The process of returning firms or industries to the private sector after being run by the state. In the UK, the policy of privatization was vigorously pursued by Conservative governments in the 1980s and 1990s. It became a model for many other countries where it was felt that the mix between state and private sector organisations had become unbalanced. The surprise to many was that the 1997 Labour government continued to part-privatise Air Traffic Control and the London Underground.
Privatisation has a variety of meanings, from the contracting out of refuse services within a local authority, to the deregulation of bus routes. It is as much a way of thinking as a closely defined programme. However, the majority of people when they talk of privatisation tend to mean the high profile transfers of nationalised industries into public limited companies, such as British Telecom (BT), British Airports Authority (BAA) and British Airways (BA).