To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how much compensation he estimates his Department paying in the wake of the early release of the Kingfisher/Dixon takeover report.
I shall continue to consider claims received before the end of this month for losses incurred on the morning of 23 May by those buying Dixon shares, selling Kingfisher shares or dealing in traded options in those securities. I will then be able to estimate more accurately the final cost. Payments will be on the basis of one half of the differences between the price at which the shares or options were bought or sold on the morning of 23 May, and the prices ruling when trading was resumed shortly after 1 pm. I shall take into account corresponding gains from selling Dixons shares or buying Kingfisher shares, or from hedging positions in the options market. The Government have already apologised for that unfortunate event.
In view of the continuing enormous cost to the taxpayer as a result of the repeated incompetence of his Department, will the Minister give the House a categorical assurance that the change of leadership in the DTI will result in no more blunders over City matters? What action has he taken to prevent that from happening again?
The estimate of the maximum possible cost of the error is around £120,000, but I hope that when I see the final claims, it will be lower than that. The House must understand that the calculations are difficult and we cannot be entirely sure of the final outcome. Of course, it is a worrying sum of money and we have apologised for the mistake. I resent the general inference of the hon. Gentleman's question. A great deal of good regulation is performed by our insurance branch and by the Securities and Investments Board and the self-regulatory organisations. The hon. Gentleman should remember that most of the important regulation of City investment businesses has been given by the House, through the Secretary of State, to the SIB and SROs and I hope that the hon. Gentleman will withdraw his slur on them. With regard to conduct in my Department, there was an inquiry into that and the necessary steps were taken.