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Lord Wedderburn of Charlton: My Lords, perhaps the Minister will allow me to clarify the new interpretation which he has put forward and which, I suspect, is not present in the minds of the many people who were consulted on paragraph 5.
The case appears to be that the Government are saying that without the immunity in question, which includes Section 234A and the duties owed only to employers, the trade union will be at risk of legal action whether the person bringing it is the employer, the customer or the supplier. However, what is implied is that the employer will win the legal action and that the customer or supplier will lose the legal action. The Government are saying merely that someone might bring a legal action, just as they might have said that an Eskimo might bring a legal action or that the union might be at risk of a person in Tunbridge Wells bringing an action whether or not they might win.
Does the Minister assert that that is the way in which the ordinary person, to whom the code is addressed, will read it? Will not the ordinary person say, "When the code says that the union is at risk of legal action by employer, customer or supplier it is saying that the union is going to lose if there is no immunity."? That is the normal meaning of those words. Is it the Government's intention that that is not the meaning? The meaning is that there might be a legal action in one court or another here or in Scotland and that it might succeed or it might not. What is the point of a paragraph stating that when the rest of page 24 deals with who will win and who will lose?
Lord Inglewood: I am grateful to the noble Lord, but it appears that he is now the one who is putting a gloss on this part of the document. He is reading it in a manner which, by his own admission, is intended to spell out that we are trying to make the document as frightening as possible. Under the statute there is a risk that one might break the law under these circumstances. It is reasonable to point that out to people, bearing in mind that they may be going forward and taking the steps that we are debating.
I can see that that may well not be true. However, in the generality of the case and in the gloss using layman's language, there is a real possibility that under the circumstances described there could be a risk of legal action against the trade union. I do not believe that the inclusion of those words in any way goes to the heart of the matter.
Lord Inglewood: My Lords, the point that I am makingand it was refined by the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Wedderburnis that Sections 226 and 234A relate to immunity. The important point is that under certain circumstances there may be immunity which may lead to an action by an employer which will not lead to an action by a customer or supplier of such an employer. It is important to look at the text. The word "immunity" appears in the heading in quotation marks. It is a general word. Paragraph 5 of the code states:
The employer has a wider course of action open to him if he wishes to proceed than does a customer or supplier. But that does not gainsay the fact that there are circumstances when the customer or supplier can bring an action. So long as there is a possibility that such a customer or supplier can bring an action, the proposition as stated in paragraph 5 that the trade union will be at risk of legal action is entirely consistent.
Section 13 of the Deregulation and Contracting Out Act 1994 introduced a new company law procedure. It allowed directors of non-trading private companies which had reached the end of their useful lives to apply for them to be struck off the register of companies and dissolved. This new procedure will come into force on 1st July for companies registered in Great Britain. A fee will need to be paid to recover the costs incurred by Companies House in processing the applications. The purpose of these regulations is to prescribe that the fee will be £10 in respect of the making of a striking-off application.
To apply, directors have to fill in a simple form and send it to Companies House. They must also copy the completed form to anyone with an interest in or dealings with the company. Unless there are good reasons why the company should not be struck off the register, it will be dissolved within a matter of a few months.
In return, the procedure contains certain safeguards for those dealing with or involved in the company. As I said, directors must send copies of the application and anyone may object to the application by showing the registrar that there is good reason for the company not to be struck off. A good reason might be that the company is still trading or that a creditor is taking steps to recover a debt.
Processing the application will involve Companies House in staff and computer costs and relevant overheads. We propose to set a fee of £10 to cover those costs. Directors will incur other costs in making the application; for example, copying and sending the completed application form to anyone with an interest in or dealings with the company. They may also choose to seek professional advice although Companies House is providing comprehensive guidance notes to assist. I am confident that the fee is reasonable and will not deter applicants. I commend the regulations to the House. I beg to move.
The Earl of Lindsay rose to move, That the orders laid before the House on 31st May and 5th, 19th and 27th June be approved [22nd, 23rd and 24th Reports from the Joint Committee].(The Earl of Lindsay.)
I seek your Lordships' approval for four emergency orders made on behalf of my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Scotland to ban fishing for certain types of shellfish in waters off the east coast of Scotland and around Orkney. They were made as a result of a build-up of the naturally occurring paralytic shellfish poisoning toxin, or PSP as it is known, in excess of the internationally-agreed safety level of 400 units. I beg to move.
Lord Graham of Edmonton: My Lords, we have no objection to these orders on this side of the House. They are brought forward year after year and I should not dream of "musseling" in on the Minister's speech.
The noble Baroness said: My Lords, the purpose of the order is to remove from control under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 the substance propylhexedrine. Until 1991 propylhexedrine was among the substances listed in Schedule IV to the 1971 UN Convention on Psychotropic Substances. As a party to that convention, the United Kingdom was required to impose such controls as were necessary to fulfil the provisions of the convention. This was achieved by listing the drug in Class C of Schedule 2 to the 1971 Act and applying the controls of Schedule 4 to the Misuse of Drugs Regulations 1985.
However, in 1991 the United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs decided that propylhexedrine could be removed from international control as there had been very little evidence of misuse worldwide for a number of years. Accordingly, it is no longer necessary for the United Kingdom to control it unless, of course, we have any particular domestic reason for doing so. We have no such reason. Propylhexedrine is used in some countries as a nasal decongestant and to reduce appetite in cases of obesity but it has not been manufactured or marketed as a licensed medicine in this country since 1987 and there is no evidence of its misuse here.
Before submitting an order of this kind to Parliament for approval, the Misuse of Drugs Act requires that the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs, the expert body which advises the Government on drugs issues, is consulted. It has considered the question and is content for the substance to be removed from domestic control.
If the order is approved, we shall then bring forward an amendment which will also delete propylhexedrine from the Misuse of Drugs Regulations 1985. The changes would take effect from 1st September. I beg to move.