HC Deb 14 February 1977 vol 926 cc13-4
7. Mr. Ridley

asked the Secretary of State for Trade if he will initiate an inquiry under Section 32 of the Companies Act 1967 into the affairs of Labour Party Properties Ltd.

Mr. Clinton Davis

This is a company limited by guarantee and, in the absence of issued share capital, the directors cannot be in breach of the disclosure provisions of Section 32 of the 1967 Act. There are, therefore, no grounds for such an inquiry.

Mr. Ridley

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that in addition to this problem the company seems to have been appallingly badly managed, leading to possible negligence by the directors? Now that it is insolvent and probably trading illegally, does he not think that he should put aside any party bias and appoint inspectors to see what has gone wrong in this disastrous example of a property flop?

Mr. Davis

What is abundantly clear is that the hon. Gentleman, as a former Minister in the Department of Trade and Industry until he was sacked, had not taken the trouble to do his homework in this matter. It is clear that Section 32 has no relevance. As for the criteria for investigation under Section 165, neither I nor my right hon. Friend is in the least concerned with the identity of the directors or the aims and objects of the company, except in so far as they relate to an inquiry.

Mr. Skinner

Does my hon. Friend agree that it is no part of the Labour Party's business to become property speculators, as apparently was the case way back in the 1960s, and that we should all now welcome the recent statement by the newly elected Labour Party Treasurer, my hon. Friend the Member for Tottenham (Mr. Atkinson), who has made it clear that under his stewardship we shall get out and honour our obligations?

Mr. Davis

I do not think that that has anything to do with me in my capacity as a Minister who may authorise an investigation under the Companies Acts. I do not believe, as a matter of fact, that the company in question was at any time engaged, as my hon. Friend said, in propert speculation.

Mr. Tebbit

Will the hon. Gentleman, as a Minister, advise the Putney Labour Party which section of the Act it should use to try to recover the £40,000 it has lost in this wretched company? It has lost its headquarters as well, and the Minister should be concerned about that.

Mr. Davis

I am delighted, as the House will be, to know the hon. Gentleman's compassion for the Putney Labour Party. I have enough difficulty advising the Hackney, Central Labour Party, without becoming involved in the Putney Labour Party.

Mr. Jay

Has the company had any assistance from what is known as the "lifeboat" provided by the Bank of England, which, at a cost of several hundred millions of pounds, rescued a number of City companies two years ago?

Mr. Davis

I am aware of that lifeboat. My involvement as a shipping Minister is with lifeboats of another kind.