The Government have accepted the general principles underlying the committee's report. Accordingly, urgent consideration is being given to the programme of legislation which would be needed to provide a modern body of insolvency law. However, translation of the recommendations into legislation will be a time-consuming task and I cannot say when that will be completed.
I cannot yet answer the second part of my hon. Friend's question, but I can assure him that we are mindful of the urgency of this matter and we think that something should be done as soon as possible.
When will the Minister act on his own words and prevent directors winding up a company one day and setting up another one the next day, however improperly they may have acted, thus bilking their debtors and the public and bringing the entire system into the type of disrepute that the Minister, above all, would wish to avoid?
I share the hon. and learned Gentleman's views on this matter. I think that it is an abuse of the present position when people are able to do that. The difficulty is to find a way of curbing it without at the same time curbing genuine, honest traders. I am mindful of this point, but I am also mindful of the need to examine the qualifications of people who set themselves up as liquidators.
I thank my hon. Friend for that sympathetic reply. Does he accept that, while I agree entirely that no one should be milked by bankrupts setting up immediately after be mg declared bankrupt, nevertheless great hardship can arise among those who wish to rehabilitate themselves and make a living for their company. I am glad that my hon. Friend is taking this matter seriously.
The Minister will recall the recommendation of the Cork committee on the appointment of an administrator in cases of insolvency. Would not that be a useful interim measure which the Government could carry into effect if they decided not to hold an early election arid needed legislation with which to carry on?
The appointment of an administrator was one of the important recommendations of the Cork report. It is an attractive recommendation, but I think that it is important to consult properly on the implications before we start making announcements.
It is not good enough to bottle up the recommendations of the Cork committee. It gave five years' consideration to this important matter, including a year spent inside the Department of Trade. For the Minister simply to say that the matter is complicated is not good enough. Will he at least publish a Green Paper in the present Session of Parliament, or in the next, to ensure that we can start to make progress on a matter which most people recognise as long overdue for legislation?