asked the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry on how many occasions during the past 10 years the reports of inspectors from his Department appointed to investigate the affairs of individual companies under the terms of Section 165 of the Companies Act have been followed by legal prosecutions; and in how many of these instances the reports of the inspectors were withheld from publication.
Prosecutions resulted from inspectors' reports in 26 cases during the 10 years to 31st December, 1971. In nine of those cases it has been decided not to be in the public interest to publish the reports.
I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for that information. Nevertheless, does he agree that there is no post-war precedent for a company with such a very wide shareholding as Rolls-Royce being the object of such an inspection? In view of that, are there not exceptional reasons in this case which favour the publication of the inspectors' report?
I will take note of my hon. Friend's remarks. The decision to publish in a particular case must be geared to the question whether publication could have a prejudicial effect on any subsequent trial proceedings.
Can the Secretary of State do something to expedite action against the many companies which continually and persistently break the law? Details of dozens of such companies are in his possession but the Under-Secretary refuses to carry out the law until such time as the investing public loses all its money. I could quote dozens of cases, but I see that the Under-Secretary is now giving the Secretary of State the information.