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Investment (Heads Of State)

Volume 931: debated on Monday 9 May 1977

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9.

asked the Secretary of State for Trade if he will introduce amending legislation to the Companies Act 1976 to ensure that the investments of the Royal Family and Heads of other States will be subject to the same disclosure as those of commoners.

As the Government have declared that they favour wider disclosure, is not this special secrecy positively feudal? Second, what is to prevent relatives of foreign potentates each taking up to 5 per cent. of shares in a British company, thus acquiring control unknown to the British public, to the company concerned and to its employees?

The object of the section in the Act was to deal with the problem of warehousing. That is what it effectively does, and the section is drafted for that purpose. Under the section, if anyone holds 5 per cent. this has to be revealed, and the exemption does not cover that. My hon. Friend asks whether it is possible for a large number of people associated in a family to acquire control of a company by each acquiring less than 5 per cent. Under this system it is one of the functions of the Bank of England to police exactly that sort of undesirable happening.