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Privatise first, then sell abroad


THE AIRPORT operator BAA, privatised in 1987 for £1.2 billion, is to be taken over by Spanish construction firm Ferrovial in a deal worth £10.3 billion. Ferrovial has already indicated it intends to outsource and reduce overheads. BAA controls 92% of travellers passing through London and 86% of those passing through Scotland so Ferrovial's monopoly position and transfer of work out of London and Scotland can only damage those local economies.

In the same week that BAA went abroad, Associated British Ports looked set to succumb to a US banking consortium led by Goldman Sachs for £2.4 billion. ABP, once the British Transport Docks Board, was privatised in the early 1980s. The ABP buy-out follows the sale of P&O's docks and shipping interests to Dubai Ports World (DPW) for £3.9 billion. The USA is resisting the attempt by DPW to gain P&O shipping interests in the US as being against the USA's national interest.

Utilities and energy companies in the UK – Thames Water, Sutton and Cheam Water, London Energy, Centrica, British Gas, UK Coal – are all attracting high-powered foreign banking interest. And the saga as to which foreign banking conglomerate will take over the London Stock Exchange rumbles on.

Britain's financial and industrial contours are being redrawn. Blair abandoned the government's 'Golden Share' option, the right to block overseas takeovers, in 2003, after recognising the supremacy of EU law over UK law. Thatcher sold the 'family silver'. Blair is ensuring that foreign capital is now buying up the infrastructure of UK PLC.