HC Deb 12 December 1977 vol 941 cc6-7
6. Mr. Tim Smith

asked the Secretary of State for Trade if he will introduce new categories of companies in the forthcoming Companies Bill.

Mr. Dell

The Companies Bill will contain proposals for substantial revision of the definitions of public and private companies, and will require public companies to adopt a new designation.

Mr. Smith

In view of the Secretary of State's statement that, in effect, the Companies Bill will be limited to implementation of the second EEC directive on the reform of Company law, does he not agree that another opportunity to reform the framework within which business is required to operate in this country—most of which is now 30 years out of date—has been lost?

Mr. Dell

I did not quite say what the hon. Gentleman suggests. I said that I could give no assurance that it would be possible to incorporate in the Companies Bill that will come forward the matter covered in the White Paper that I have recently issued. I hope that it will be possible. I am not now certain of the position and, therefore, I can give no assurance. But certainly we are attempting to use this time to engender public discussion about a number of issues, including the position of small companies, which would be important in any such review of company law.

Mr. Anthony Grant

Is the Minister aware that the difficulties of small companies arise not so much from their status under company law as from the excessive and oppressive nature of legislation, particularly on taxation and employment protection, which has been piled upon them in recent years? Is he aware that, if that aspect can be put right, it will probably be unnecessary to jigger around with them and create a second-class citizen in our company law?

Mr. Dell

I note what the hon. Gentleman says. There is nevertheless an argument for considering the position of the small company under company law. We are in the process of doing so, and it may well be appropriate to issue a Green Paper on that subject.