Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Lord McKenzie of Luton moved Amendments Nos. 485 and 486:

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Clause 708 [Material not available for public inspection]:

Lord McKenzie of Luton moved Amendment No. 487:

"( ) protected information within section (Protected information: restriction on use or disclosure by registrar)(1) (directors' residential addresses: restriction on disclosure by registrar) or any corresponding provision of regulations under section 669 (overseas companies);"

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord McKenzie of Luton moved Amendment No. 487A:

"( ) any application or other document delivered to the registrar under section (Application to registrar to make address unavailable for public inspection) (application to make address unavailable for public inspection) and any address in respect of which such an application is successful;"

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I move Amendment No. 487A and speak to Amendment No. 487C.

During our debate last week about the new scheme for protecting directors' residential addresses, my noble friend Lord Sainsbury explained that the
16 May 2006 : Column 227
Government intended to lay an amendment that would provide a power to make regulations specifying circumstances in which a director's—or indeed anyone's—address may be removed from the public record. These amendments fulfil that promise.

Under the new scheme introduced by our earlier amendments, a new director's home address will be protected. But there will continue to be an historic record with the home addresses of most of those who are directors when the Bill comes into force—and indeed of those who have previously been directors.

In the vast majority of cases, removing an address from the record held by Companies House would serve little purpose: once an address has been placed on the public record, it immediately becomes widely available through a myriad of secondary sources. What has once been published cannot be made secret. The genie cannot be put back in the bottle. Nevertheless, we do recognise that there may be circumstances in which the continued appearance of a person's address on the public record held by Companies House is undesirable, possibly because it puts those who live there at serious risk. In reality this is only likely if, for some reason, the address is not also easily available elsewhere from other sources. On the other hand, those at risk are not only directors. For example, former directors and the families of deceased directors may be equally at risk. Therefore the amendments provide power to specify who may apply for their address to be taken off the public record.

We intend to consult over draft regulations later this year so that they can be brought into force at the same time as the provisions providing protection for directors' home addresses.

I am grateful to the noble Lords, Lord Freeman, Lord Hodgson and Lord Jenkin, for their withdrawing Amendments Nos. 112 to 114 and 117. 1 hope they agree that this amendment meets their concerns. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord McKenzie of Luton moved Amendment No. 487B:

"( ) any application or other document delivered to the registrar under section (Rectification of register on application) (application for rectification of register);"

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg to move Amendment No. 487B and speak to Amendments Nos. 487D and 487E. These amendments relate to an issue which was raised by the noble Lord, Lord Hodgson, in Committee, based, as he mentioned, on suggestions from the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales.

I am very grateful for the prompt this has given us to consider the issue and I hope the noble Lord will be pleased at the outcome. It is time for action.

The question is the ability of the registrar to correct the register where clearly inaccurate, perhaps fraudulent, material has been placed on it. Under the Bill, it is not possible except under very narrow
16 May 2006 : Column 228
circumstances indeed for the registrar to remove material unless there has first been a court order to that effect.

Our debate in Committee there was a good degree of consensus between us that a power for the registrar to remove material without court order could well be useful, but that if so there would need to be strict limits and controls built into it. Amendment No. 487E therefore introduces a power for the Secretary of State to make regulations to set out a regime on these lines.

We have ensured that certain of the safeguards which were mentioned are set out in the primary legislation itself. For example, the new clause makes clear that the registrar must only remove information on application, and that the regulations will require the registrar to remove the material where the application is in order and there are no objections to it. In other words, we have minimised the scope for the registrar to exercise discretion or make judgments, particularly judgments between individuals with competing claims. If there is an objection, the remedy will be to apply to the court.

But the clause does not attempt to set out all the new details of the new scheme. It is a power, and other elements of the system—for example the matters covered in broad terms under subsection (2)—will be set out in the secondary legislation. I can assure the House that there will be full and public consultation on the precise composition of the regulations before they are made.

Finally, for completeness, I should mention Amendment No. 487B, which is consequential on the new scheme and ensures that an application under it does not in itself constitute a publishable document; and Amendment No. 487D, which removes what would now be a misleading statement in the Bill suggesting that the new non-court process did not exist. I beg to move.

7.15 pm

Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord McKenzie, for bringing forward these amendments which meet our concerns. Amidst all the meetings of the Committee, he had the one of the most difficult lines to speak. His speaking notes said,

that is, the wrong information,

That was a tough thing to try to defend and I am glad that he has moved.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord McKenzie of Luton moved Amendment No. 487C:

16 May 2006 : Column 229

(1) The Secretary of State may make provision by regulations requiring the registrar, on application, to make an address on the register unavailable for public inspection.
(2) The regulations may make provision as to—
(a) who may make an application,
(b) the grounds on which an application may be made,
(c) the information to be included in and documents to accompany an application,
(d) the notice to be given of an application and of its outcome, and
(e) how an application is to be determined.
(3) Provision under subsection (2)(e) may in particular—
(a) confer a discretion on the registrar;
(b) provide for a question to be referred to a person other than the registrar for the purposes of determining the application.
(4) An application must specify the address to be removed from the register and indicate where on the register it is.
(5) The regulations may provide—
(a) that an address is not to be made unavailable for public inspection under this section unless replaced by a service address, and
(b) that in such a case the application must specify a service address.
(6) Regulations under this section are subject to affirmative resolution procedure."

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 714 [Administrative removal of material from the register]:

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page