HC Deb 22 July 1960 vol 627 cc1003-6

2.45 p.m.

Mr. Chapman

I beg to move, in page 27, line 43, to leave out "fifteen" and to insert two years and three". I take it, Mr. Speaker, that it would be convenient to take with this Amendment the next two in my name, in page 28, line 3, to leave out "fifteen" and to insert two years and three". and in line 3, after "months", to insert the Chief Registrar may, after consultation with the building society, direct that".

Mr. Speaker

That would be for the convenience of the House.

Mr. Chapman

This again arises from a point I raised in Committee about the precipitate speed that may be involved for some building societies in adapting all their rules to take notice of what is set out in the Bill. I raised the point that no one will know until there have been consultations with the Chief Registrar what particular existing rules are in accordance with the requirements of the Bill, and what leeway can be offered and expected. It may take some time to build up case law on which guidance can be given to societies which have need to alter their rules. In these circumstances I suggested that it would be appropriate to give building societies a little more time to carry out this part of the Bill.

My second Amendment to page 28, line 3, provides, in effect, an alternative, if the Government are willing to accept it. It would provide that after the end of the period, whether it be fifteen months or two years and three months, it shall be the Chief Registrar who may …after consultation with the building society, direct that the provisions of the Third Schedule … come into effect in default of the society altering its rules.

This is better than having a simple guillotine procedure after a period when some model rules are deemed to have effect. It would be better if the Chief Registrar were able to consult with the building society concerned to explore with it the reasons why any of its rules might still not be quite acceptable, to take into account that it may be in the process of actually altering them in order to meet his requirements, and, generally, to let the initiative and some discretion to that extent lie on the Chief Registrar. This, again, is not an unreasonable thing to suggest in order to take care of what was a legitimate point that I made in Committee. I hope that on this last time of asking I might get an Amendment accepted today.

Mr. Barber

I am extremely sorry that the hon. Member always seems to be left out, but the same thing must happen again on this occasion if my advice is accepted. He has clearly explained the purposes of this Clause and of the Amendments and I need not take up the time of the House by going over the same ground.

I undertook in Committee to look again at the period provided for in this Clause. I have done so and have also sought the advice of the Chief Registrar. Those hon. Members who were on the Committee will recall that the hon. Gentleman referred to the case of a particular society. I have been in touch with that society in order to see whether there were any difficulties with which it was faced which we had not previously considered and which ought to cause us to change our minds.

With all those considerations in mind, the difficulties are not sufficiently great to provide for a period longer than that set out in the Bill. After all, the requirements are not very great and the societies will have the rules in the Third Schedule and will also, no doubt, have the model rules drawn up by counsel and so on and perhaps by the Building Societies Association.

I assure the hon. Member for Birmingham, Northfield (Mr. Chapman) that the Chief Registrar will certainly be pleased to advise any society which is in difficulties and that he is considering whether he might prepare a complete set of model rules as a guide to societies. It is only when a society is deliberately trying to make the absolute minimum provision required by Statute that any doubt is likely to arise about whether the new rules provide for the matter or not.

We are still not convinced that the present proposal for the timetable will cause the societies or the Chief Registrar any difficulty. I am informed that the Building Societies Association—I appreciate that it does not cover everybody—is content with the timetable and that the Chief Registrar does not expect any difficulty. In view of what I have said about the Chief Registrar being only too happy to advise any society which considers itself likely to find itself in difficulties, I hope that the hon. Member will not press the Amendment.

Mr. Chapman

Will the hon. Gentleman answer the question about giving more discretion to the Chief Registrar instead of having the guillotine fall by law?

Mr. Barber

That is covered by the same argument, because if we thought that there was any danger that this period of fifteen months was not long enough, there would be much to be said for accepting the Amendment, but we are firmly of the opinion that that will not be necessary and, therefore, it would not be right to advise the House to accept the third Amendment. I repeat that the Chief Registrar will be available to help those societies who think that they might have difficulties.

Mr. Chapman

In view of that assurance and the fact that the information available to the hon. Gentleman is wider than mine, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.