HC Deb 20 October 1981 vol 10 cc241-2
Mr. Eyre

I beg to move amendment No. 108, in page 103, line 40, leave out 'more than one class of members' 'and insert— 'any class of members with such rights as are mentioned in subsection (1) above,'.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

With this, it will be convenient to take Government amendment No. 109.

Mr. Eyre

These amendments correct an error in the drafting of clause 94, which requires a company that has created a class of members with rights that are not stated in its memorandum and articles to deliver to the Registrar of Companies a statement of the rights.

Mr. Les Huckfield (Nuneaton)

I do not seek to detain the House, but I should like an assurance from the Minister. I understand that the amendments would affect section 110 of the 1948 Act. I seek the Minister's assurance that we shall not take a backward step after having taken what I and many others consider to be a step forward. As I interpret clause 93, and particularly clause 94, the provisions will affect companies limited by guarantee. The Minister will know that I have been much exercised by a company limited by guarantee called the Performing Right Society. I do not wish to go into the details of that society's activities, but the Minister will recall that when I last raised the need for an inquiry into the PRS during an Adjournment debate, he pointed me in the direction of the amendment to section 110 of the 1948 Act, represented in clause 94.

I seek the hon. Gentleman's assurance that we shall not undermine the importance of clause 94. The Minister knows the criticisms that I and many others have made of the PRS. An oligarchic few—a hidden 4 per cent. of the total membership—control the society. That means that they control the fate of Great Britain's entire music manufacturing industry as well as the economic fate of those working within it. Therefore, the provision is important. I should not like amendments Nos. 108 and 109 to detract from that.

As the clause stands, I understand that it will provide that non-share companies such as the PRS will be obliged to reveal to their respective memberships, as well as to the public, which of their members have votes and how many. In that way members and the public will know who controls non-share companies. That does not go as far as many of us would like. We should like many of the PRS's internal abuses to be corrected. As it stands, clause 94 will not do much to control such abuses.

I should not like to witness any backtracking on clause 94 and I should like an assurance to that effect from the Minister. Backtracking or undermining of the significance of clause 94 will not help us to do something about these internal abuses. The chief internal abuse about which I have been much exercised is that the governing council of the Performing Right Society has awarded as many as 20 votes to a selected 400 of its 12,000 membership. That gives them effective control of the society. It would help many of us to know who has those 20 votes and how they exercise them.

The amendment goes part of the way and I welcome it. I should welcome even more the Minister's assurance that amendments Nos. 108 and 109 will not undermine the step forward. Although it is a small step forward, I hope that it is not the last step forward. I shall continue to press the Minister to take that direction.

8.30 pm
Mr. Eyre

I remember the interest in this matter by the hon. Member for Nuneaton (Mr. Huckfield). I have listened carefully to him. I assure the hon. Gentleman that the amendments will not detract from the effect of clause 94. The purpose of the amendments is to correct a drafting error which would have resulted in unnecessary duplication in the provision of information. The hon. Gentleman takes a personal interest in clause 94. I appreciate its importance to him. I was glad to note that the hon. Gentleman shares our view that clause 94 will result in a useful addition to the information disclosed by companies.

It is not for me to comment on the internal affairs of a particular company. I emphasise that the clause was not drafted with one particular company in mind. It has general application for companies without a share capital. It should be read in that general context in relation to company law. I repeat my assurance that the amendments do not detract from the effect of clause 94.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendment made: No. 109, in page 103, line 43 leave out 'each' and insert 'any such'.—[Mr. Eyre.]

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