HC Deb 27 January 1998 vol 305 cc178-9W
Mr. Charles Kennedy

To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland when his Department was informed of the acquisition of the Skye Bridge Company by the Bank of America; from what date such acquisition became effective; what plans he has, arising therefrom, to reconsider the basis upon which his Department supplies information in response to enquiries from the National Audit Office; and if he will make a statement. [24835]

Mr. Dewar

Skye Bridge Ltd. has not been acquired by the Bank of America. The publicly available records at Companies House, Edinburgh, show that, since 23 January 1992,997 £1 ordinary shares of Skye Bridge Ltd. (formerly known as Skye Bridge Tolls Ltd.) have been registered in the name of Bank of America International Ltd. and a further three in the name of BankAmerica Nominees Ltd. These transfers were in accordance with the funding arrangements agreed at the outset by the companies involved in procuring the Skye Bridge.

The arrangements require Miller Civil Engineering Ltd., which held 405 £1 ordinary shares in Skye Bridge Ltd., Dywidag Systems International Ltd. (formerly known as Dywidag Systems (UK) Ltd.), which held 405 £1 ordinary shares, and BankAmerica International Financial Corporation, which held 190 £1 ordinary shares, to transfer their shares in security to a Trustee (or its designated nominee) acting on behalf of the secured creditors of Skye Bridge Ltd. The Trustee is the Bank of America International Ltd. and its designated nominee is BankAmerica Nominees Ltd., to whom 997 and three ordinary shares were transferred respectively. Such a grant of security required, as a matter of Scots law, that the title to the shares be transferred to the Trustee, subject to the terms of the security arrangement.

During the currency of the arrangement, the companies granting the security retain the power in respect of their shares to direct the Trustee regarding the exercise of certain important rights under the shares, including voting rights. Once Skye Bridge Ltd. has fulfilled its obligations to the secured creditors, the Trustee is obliged to transfer back the shareholdings.

The then Secretary of State was aware of, but not party to, all aspects of the funding arrangements when the Concession Agreement was signed on 16 December 1991. Under the terms of the Concession Agreement, the agreed funding arrangements may not subsequently be amended without the approval of the Secretary of State. The granting of the security did not constitute an amendment and, therefore, did not require the Secretary of State's approval.

Under the National Audit Act 1983, the Comptroller and Auditor General has a right of access to documents he may reasonably require for carrying out any examination into the economy, efficiency and effectiveness with which any department has used its resources in discharging its functions, and is entitled to require such information and explanation as are reasonably necessary. The information on the shareholding arrangement described above was available to the National Audit Office in the course of the Skye Bridge examination. The Department will continue to provide access in accordance with the requirements of the 1983 Act.

Forward to