November 15, 2019 / 12:39 PM / 25 days ago

Factbox: UK Plc in state hands - What companies would a Labour government nationalize?

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain’s opposition Labour Party has announced plans to nationalize BT’s broadband network if it wins next month’s general election, part of sweeping plans to reverse decades of pro-privatization public policy.

BT Tower owned by British Telecom is pictured in London, Britain, November 15, 2019. REUTERS/Simon Dawson

Below are the private utility and infrastructure companies that Labour, currently lagging in opinion polls, wants to take back under state control:

BROADBAND

Labour said it will nationalize telecoms provider BT’s fixed line network to provide free full-fiber broadband for all.

Labour said 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 ($25.59 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 scoop the operations back into public hands.

POSTAL SERVICE

Labour says it wants to return Royal Mail, one of the world’s oldest postal services, to state control six years after the company was privatized, saying this was a “historic mistake” and 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 renationalizing 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.

Reporting by Andrew MacAskill; Editing by Guy Faulconbridge and Frances Kerry

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