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asked the President of the Board of Trade what conclusion he has reached as to whether certain classes of banks and discount companies should disclose more information in their accounts; whether he has completed his discussions on this matter; and if he will make a statement.
The study of the full accounts of the banks and discount houses over a period will take a considerable time and I cannot say when the review is likely to be completed.
Does the right hon. Gentleman realise that the matter has become much more urgent and important in recent days because of the proposed mergers and the whole climate of take-over bids which now exists in banks and discount houses as well as in industry? Is it not very unfair for shareholders and the investing public not to have the slightest idea of the contents of a bank's accounts?
I am not sure that the question of disclosure, which was in reference to how much should be disclosed overseas, is altered by the fact that the bank mergers are going on. But I am sure that the hon. Gentleman would not wish us to rush this inquiry. If I remember aright, he agreed during the proceedings on the Companies Bill that we must fully and carefully examine what the consequences would be if full disclosure were made. We are now examining the situation.
Would my right hon. Friend assure us that the report of the inquiry will be published before the shareholders and the public have to make any decision about whether they agree to the price offered in the recent proposed bank merger?