HC Deb 07 June 1976 vol 912 cc898-900
12. Mr. Molloy

asked the Secretary of State for Trade what proportion of companies registered in London have not yet filed their annual returns for 1974–75 as required by the Companies Acts.

Mr. Clinton Davis

79,000 companies have not yet filed an annual return for the calendar year 1974 and the returns of 245,000 companies are outstanding for 1975. They represent 12 per cent. and 38 per cent. respectively of live companies on the register.

Mr. Molloy

What does my hon. Friend intend to do about this deficit of returns, which is very important? It is a breach of the law. It is important in the current industrial situation in London. If there were a reasonably adequate return, it would assist in assessing in the absolute detail which is now necessary the rundown of trade and industry in the Greater London area.

Mr. Davis

Being a London Member myself, I am as aware as my hon. Friend of the problem affecting London. We have, however, introduced the Companies (No. 2) Bill, which we hope will have a real effect on the speedier filing of annual returns. Also, strong action was taken in 1975. There were 2,440 prosecutions compared with 2,201 the previous year, and 28,000 companies were struck off the register compared with 15,000 the previous year.

Mr. Geoffrey Finsberg

Does the Minister accept that, while the more speedy filing of these returns might give some useful and valuable financial statistics, the growing unemployment in Greater London will be helped only by positive measures by Government Departments concerned with things like the location of industry and industrial development certificates, on which some of us have been pressing him for a long time?

Mr. Davis

That does not arise from the Question put by my hon. Friend. But this Government have been rather more active than were the hon. Member's Government in seeking the objectives that he has eloquently outlined.

Mr. Frank Allaun

How does my hon. Friend expect the millions of people who pay through pay-as-you-earn every Friday to react to the astounding statement that he has just made?

Mr. Davis

The situation is a serious one, and it is precisely for that reason that the Government have taken the actions to which I have referred. But it is right to say that, among fairly small businesses, there has been in part an ignorance of the law and also the excuse of delegation of responsibility, which of course is an inadequate excuse. There has been a fairly widespread abandonment of mori- bund companies, but above all there has been delay in the preparation of accounts, which up to the present have been required to be annexed to the annual return. That is a requirement which our new Bill will alter.

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