Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts: My Lords, the Minister will not be surprised that we support these amendments given their prominence by my colleague Andrew Mitchell in another place. We are grateful to the Government for having brought them forward.

Before we wave this area goodbye, perhaps I may take just one minute to emphasise a single point that still concerns us very much. The amendment relates to information gained under the provisions of Clauses 19, 20 and 21, as numbered in Bill No. 142. There are very important changes brought about by those clauses which, in our view, have considerable implications for civil liberties. We remain very concerned about the Government's proposal—line 24, page 25, Clause 21—to use the word "thinks" as opposed to the phrase "reasonably believes". It is the phrase "reasonably believes" that appears in the earlier Companies Acts.
 
21 Oct 2004 : Column 975
 

We have discussed that at length, but all the legal advice that we have had before, during and after our debates emphasises the legal view that there is a clear legal difference between "thinks" and "reasonably believes". In summary, the first is a subjective test; the second is an objective one. Therefore, in our view, the Government here are stealthily—maybe they are not aware of it—taking more powers to themselves.

I shall not weary the House with the legal discourse, but merely say that we have been advised that the consequences of the judgment reached in Liversidge v Anderson in 1942 and the subsequent judgments that reflect that case confirm that there is a clear legal distinction between "thinks" and "reasonably believes".

I accept that our proposal has been rejected by the Government here and in another place. But as the Bill leaves this House, I want to put on the record our grave misgivings on this issue and our disappointment that the Government could not bring themselves to make that one-word change.

The noble Lord, Lord Sharman, was kind enough to support me in my remarks on company law reform. I hope that he will now forgive me if I say that it was very disappointing that the Liberal Democrats too were so cavalier about our civil liberties when we voted on this issue.

On Question, Motion agreed to.

COMMONS AMENDMENT

6 Schedule 8, page 72, line 21, column 2, at end insert—

"In section 310, in subsection (1) the words "any officer of the company or", and in subsection (3) the words "officer or" (in both places) and the words from "section 144(3)" to "nominee) or"

Lord Sainsbury of Turville: My Lords, I beg to move that the House do agree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 6 to which I have spoken with Amendment No. 1.

Moved, That the House do agree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 6.—(Lord Sainsbury of Turville.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

COMMONS AMENDMENT

In the Title, line 1, leave out second "and" and insert ", to the provision that may be made in respect of certain liabilities incurred by a company's officers, and to"

Lord Sainsbury: My Lords, I beg to move that the House do agree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 7. This is the amendment to the Bill's Long Title, to reflect the inclusion in the Bill of the two new clauses on indemnification of directors, which we have already discussed. The Long Title had to be amended because the insertion of these new clauses in another place extended the scope of the Bill beyond the existing Title.
 
21 Oct 2004 : Column 976
 

Moved, That the House do agree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 7.—(Lord Sainsbury of Turville.)

Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts: My Lords, I thank the Minister for his explanation. I have one quick question regarding the amendment. The Minister said in the other place that,

The Minister repeated that when he introduced new Clauses 1 and 2 a few minutes ago.

If, as the Minister said, the only officers to which this clause applies are directors, why does the Title of the Bill refer to,

and not liabilities incurred by a company's directors? I am sure that the noble Lord will have a quick and simple answer to that.

I notice that while the Long Title of the Bill has been amended to incorporate the Government's extra clauses concerning directors' liability, the Bill's Short Title of course has been left unamended. No doubt, it has been left unchanged to hide the embarrassment at the Christmas tree that has been created. Properly, of course, the Bill should now be renamed, the "Companies (Audit, Officers' Liability, Investigations and Community Enterprise) Bill". Of course, that Title would serve only to underline the inchoate nature of the provisions of the Bill as a whole.

Lord Sainsbury: My Lords, I think that the question raised by the noble Lord, Lord Hodgson, concerns the directors and whether it is therefore right to say that provision,

The reason for that is that Clause 310 has been amended to remove other officers apart from directors and auditors. So it is a rather technical point, but that is the explanation.

Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts: My Lords, before we leave this point, I thought that the Minister and his colleague in the other place said that this made no difference to any company's officers other than directors. The only people who are affected by the proposed new clauses are directors. The officers remain in the position that they were previously. So why do we have the word "officers" in the Long Title when we actually mean "directors"? As I understand it, those are the only people to whom the new provisions apply. The officers, other than directors, are quite unchanged. Therefore, why are we saying "officers" when we do not mean officers? What we actually mean is directors.

Lord Sainsbury of Turville: My Lords, whether you say "directors" to remove officers or "officers" to remove directors is a somewhat technical distinction.
 
21 Oct 2004 : Column 977
 
It is quite clear and is set out in the Title. Given that, I do not think that there will be any problem in understanding what this means.

Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbots: My Lords, I am sorry to come back on this again. As the Minister says, this is a small point. However, clarity is important. If we use the word "officers", someone looking at the Long Title will believe that it is concerned with officers. However, it is not concerned with officers in relation to this point; it is concerned only with directors. Therefore in the interests of clarity, and while this may be only a small change, for those consulting the Act in years to come it would be clearer if it referred to liabilities incurred by a company's directors because it does not affect the position of liabilities incurred by a company's officers. The Minister has told us that.

Lord Sainsbury of Turville: My Lords, given the noble Lord's insistence on obscurity rather than clarity, let me clarify the reason. Officers other than directors are now wholly removed from the scope of Section 310. That is why that is referred to in the Long Title.

On Question, Motion agreed to.

Iraq: Deployment of UK Forces

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Bach): My Lords, with the leave of the House, I shall now repeat a Statement made earlier today in another place by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Defence. The Statement is as follows:

"I would like to make a further Statement about the deployment of UK forces in Iraq.

"On Monday I explained to the House that the UK military had received, and was evaluating, a request from the US military command in Iraq for assistance that would involve UK land forces operating outside the MND (South East) area in support of a combined Iraqi/US force.

"A reconnaissance team from MND (South East) deployed to the area in question earlier this week has now reported back to the Chiefs of Staff. The team provided information on a number of issues including logistics, the length of the potential operation, the likely tasks, activity levels in the area, the force levels required and the command and control arrangements. After careful evaluation, the Chiefs of Staff have advised me that UK forces are able to undertake the proposed operation, that there is a compelling military operational justification for doing so, and that it entails a militarily acceptable level of risk for UK forces. Based on this military advice, the Government have decided that we should accept the US request for assistance.
 
21 Oct 2004 : Column 978
 

"I emphasise again that this was a military request, and has been considered and accepted on operational grounds after a thorough military evaluation by the Chiefs of Staff. As I said on Monday and as the Prime Minister said yesterday to the House, this deployment is a vital part of the process of creating the right conditions for the Iraqi elections to take place in January.

"We share with the Iraqi Interim Government and with our coalition partners a common goal of creating a secure and stable Iraq where men, women and children in towns like Fallujah can feel safe from foreign terrorists, from the kidnappers who murdered Ken Bigley and from other criminals. Crucially, Iraqi Prime Minister Allawi and the Interim Iraqi Government want to establish sufficient security for elections to take place in January.

"Recent successful operations by Iraqi security forces and coalition forces in Tal Afar, Samarra and the outskirts of Fallujah have been undertaken to restore areas under the control of militants and terrorists to the authority of the Iraqi Interim Government. As a direct result, the political process there is now moving ahead.

"We cannot consider the current UK area of responsibility in isolation. What goes on in the rest of Iraq affects southern Iraq and affects UK troops wherever they are based. We must therefore consider our contribution in the context of the overall security situation right across Iraq.

"This means that a UK armoured battlegroup consisting of the 1st Battalion the Black Watch and supporting units will deploy to an area within MNF (West) to relieve a US unit for other tasks. They will be deploying to a particular area with the necessary combat support services such as medics, signallers and engineers resulting in a total deployment of around 850 personnel. This deployment will be for a limited and specified period of time, lasting weeks rather than months.

"I cannot give the House further details about the location, duration or specifics of the mission. Honourable Members on all sides will understand that to do so would risk the operational security of the mission and potentially the safety of our forces. The speculation from many quarters so far has not been helpful. I should also emphasise that there are no plans to send a further 1,300 troops to Iraq as suggested this morning.

"There have been concerns about UK forces coming under US command and about their rules of engagement. The arrangements for this deployment are that the force will remain under the operational command of General Rollo, the UK General Officer Commanding MND (South East).

"On a day-to-day basis, the Black Watch will of course have to co-ordinate its activity with the US chain of command in the locality, but any changes in the mission or the tasking would have to be referred back to General Rollo. As with all UK operations, our forces will operate at all times under UK rules
 
21 Oct 2004 : Column 979
 
of engagement. These will provide proper protection for our forces, as they have throughout our operations in MND (South East).

"It is not unusual for UK and US forces to work alongside each other—they have successfully done so not only in Iraq with US forces often providing logistical support for our own forces and therefore reducing the number of troops and assets we need in theatre, but also in operations all over the world. Indeed, in Bosnia, about 22,000 US troops operated under UK command. As I said in my Statement on Monday, UK forces in Iraq work alongside forces from Italy, Denmark, Poland, the Netherlands, Japan and other countries on a daily basis. This is an effective and practical way of ensuring coherence both in our own area and with those that surround it. This is a practice with which UK forces are both content and comfortable.

"There has also been speculation as to why there is a need for this UK force to backfill for a US unit where there are around 130,000 US troops in Iraq. The armoured battlegroup that will deploy brings important qualities of extensive training, experience and hard-edge combat capability to replace a US armoured battlegroup of equivalent capability. It is not the case, as is often implied, that there are 130,000 US troops that could take on this task. In fact, under a third of US forces in Iraq have the requisite combat capability, and of those even fewer have the armoured capability that is needed. These specialised armoured forces are already highly committed across Iraq, a country about four-fifths the size of France. The Chiefs of Staff have further concluded therefore that the provision of a UK battlegroup to this new mission would be a significant contribution to and would materially increase the effect of the continuing operations to maintain pressure on the terrorists before the January elections.

"On Monday, honourable Members raised the question of whether this deployment would leave sufficient forces to deal with contingencies in our own area of responsibility in the south. The roulement of British forces currently under way includes an armoured infantry battlegroup of the 1st Battalion Scots Guards with their own Warrior armoured vehicles who will fulfil the divisional reserve role currently undertaken by the Black Watch. This will result in General Rollo temporarily having an extra armoured battlegroup under his command which will provide a very robust force capable of dealing with contingencies. It is also worth remembering that other UK forces in MND (South East) will continue to carry out their tasks in the professional and effective manner which has become so apparent to the people of Basra and the surrounding area, restoring power, water and basic facilities, and supporting the Iraqi authorities in ensuring a robust level of security.

"This deployment is limited in scope, time and space. It does not represent a permanent additional commitment of forces. The overall trend in the numbers of our deployment in Iraq remains down,
 
21 Oct 2004 : Column 980
 
from the peak of 46,000 during the war-fighting phase to around 8,500 today. That overall downward trend is expected to continue as we continue to train Iraqi security forces to take over from UK forces—as has happened, for example, in Al Amarah in Maysan Province.

"The Government remain totally committed in their support of the interim Iraqi Government and the need to hold free elections in January. We also remain committed to protecting innocent Iraqis, to dealing with terrorists, kidnappers and criminals, and to training and equipping Iraqi forces so that they can take our place in providing security and see that a democratic Government in Iraq take their rightful place in the international community—a Government who deliver prosperity and a secure future for the Iraqi people.

"That is something that should unite all sides of the House. It is right that the United Kingdom should contribute to those objectives. The deployment of the Black Watch will emphasise to the Iraqi people that the UK will continue to contribute to the coalition to see the task through".

My Lords, that concludes the Statement.


Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page