HC Deb 07 November 1969 vol 790 cc1321-36

Order for Second Reading read.

11.5 a.m.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade (Mrs. Gwyneth Dun-woody)

I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

The Insolvency Services (Accounting and Investment) Bill deals, I regret to say, with matters which a former Permanent Secretary of the Board of Trade once described as being almost devoid of intrinsic interest and yet of revolting complexity—an attitude with which I find myself in almost complete agreement.

It is concerned with matters incidental to insolvency law as contained in the Bankruptcy Acts of 1914 and 1926 and the Companies Acts of 1948 and 1967 ; it does not affect the substantive provisions of this law. The Bill is nonetheless necessary in that it fills a gap in the nature and amount of information available to Parliament as regards the general financial administration of insolvency, and relieves the Board of Trade of the statutory duty to avoid any part of the cost of the administration falling on public funds : for some years this duty has been shown to impose an impossible task.

In order to understand the changes which the Bill proposes, it is necessary to outline the present arrangements which it seeks to alter.

Trustees in bankruptcy and liquidators of companies in compulsory liquidations are required by the Bankruptcy Act 1914 and Companies Act 1948 to pay money received by them into accounts kept by the Board with the Bank of England, namely, the Bankruptcy Estates Account and the Companies Liquidation Account. This money must be made available to meet the cost of administering the estates and to pay dividends to creditors and shareholders. Liquidators in voluntary windings-up are required by Section 343 of the Companies Act, 1948, where the liquidation has not been concluded within a year, to pay into the Companies Liquidation Account unclaimed or undistributed assets which have been held for six months.

Money in the Bankruptcy Estates and Companies Liquidation Accounts which is not immediately required for the day-to-day administration of the respective estates is handed over to the Treasury for investment in Government securities. Under Section 362 of the Companies Act 1948, money in a particular liquidation which is not immediately required for paying to creditors may be invested in Government securities at the risk of the particular estate. Also, under the same Section of the 1948 Act, any balance in excess of £2,000 which is not required for the liquidation may, upon the liquidator giving notice, be put on interest bearing account at a rate prescribed by the Treasury (at present this is 31% a year).

The interest earned by the Treasury on the investment of estate balances, less the amount credited by way of interest to company accounts as I have already indicated, is utilised, with the fees charged in the proceedings, towards the costs of the official insolvency services.

Fees are charged at various stages of the administration and they can be varied by statutory instrument made by the Lord Chancellor with the sanction of the Treasury. In practice the Board are also consulted.

Section 14 of the Economy (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 1926, provides that in fixing the scales of fees regard shall be had to the average aggregate of the costs of administration. For many years previously the income from interest and fees had covered the costs of administration. Since the early 1930's, however, deficits have been incurred, albeit at first of little consequence. In 1951, the Board having taken the view that it was impracticable to increase fees, it was agreed that in order to close the gap the Treasury should transfer £5 million of insolvency funds from Treasury Bills to more remunerative long-dated Government securities. An additional £12 million was transferred in 1953.

As was reported by the Committee of Public Accounts for the 1957-58 Session, unexpectedly heavy demands by liquidators between 1955 and 1957 necessitated the realisation not only of all remaining Treasury Bills but of some long-dated Government securities. Owing to a fall in the market value of the latter, losses of over £1 million were incurred through sales by March, 1958.

The Committee noted that, while the 1926 Act required the Treasury to cause to be laid before Parliament an annual account of receipts and payments in respect of insolvency administration, there was no provision for its audit by the Comptroller and Auditor General, nor was there a requirement to include any record of the sums deposited with the Board or invested by the Treasury. The considerable investment losses were therefore not included in any account available to Parliament. In an attempt to remedy this position, the Treasury had. however, caused statements of the losses incurred to be included in the Forewords to the receipts and payments accounts for 1955-56 and 1956-57 which were laid before Parliament.

The Committee was concerned at the fact that, over a period of years, income had been insufficient to meet the costs of administration. It appreciated the difficulties of the Board in trying to reconcile its duty of safeguarding the funds entrusted to it with that of obtaining the greatest possible return on investment, and welcomed the intention of the Board to seek Parliamentary authority for its release from the obligation to match income with costs. It recommended that the opportunity be taken in the proposed legislation to provide for the presentation to Parliament of more informative accounts.

It had been hoped that the necessary legislation would have been introduced in the 1959-60 Session. This was not possible, and the relevant Bill had not in fact materialised by the time that the Committee of Public Accounts for 1968-69 met. That Committee saw no adequate excuse for the long delay and strongly urged that amending legislation be introduced as soon as possible.

The Committee noted that, over the eleven years since the results were last reviewed, the annual deficit had increased as regards bankruptcy from £323,369 in 1957-58 to £952,402 in 1967-68, resulting in a cumulative deficiency of nearly £6 ¾m. for the period, despite an increase in bankruptcy fees as from 1st October. 1965. As regards companies winding-up, for which there had been no general fees increase since 1927, there were surpluses in 1958-59 and 1960-61 with fluctuating deficits in other years, resulting in a net deficit for the period of nearly £0-6m. The Committee thus concluded that over the eleven years there had been an overall deficit of some £7.3m. falling on the taxpayer, despite the statutory obligation to charge economic fees.

The Board, as they informed the Committee, had in the intervening years looked closely at the insolvency administration and, with minor exceptions which were remedied, had found it effective and efficient, despite a shortage of skilled staff. Such scope as there was for economy was taken advantage of.

The Committee regretted the failure of the Board and the Treasury over a long period to take effective steps to restrict the deficits. It noted that a review of fees was under way and recommended urgent action to increase fees and other income. It also recommended careful consideration as to the extent, if any, to which the costs of the service should fall on public funds : and that in future these matters should be kept under regular review. The Board has acted on this recommendation, and both companies winding-up and bankruptcy fees were substantially increased from 1st May, 1969. It will still not be possible, however, to achieve a balance between costs and income. The Board considers that the levels of fees are now as high as is consistent with the need to avoid discouraging creditors. debtors and shareholders from making proper use of the official services. The use of these services is aimed at ensuring an equitable distribution of available assets, investigation to uncover misconduct and punishable offences and the relief of debtors of the burden of their liabilities so that they may make a fresh start in life. These desirable aims might not be achieved if the scales of fees were such as to take so large a proportion of the available assets as to encourage, for example, the use of strong-arm methods by particular creditors in preference to the regular procedures.

In the financial year 1968-69, fees income was £574,000. The effect of the recent increases in the scales of fees is likely to add some £100,000 annually to fees income.

Unfortunately, even when dividend income, which was running at £1,078,000 in 1968-69, is added, there is a significant shortfall in relation to the costs of the insolvency services which were just over £2½ million in 1968-69.

Mr. Michael Shaw (Scarborough and Whitby)

I understand that these figures were laid and instructed to be printed by this House in April of this year. Am I right in saying that they are still not available in the Vote Office?

Mrs. Dunwoody

I have a very detailed explanation of this if the hon. Gentlemen would like it now. Apparently, Section 15 ( 1) of the Economy (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 1926, requires that an account of receipts and expenditure on bankruptcy and companies winding-up proceedings shall be prepared and laid before Parliament within a month of the end of the financial year. However, I gather that it has never been possible since the Act was passed to prepare the figures for this account within the statutory time limit and that in consequence the account has been laid in dummy during April. The account for 1968-69 was laid in dummy on 17th April, 1969. Apparently, this has been a continuing practice because of the difficulty which one encounters with the laying in dummy of not wanting to give premature disclosure of information. It is not only this year that it has happened. Apparently, it is one of those practical difficulties which are encountered every time these results are produced.

I am in a position to give an even more detailed explanation, but I hope that the hon. Gentlemen will accept that that is the reason why it has been done in this way.

There is little prospect of containing or reducing the cost of the insolvency services so long as the Board is required to investigate the affairs of debtors and companies. I would remind hon. Members that Parliament has emphasised the need for vigilance against fraud by giving the Board of Trade, by Section 109 of the Companies Act, 1967, very wide powers of investigation of companies generally, not only of those in liquidation. This power has facilitated the Board's work in this connection and will inevitably call for increases in staff ; but it is work which, by its very nature, cannot be directly productive of fees or income. I can assure hon. Members, however, that the Board will keep the whole situation constantly under review to ensure that the administration remains effective and efficient and that the net cost to public funds is no greater than the circumstances justify. To this end, the scales of fees will be reviewed again in 1970 and in later years.

The fees are calculated on an advalorem basis for the most part, the determining factor being in the main the assets remaining in the estate. One reason why the fees income has not been as buoyant as might have been hoped is that the amount of assets per case has tended to fall. This is presumably attributable to the comparative ease which debtors and companies find in shopping around for new suppliers when credit from their usual sources has dried up. Thus the inevitable collapse is staved off a little longer. The crunch comes when even these tactics do not avail, by which time most of the assets have been dissipated. I find that extremely interesting.

Before I leave this aspect of the matter. perhaps I should point out that Government Departments benefit from the official insolvency procedures by virtue of the Crown's preferential status (along, incidentally, with employees) as regards taxes, national insurance contributions etc. Thus the policy of not discouraging the use of the official insolvency services brings benefits to the taxpayer of an indirect kind.

I must now, against this background, outline the provisions of the Bill. In essence, it is concerned to :—

  1. (a) Transfer the investment management from the Treasury to the National Debt Commissioners ;
  2. (b) Improve the accounting and auditing arrangements ; and
  3. 1327
  4. (c) Abolish the statutory link between the costs and income of the insolvency services.
Clause 1 of the Bill provides for the creation of an Insolvency Services Investment Account to be kept by the National Debt Commissioners at the Bank of England. The Commissioners will receive into this Account and pay out of it sums previously paid to and by the Treasury. Clause 2 provides for the National Debt Commissioners to invest these sums in specified categories of securities. Thus the National Debt Commissioners will replace the Treasury as the investment managers of these funds ; this follows the practice in other similar circumstances.

Clause I also abolishes the Bankruptcy and Companies Winding-up (Fees) Account. This is the Account into which at present income from fees and investment is paid, and out of which the costs of the insolvency services are supposed to be met—I say "supposed" advisedly. Such an account is no longer appropriate, given the repeal—also provided for in Clause 1—of the statutory link between the costs and income of the insolvency services. In future the income from fees will be paid into the Consolidated Fund, though the Treasury intends to use its existing powers to appropriate the fees, wholly or in part, in aid of the Board of Trade Vote.

Clause 3 provides for the application of the income of the Investment Account. At present the income from the investments is paid into the Fees Account, but this Account is being abolished and the future arrangement will be that the income will be paid annually into the Consolidated Fund, after deduction of a sum, determined by the Treasury, to provide against the depreciation of the securities, together with the moneys necessary to meet the payments of interest to companies. In the event that the income is insufficient to provide this depreciation reserve and the interest payments, the shortfall will be met from the Consolidated Fund. The Clause also provides for recourse to the Consolidated Fund in respect of the liabilities of the Investment Account.

Clause 5 provides for the surrender to the Consolidated Fund of unclaimed dividends and indivisible balances arising from estates in bankruptcy and companies in liquidation before a date determined from time to time by the Treasury. This date will be chosen on the basis that demands from creditors and shareholders in respect of the unclaimed dividends and indivisible balances are no longer likely to arise. Thus, the balance in the Board's accounts, together with the sums due to the Board from the Investment Account, will more nearly reflect the Board's realistic liabilities. The arrangement will not, however, affect the ability of creditors and shareholders to claim any sums to which they are entitled.

Clause 6 provides for recourse to the Consolidated Fund in respect of the Board of Trade's liabilities to estates of bankrupts and companies in liquidation. This arrangement is necessary to guard against the theoretical possibility that, due to the surrender of certain holdings to the Consolidated Fund under the provisions of Clause 5, the Bankruptcy Estates Account and the Companies Liquidation Account might not be able to meet all their liabilities. This is, however, a remote contingency.

Clause 7 provides for the preparation of annual statements of sums credited and debited to the Investment Account, and of the sums received into and paid out of the Bankruptcy Estates Account and the Companies Liquidation Account. The form and manner of these statements are to be as the Treasury may direct, and they are to contain such additional information as the Treasury may direct. The statements are to be forwarded to the Comptroller and Auditor General who will examine, certify and report on them and lay them with his report before Parliament. These arrangements are designed to meet the recommendations of the Committee of Public Accounts of Session 1957-58, to which the Committee of 1968-69 also drew attention.

Clause 8, together with Schedules 1 and 2, deal with consequential amendments and repeals and Clause 9 sets out the short title, the arrangements for bringing the Bill into operation and the territorial extent of the Bill.

I hope that hon. Members have been able to follow these somewhat intricate arrangements. I emphasise, first, that the Bill does not in any way change the duties of trustees in bankruptcy or liquidators of companies, nor the rights and obligations of creditors and debtors ; and, secondly, that the Bill will not lead to any additional subvention of the insolvency services by the taxpayer, beyond that which would have been unavoidable anyway.

The Bill will, however, permit improved scrutiny by Parliament of the transactions carried out by Departments involved in administering the insolvency services, and will relieve the Board of statutory obligations with which it is no longer practicable to comply.

11.24 a.m.

Mr. Michael Shaw (Scarborough and Whitby)

I thank the Parliamentary Secretary for her full explanation of the Bill. This is admittedly a complicated matter and, although I have spent some years in accountancy, it is not a subject on which I have dwelt.

I was interested to hear the hon. Lady say that it was a matter devoid of interest. At present insolvency is, I am afraid, a matter of considerable importance and interest to many people. I suspect that the figures which she said had been declining—we will not be able to tell this until we get the record some time next year—will be found to be increasing. Although the figures which she gave to my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Hallam (Mr. J. H. Osborn) earlier this week were interesting, I suspect that their significance is rapidly being lost.

It might help if I point out at the outset that my hon. Friends and I do not propose to divide the House on this matter. It is fair to say that we should do everything to assist the Bill's passage with some speed, though with some humility, for, as the Parliamentary Secretary said, both Labour and Conservative Administrations have not been obeying the law. That, whichever party is in power, is not a desirable state of affairs, and the quicker we remedy it the better.

The need for the Bill stems from the 1926 Act ; as the hon. Lady pointed out, that Measure reveals the optimism that existed in those days, when it was expected that this Government service should balance its books. The change that has come over our affairs in the intervening years is obvious. The 1926 Act was a bold attempt to see if the solvency service generally, as administered by the Board of Trade, could balance—could pay its way, one year with another, as between the income it received from investments and fees and the expenditure of the Department.

It seems to have worked for some time, but over the years it was found impossible for the fees to make up the deficit on the account. Having established the law, an account had to be laid before Parliament each year, the intention being that Parliament should review the account to make sure that the Minister was carrying out his or her duty in balancing the books. Over the years the deficit mounted, until it reached the substantial sum, in respect of bankruptcies, of £6,727,965. The deficit for company wind-ups was somewhat less, at just over £500,000.

Something had to be done and the alternative was either to free the Board of Trade from the obligations which it had or to put the fees up to such an extent as to balance the books once again. Being rather old-fashioned, when I first looked at the problem I considered how it might be possible to balance the books. This was amplified in the evidence of the Public Accounts Committee. The more one considered the problem the more difficult it became to see how the service could be made to pay its way.

It is the practice in cases of insolvency where substantial funds are involved for outside experts to be called in to act as liquidators. Usually, therefore, it is only the poor old official receiver who gets landed with the job when very little can be realised and when there is usually the greatest burden of work involved. One is, therefore, bound to accept that there is little chance of this service balancing its books.

It must be realised, however, that this was appreciated more than 10 years ago, when it was recommended that a Bill of this kind should be introduced. I had better not say too much about that because both parties have been guilty of not having introduced such a Measure sooner. It seems that the severe strictures of the Public Accounts Committee this year have done the trick, so that we now have the Bill before us.

The Bill does three main things. First, under Clause 1(4) it does away with the necessity, which has been ignored for so many years, for the Government to fix the fees at such a scale so as to balance the books on average each year. Therefore, I am glad to say that in supporting this small Measure we are in some sense assisting the hon. Lady to regularise her position.

Secondly, the Bill does away with the receipts and payment account which was necessary to show whether or not this balancing act had been done in a particular year. It is interesting to note that this account has been prepared each year. It has been submitted each year to Parliament in accordance with the law, and we as Members of Parliament have duly passed it without objecting to the fact that the Ministers had not carried out their duty.

The other interesting feature is that although this account was laid before Parliament each year there was no account of total receipts and payments in the Board of Trade's accounts on its insolvency service. This seems to be an anomaly. It was noted by the Public Accounts Committee, and it is being put right by Clause 7. Here, again, I believe with the hon. Lady that there is a substantial improvement in getting rid of an account which will not now be necessary and substituting for it under the Clause two further accounts which will have to be presented ; namely, an account of receipts and payments of the Board of Trade through its insolvency service—subsection (2)—and also an account of the National Debt Commissioners showing details of moneys placed with it for investment on behalf of that service.

The third main effect is that instead of handing over money to the Treasury, as was done in the past, the Board of Trade will hand it over to the National Debt Commissioners for investment. In the past, the Board of Trade has received money from the various trustees and liquidators although, in practice, not all their money goes to the Board of Trade —certain small sums are allowed to be left in the liquidators' accounts for small current expenditure. But in broad terms, it is so. Money over and above immediate requirements has been handed to the Treasury for investment by the Board of Trade, and it would appear that the Treasury has not always invested it—I will not say unwisely, which would be unfair, but certainly not successfully, from the hon. Lady's account. It appears that it is now felt that perhaps the National Debt Commissioners might be more expert at investing money.

This raises an anomaly. From now on, instead of handing over the money to the Treasury for investment, the Board of Trade will hand it over to the National Debt Commissioners, who will put it in an account with the Bank of England to be called the Insolvency Service Investment Account and the Commissioners will invest it, but will invest it &in accordance with such directions as may be given by the Treasury.& As I say, at first reading there seems to be an anomaly here. First, control of the investment was taken away from the Treasury and given to the National Debt Commissioners, yet here we have the money being handed over to be invested in accordance with such terms as may be stated by the Treasury. I should like an explanation of that point.

As to the submission of accounts to Parliament, I offer the pious hope that as two accounts will now be presented to Parliament we shall, in future, read them and comment on them, and ensure that the law has been fulfilled.

My only other comment is that now, presumably, there will be no separate cost shown of the service as there has been heretofor in the annual accounts presented to Parliament. This means that if, in future, we seek to find out the cost of the service we shall have to look to the Board of Trade Vote for the details.

I emphasise the point already made by the hon. Lady. The effect of this Bill on the public is administrative only. It does not in any way affect the right of any creditor or shareholder. It does not alter in any way the rights and duties of liquidators and trustees. We on this side welcome this small Measure. We are glad that we are making legal what has been the practice of the hon. Lady and her predecessors for many years. I look forward to that happy domestic scene after the passage of the Bill when the Joint Under-Secretary of State for Health and Security, the hon. Lady's husband, can say to the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade herself, in the immortal words first used by a famous actress to an equally famous musical comedy star who had just completed her first straight role: "Congratulations, darling. Legitimate at last."

11.36 a.m.

Mr. A. H. Macdonald (Chislehurst)

A small matter that I should be glad to have dealt with relates not to the technical provisions of the Bill but rather to the necessity for the Bill at all. Both my hon. Friend and the hon. Gentleman the Member for Scarborough and Whitby (Mr. Michael Shaw) said that the Bill comes after a certain amount of delay, if that is the right word, and I wondered when I read it whether it has come at a time when its necessity may have somewhat diminished.

The hon. Gentleman has a great deal of professional experience in this sphere which I cannot claim, although I have had some business connection with liquidation, but none at all with bankruptcies. He said that the Official Receiver is left only with the dregs, as it were ; that voluntary liquidations normally take place when there is something to be salvaged, and that therefore it is, perhaps, not surprising that the Official Receiver is hardly ever in a position to make a financial profit out of his transactions.

My experience is, and it is common knowledge, that the difficulties leading to either a voluntary or a compulsory liquidation very often arise because the liquidation comes too late, so to speak, and that if its necessity had been realised earlier it might have been possible to salvage something from the wreck. This occurred under the old system. when the balance-sheets of a large number of companies, particularly private and close companies, were a secret, and not visible generally to the public and to creditors. As a result, creditors allowed extensive credit which they would not have given had they been able to see the accounts.

Under the Companies Act—and 1 understand that further company legislation is to come forward—a great deal more publicity is available. Creditors are to some extent able to see how businesses are going and to judge more wisely the extent of credit they will allow. A posible conclusion from this position is that the incidence of liquidations, whether voluntary or compulsory, may be diminished and that those that take place may take place earlier, when it is pos- sible to salvage something from the wreck of a company's hopes and fears. If that happens, is it not at least more possible than previously that deficits may begin to diminish rather than to increase? In that sense the necessity for this Bill is rather less than it might have been 10 or 12 years ago when the Public Accounts Committee first drew attention to this particular factor.

11.40 a.m.

Mrs. Dunwoody

I ask leave of the House to speak again in order to answer, not only the interesting points made by my hon. Friend the Member for Chislehurst (Mr. Macdonald), but a!so the hon. Member for Scarborough and Whitby (Mr. Michael Shaw). After his magnificent peroration, which has stolen a most unkind march on me, I cannot find a marvellous contribution with which to close my remarks.

Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will forgive me if I go into a certain amount of detail on this question about the National Debt Commissioners. The National Debt Commissioners are the recognised agency for the investment of funds of this type held by Government Departments. The Treasury. which is currently responsible for the investment, considers that me Commissioners have the necessary expertise more readily available. The hon. Gentleman was rather unkind to the Treasury when he said that it was not successful with its investments. The information available to the National Debt Commissioners is of such detail and such type that they will be in a better position to invest than is the Treasury.

The Insolvency Services Investment Account, which the National Debt Commissioners will maintain at the Bank of England will replace the two investment accounts, one for bankruptcy funds and one for companies liquidation funds, at present maintained by the Treasury. Arrangements will he made, however, for the Commissioners to identify within the new combined investment account the funds attributable to the two different sources so that it will be possible interalia to establish the respective amounts of dividend income attributable to the two sources. This point raises what might appear to be an anomaly, that we take this function away from the Treasury and then say that the Commissioners can only perform it on the direction of the Treasury officially. That is because the National Debt Commissioners will be in a far better position to do this day-to-day investment work and at the moment the Treasury can invest only in Government Securities.

Subject to direction by the Treasury, the Commissioners will, under the Bill, be able to invest in any securities listed in Part II of Schedule I of the Trustee Investments Act, 1961. That part of the Schedule covers a wide range of fixed interest securities but it is the present intention of the Treasury that the Commissioners should be directed to limit investment to the following categories : (a) Government securities in the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland, (b) Government guaranteed securities in the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland, (c) the Agricultural Mortgage Corporation, (d) mortgage loans to local authorities and (e) local authority securities.

It should be noted that the powers in the Bill would not permit the Commissioners to invest in equities. The suggestion was made at the most recent P.A.C. meeting that such investment should be permitted. Equity investment which is usually suitable only for longer term investment—at least 10 years—would not be appropriate to funds of this type where overriding priorities are high yield and high liquidity. I hope the hon. Member will accept this somewhat detailed explanation of why the Bill is written in this way.

As to the points raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Chislehurst, would that this type of alteration were not necessary and that we were not in the position of having to come before Parliament to say that we have been flouting the law officially for a number of years. I was pleased that the hon. Member for Scarborough and Whitby did not venture on the wild seas of accusing only us of breaking the law because, as he said, his Government were also guilty. Although two wrongs do not make a right, all Governments in the recent past have felt that this was a continuing—not necessarily abuse—anomaly which needed to be put straight.

I tried to draw attention in my speech to the fact that I was very interested in the details of the contrary argument to that raised by my hon. Friend. It is quite startling that more people are able to run longer lines of credit before they go bankrupt than has happened in the past. People go bankrupt for larger sums with smaller assets. This in itself contributes to the difficulties the insolvency services have been facing. This may tell us something about modern society—that people are able to obtain greater sums. This is not a situation I have personally experienced, but I have found that some people get away with it for a longer time than they did in the past.

The Bill is definitely needed. It will put right a situation which has been becoming intolerable. As my hon. Friend said, as we get more information about company affairs creditors will be able to take what action they deem necessary at an earlier point than they were able to in the past. To this extent increasing company legislation is of assistance. Nevertheless, we could not continue to have a major service provided by the Government running under a statutory obligation with which it was not conforming and flouting the wishes of Parliament. The Bill sets out to regularise our system. It will make an honest woman of me, as the hon. Member for Scarborough and Whitby said. I hope that it will be greeted with approval on both sides of the House.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read a Second time.

Bill committed to a Standing Committee pursuant to Standing Order No. 40 (Committal of Bills).