Lords Amendment: In page 14, line 32, leave out "in the public interest so to do" and insert:
so to do in the interests of persons who have invested or deposited or may invest or deposit money with the society.
§ 10.50 p.m.
§ The purpose is to make it clear that the Registrar, acting under the powers conferred upon him under the Clause, will act where he considers it expedient in the interest of persons who have invested or deposited money with the building society concerned rather than where he considers it to be expedient in the interest of the public at large. I think that way always the intention of the House.
§ 10.51 p.m.
§ Mr. Silverman
Does that mean that where it is expedient in the public interest the Registrar will be unable to act unless it is also expedient in the interest of persons who have invested or deposited? Has the Amendment the effect of narrowing the power that the Registrar would have had under the Bill as it left the House?
§ Mr. Silverman
I should have thought it was possible to conceive cases, rare I admit, where it might be advisable to interfere on grounds of general public policy, even though the interests of the people owning shares were not directly affected.
§ Mr. Bellenger
With whom does the initiative lie? Does it lie entirely with the Registrar or can it be possible for any interested person, a member of the public or one who has invested or deposited money, to bring to the Registrar's notice certain circumstances on which the Registrar might deem it expedient to act?
§ Mr. Silverman
It is difficult to see why it should be necessary to narrow it down in any way. It may be that the public interest cannot be involved unless the narrower interest is involved, but in that case the words as they originally appeared would have sufficiently covered the point. If there are other cases where the public interest might be involved, is not the effect of the Amendment to narrow it down and possibly produce the result that a member of the public who did not happen to have an interest himself in the society might not have any locus standi or any right to be heard by the Registrar?
§ 10.54 p.m.
§ Mr. Pethick-Lawrence
It appears off-hand that we are losing something in losing the question of public interest in this matter. On the other hand, it may be that there is something in the proposition that all the persons referred to in the Amendment should be considered. Would it not be possible to have both, "in the public interest" and "in the interest of persons who have invested or have deposited" because it does not seem to me 655 that these words saver the public interest, and possibly the words "public interest" do not cover the particular interest of those named in the Amendment. Would it not be possible to include both by the words "one or the other"?
§ 10.55 p.m.
§ The Solicitor-General
It is a very drastic power that is here being accorded to the Registrar. By the exercise of this power, he can effectively prevent the activity of a building society, because he can prevent it from enlarging its capital or going into the market for funds. That is a very drastic power indeed, and it is not a power that one wants to leave too much at large in the hands of any official, however responsible he may be. It is one thing to say that this official, who is charged under the Building Societies Acts with the custodianship of the interests of the investors in building societies—those who lend their money to them—should act when their interests are endangered; but it is a bigger thing, and a much more difficult thing, to leave him at large with a power to act in the public interest. I have not the references in my mind, but I am fairly certain that if the public interest as a whole were endangered, there would be found to be ample provisions under the Building Societies Acts under which an application to the court could be made for dealing with the subject on that footing. This is limiting it to the case with which the Clause attempts to deal—the case where the depositors themselves find their interests endangered.
§ Subsequent Lords Amendments to page 16, line 31, agreed to.
§ Lords Amendment: In page 16, line 34, leave out "some commodity" and insert "any property other than securities."
§ 10.57 p.m.
§ This Amendment has as its object to make transactions in currency subject to this Clause. The Amendment brings paragraph (c) into line with paragraph (b).