The Official History of Privatisation Volume 1: The formative years 1970-1987


  • 11/03/2009
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The Institute of Economic Affairs invites you to attend an IEA Book Launch:

The Official History of Privatisation
Volume 1: The formative years 1970-1987

(published by Routledge)

by David Parker

Wednesday 11th March 2009

6.30pm – 8.00pm (with brief remarks by the Author at 7.00pm)

2 Lord North Street, Westminster, SW1 (door on Great Peter Street)

Click To Buy –
‘The Official History of Privatisation’

In September 2004 Prof David Parker was appointed by the then Prime Minister Tony Blair to write the history of privatisation in Britain, as part of the programme of Official Histories managed by the Cabinet Office.

The brief was to review the evolution of the privatisation programme from May 1979 to May 1997 or during the years of the Conservative Governments. He was also asked to review the years leading up to 1979 and especially from 1970 to better understand the programme’s origins and context. Prof Parker was given access to Prime Ministers’ papers held in the Cabinet Office, Cabinet papers and Cabinet Committee papers and departmental records.

These have not previously been open to outside scrutiny. Information from the official records was supplemented by interviews with over 80 former ministers, civil servants, financiers, academics and business leaders. The result provides a unique history of the UK’s privatisation programme, a programme which has become a beacon for market liberalisation policies around the world.

Volume I of the two-volume history deals with the years down to the June 1987 General Election. It discusses the origin of each of the privatisations and the debates that went on within Government about the options available for the nationalised industries. It draws out the tensions that existed between ministers, government departments and financial advisers about the best way to proceed. The different objectives inherent in privatisation policy led to numerous disagreements, e.g. over maximising sale receipts as against radical industrial restructuring.

Questions include: to what extent was privatisation a clear policy commitment within the Thatcher Governments of the 1980s? What determined the sequencing of the privatisations: why were particular public corporations sold early in the 1980s and other sales delayed until well into the 1990s? What were the privatisation objectives and how did they change over time? How was each privatisation planned and executed? How were the different City advisers appointed and remunerated and what precise roles did they play? Were assets deliberately sold at a deflated price? How was each privatisation administered within government and in what ways did the methods evolve and change? What was the input of the Treasury and Bank of England, and what was the relationship between ministers and civil servants? Finally, in what ways did the management of the nationalised industry shape the content and timing of the privatisations?

David Parker is Research Professor in Privatization and Regulation at the School of Management, Cranfield University and Director of the Cranfield Centre for Competition and Regulation Research. In 2004 he was appointed as the UK Government’s Official Historian on Privatization. He has written extensively on privatisation, regulation and competition issues and is a member of the IEA Academic Advisory Council.


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