up for bid
LONDON (AP) The corner-
stone of Prime Minister Margaret
Thatcher's capitalist revolution
faces one of its biggest gambles yt
as the nation's water supply heads
for the stock exchange.
Oil, gas, the telephone servJe
and a host of other industries M -
tionalized by past Labor Party o .%
ernments have gone on sale sdainc
the Tories came to office in 1979.
The sale of English and Wesh
water supplies is a bold venture to
be unveiled today in Parliament. It
shows the Thatcher government, fr
from flagging after nearly 10 year
in power, is pursuing its free mar-
ket doctrines with undiminllshed
Privatization of water and ele
tricity were highlights of the 1 .
legislative program announce
The water will be ready for sale
within a year, and electricity some-
time in 1990.
Although electricity is by far the
larger undertaking, with expected
revenue of $36 billion for the gov-
ernment, It is water that has attract-
ed the most controversy.
It is the most basic resource the
government has chosen to sell. Con-
sumer groups worry that prices will
rise and that, once subject to the
profit motive, water purity will de-
It is risky because water is not
generally seen as a growth industry.
Water authorities are $9.4 billion in
debt, which the government may
have to write off.
The Victorian water and drain-
age infrastructure is crumbling in
many areas and billions are needed
for repairs and to bring water up to
the exacting new standards of puri-
ty set by the European Economic
Privatizations have raised near-
ly $40 billion for the Treasury and
enabled it to slash taxes and reach
its present budget surplus.
But in the case of water, com-
ments the left-leaning Guardian,
"whether a private sector solution
will be able to raise standards,
while trying to extract increasing
returns for its shareholders, re-
mains hugely questionable."
The 10 water authorities that
supply three-qurters of the water
needs of England and Wales will be-
come private companies quoted on
the stock market