HC Deb 18 June 1973 vol 858 cc9-11
10. Mr. Cronin

asked the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if he will introduce legislation to make it necessary for public companies to indicate in their annual reports which individuals receive from them either more than £10,000 per annum or benefits of value in excess of £10,000 per annum; and how much is paid for these purposes for each person concerned.

Sir G. Howe

I am at present reviewing the disclosure requirements of the Companies Acts.

Mr. Cronin

While the right hon. and learned Gentleman is making his review, will bear in mind the considerable evidence that extraordinarily large sums of money have been paid to private individuals by some companies and that, while those sums are not necessarily improper, it is desirable for them to be paid in an open and above-board manner, so that shareholders and other interested parties may know about them?

Sir G. Howe

It has been made clear by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State that we attach great importance to ensuring that adequate information about the activities of companies is made available to shareholders and others, and the factor mentioned by the hon. Gentleman is one that I shall take into account in my review of the legislation.

Mr. Ridley

I support the object of greater disclosure, but will my right hon. and learned Friend bear in mind that many self-employed people earn more than £10,000 a year, including barristers, bricklayers, and plasterers on the lump?

Sir G. Howe

I bear in mind all the examples mentioned by my hon. Friend. The fact that they are self-employed persons puts them in a slightly different position from those who act as directors of or who are employed in that capacity by companies in which the public subscribe by means of the ownership of shares.

Mr. Sheldon

Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman aware that the Prime Minister recently said that it was no part of Conservative philosophy that large sums of money should pass between companies and individuals outside what is given in other forms of activity in the professions and other walks of life? In view of the fact that so many people are making large sums of money out of capital gains from floating companies and elsewhere, what does the right hon. and learned Gentleman intend to do about implementing this part of what now seems to be at least the Prime Minister's policy?

Sir G. Howe

Taxation policy and the policy in relation to company law in respect of this matter have to be considered alongside each other. It is right that there should be disclosure of information to the extent finally judged to be correct. It is right that taxation policy should bear fairly on those within the net of income tax. It is also right that there should be no improper or unfair profits. But it does not follow that in the working of our economy it is right to presume that everyone who makes money is necessarily to be regarded as a villain. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister put the matter in its proper perspective, and I have nothing to add to what he said.