10 OCTOBER 1987, Page 22

Unpopular capitalists

POPULAR capitalism and the BP issue will have been much on Nigel Lawson's mind as he prepared to take his bow at Blackpool. The trouble is that his new capitalists are not popular — not in that part of the City which blames them for its backlog of work, and now complains that the minimum application for BP is set so low as to encourage more of them in. The stock market in practice might have gone out of its way to discourage them. A firm of investment managers — not a member firm of the Stock Exchange, and with its own systems in good order — wrote to its private clients this week: 'Many purchases and sales of shares, normally settled about three or four weeks after the bargains of shares, are taking as many months, and more, to be settled. You may have difficul- ty withdrawing funds from your port- folio. . . .Although the Stock Exchange has announced that the situation is impro- ving, we remain sceptical of its ability to solve the problems properly, at least until better settlement systems are installed. These are planned but are still some time away.' This is the kind of advertisement for popular capitalism which the Chancellor could have done without. Neither he, nor shareholders, nor the Exchange itself can afford to hang around and wait for the new systems. I expect that we shall soon see change and action.