Public Accounts Committee to probe sale of government stake in Eurostar

Public Accounts Committee to probe sale of government stake in Eurostar

Senior officials are due to appear before the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee today as part of an inquiry into the sale of Eurostar.

The disposal of the government’s financial interest in Eurostar, its 40% stake and preference share, generated proceeds of more than £750 million in March.

But this was “significantly exceeded” by UK taxpayers’ investment in the channel tunnel high speed passenger train service which amounted to about £3 billion.

Rail unions criticised the disposal at the time to a consortium of UK and Canadian investors as “selling off the family silver for short-term financial gain”. 

Committee chairman, Meg Hillier MP, commenting on a National Audit Office report on the Eurostar sale, said: “The government’s focus in selling its stake in Eurostar appears to have been on short term cash rather than long term value for taxpayers.

“Had it kept its share, the government was forecast to pay off over £500 million of national debt over the next ten years using dividends from its 40% share in Eurostar, and receive a further £243 million in dividends from its preference share.”
 
The committee will examine general lessons for government from the sale as it embarks on an asset sales programme.

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