HC Deb 28 July 1947 vol 441 cc188-9
Mr. Belcher

I beg to move, in page 8, line 3, after "company," to insert: as defined in Subsection (4) of Section fifty-four of this Act. This is really a drafting Amendment which gives effect to an undertaking given by my hon. and learned Friend the Solicitor-General to hon. Members opposite with regard to the definition of an exempt company. Hon. Members opposite complained that Clause 54 (4) should be inserted wherever such a company is mentioned in the Bill.

Mr. Manningham-Buller

The Parliamentary Secretary has referred to an undertaking with regard to the reference in the definition Clause to an exempt private company. He will recall that he gave a specific undertaking to look at that definition again and, if possible remodel it, because as the Bill now stands it would be impossible for anyone, without spending a great deal of time, to express an opinion on the question whether any particular private company was or was not exempt within the meaning of this Bill. Bearing in mind that Clause 54 (4) has to be taken into consideration with Clause 54 (2), and also the Third Schedule, I think the Solicitor-General and the Parliamentary Secretary repeatedly said during the Committee stage that they were not at all satisfied with the definition of an exempt private company and were seeking to modify it so that persons could determine whether or not a company fell within the exemption. Without that, grave difficulty is bound to be experienced by anyone who ploughs through exception after exception in the Third Schedule. I defy anyone skilled lawyer or not, to give an opinion which would be of much value as to whether any particular private company is exempt. I think that, before we add these words to this Clause, we should ask the Government for an explanation of why their undertaking to alter the definition of an exempt private company is not being carried out in this Amendment.

The Solicitor-General

I am very sorry that the hon. and learned Member for Daventry (Mr. Manningham-Buller) should feel that we have not carried out our undertaking. The difficulty we felt and the imperfection we had in mind when we were making the statement, that we would look into the matter, was the expression in Clause 122 of the Bill in which is found what apparently is the definition of an exempt private company. What I thought the hon. and learned Member objected to was that definite expression of "an exempt private company" and the meaning assigned to it by the actual words in the Bill. The difficulty, I felt, was that one had to search through the Bill to try to find which Clause was concerned. We have removed that difficulty by saying which Clause it is. It is Clause 54, together with the Third Schedule, and I feel there should not be any difficulty in saying that they contain that part of the Bill which may be required if one wants to ascertain what are the qualifications which an exempted company should have. I feel, therefore, that I have not failed to carry out the undertaking which I gave, and which I had in mind when I considered this question.

Amendment agreed to.