‘Treasury should take £15bn stake in British business – then sell it to the public’
The Treasury should spend £15bn investing directly into British firms in exchange for shares that would one day be sold to the public, a new Social Market Foundation report by Bim Afolami MP says today.
Afolami, the Conservative MP for Hitchen and Harpenden, has drawn up plans for the government to make major investments in small and medium-sized UK companies to help them recover from the coronavirus recession.
His proposed “Recovery Fund” would take equity stakes in the companies that received government investment. The fund would be floated on the Stock Exchange with discounted shares offered to lower-paid NHS workers and young people.
Afolami, a member of the SMF’s cross-party advisory board, is expected to raise the Recovery Fund plan in the House of Commons on Wednesday.
The Recovery Fund proposal is one of ten ideas to accelerate economic recovery set out in Afolami’s report. Others include abolishing district councils and pressing private schools to make online learning available to state school children.
The report also says that ISA savers should be able to invest directly in British companies, potentially putting up at £6 billion a year into businesses in need of support. (A full list of recommendations can be found below.)
Afolami said in his SMF report – titled “Unlocking Britain” – that ministers should borrow an extra £15bn and invest the money in small and medium-sized companies via the government’s British Business Bank.
The BBB would invest the money via commercial fund managers, meaning there was no political control over which companies received investment. In exchange for state financing, the Recovery Fund would get a stake in the firms it supported.
Once the economic recovery is secure, the Fund should then be sold to investors, with special incentives to encourage the widest uptake from the general public.
Bim Afolami MP said:
“We should use the financial power of the state to provide short-term support for small and medium-sized British companies, then in the long term to widen ownership of British business and give more people a stake in the economy. This plan would deliver a strong recovery and a fair economy.
“The Recovery Fund wouldn’t involve politicians picking winners, it would use professional fund managers to invest the money where it would do the most good, in exchange for the Treasury getting a share of the firms that are supported.
“Then when the recovery is secure, the government would get its money back by selling shares in the Recovery Fund with young people and NHS staff at the front of the queue.”
James Kirkup, SMF director, said:
“We will need new economic thinking to get us out of the coronavirus recession and the idea of governments investing in companies to support the recovery should be studied carefully.
“A sensible economic partnership between the state and the private sector is something people of all parties should embrace. So too is a stakeholder economy where ownership is spread more widely.”
“This report’s ideas on what more private schools can do to support children from state schools whose learning has been disrupted also deserve attention. The long shutdown of schools will widen educational inequality, and much more should be done to address that.”
The report will be published at http://www.smf.co.uk/publications/unlocking-britain at 00:01 on Wednesday 17 June.