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Company Takeovers (Concert Parties)

Volume 115: debated on Wednesday 29 April 1987

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11.

asked the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how many prosecutions have been undertaken since 1979 under part VI of the Companies Act for the organisation of a concert party.

In view of the conclusion of the Select Committee on Trade and Industry that there was almost certainly a concert party in operation at Westland, will the Minister reconsider the decision not to hold an inquiry? Is an inquiry not made even more necessary by the strange fact that while one member of the concert party — Dreyfus of Switzerland — admits that its agents were agents for Lazards, which was the financial adviser to Westland, Lazards do not admit this commercial connection?

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State announced last year that he had decided not to appoint inspectors into this matter, and no new information has emerged to warrant changing that decision. The hon. Gentleman has completely misunderstood the nature of the information to which he has referred. All that that information amounts to is the fact that occasionally the Swiss bank concerned transacts business in London through Hill Samuel, the Midland bank or Lazard Brothers. This information was published in the Bankers Almanac and Year Book over a number of years, and it is of no relevance to the matters to which the hon. Gentleman has referred.

When does my hon. and learned Friend expect to receive the report of the inspectors who are examining the Guinness affair?

The inspectors examining Guinness plc are carrying out their investigations with considerable expedition and are making good progress. However, I cannot give a specific date as to when their report will be available.

Did the Government know about the relationship between Lazards and Dreyfus, and if so, why did the Secretary of State or his Ministers not inform the Select Committee on any of the three occasions when they gave evidence?

For the reason I gave a moment ago, if the hon. Gentleman had but listened, the information to which he has referred is of absolutely no relevance to this matter.