The clause is about restrictions on the use or disclosure of protected information by the registrar. We have previously debated access to directors’ home addresses, and we acknowledge that the overall proposed framework represents a step in the right direction. As I said in earlier debates, more needs to be done, and this clause is one of the mechanical follow-up provisions.
Clause 225(2)(b) states that the registrar is not obliged
“to omit from the material that is available for public inspection anything registered before this Chapter comes into force.”
The amendments are intended either to delete that provision, through amendment No. 258, or to add the words set out in amendment No. 279. The problem is that there are concerns that, without the amendments, the registrar will not need to remove directors’ home addresses already on the register once the law changes. That view is held by many outside interested parties.
We have had a long discussion on the protection of names and addresses on the public record. If I am honest with the hon. Gentleman, the amendments are difficult because of the practical constraints that we face. Once the information for a director is on the record, it could be embedded and appear on hundreds of documents filed over the years or decades. It would be an understatement to say that it would be difficult to remove snippets of information from old paper records and microfiche, and it is important to keep information for enforcement agencies.
Clause 741 contains the power to provide for historic records of addresses to be made unavailable for public inspection. We have discussed that clause, as the hon. Gentleman knows. We accept that there may be exceptional circumstances in which it is appropriate for an address to be taken off the public record. However, each case needs to be considered individually, taking account of practical consideration, the director’s need for privacy and the implications of the loss of information. We do not expect there to be more than 10 or 20 such cases. We will consult on the regulations, but we do not think that the hon. Gentleman’s suggestion is desirable or practical.
I fully agree that, if a provision in the Bill or regulations under it required the Registrar of Companies to omit protected information from the material available for public inspection, the clause should not relieve her of that obligation. Amendment No. 279 is not necessary. Clause 741(1) provides:
“regulations requiring the registrar, on application, to make an address on the register unavailable for public inspection.”
We do not consider that clause 225(2), when read in the context of the other provisions of the clause, casts doubt on that. I therefore hope that the hon. Gentleman will withdraw his amendment.
Division number 21 - 9 yes, 10 no