HC Deb 29 November 1949 vol 470 cc954-5
The Under-Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations (Mr. Gordon-Walker)

With your permission, Mr. Speaker, I should like to make a personal statement.

I desire to explain to the House the circumstances in which I was in a recent case fined for my share as a company director in permitting a company to fail to make annual returns to the Board of Trade. Until the moment that this case started I was in complete ignorance that I was still in any way associated with the company in question. The company was formed early in 1946 as a non-profit-making company to stage some plays of a semi-political nature at a London theatre. At the end of the first and only season during which this company operated I announced my resignation to my fellow directors, and it was accepted by them.

I thought, mistakenly, as it turned out, that I had thereby severed my connection with the company. This was on 30th April, 1946, over a year before I was appointed to my present office, on receiving which I had no notion that I was still technically a company director and thus committing an unwitting breach of the well-known rule that a Minister must not hold a directorship. From this time the company ceased to conduct any operations or to have any overt or effective existence. I understood, and was so informed after my resignation, that steps were being taken to dissolve it. Therefore, when this case started it came as a great surprise to me to learn that the company still existed and as a complete surprise to find that in the eyes of the law my association with it still continued.

I should perhaps add the following facts. First, after its effective existence of only a few months the company discharged all its obligations. Had returns been made, they would have been nil returns. Secondly, it was always intended that no director should receive any remuneration or payment of expenses. At no time, either before or after my presumed resignation, did I receive any money at all from my association with the company.

Sir, I apologise for the length of this statement. I felt it my duty to the House to lay the facts before it.