In January the government published a white paper recommending the privatisation of the water industry.
As 1986 progressed, the plans to relieve the Treasury of the strain placed upon it by the major utilities looked to have popular support. Four million people showed themselves willing to take advantage of the stock market's invitation to small investors by applying for shares in British Gas. The flotation of the Trustee Savings Bank similarly appealed, also attracting four million subscribers.
The Conservative government's transformation of the market-place, particularly its encouragement of private investment, was not without its problems, however. The Westland Affair came to a head in January, with the resignations of Michael Heseltine and Leon Brittan from their respective posts as Defence Secretary and Trade and Industry Secretary. The pair had squabbled over the extent to which American money should contribute to the mainly European investment consortium that was to underpin the helicopter company. Brittan had left his post when he admitted leaking a government law office document highly critical of the Defence Secretary, and Heseltine departed when he balked at the suggestion that the Prime Minister vet his public statements.
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