HC Deb 26 October 1976 vol 918 cc312-4
Mr. Clinton Davis

I beg to move Amendment No. 1, in page 1, line 10, at end insert— (2) The Secretary of State may by regulations increase or reduce any of the sums for the time being specified in the provisions amended by subsection (1) above.".

Mr. Deputy Speaker

With this we may take Government Amendments Nos. 2, 3, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40 and 41.

Mr. Davis

The amendments have the effect of empowering the Secretary of State by regulation to vary—that is to say, increase, further increase, reduce or further reduce—the monetary limits specified in Part I of Schedule 1 and of subjecting the draft of any such regulations to approval by resolution of each House of Parliament.

Those who served on the Committee will recall that Clause 1(2) of the original Bill was struck out. That amendment imposed upon the Government the extraordinary burden of having to come to the House with a Bill every time they wanted to achieve what is set out here. That is wholly unacceptable and completely inconsistent with the Opposition's attitude of urging us to adopt a flexibility of mind. Flexibility would have been impossible to achieve if the amendment had been allowed to stand.

The original proposal related only to the increase or further increase of monetary limits, and I indicated that I thought it appropriate that we should have the right to vary both in relation to increases and reductions. That is what we seek to achieve by the amendment. I think the House will agree that the alternative carried by the Committee through fortuitous circumstances is untenable. Having regard to the importance of the regulations, we feel it right that they should be subjected to the affirmative rather than the negative resolution procedure which we originally prescribed.

The purpose of Amendment No. 32 is to provide that no reduction in the following monetary limits shall affect any cases in which the proceedings were begun before the coming into force of the reduction: the maximum value of the debtor's assets for summary sequestration in Scotland; the maximum amount for the jurisdiction of the county court, in a case of bankruptcy, to adjudicate upon any claim not arising out of the bankruptcy; the maximum value of the debtor's estate for summary administration in bankruptcy; the maximum share capital for winding up jurisdiction of a county court in England and Wales or a sheriff court in Scotland.

The amendment will also have the effect of ensuring that any increase or reduction in the maximum value of a bankrupt's necessary goods which are exempt from division among the creditors will not affect any case in which the receiving order occurred before the coming into force of the increase for reduction.

The last group of amendments merely sets out after "increase" the words "or reduction". This will have the effect of applying the transitional provisions in paragraphs 2, 3 and 4 of Part II relating to preferential wages and paragraph 5 relating to the amount of the judgment debt above which the sheriff is required to retain the proceeds of execution for 14 days, to any reduction as well as to any increase in the monetary limits.

The fourth amendment will have the effect of applying the transitional provisions in paragraph 3 to any increase or reduction in the maximum salary payable to a curate where a benefice is sequestrated under Section 50(3) of the Bankruptcy Act 1914.

Mr. Higgins

This is a splendid British compromise. Originally the Under-Secretary wanted to make these changes by negative resolution. We succeeded in carrying an amendment that ensured that he had to do so by means of a Bill. The hon. Gentleman is now proposing that the affirmative procedure be adopted. On the whole, that is not a bad compromise. It is the sort of compromise that all Oppositions seek to achieve, and we have achieved it. I see no reason to complain.

In addition, the hon. Gentleman has eliminated any possibility of restrospection. I do not think that we can ask for any more. We are grateful to him for the amendments and I am happy to go along with them.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendments made: No. 2, in page 1, line 12, after 'increase', insert 'or reduction'.

No. 3, in page 1, line 15, leave out from 'and' to end of line 17 and insert: 'no such regulations shall be made unless a draft of them has been approved by resolution of each House of Parliament.'.—[Mr. Clinton Davis.]

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