§ 18. Mr. Morgan
To ask the President of the Board of Trade what consultations he has had with the registrar of companies in relation to the future status of Companies House.
§ Mr. Neil Hamilton
The Department is in regular close consultation with the Registrar of Companies on all issues relating to the future status of Companies House.
§ Mr. Morgan
Does the Minister agree that it is high time that the 900 or so staff working at Companies House in Cardiff were put out of their misery as they have had the sword of potential privatisation hanging over them for far too long? Does he also agree that there is a European Court of Justice ruling that one cannot make a profit out of a regulation function with regard to dealings with companies, and that it is therefore probably not legally possible to privatise Companies House? Is it not time that 233 the Government accepted that position and dropped all proposals to privatise this extremely important employer and regulator of British business?
§ Mr. Hamilton
I accept the point that continued uncertainty is undesirable and I will seek to resolve that uncertainty at the earliest possible moment. No decisions have yet been taken on the options, whether they be privatisation, contractorisation, management buy-out or any of the other options available. As to the impact of the European Court case, that is being closely studied.
§ Mr. Ian Bruce
Does my hon. Friend agree that almost every Government owned and run organisation supposedly threatened with agency status or privatisation first resisted it and then, when it came about, found that it freed up the organisation to be of excellent service to the public? Indeed, it has been beneficial to all concerned.
§ Mr. Hamilton
I entirely agree with my hon. Friend. What we are looking for here is improvements in efficiency to bring better value for money for the customer. In the past, privatisation or contractorisation has often produced significant advantages for employees as well as for the public at large.