became the sole shareholder of 80 companies. Many other smaller firms remained in business outside the nationalised sector.[a]
  • Feb.1951: The Iron & Steel Act 1949 took effect, the Corporation becoming the sole shareholder of 80 of the principal iron and steel companies (reduced from the 107 proposed in the first draft of the Bill). The model differed from previous nationalisations in that it was the share capital of the companies that was acquired, not their undertakings. The reason was that companies in the iron & steel industry had wide-ranging ancillary activities, from which the core business of iron & steel making could not easily be extracted. Firms whose chief activity consisted in the manufacture of motor vehicles were specifically excluded from the scheme. Companies not qualifying for acquisition were to require a licence if producing more than 5,000 tons of ore or other products. Some 2,000 iron & steel companies remained in business outside the nationalised sector.

English Steel Corporation

  • 1951: The company was nationalised, becoming part of the Iron and Steel Corporation of Great Britain.
  • 1946: The Labour party put the first steel development plan into practice with the aim of increasing capacity. It passed the Iron and Steel Act 1949, which meant nationalisation of the industry, as the govt bought out the shareholders, and created the Iron and Steel Corporation of Great Britain. American Marshall Plan aid in 1948–50 reinforced modernisation efforts and provided funding for them.
  • 1945: The Labour Party came to power, committed to socialism.

  • [a] Mar.30.2016: Steel in the UK: a timeline of decline. Since 1951 the steel industry has been in and out of public and private ownership, with the workforce in permanent decline. Jason Deans, The Guardian.


ToDo: [British Telecommunications plc ,British Telecommunications plc, profile etc]

FixMe: This needs consolidation with Vodafone Group plc to rm duplication. Do an import of the relevant section(s).

  • Apr.2016: the Post Office agreed to hand over up to 61 more branches to W H Smith in a 10-year deal.ref
  • Nov.2013: the government committed an additional £640 million of funding for 2015 to 2018 to allow Post Office Ltd to complete its network modernisation.ref
  • Apr.2012: Post Office Ltd became independent of the Royal Mail Group, enabling network modernisation, extended opening hours, and a reduction of the Crown network by moving Crown post offices into shops.ref (Postal Services Act 2011)
  • Nov.2010: the government committed £1.34 billion of funding up to 2015 to Post Office Ltd.ref
  • 2007: the government gave a £1.7 billion subsidy to Royal Mail Group so that it could turn a profit by 2011. 85 Crown post offices were closed, 70 of which were sold to WHSmith. 2,500 sub-post offices closed between 2008 and 2009.
  • 2001: Royal Mail Holdings plc: the businesses of the Post Office were transferred to a public limited company, with the govt as the sole shareholder. Post Office Ltd was its subsidiary.ref (Postal Services Act 2000) In May.2007, the old Post Office statutory corporation was formally abolished. (Dissolution of the Post Office Order 2007)
  • 1995: Energis, ACC and a number of other telecoms providers also received PTO and International Reseller licences in an attempt to make the calls and lines market more competitive.[20]
  • 1986: Post Office Counters Ltd was created as a wholly owned subsidiary of the Post Office corporation. After the Post Office statutory corporation was changed to a public company in Oct.2001, Royal Mail Group,OC Post Office Counters Ltd became Post Office Ltd.OC
  • Dec.1984: British Telecommunications plc: British Telecom was privatised. The regulator OfTel was set up to ensure the privatised company did not abuse its position.
  • Aug.1984, the Government sold shares in what was formerly Post Office Telecommunications, renamed British Telecommunications plc, to the public. This was the first public utility to become a privatised business in the UK.[21]
  • Oct.1981: Cable & Wireless Ltd was the first company to be privatised under Margaret Thatcher's reign (of terror).
  • 1981: British Telecom was set up to carry out the Post Office's telephone activities.
  • pre-1981: All telecoms services in Britain were provided by the Post Office (6-month wait for a black telephone)
  • 1965-1977: Up until market privatisation in the early 1980s, telephone systems and telecoms equipment were obtainable only via the GPO – the General Post Office. Southern Communications was established in 1965, its founders recognising a requirement in the telecoms market for dictation systems.[22]

  • Nov.1984: Privatisation: British Telecommunications Corporation's business was transferred to British Telecommunications plc. (Telecommunications Act 1984) The placing of 50.2% of the ordinary shares as a fixed-price public offering was concluded in Apr.1985. In December 1991 the British Government started to place roughly half of the shares it still held. The remaining 22% was then sold in 1993. The quota on non-ordinary shares owned by the State was reduced to one in 1993 and was then valorised as an ordinary share as of 1997 (Golden Share).ref
  • Oct.1981: British Telecommunications Corporation, t/a British Telecom: Post Office Telecommunications was taken out of the Post Office, turning it into an autonomous separate, though still state-owned, public corporation. This left the Post Office corporation with the Royal Mail, parcels, Post Office Counters and National Giro businesses. British Telecommunications was converted to British Telecommunications plc in 1984, and was privatised. Girobank was divested to Alliance & Leicester in 1990. (British Telecommunications Act 1981)
  • Jul.1981: Telecommunications was separated from the Post Office, and a new state public corporation to supply them was set up. The govt was given powers to license competitors in the operation of the domestic telephone network. As well as modifying the state company's statutory monopoly of the telephone network, the act took away its monopoly in the provision of telecommunication equipment, leaving it only with the right to supply and install a subscriber's first telephone. The act opened the market to competition in value-added services, such as data processing and storage, and also allowed other providers to use BT's lines. (British Telecommunications Act)
  • 1980: The telecommunications and postal sides were split prior to British Telecommunications' conversion into a totally separate publicly-owned corporation in 1981. (British Telecommunications Act 1981).

For the more recent history of the postal system in the United Kingdom, see the articles Royal Mail and Post Office Ltd.

  • 1974: Post Codes were introduced, which significantly increased postal distribution efficiency.ref
  • 1972: Radio regulation functions were transferred to the Independent Broadcasting Authority and later Ofcom.
  • Oct.1969: Post Office Telecommunications was set up as a separate department of the Post Office, with responsibility for telecommunication. (Post Office Act 1969) (Post Office Telecommunications was the successor to the GPO Telegraph and Telephones department.) Post Office TelecommunicationsWikipedia-W.svg
  • Oct.1969: Post Office: the General Post Office was abolished, and its assets transferred to The Post Office, changing it from a govt Department of State to a statutory corporation under the Secretary of State for Industry.ref, p.2 (Post Office Act 1969)
  • 1936-1940: Dissatisfaction: the Bridgeman Committee Report (1932),[23] followed by the Gardiner Committee report (1936), recommended much-needed improvements to the General Post Office. Consequently, 8 provincial regions outside London, the London Postal Region, and the London Telecommunications Region for the capital and surrounding area were set up.
  • 1927: British Broadcasting Corporation: the British Broadcasting Company was dissolved and reformed by Royal Charter.
  • 1922: British Broadcasting Company: a group of radio manufacturers formed the BBC, which was the sole organisation granted a broadcasting licence by the General Post Office.
  • 1912: National Telephone Company was taken over, which left only a few independent municipal undertakings. The take-over effectively nationalised the UK telecommunications industry.
  • 1904: The General Post Office was granted control over radio waves, initially used in the development of telegraphs. (Wireless Telegraphy Act 1904) The GPO licensed all senders and receivers, effectively given control of the future technologies of radio and television broadcasting as they were developed. Pirate radio was a headache for the GPO from the start.

  • 1912: The Post Office was granted a monopoly on the supply of telephone services throughout the UK.
  • Dec.1911: The NTC and its telephone systems were taken over by the General Post Office. The NTC ceased trading, and was dissolved. ([Telephone Transfer Act 1911])
  • 1896-1897: The NTC's trunk lines were taken over by the Post Office, which also started to set up its own local telephone exchanges. (Telegraph Act 1892), (Telegraph Act 1896)
  • Mar.1881: The United Telephone Company Ltd formed various provincial subsidiaries to develop and operate telephony services throughout the British Isles, one of which was the National Telephone Company (NTC). between 1889-1893, the UTC used the NTC as a vehicle to absorb the other subsidiaries, also taking over smaller telephone companies along the way. logo

  • Dec.1880: Competition: seeing the telephone beginning to take customers away from its telegraph service, the Post Office embarked on a series of protective measures. The Postmaster-General obtained a court judgement against the United Telephone Company, that telephone conversations were within the remit of the Telegraph Act. Telephone companies were then required to be licensed by the General Post Office, as the holder of the telegraph monopoly.ref
  • 1879: United Telephone Company: the first independent UK telephone service provider, Telephone Company Ltd, was set up. In 1880, TCL merged with its competitor, Edison Telephone Company, to form United Telephone Company.
  • 1878: The Post Office officially commenced its telephone business - but the vast majority of telephones were connected to independently run networks.
  • Feb.1870: Responsibility for the 'electric telegraphs' was officially transferred to the General Post Office.
  • 1870: The telephone was introduced, with the GPO being responsible only for the “Trunk Service”, ie, the link with the city, while the local service was managed by private companies.ref
  • 1869: The Postmaster-General was granted a monopoly in telegraphic communication within the UK. (Telegraph Act 1869)
  • 1868: The Postmaster-General was granted the right to acquire private inland telegraph companies. (Telegraph Act 1868)
  • 1861: The Post Office Savings Bank was introduced, when there were few banks outside major towns. By 1863, 2,500 post offices were offering a savings service. Gradually more financial services were offered by post offices, including government stocks and bonds in 1880, insurance and annuities in 1888, and war savings certificates in 1916. In 1909 old age pensions were introduced, payable at post offices.[6] In 1956 a lottery bond called the Premium Bond was introduced. In the mid-1960s the GPO was asked by the govt to expand into banking services which resulted in the creation of the National Giro. In 1969, the Post Office Savings Bank was transferred to the Treasury, and renamed as "National Savings".ref
  • 1850: Telegraph: the first submarine telegraph cable was laid across the English Channel.ref
  • 1831: The Office of Postmasters General of IrelandWikipedia-W.svg was amalgamated with the equivalent office for Great Britain. The GPO operated throughout Great Britain and Ireland until 1921.
  • 1661: The office of Postmaster General was created to oversee the GPO.
  • 1660: The General Post Office was officially established in England.ref It eventually grew to combine the functions of state postal system and telecommunications carrier. The postal service was known as the Royal Mail because it was built on the distribution system for royal and govt documents.General Post OfficeWikipedia-W.svg
  • 1643: The first general post office opened in London,[24] 8 years after King Charles I legalised use of the royal posts for private correspondence.[25]


  • Mar.1995: SWALEC held a 5.4% interest in National Grid Holdings plc. In Dec.1995, SWALEC, together with all other RECs, disposed of its interest under the demerger arrangements for NGH. Under the terms of the demerger, SWALEC distributed shares in National Grid Group plc by way of a dividend to shareholders.A/cs Mar.31.1996, p.55 ?What "demerger terms"?
  • Dec.1989: Water privatised. In Wales, the Welsh Water Authority was privatised along with the other 9 regional water authorities.ref,ref, ref, ref, ref, DDG
  • See also Water Industry + Water privatisation in England and WalesWikipedia-W.svg
  • Interesting paper here on privatisation, unions and Welsh Water's approach (pro).
  • Very interesting paper on the history of the Welsh Water Authority, see p.9
  • More: link, link - Excellent historial overview + the process of privatisation + has some good diagrams.
  • Water Voice, link, link




Pics: Transco 1, Transco 2, old transco website:
Check this timeline out.

1. Association of Electricity Producers: lobby group founded in 1987 to lobby the govt's Department of Energy to remove restrictions on private companies operating within the electricity industry. In 1995 it changed its name to the Association of Electricity Producers.
2. Energy Retail Association: lobby group founded in 2003 to lobby the govt on behalf of the electricity and gas retailers in the domestic market.
In Apr.2012, the Energy Retail Association merged with the Association of Electricity Producers and the UK Business Council for Sustainable EnergyPowerbase-graphic.svg to become Energy UK.ref
3. Energy Networks Association: an industry body funded by gas and electricity transmission and distribution licence holders.

  • Oct.2002: National Grid pursued major changes and mergers, and in October 2002 merged with Transco, the gas distribution network, to become National Grid Transco.ref
  • Nov.2001: The CEGB was formally wound up, and the Electricity Council was replaced by an industry group, the Electricity Association. (The Central Electricity Generating Board (Dissolution) Order 2001).
  • 2001: The govt introduced a Renewables Obligation, compelling suppliers to purchase a proportion of their energy from renewable sources.
  • Mar.2000: The govt’s Social Action Plan was launched. It sets firm targets for energy suppliers to reduce fuel poverty in society and increase energy efficiency.
  • 2000: The UK Metering & Data services market was opened up to full competition. In Jan.2001, LE Group’s metering related activities will be restructured into two subsidiary companies (ECS Metering Services Ltd and ECS Data Services Ltd) operating under a single brand: ECS Metering & Data Services. Electricity suppliers in 2000 could choose the company from which they bought metering services and the vast majority of suppliers in the London area chose ECS.... LE Group Annual Report 2000, p.27
  • 2000: The first full year of open market competition, giving every customer a choice of energy supplier.
  • The Utilities Act 2000 implemented govt proposals to make electricity supply and distribution separately licensed activities. The Act made provision for the Secretary of State to approve statutory transfer schemes under which existing public electricity suppliers such as London Electricity Group plc could divide their assets and liabilities between supply and distribution entities that would hold the relevant licences.ref, p.13
  • Regulation and Commercial Arrangements: prices in the pool are set half-hour by half-hour, according to supply and demand. The massive pooling and settlement agreement ... because most pool members did not want to be left fully exposed to the uncertainties of this spot market, numerous financial hedging contracts ("contracts for differences")... ref
  • Jan.1999: The Office of Electricity Regulation (OFFER) was merged with the Office of Gas Supply (OfGas), the gas industry regulator, to form OfGem.ref

1998: The assets of Magnox Electric were combined with BNFL (and eventually operated and managed by US-based EnergySolutions through its Jun.2007 acquisition of the BFNL subsidiary - Reactor Sites Management Company).ref

  • 1996: British Energy, owner of the newest nuclear stations, was floated on the stock market.
  • 1996: The National Grid, owned jointly at first by the 12 local electricity firms, became an independent commercial player in its own right.
  • 1996: Magnox Electric and British Energy were formed.

Magnox Electric was established to own and operate some of the old Magnox nuclear stations of Nuclear Electric. Hunterston A (from Scottish Nuclear) + ... ref
Nuclear Electric: the remaining 2 advanced 'AGR' nuclear plant assets of Scottish Nuclear were combined with the assets of Nuclear Electric, and became a part of the newly formed and soon to be privatised British Energy (now EDF Energy).refrefref
After the breakup was complted, both Scottish Nuclear and Nuclear Electric became defunct.

  • Nov.1995: The CEGB's transmission business was transferred to the National Grid Company plc, then owned by the 12 RECs through a holding company "National Grid Group plc. The National Grid was then floated on the London Stock Exchange.
  • 1995: National Grid Company plc was listed on the London Stock Exchange.
  • 1995: The privatised electricity companies’ minuscule debts and the fat profits they were making under RPI-X drew predators from across the Atlantic, and when the govt’s Golden Share in the firms lapsed in 1995, the Americans pounced.ref

Once the sales were complete, there was a perception by many that energy markets were now to be treated like those of many other goods and services – subject to safeguards, but not in need of special attention. It is no accident that the position of energy within Whitehall was downgraded – from having its own department in 1980 to being part of a wider portfolio of one junior Minister in 1997.ref (2010)

The Central Electricity Generating Board (Dissolution) Order 2001,link


  • Jul.1996: Nuclear power privatised as British Energy, in July 1996. (failed experiment)
  • 1982: Amersham International plc privatised. See Amersham plcWikipedia-W.svg
See main article: Nuclear Power Policy

Oil and Gas

Info: link, Oil and gas regulation in the UK: overview, Reuters Practical Law

  • 1999: The Office of Electricity Regulation (OFFER) was merged with the Office of Gas Supply (OfGas), the gas industry regulator, to form OfGem.ref,ref
  • Dec.1986: British Gas privatised, but within a year it had been referred to the Monopolies Commission after complaints of "discriminatory behaviour in the contract market".
    • Complaints to the Monopolies Commission were the first steps towards an eventual carve-up of the gas monopoly, which has since morphed into four parts (4? where's the 4th?):
  • Gas Act 1986: created British Gas plc, and the Office of Gas Supply (OfGas).ref
  • Jul.1984: Enterprise Oil privatised
  • Nov.1982: Britoil privatised
  • 1979: British Petroleum privatised in Oct.1979
  • 1949: The North Thames Gas Board was established, supplying London. In 1973 it was dissolved to become a region of the British Gas Corporation.


  1. ^ "Private Island: Why Britain Now Belongs to Someone Else", James Meek, Verso Books, Oct.2014, ISBN: 978-1784782061
  2. ^ The Economic Consequences of Accounting in the English and Welsh Water Industry: A non-shareholder perspective. Most research into the economic consequences takes a shareholder perspective; this paper considers the economic consequences for the consumer. The choices have meant that water has been significantly overpriced since privatisation. As a consequence, average household water bills increased by ~40% in real terms in the first decade under privatisation. Magda Abou-Seada, Christine Cooper, Firoozeh Ghaffari, Richard Jones, Orthodoxia Kyriacou, Mary Simpson, St Andrews University, ECAS, Aug.2004. Original archived on Nov.05.2013.
  3. ^ Margaret Thatcher: one policy that led to more than 50 companies being sold or privatised. For corporate Britain, one policy will always be associated with Baroness Thatcher. Alistair Osborne, The Telegraph, Apr.08.2013.
  4. ^ Local government: Margaret Thatcher's 11-year war. The British prime minister's legacy was increased centralisation and the willingness of her successors to control local democracy. Margaret Thatcher's Conservative government presided over an 11-year war between central and local government. Her key characteristics, notably her ideological distaste for the left, meant Labour-controlled councils became an inevitable target for her radicalism. Tony Travers, The Guardian, Apr.09.2013.