Letter: Major's obsession with privatisation

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Sir: If 'Ownership revolution is Major's answer to Blair' (report, 28 July), he must have a secret death wish. If there is one element of the Thatcherite inheritance that has turned truly sour, it is private ownership of assets and services.

Universal home ownership was the Tory dream, but a cut in housing equity of up to 25 per cent plus 75,000 repossessions a year took the shine off it. What people on lower incomes want is not to be cajoled into ownership they cannot afford, but a much greater availability of housing for rent that they can afford.

In what was hailed as his riposte to the Tony Blair challenge, John Major said:

The freedom represented by your own savings, your own income in retirement, are sources of independence I wish to see enjoyed throughout society.

Tell that to the victims of nursing and residential home fees.

Doesn't Mr Major see that what people want in retirement is not their own pension, but a good quality pension? Somebody ought to tell Mr Major that of the 5.2 million people tricked into 'owning' private pensions, two million have been left with a worse pension than under Serps, and a further 1.3 million personal pensions are virtually worthless because the policy-holder's earnings are too low to qualify for any National Insurance rebate.

Maybe Mr Major is so buoyed up with the popularity of privatising the coalmines, the railways, the Post Office, and parts of the NHS, that he thinks we cannot have too much of a good thing. Maybe that explains why he has set his eye on privatising prisons (building on the success of Group 4), parts of the Inland Revenue (whatever the loss of confidentiality), local government (replacing it with the quango state), and even hiving off huge swaths of the civil service.

Mr Major's problem is that he is obsessed with private ownership for its own sake. It is, in fact, a means to an end, and a highly detrimental one as millions have discovered to their cost; but Mr Major insists on treating it as an end in itself. It is a triumph of dogmatism over experience that will cost him dear.

Yours sincerely


MP for Oldham West (Lab)

House of Commons

London, SW1

The writer is Shadow Minister for Public Service.