§ Mr. Richard Wainwright
asked the Secretary of State for Trade what is the current position regarding delays of the registration of charges at the Companies Office; and if he will make a statement.
§ Mr. Eyre
I am sorry to say that industrial action has affected mail deliveries, and internal communications between offices of the Companies Registration Office in Cardiff and London. Charges actually received at Companies House, Cardiff, are being registered in the normal way and within the normal time scale, provided that they are lodged within 21 days of their creation as 169W required by sections 95 and 96 of the Companies Act 1948. The validity of the charge is safeguarded by its delivery within such period.
Because of difficulties in the transmission of documents, it has not been possible for some weeks to prepare certificates of registration under section 98(2) of the Companies Act 1948 in respect of charges received in London. Such certificates have been prepared in respect of charges received in Cardiff, but their despatch has in some cases been held up. In addition, strike action is preventing the Registrar from allowing inspection of the register of charges by members of the public. I very much regret the inconvenience to those affected. Companies are required by sections 103 to 105 of the Companies Act 1948 to keep their own register of charges and a copy of instruments creating charges at their registered office, where they are open to inspection, but this procedure cannot preserve the validity of a charge which is void because it has not been delivered to the Registrar on time. Because of the interruption of mail deliveries to which I have referred, some charges have been, or are likely to be, received out of time. The Registrar has no power to register charges delivered more than 21 days after their creation, except on the basis of an order of the court under section 101 of the Companies Act 1948.
It is open to the company or to any interested person to apply to the court for such an order, extending the time for registration, when the court will consider whether it is right in the circumstances to grant relief. This procedure, under court supervision, is for the protection of all concerned. My Department is taking steps to bring the implications of the present situation to the attention of those concerned. Companies from which charges are received out of time are being reminded of the need to apply to the court. The major banks have also been advised. I understand that normal mail deliveries and collections at CRO have recently been resumed, but for the time being those concerned may feel it prudent to arrange for urgent documents to be delivered by hand.
The Companies Registration Office in Edinburgh is not affected by industrial action and the registration of charges there is proceeding normally.