Sir: I met Harold Wilson for the first time at a reception at the Star Hotel, Maidstone. In conversation, after joking about sharing the same name, I told him of a recent interview I had had with an excited American, who had just flown into London from Aberdeen. He had told me that the first real evidence of North Sea oil had been brought to the surface. There would be technical difficulties to overcome, but, as Middle Eastern oil became more expensive, the costs would be worthwhile. He believed it would make Britain economically sound and thriving.
Immediately, Harold Wilson said that he knew they were exploring for oil off the coast of Scotland, but he was not aware that it had been found. He called Joe Haines over, saying that action must be taken to protect Britain's interest.
I murmured the word "nationalisation". "No, no, no," he said, "but we must make sure it stays in British hands, with a British oil company. All we need do is make sure that the British government owns 51 per cent of the shares, a golden share that cannot be sold to foreign interests. The country will benefit from the tax revenue. Used wisely, it will help British industry and the economic structure of the country."
The oil became commercially viable as the Tory government took over and the golden share was sold off under Margaret Thatcher. The opportunities Harold Wilson saw were lost, to pay for the cost of increasing unemployment.
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