Clause 3 - Power to modify, etc. to assimilate to company law

Part of Industrial and Provident Societies Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 11:45 am on 13th February 2002.

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Photo of Christopher Chope Christopher Chope Shadow Spokesperson (Transport) 11:45 am, 13th February 2002

I keep those figures always at the forefront of my mind and I am delighted that the hon. Lady is so well briefed. If she is kind and generous enough to acknowledge that I have some experience of the issue as a Government Minister and as a Member of the House, it is that experience that guides me to the

belief that we should be concerned about giving too much power to produce statutory instruments that cannot be amended. Both the Government of which I was privileged to be a member and the present Government have got into difficulties with statutory instruments.

We must ensure that legislation does not have a disproportionate effect on small organisations—the little platoons, as the former Prime Minister, John Major, described them. We referred to the example of parish councils and I will not dwell on that again. However, the prospect of people who take on office as committee members and officers of a small industrial and provident society suddenly finding themselves unwittingly brought before the courts and subjected to criminal charges, fines and public humiliation might act as a deterrent to taking on a role in the best interests of the society.

There may be a case for assimilating the laws for companies and those for industrial and provident societies. If we want to do that, the Government are free to introduce primary legislation. It does not have to be discussed at tremendous length and, if the Modernisation Committee has its way, there will be scope for us to consider amendments and properly discuss primary legislation much more quickly than we have in the past. Primary legislation allows flexibility that statutory instruments do not.

I was concerned when the hon. Member for Harrow, West said that it would be appropriate to assimilate the criminal law relating to offences under company law and under industrial and provident law in the case of the rugby club—perhaps it was a slip of the tongue. I thought that the purpose of the new clause was to say that it might be appropriate, but he is already saying that it would be. If it would be appropriate, he can table a new clause on Report, so that we can debate the proposal on its merits.