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Corporate Insolvency and Governance Bill

Volume 804: debated on Tuesday 23 June 2020

Third Reading


Moved by

My Lords, first, I thank the House of Lords Public Bill Office and the House clerks for their support and their extremely hard work in ensuring that this emergency Bill could be expedited through the House to support businesses as a matter of urgency in these unprecedented times.

Secondly, I place on record my thanks to the Bill team, Andy Ormerod-Cloke, Muneera Lula, Jess Bradbury and all the team, both in BEIS and in the Insolvency Service, who have worked so hard on the Bill. I am sure Members will appreciate the untold hours that went in on evenings and weekends to assist in the progress of this legislation and to provide help and guidance to me, my noble friends Lady Bloomfield and Lord Howe and many other noble Lords who we have spoken to and consulted over the last couple of weeks on all sides of the House. I am grateful to all Members for their contributions. The Bill team and the Insolvency Service did a splendid job operating in, let us not forget, extremely difficult circumstances. They can be proud of their work and they are a credit to the Civil Service.

I also thank my private office team, Marty and Jenny, for ably assisting me in co-ordinating the various bits of government to come together on the Bill. I pay tribute to the Opposition spokesmen: the noble Lords, Lord Stevenson and Lord Fox. This made a pleasant change from my previous job, piloting the Brexit legislation through, where, as Members can imagine, there was no common ground whatever. This has been an historic day: I have actually won three votes in the House, which is the quite amazing pinnacle of my ministerial career. It can only be downhill from here. I am grateful to them for their constructive engagement. They have acted responsibly, recognising that this is emergency legislation, and have worked with us to improve the legislation where that was required. On behalf of the Government, we have been pleased to accept the many constructive contributions. The Bill leaves this House in a much better and improved form than when it entered it. We have been responsible and have acted where necessary, and I hope Members will agree that the Government have responded to their concerns.

I mentioned them earlier but I thank the other members of the ministerial team—my noble friends Lady Bloomfield and Lord Howe—who have assisted me in pushing this measure through. As a result of this legislation, I hope that many otherwise viable companies will no longer face the threat of insolvency. The measures that the Bill introduces will give our businesses the vital support that they need to keep themselves afloat, thereby preserving jobs and maintaining productive capacity, enabling the foundations to be laid for this country’s economic recovery.

Once again, I thank noble Lords for their scrutiny of the Bill. It has, as I said, been much improved thanks to the amendments that have been made during its passage. I hope Members will think that the Government played a constructive role in reacting to many of the concerns they have raised. I hope that the other place will promptly accept these amendments so that the Bill can come into force as a matter of urgency. I beg to move.

My Lords, the Minister was right that this is an important Bill because it is about people’s jobs, livelihoods and future prosperity. I think we all agreed from the outset that that was the objective here, and in many respects we have managed to fulfil it. I join the Minister in thanking the Public Bill Office, which as usual has been extremely helpful when it comes to marshalling our amendments.

I especially pick out the Bill team. Normally when I look at the Box over there, there is a team looking tired, wan and reasonably pleased that their job is reaching the end. They must have had some very long days. I assume that the Bill team are somewhere out there in the ether, so I thank them for their work.

I thank my own team: my colleagues who have sat through this process, on the Benches and virtually, and Sarah Pughe, who has kept us more or less on the straight and narrow. I thank my opposite number the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, and the ministerial team—the noble Lord, Lord Callanan, the noble Earl, Lord Howe, and the noble Baroness, Lady Bloomfield—for their open and cheerful approach to the Bill. I think we got a glimpse of why the noble Lord was cheerful: this Bill is nowhere near as bad as what he has just been doing.

That is true, but it was still a difficult Bill. It is a big Bill of mixed intent, in that some of it is permanent and some of it is not, and it was an accelerated process. It has not been easy, and of course we leave here wishing that things were different from the way they are. This feels like the end of something but I suspect, given the powers and the intent that the Government have to trim, modify and improve the Bill, it may be a question not of “Farewell” but rather of “See you later”.

My Lords, I apologise for my complete blankness when coming to the end of my peroration on Amendment 75. For the record, the second very important concession made by the Minister, who was very kind in not picking me up on not being able to remember it, was that the new monitor position will be strengthened in terms of guidance so that directors will have a responsibility for informing employees about the moratorium arrangements and reassuring them about their conditions in future. I thank him for that as well. If there is a way in which Hansard can reinsert that into my original statement then I would be more than grateful, but I am sure that is probably not allowed.

I join others in thanking all concerned for getting us through this process. It has been very interesting to do it. We started with a lot of meetings with Ministers, which was very good because the ground was clearly laid out, so we enjoyed that. We were introduced to officials, from whom we have had superb support through the whole process. I join the Minister in saying that they are a credit to the Civil Service, working in extraordinary conditions and coming up with the goods all the time.

I thank the noble Lord, Lord Fox, and his colleagues for their support. It is good to find that people have similar views about issues. It is sometimes hard to find the exact point at which we should work together but we have managed to do so despite the conditions. Thanks should also be said to the House officials for allowing us to operate in a hybrid House in a way that those who have been here for more than a few years would probably have thought impossible, given the difficulties involved and the changes required—but here we are. They have given us three and a half days of work and they have been superb in making sure that we had the service required in order to contribute. I have been doing this remotely throughout while others have been present, and even remotely it has been a satisfying situation.

All Bills are a trial of stamina, this one probably more than most. I think we all share a sense of exhaustion, having reached its final moments. It is interesting that having to do this in an accelerated way has also picked up a lot of issues that will need further work. I hope the various committees and other agencies in the House who are watching this will learn the lessons that have to be learned about how to do emergency legislation and accelerated legislation, what can be done well and what needs a bit more time spent on it.

Finally, it is a curious feature of the hybrid House that staring for hours into tiny screens and trying to talk to people through electronic devices that constantly let us down seems to build a much stronger working relationship. I have enjoyed this time very much. I have enjoyed working with everyone concerned, including my staff, Dan Harris, my Whip, Chris—my noble friend Lord Lennie—and others who have supported us. I have also enjoyed working with Ministers and others from across the House. Long may it last.

Bill passed and returned to the Commons with amendments.

House adjourned at 7.01 pm.