HC Deb 15 February 1989 vol 147 cc298-9
2. Mr. Andrew Smith

To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster how many times in each of the last five years consent has been given for companies to omit details of their overseas subsidiaries from their reports and accounts.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Corporate Affairs (Mr. Francis Maude)

One hundred and fifty-eight exemptions from disclosing the identity of subsidiaries have been granted since January 1984.

Mr. Smith

Will the Minister tell the House which companies are involved and how many of that large number involve subsidiaries in South Africa? Are not the Government throwing a cloak of secrecy over apartheid connections and thereby deceiving both markets and investors who are concerned about the ethics of what they do?

Mr. Maude

No, I will not disclose those identities nor how many of the subsidiaries relate to any particular country. In doing that, I am simply following the policy which has obtained for the past 22 years since the provision was introduced in the Companies Act 1967 by the then Labour Government.

Mr. Caborn

In giving companies permission to omit subsidiaries from their reports and accounts, is the Minister aware of the growing criticism about giving positive support for trade with apartheid South Africa? Is he further aware that the Commonwealth and EEC agreements to which we are party are not being observed. When will the Secretary of State honour those agreements and stop giving succour to the South African regime?

Mr. Maude

The hon. Gentleman talks about giving support to trade with South Africa. He may have forgotten that the last Labour Government sponsored, with public money, no fewer than 62 separate trade missions to South Africa. We no longer do that. As I understand it, companies follow the voluntary ban on new investment with South Africa, so there is nothing for the hon. Gentleman to get so excited about.