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Baroness Buscombe: My Lords, I have listened with care to what the Minister has said and I am sorry that he cannot accept the amendment. I believe that there clearly remains a difference of opinion in relation to the interpretation of the Bill. We believe that the nominee has no real duties to perform and, as I have already said, will be totally powerless to prevent anyone concealing, fraudulently removing or pawning any of the company's or the debtor's property.
We feel that the position is different from those Acts which I mentioned. I believe that we should consider with care the Minister's response. However, this is something about which we feel quite strongly and therefore we may be pressed to divide upon it at Third Reading. On that basis, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
There will be no licensed insolvency practitioner managing the company. The directors will be managing the company and all the rights of the creditors will be suspended. In those circumstances, the previous financial limits are unacceptable. Surely it must be a criminal offence for an officer of the company to conceal any part of the company's property, conceal any debt due to or from the company or remove fraudulently any part of the company's property during the moratorium, regardless of value. I beg to move.
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I do not have much to add to what I said in Committee. The provisions have existed in legislation since the Bankruptcy Act 1914, when the figure involved was £10. I said in Committee that if it ain't broke, don't fix it. The response of the noble Baroness, Lady Buscombe, was that it is broke, but she has not shown us how. I have not heard any evidence that this provision--which already exists and is not being introduced for the first time by the Bill--has caused any of the difficulties that she fears since it was first enacted.
If the £500 minimum is a problem and we find that we cannot prosecute individuals in cases when we think that we should, we shall review it. Schedule 1(10) gives the Secretary of State the power to do that. We would have no hesitation in reviewing the level if we thought that it would be appropriate to do so. However, experience in relation to Sections 206 and 354 suggests that £500 is the right cut-off and it seems reasonable to assume that it will be appropriate in this case.
On Amendment No. 22, the removal of the power to amend or repeal the provisions of the Insolvency Act 1986 could frustrate the ability to extend the scope of the moratorium to different categories of company, such as large companies or banks. We might wish to
Baroness Buscombe: My Lords, I thank the Minister for his response. In summing up, I shall repeat what I have already said. The minimum limits may have been appropriate in the past--although not entirely moral from a criminal standpoint--because in the past an independent insolvency practitioner would have been appointed and the directors would no longer be running the company. However, those limits will not be appropriate if the Bill is enacted in its present form, because there will be no licensed insolvency practitioner running the company. The directors will be managing the company and all the rights of the creditors will be suspended. Also, as I think that I said in Grand Committee, theft is theft, whatever the price and we have an opportunity to change the law.
We have pressed the point. I shall read the Minister's response with great care. We feel strongly on this point from a moral standpoint and because we feel that the Bill has changed the circumstances, so we may feel pressed to move the amendment on Third Reading. On that basis, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
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