Nationalization in the UK: Labour's plans for companies

BIRMINGHAM, England (Reuters) – Britain’s opposition Labour Party unveiled its election manifesto on Thursday, including a sweeping programme of nationalization to reverse decades of pro-privatisation public policy. Below are the private utility and infrastructure companies that Labour, currently lagging in opinion polls, says it wants to take back under state control: BROADBAND Labour has said it will nationalize telecoms provider BT’s fixed line network to provide free full-fibre broadband for all. It will create British Digital Infrastructure to roll out a full-fibre network, including acquiring access to existing assets, and British Broadband Services to deliver free broadband. Labour said last week the plan would require a sweeping upgrade of Britain’s internet infrastructure that would be paid for by raising taxes on tech firms such as Alphabet’s Google, Amazon and Facebook. Labour said the proposal would cost about 20 billion pounds ($26 billion) but the chief executive of BT said the plan could cost taxpayers as much as 100 billion pounds. RAIL Labour wants to nationalize the rail industry within five years of winning power. The party says this will allow fares to be capped, improve the reliability of services and mean free wi-fi across the network. Britain’s railways are already partly nationalized with the infrastructure operator Network Rail, which controls stations as well as tracks, tunnels and level crossings, in the public sector. But the train operating companies are mainly privately run under limited-term contracts. Under Labour’s plans, the government would wait for the contracts to expire and then take operations back into public hands. POSTAL SERVICE Labour wants to return Royal Mail, one of the world’s oldest postal services, to state control six years after the company was privatised, saying this was a “historic mistake” and that the company was sold off too cheaply. The Conservative government’s handling of the sale of the 503-year-old company has come under renewed scrutiny after Britain’s spending watchdog concluded the government had set the price too low. WATER Labour has proposed renationalising water companies, which have been criticized for prioritizing dividends and executive pay over preventing leaks and improving water quality. Labour’s second most powerful man, John McDonnell, said earlier this year the government would pay less than 15 billion pounds to investors when it renationalizes the companies. ENERGY Labour wants to nationalize the energy networks which transport electricity and gas to homes and businesses. The party’s membership wants to go one step further and passed a motion at its annual conference in September proposing to nationalize Britain’s largest energy suppliers. PRIVATE SECTOR CONTRACTS Labour has vowed to nationalize all private finance contracts – which fund public infrastructure with private capital. There are 700 private finance contracts in existence worth about 60 billion pounds, a parliamentary watchdog said last year. OIL COMPANY WINDFALL TAX Labour said it will introduce a windfall tax on oil companies so that companies that knowingly damage the climate will help cover the costs.

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