HC Deb 10 February 2000 vol 344 cc398-9
26. Dr. Brian Iddon (Bolton, South-East)

What criteria are applied to the distribution of unclaimed assets of dissolved companies and intestate individuals; and if he will make a statement. [107908]

The Solicitor-General

In the case of dissolved companies, their beneficial property and rights vest in the Crown as bona vacantia. The Treasury Solicitor acts as the Crown's nominee for dealing with such assets for England and Wales, other than in the Duchies of Cornwall or Lancaster.

The criteria for distribution of the estate of intestate individuals are laid down in the Administration of Estates Act 1925. Where an individual has died intestate without known kin, the estate will fall to the Crown.

Dr. Iddon

How does the Treasury Solicitor dispose of money arising from those sources that is left in bank accounts? What is the value of such money?

The Solicitor-General

To answer the second question first, some £10 million net every year is administered in that way. In relation to money in bank accounts, that will go to the Crown, although it may be that claims can be made by, for example, unpaid creditors. In some cases, former members of the dissolved company can make an application.

Mr. John Burnett (Torridge and West Devon)

Is there a register, open to the public, of unclaimed estates of intestates? What is the time limit for claimants with genuine and proven claims to make claims against the Crown where assets have been confiscated by the Crown? Is that time limit effectively 30 years?

The Solicitor-General

There is no such register of intestate individuals. I understand that there are about 2,000 cases every year, and that in about one third of them a next-of-kin is ultimately identified, so that money does not go bona vacantia. In some cases persons who do not have a legal claim but may have a moral claim—for example, they looked after the deceased—can make a claim and the Treasury Solicitor may make an ex gratia payment. The hon. Gentleman is right about the time limit; there is a time limit.