A few hours after I posted about the “explosive” purchasing of the UK’s critical national infrastructure by the Chinese, there was a series of exchanges about the privatised water companies during Question Time in the House of Lords:
Does my noble friend believe that the people who privatised our utilities expected that within 10 years they would be in the hands not only of foreign administrations and foreign countries but actually of the Governments of those countries? We have denationalised here and renationalised from abroad. Surely the regulator should get a lot tougher on these people who are making absolute fools of people who have to subscribe increasing sums to the maintenance of essential services.
My noble friend makes a fair point, my Lords, but we believe in free capital markets.
My Lords, does the answer to the noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, mean that the Government are indifferent to the extent of foreign ownership of our critical national infrastructure? Are they indifferent to the possible implications of that?
No, my Lords, we are not indifferent; we take these things very seriously. As I say, however, we believe in free access to our capital markets.
So now we know. The Government takes these matters very seriously, just so long as the national interest doesn’t get in the way of the free market.