The Government accept the general principles underlying the Cork report. We are still waiting for some of the consultation comments to come in. As soon as we have those, I hope to announce whether there are steps that we can take to deal with abuses in advance of the major legislation which would be required to implement the main body of the report.
I welcome the Minister's reply, but is he aware that there is considerable disappointment that he has not made a definite commitment at least to incorporate legislation on the appointment of administrators so that in the current climate companies threatened with insolvency can be kept going and the workers employed?
To which of the Cork committee's recommendations does my hon. Friend attach the greatest priority? Has he referred any of the recommendations to the advisory panel on company law?
I am considering what parts can be pulled out from the Cork package. It is an integrated package. I do not wish to make the mistake of pulling out some parts and creating difficulties in others. I have not yet taken any advice on that matter.
Is my hon. Friend aware of the great impatience among the public in general and consumers in particular over the continuous dragging of feet on this issue both by the Labour Government and this Government? Will he give me an assurance that he will introduce legislation during this parliamentary Session?
I do not accept that the Government are dragging their feet. I am well aware of the need to protect consumers as much as possible. I shall come back to the House with proposals as soon as possible.
Does the Minister realise that the insolvency laws have been recognised to be unsatisfactory for at least a decade and that legislation is now long overdue? The present law is particularly hard on consumers, suppliers and unsecured creditors. If the Government cannot bring forward such legislation in this Session, will the hon. Gentleman publish detailed legislative proposals so that the next Labour Government can do something about the situation?
When the hon. Gentleman sees our proposals he will have to accept that the Government are mindful of the urgency of this matter. I suggest that he waits until we produce some recommendations.
May I encourage my hon. Friend by assuring him that if he wished for a short, sharp measure to protect consumers, I have a strange feeling that it would pass through the House more rapidly than other legislation that might be contemplated?