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A survey of the liberalisation of public enterprises in the UK since 1979

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Pollitt, Michael G. 


This paper examines the course of the deregulation and privatisation of public enterprises in the UK since 1979. The UK privatisation programme has been the most significant in the OECD involving the transfer of ownership of over 7% of GDP from the public to the private sectors. We examine the history and genesis of this programme, the development of the regulatory system based around RPI-X price control and the evidence on the effects of the privatisation. We conclude by evaluating the policy in the terms of its original aims. We find that public enterprise privatisation successfully reduced government involvement in industry, led to increased economic efficiency and a reduced fiscal deficit. Less clearly, it contributed to the curbing of Trade Union power and wider share ownership. Most significantly of all, as the most sustained and consistent policy of the 1979-97 Conservative governments, it gained sustained advantage for pro-market political forces in the UK.



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Faculty of Economics

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