§ [Nos. 188–213]
Clause 67, page 64, leave out lines 2 to 16 and insert—
("The Board of Trade may at any time, if they think there is good reason so to do, give directions to any such body as follows, namely—
§ Clause 67, page 64, line 20, leave out from beginning to ("on") in line 21 and insert ("or may at any time, if they think there is good reason so to do, authorise any officer of theirs,")
§ Clause 67, page 64, line 24, leave out from ("may") to end of line 25 and insert ("specify")
§ Clause 67, page 64, line 26, leave out ("provisions of this section") and insert ("subsection")
§ Clause 67, page 64, line 35, after ("by") insert ("or by virtue of")
§ Clause 67, page 64, line 42, after second ("is"), insert ("or was at any time")
§ Clause 67, page 65, line 15. at end insert—
§ ("( ) A statement made by a person in compliance with a requirement imposed by virtue of this section may be used in evidence against him.")
§ Transpose Clause 67, as amended, to after Clause 89, as Part IIA of the Bill.
§ Clause 68, page 65, line 37, leave out from ("any") to ("until") in line 39 and insert ("such criminal proceedings as are mentioned in subsection (1)(a) or (aa) of the next following section (being proceedings to which the books or papers are relevant)")
§ Transpose Clause 68, as amended, to after Clause 89 as Part IIA of the Bill.
§ Clause 69, page 66, line 8, after ("section"), insert ("or under section 18 (power of Board of Trade to require production of documents) or 19 (entry and search of premises) of the Protection of Depositors Act 1963")
§ Clause 69, page 66, line 13, leave out from ("the") to second ("or") in line 14 and insert ("Companies Act 1948, the Insurance Corn-panics Act 1958, the Protection of Depositors Act 1963 or this Act"
§ Clause 69, page 66, line 17, at end insert—
§ Clause 69, page 66, line 20, leave out ("this Part") and insert ("Part II")
§ Clause 69, page 66, line 25, leave out from ("Board") to end of line 32 and insert—
§ (") (d) with a view to the institution by the Board under section (Fresh powers of Board of Trade to bring civil proceedings on behalf of body corporate) of this Act of proceedings with reference to the body or otherwise for the purpose of such proceedings instituted by them under that section;
§ (e) with a view to the institution by the Board of proceedings for the winding-up under the Companies Act 1948 of the body or otherwise for the purposes of proceedings instituted by them for that purpose.")
§ Clause 69, page 66, line 32, at end insert—
§ (f) for the purposes of proceedings under the last foregoing section")1265
§ Clause 69, page 66, line 43, leave out ("not") and insert ("other than one")
§ Clause 69, page 67, line 2, leave out ("and")
§ Clause 69, page 67, line 4, at end insert (", the Treasury and an officer of theirs")
§ Clause 69, page 67, line 6, after ("business,") insert ("(as so defined)")
§ Clause 69, page 67, line 10, leave out ("and an officer of his") and insert (",an officer of his, the Treasury and an officer of theirs")
§ Transpose Clause 69, as amended, to after Clause 89 as Part IIA of the Bill.
§ Clause 70, page 47, line 14, at end insert ("and no direction shall be given under subsection (1) or authorisation conferred under subsection (2) of section 18 of the Protection of Depositors Act 1963 after the passing of this Act")
§ Transpose Clause 70, as amended, to after Clause 89 as Part IIA of the Bill.
§ LORD BROWN
My Lords, I beg to move, with the permission of the House, Amendments Nos. 188 to 213. In doing so, I also seek permission to speak to Amendments 189 to 213 inclusive; 217, 221 to 225 inclusive and 251 to 255 inclusive. In all, therefore, I shall be speaking to 37 Amendments. All these are broadly concerned, in one way or another, with the prevention, detection, investigation and prosecution of fraud. I will deal first with the least important Amendments. Nos. 195, 197, 210, 213 and 225 all relate to the transfer of the positions of various clauses, and can therefore be considered virtually as drafting Amendments. Nos. 191, 205 and 208 are all essentially drafting Amendments. Clauses 67, 68 and 69 are concerned with the production of documents, entry and search of premises and provisions for the securing of information. Each has been extended or strengthened by some of the group of Amendments to which I am speaking. Amendments Nos. 198, 199, 201, 202, 204, 211, 212 and 217 are all consequential to these alterations to Clauses 67, 68 and 69.
I now move to the more important Amendments, having so far dealt with 20 out of the 37. Amendments Nos. 188, 189, 190 and 192 are all concerned with the Amendment of Clause 67, which itself is concerned with the power of the Board of Trade to require the production of documents. As drafted, Clause 67 would 1266 apply only to insurance companies. These Amendments extend Clause 67 so that it applies to all companies and will give the Board of Trade powers which it possesses at present only in relation to deposit taking companies and insurance companies.
These new powers enable the Board of Trade, if they think there is good reason to do so, to give directions to companies or bodies corporate to produce specified books or papers, or to authorise one of the Board's officers to require the company to produce papers that he may need. They also will enable the Board of Trade to appoint inspectors, or present a petition for the company to be wound up. Amendment No. 193 enables inspectors to require an explanation of a company's books or papers from past employees as well as from current employees.
Regarding Amendment 194, the new clause under Amendment No. 180 made it explicit in relation to Section 167 of the principal Act that statements made by persons properly questioned under the section by a duly appointed inspector could be used in evidence against them. Amendment No. 194 introduces the same provision into the operation of Clause 67. Amendment No. 196 is essentially a drafting Amendment which adopts for Clause 68 the definition appearing in Clause 69. That is clearer than the definition which appears in the clause as it stands. Amendments Nos. 200, 206, 207 and 209 permit disclosure to the Treasury of information obtained under Clause 67 or 68 for the purposes of any necessary criminal proceedings under the Exchange Control Act. Amendment No. 203 repairs an omission, because Section 1 of Clause 69 fails to list, as one of the purposes for which information may be disclosed, the disclosure to a justice of the peace to satisfy him that premises may contain documents that have not been disclosed on demand.
Amendment No. 251 is a new clause which makes the furnishing of false information under Clause 67 an offence, and provides penalties. Amendment No. 252 is a new clause which extends parts of Clause 38, dealing with the maximum lapse of time for bringing proceedings under the Companies Act 1948 from six months to three years, into operation in relation to offences under Part IIA of the Bill. Amendment No. 253 is a new 1267 clause. Section 175 of the Companies Act 1948 protects solicitors from having to disclose privileged information, or bank documents, relating to a customer who is not under investigation, and the new clause provides a similar protection to solicitors and bankers under Part IIA of the Bill. Amendment No. 254 is a new clause defining books and papers in the same way as in the original Act. Amendment No. 255 is a new clause, and it states that Part IIA of the Bill shall not extend to Northern Ireland. I beg to move.
§ Moved, That this House doth agree with the Commons in the said Amendments.—(Lord Brown.)
§ LORD DRUMALBYN
My Lords, I should like to thank the noble Lord for his explanation. The Amendments contain some important clauses. This group, among other things, includes the penalty clauses. There has been some criticism in that the penalties—considering that we are introducing new penalties—are not sufficiently heavy compared with the change in the value of money. One has to bear in mind that some of these frauds can be extremely damaging, and the penalty of two years on indictment is perhaps not enough; nor, for that matter, is a penalty of £200 or three months on summary conviction. I wonder whether the noble Lord could say something about this aspect of the matter—what further consideration was given to this, and whether he is satisfied that the present penalties proposed are in line with the general level of penalties at the time. Perhaps I may add that I understand that the whole question of penalties is being considered at present, and I wonder whether these penalties will be considered in conjunction with those already existing.
§ LORD BOOTHBY
My Lords, before the noble Lord, Lord Brown, replies, may I say one word? I have been a Member of one or other of the Houses of Parliament for 43 years, and I have never known any parallel situation to this one. We are now being asked to consider, in a single day, 350-odd Amendments to a Bill. I would make an appeal to the noble Lord that he should ask the Parliamentary draftsman to draft better Bills in future, because any Bill that requires over 350 Amendments after it is brought 1268 to this House has no justification whatsoever. It is asking too much of Parliament.
§ LORD BROWN
My Lords, I note the point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Boothby. I have already apologised to the House for having put your Lordships in this situation. I am sorry about it. I will not again go into the reasons which place the Government in this position. I can assure the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, that the Government are seriously concerned about the matter he raised. It is under consideration in relation to this Bill, and though it was felt that it was not possible to introduce Amendments at this stage, no doubt something will be done in the second Companies Bill which is to come. It is a matter of concern to the Government, and has been under discussion.
§ LORD CHORLEY
I should like to say to the noble Lord, Lord Boothby, that it is not fair to blame the Parliamentary draftsmen for what has happened.
§ LORD CHORLEY
My Lords, the Government are to blame. The Parliamentary draftsmen have to do what they are told, and draft a Bill according to instructions.
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.
§ 6.11 p.m.