Failure to prevent facilitation of foreign tax evasion offences

Criminal Finances Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am 9:45 am ar 22 Tachwedd 2016.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Rupa Huq Rupa Huq Shadow Minister (Home Office) (Crime and Prevention) 9:45, 22 Tachwedd 2016

I beg to move amendment 5, in clause 38, page 96, line 6, after “United Kingdom” insert—

“Crown dependency or British overseas territory”.

This amendment would extend the offence of failure to prevent facilitation of foreign tax evasion offences to companies incorporated in a British Overseas Territory or Crown Dependency.

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

Amendment 6, in clause 38, page 96, line 7, after “United Kingdom” insert—

“Crown dependency or British overseas territory”.

This amendment would extend the offence of failure to prevent facilitation of foreign tax evasion offences to companies doing business in a British Overseas Territory or Crown Dependency.

Amendment 7, in clause 38, page 96, line 9, after “United Kingdom” insert—

“Crown dependency or British overseas territory”.

This amendment would extend the offence of failure to prevent facilitation of foreign tax evasion offences to conduct conducted in a British Overseas Territory or Crown Dependency.

Photo of Rupa Huq Rupa Huq Shadow Minister (Home Office) (Crime and Prevention)

These amendments in my name and those of my hon. Friends the Members for Swansea East, and for Bootle, seek to extend the offences of failure to prevent facilitation of foreign tax evasion, and all the other good work described in clause 37, for which the Scottish National party and ourselves praised the Minister, to companies incorporated in a UK overseas territory or Crown dependency. I stress how much we welcome the new offences on failing to prevent tax evasion, and the fact that they can apply anywhere in the world, as the Minister pointed out. However, we wish that they related to all economic crime, rather than just tax evasion, and that they covered companies doing business in overseas territories and Crown dependencies, and offences committed there.

This is quite a chunky Bill that is broad in scope, but this seems to be the gaping hole—the elephant in the room. Almost all those who gave evidence, and all the speeches on Second Reading, including those from respected Members on both sides of the House, such as Sir Edward Garnier, mentioned that this was a bit of an oversight. There is no mention of the issue at all in the Bill, and that is why we tabled these probing amendments to help the Committee better understand exactly how the new offences relate to the UK’s tax havens, as the Minister termed them; that is how they are perceived all around the world.

I raise the issue because we all know that the UK may well be facilitating tax evasion through its overseas territories. It is worth pointing out that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office appoints a Governor in each of these jurisdictions. The opaqueness and lack of transparency in these places makes it difficult to know the scale of the problem, but we know that developing countries are losing out massively. This legislation rightly seeks to hold directors of companies in the UK accountable for their business’s actions, but why does it not also apply to the UK’s overseas territories? The lack of accountability of directors there is dangerous.

Let us take the example of the British Virgin Islands, the jurisdiction that received the most mentions in the Panama papers, I believe, which is nothing to be proud of. Given its role in the Panama papers, is it not reasonable to talk about having more oversight of this UK-governed territory? It has more than 450,000 companies; nobody quite knows the exact number. That is at least 15 companies for every person—an unusually large number of companies. Every person would need to have 13 board meetings every day to get through all of them in a year.

It sounds like a bold suggestion, but we think that more action is needed. I have five questions for the Minister. When the UK receives information on the beneficial owners of companies registered in the British Virgin Islands, will it use it and look for potential tax evasion? Is there an active duty on the part of the Government? Secondly, what action will they take if they find any tax evasion? How will owners of British Virgin Islands companies be held to account for their actions? Question three: what discussions has the Minister had with leaders of overseas territories and Crown dependencies about these excellent new offences? Are any of them minded to consider introducing something similar on a voluntary basis? We do not want to look like neo-imperialists, going into countries and making them do stuff, so what are they doing of their own volition? Question four: if offences are committed in UK-governed overseas territories, under what circumstances would prosecutions be possible under this new legislation?

The last question is the most important one, and the one that would help me to understand this: does the Minister concede that, as clause 40(1) refers to clause 38(2), his Bill effectively allows places such as the British Virgin Islands and the Cayman Islands to facilitate tax evasion on an industrial scale, provided that the companies have no business dealings in the UK? There has to be that link first; they have to have an office, or be somehow incorporated, in the UK. Sham businesses go to those territories only because they are implicitly backed by UK law. Historically, overseas territories and Crown dependencies have been able to market the attractiveness of their financial services by highlighting the fact that the UK rule of law underpins their systems; thus the situation is perpetuated. The fact that people can stash their dirty cash there is part of the unique selling point of these places. I am curious about how the provisions would apply to overseas territories and Crown dependencies if that UK link was not there.

Photo of Richard Arkless Richard Arkless Scottish National Party, Dumfries and Galloway

We are interested in hearing what the Minister has to say on the clause before we make any submissions. We take the point about the link to a UK company, but we are also concerned about this House’s authority to legislate—or be seen to be legislating—over Crown dependencies.

Photo of Ben Wallace Ben Wallace Minister of State (Home Office) (Security)

I understand the importance that Members attach to the amendments, and what they are trying to do. They allow us to begin the debate on the response of the British overseas territories and Crown dependencies to tax evasion, and fraud and corruption more broadly. I am sure that that debate will continue as we consider other amendments later today.

The Opposition’s amendments 5, 6 and 7 are designed to give the foreign tax evasion offence a broad scope, and to ensure that corporate complicity in tax evasion is tackled effectively. On that objective, I share the intentions of the hon. Lady the Member for Ealing Central and Acton. Before addressing the amendments specifically, I want to clarify that the foreign tax evasion offence in clause 38 would, as drafted, apply to a relevant body that is incorporated under the law of the UK, or carrying out part of a business activity from the UK, and where a person acting in the capacity of an associated person of the relevant body criminally facilitates tax evasion from within the UK, regardless of where the relevant body is based. The offence would, therefore, require there to be some nexus with the UK for our authorities to exercise jurisdiction; that would include a bank that is based or doing business in the overseas territories and Crown dependencies also doing business in the UK.

However, the hon. Lady’s amendments would criminalise, under the UK law, a situation where there is no link to the UK. For example, if a Norwegian were to set up a business in a tax haven, and that business were to advise an American citizen on how to evade tax, and it had nothing to do with the UK at all—we had no loss of revenue and no business with either the Norwegian or the American—the hon. Lady would be asking us to criminalise that person, and effectively to become the world’s policeman on that issue. We would have no nexus whatsoever to go after that individual; neither they nor the company helping them to evade tax would be British. We would perhaps have some ability, in some instances, to help our neighbour’s tax authorities, as we share data under agreements reached over the last year or so. For example, if we find out that someone is helping the French to evade tax, our law enforcement agencies do share information.

The amendment seeks to force Crown dependencies and overseas territories to change their law. It seeks to use neo-imperialism, to use the hon. Lady’s term, to force our will on territories with those statuses. That is a major step to take. As I said earlier, we have come a long way—90% of the way—with the establishment next year of automatic sharing of data via beneficial registers of ownership. Yes, that is not public, and I know that we will come on to that later in the Bill, but we have come a considerable way, and we should remember that.

We should also remember that because of the City of London, there will not be many financial organisations that do not have a nexus in this country. I am not going to finger a particular country, but take the bank of a fictitious country with tax haven status; it would not be much of a bank if it did not have an operation in the UK. If that bank was encouraging people to evade tax, even if they were not British citizens or were not evading UK tax, we could deal with it, because it would have a branch here. If those concerned were convicted, they would most likely lose their banking licence. A bank that cannot trade in one of the major financial institutions of the United Kingdom is effectively a dud. In a sense, we could take quite considerable action. The fundamental difference is that we think there has to be a link. The alternative is to impose our will directly on these Crown dependencies and overseas territories.

I would like to correct the hon. Lady on two things. They are not “our” territories; we do not own them. The Crown dependencies have never been ours. They have never been part of the British Empire—well, they have never been part of our colonies. We do not even own the overseas territories. We have a governing oversight, but they have Parliaments and elections of their own, and they make their own decisions.

I think the direction of travel—my officials have been directly in touch with the Crown dependencies and the overseas territories—has been right. We are going some considerable way from where we were three or four years ago. Those places have smelt the coffee, and the world is moving forward.

At the end of next year, our law enforcement agencies will have automatic access to many of the records we need. The register is not public, though I know that some Members would like it to be. It is, however, a considerable step that I can sit in my office and read about the behaviour of significant organised crime groups, major drugs smugglers or financiers of terrorism. People at Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs will now be able to get those records automatically from those countries, and we can set about taking these people down and making sure that they are prosecuted. We have moved in the right direction with that.

While I understand the motives behind the amendments and agree that we want to go further and make things more transparent, what the hon. Lady proposes in these amendments is going one step too far, too fast. On the calls on the United Kingdom to be a world policeman in this area, we are already in the lead; we are the only G20 country—never mind some of these other countries—with a public register of beneficial ownership. Let us do some work on our friends across the channel.

I therefore urge the hon. Lady to withdraw her amendment and, no doubt, she can scrutinise the progress. I would also be the first to ask her to come and see, when this Bill becomes an Act, the first case—if we do get a case sooner rather than later—of a prosecution of individuals engaged in that. Without a nexus, we are going one step too far.

Photo of Richard Arkless Richard Arkless Scottish National Party, Dumfries and Galloway 10:00, 22 Tachwedd 2016

We agree with that summary from the Government. The Minister describing the amendment as “neo-imperialism” put the seal on my view of it. The Scottish National party is reluctant to legislate on areas where there is no locus and no nexus and we fully accept that that is the position of the Crown dependencies. We accept the Minister is keen to see that direction of travel continue. In that vein, we have held meetings with representatives of the Crown dependencies over the last few weeks and have been assured that their co-operation in providing information for the register of beneficial ownership is groundbreaking. It will be co-operative and give the authorities in the UK the armoury they need to tackle financial criminality.

I agree it is very likely, if not probable, that organisations facilitating tax evasion, whether in the Crown dependencies or overseas territories, will have a link to the UK and are more likely, more often than not, to have their head office in the UK. We may need to address that again once we leave the European Union, but we can discuss it.

Photo of Rupa Huq Rupa Huq Shadow Minister (Home Office) (Crime and Prevention)

I listened carefully to what the Minister said and was slightly disappointed. I said precisely that I do not want to be neo-imperialist. I do not want to rush into these countries, which is why I asked what was happening already and whether there is any way those people can do things on their own. I did not say that we own those places; I simply said that the UK rule of law underpins their systems.

The Prime Minister said on the steps of Downing Street that she wants an economy that works for everyone. This looks like an anomaly from all the evidence we have had from all those groups, and from all the speeches on the Floor of the House on Second Reading. However, we are not going to push the measure to a vote. It was a probing amendment. I wanted to hear more about the anomaly where there is a direct UK connection. I do not think it is sufficient to turn a blind eye while this goes on.

The Minister mentioned what has happened in some of these places and I have information that will be more relevant when we consider new clause 21. Therefore, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendment made: 51, in clause 38, page 96, line 37, after “England” insert “and Wales”.—(Mr Wallace.)

This amendment corrects an omission in clause 38(7)(b).

Question proposed, That the clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill.

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

New clause 7— Corporate probation order—

‘(1) A court before which a relevant body (B) is convicted of an offence under section 37 or 38 of this Bill may make a corporate probation order in relation to B.

(2) A corporate probation order—

(a) shall require B to implement a compliance procedure or make changes to an existing compliance procedure to prevent persons acting in the capacity of a person associated with B for committing UK tax evasion facilitation offences or foreign tax evasion facilitation offences;

(b) may require B to appoint an external body to verify that compliance programme, costs of which shall be met by B.

(3) A corporate probation order may be made only on an application by the prosecution specifying the terms of the proposed order. Any such order must be on such terms (whether those proposed or others) as the court considers appropriate having regard to any representations made, and any evidence adduced, in relation to that matter by the prosecution and on behalf of B.

(4) Before making an application for a probation order the prosecution must consult such enforcement authority or authorities as it considers appropriate having regard to the nature of the relevant offending.

(5) An organisation that fails to comply with a corporate probation order is guilty of an offence, and is liable—

(a) on conviction on indictment, to a fine,

(b) on summary conviction in England and Wales, to a fine,

(c) on summary conviction in Scotland or Northern Ireland, to a fine not exceeding the statutory maximum.

(6) For the purposes of this clause “relevant body” has the same meaning as in section 36.’

This new clause would allow courts to require bodies found guilty of a UK or foreign tax evasion facilitation offence to make steps to improve their internal procedures to minimize the chance of persons working for that company committing the same offence in the future.

New clause 8—Facilitation of tax evasion offences: disqualification of directors—

‘(1) Where a body (B) has been convicted of an offence under sections 37 and 38 of this Act the Secretary of State must arrange for the relevant enforcement authorities to investigate the conduct of the directors of B.

(2) The purpose of the investigation under this subsection is to determine whether the directors of B were grossly negligent by failing to ensure that B had in place reasonable prevention procedures.

(3) In section 8 of the Company Directors Disqualification Act 1986, after sub-paragraph (ii) insert—

(iii) an investigation under section [Facilitation of tax evasion offences: disqualification of directors] of the Criminal Finance Act”

(4) For the purposes of this section—

“enforcement authorities” means one or more the bodies listed in subsection 362A(7) of the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002.

“prevention procedures” has the same meaning as in subsection 37(3) where B was convicted of an offence under section 37, or as in subsection 38(4) where B was convicted of an offence under section 38.’

This new clause would require the Secretary of State to investigate the directors of a company found guilty of a UK or foreign tax evasion offence to see whether the directors should be subject to a disqualification order for the failure to have proper procedures in place to prevent agents of that company facilitating tax evasion.

Photo of Ben Wallace Ben Wallace Minister of State (Home Office) (Security)

Perhaps I may clarify for the hon. Member for Ealing Central and Acton that I said she used the word “neo-imperialism”—I never implied that she wanted to be neo-imperialist, but some people could describe it as that if we were to impose our will on Parliaments in some of our overseas territories.

Clause 38 creates a new offence that will be committed by relevant bodies that fail to prevent persons associated with them from criminally facilitating evasion of taxes owed to a country other than the United Kingdom. We have seen that criminals seeking to provide services to further their clients’ tax evasion will try to operate between the gaps between the legal systems of different countries. The measure will ensure that the UK is not a safe harbour for professional facilitators or the businesses for which they work. The new overseas tax evasion offence can be committed by relevant bodies that are formed or incorporated in the UK, or which are carrying out a business activity in the UK, or where the criminal act of facilitation occurs within the UK.

There is a necessarily broad scope for the new offence. It holds corporations that carry out a business in the UK, or the representatives of which are acting in the UK, to operate to the same high standards as UK businesses. The message is clear. Tax evasion is a crime. It is wrong. It is no less wrong where the revenue loss is suffered by another country. If a body is part of UK plc, or sends people to the UK, it is not okay to allow people to criminally facilitate the evasion of taxes, wherever they are owed.

The offence requires a dual criminality. Essentially, that means that, for a relevant body to be liable, the criminal law of the country suffering the tax loss must recognise tax evasion and the facilitating of tax evasion as criminal offences in their jurisdiction, and the laws must be broadly equivalent to those in the UK.

The offence does not require relevant bodies to have a thorough understanding of the tax laws in each jurisdiction, but rather to ask itself the question, “If we were providing these services to a UK taxpayer client, would this be legal?” If the answer is yes, there is no question of criminal liability under the new overseas fraud offence.

The offence is not about the UK policing the world’s tax affairs. We envisage that a prosecution for the overseas tax evasion offence will take place only where there would otherwise be a failure of justice—for example, where the country suffering the tax loss was unwilling or unable to take action because of an inability to handle a complex international fraud trial, or was unable to investigate and prosecute because of corruption concerns. I will leave my explanation of the clause there and allow the hon. Member for Ealing Central and Acton to speak to her new clauses before I respond.

Photo of Peter Dowd Peter Dowd Shadow Financial Secretary (Treasury)

It is a pleasure to serve under your stewardship, Mrs Main. The Minister referred to this as the Criminal Finances Bill and the clue is in the name. People who commit an offence and go to prison come out and go on probation. New clause 7 would create a similar thing—a sort of corporate probation order that would allow courts to require bodies found guilty of a UK or foreign tax evasion facilitation offence to take steps to improve their internal procedures and minimize the chance of a person working for that company committing the same offence in future. That would be an important step in encouraging large organisations to take responsibility for those they hire and the actions they undertake, and more importantly in ensuring that financial crime and misconduct is not repeated by others in the organisation.

Before making an application for a probation order, the prosecution would have to consult enforcement agencies. Once a corporate probation order had been issued, any organisation that failed to comply with it would be subject to a fine. Currently, the only remedies a court may impose upon a company convicted of an offence is a fine, disgorgement of profit and compensation. Corporate probation orders would be an additional tool that prosecutors could seek. Courts could impose conditions requiring companies to undertake remedial action to their management and compliance procedures to ensure that the offending is not repeated.

Under the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007, courts can impose remedial orders on companies to require them to remedy any management failure that led to an offence occurring. This provides a workable pre-existing model for such orders. Under the Crime and Courts Act 2013, if a company is offered a deferred prosecution agreement, or DPA, a prosecutor can require a company to implement a compliance programme or make changes to an existing compliance programme. There is no equivalent power in relation to convictions. DPAs are reserved for companies that self-report their misdemeanours and co-operate with enforcement authorities.

Although prosecutors could, theoretically at least, use financial reporting orders to require a company to provide financial information, under the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005, it is not clear that that would include information on compliance procedures. Additionally, such orders are heavy-handed, require separate court proceedings and require a prosecutor to prove that the risk of reoffending is sufficiently high.

The effect of that discrepancy is a ridiculous imbalance: companies that self-report and co-operate may be subject to greater monitoring of their compliance programme than companies that do not and are not convicted. The result is that the companies that most need monitoring of their compliance procedures—those whose procedures did not pick up the wrongdoing in the first place—get none, which is a huge deterrent to self-reporting, and puts a greater burden on enforcement agencies.

The Opposition believe that corporate probation orders are required to remedy that clear anachronism. Companies and defence lawyers have noted the more stringent compliance programme monitoring requirements under DPAs as one factor, among others, that puts companies off self-reporting wrongdoing to the Serious Fraud Office. The discrepancy between what happens under DPAs and what happens on conviction is creating a disincentive for companies to self-report.

At the end of the day, we need to encourage self-reporting in a framework in which companies feel that they are able to work with enforcement agencies to deal with rogue elements or individuals. The alternative would see the continuation of a culture of secrecy in which those at the top deliberately turn a blind eye to what those at the bottom do, and in which financial misconduct is not limited to an individual, but instilled and passed on to others in an organisation.

Photo of Richard Arkless Richard Arkless Scottish National Party, Dumfries and Galloway

The Scottish National party is broadly in support of the new clauses. In particular, a corporate probation order would give an opportunity for an offending company to have its processes meticulously examined to ensure that they are fit for purpose going forward. We support new clause 8 on the potential disqualification of directors, which goes beyond the relevant body offences in the Bill. As a matter of principle, we think it will concentrate minds and ensure the protocols are fit for purpose if the directors at the top of the organisation feel the liability could be at their heels, as it were. I am interested to hear what the Minister has to say.

Several hon. Members:


Order. I gather that Mr Dowd wants a second bite at the cherry on new clause 8.

Photo of Peter Dowd Peter Dowd Shadow Financial Secretary (Treasury)

I apologise, Mrs Main. I was going to deal with new clause 8 and was pre-empted, I am afraid. New clause 8 relates to the facilitation of tax evasion offences and the disqualification of directors.

It will be pretty apparent to hon. Members that a central theme to proceedings so far, as promulgated by virtually everybody, is the notion of transparency in the actions of those in positions of stewardship, such as directors of companies. Opaqueness has its advantages, I have no doubt, but when it leads to illegality there must be action to deal with it. Given that, the new clause would require the Secretary of State

“to investigate the directors of a company found guilty of a UK or foreign tax evasion offence to establish whether the directors should be subject to a disqualification order for the failure to have proper procedures in place to prevent agents of that company facilitating tax evasion.”

Under the new offences covering the facilitation of tax evasion, a company could be criminally held to account if an employee commits such an offence. That is a huge step forward. However, there is a danger that senior executives, who are ultimately responsible for ensuring the company has in place the procedures to prevent its involvement in the facilitation of tax evasion, will escape any individual accountability under such an offence. The purpose of new clause 8 is to ensure that, where a company is convicted, the director of that company should be investigated with a view to disqualification, as happens currently when a company is held to have breached competition law, for example.

A perfectly legitimate question is whether new clause 8 is taking a hammer to crack a nut. That has been alluded to in past debates. I contend that it is not, because tax evasion has huge implications for the public purse, not just in lost revenue but in relation to public confidence in the tax system.

The day before the autumn statement, with warnings from the Chancellor that the economy must be watertight to manage the sharp challenges ahead of Brexit, surely any largesse—toleration of industrial-scale tax evasion—must stop. Ensuring that there is senior-level accountability when companies are convicted of tax evasion offences will instil confidence in the public that those in companies who are responsible for allowing tax evasion to happen there will face penalties. It will create greater incentives for senior-level executives to ensure that the companies operate on the right side of the law and drive out bad actors in the sector.

The Opposition acknowledge and recognise that it is unfair to tar all directors with the same brush when it comes to the perception of financial misconduct and criminality, and we would not want to do that. Since the financial crisis, those who run financial organisations have had huge reputational damage—some warranted, some not. The new clause would create a clear distinction between directors who do the right thing, complying with pre-existing regulation and working with enforcement agencies to tackle misconduct, and those who wilfully break the law or look the other way when it happens.

A disqualification order for those guilty of tax evasion offences is only right, so that they cannot continue to sit on the board of the company in question, or the board of any other company for that matter, to encourage further financial misconduct and send out the wrong message. The new clause is not about pointing the finger at those who commit themselves day in, day out, to their companies’ and the country’s health and wealth; it is about isolating and identifying individuals in those companies and ensuring that they are held accountable for their actions, thus preventing them from working in the financial industry again, and encouraging an environment of openness and transparency rather than a milieu that turns a blind eye.

Photo of Ben Wallace Ben Wallace Minister of State (Home Office) (Security) 10:15, 22 Tachwedd 2016

I am grateful to the hon. Member for Bootle and pleased to say that the Government are supportive of what he is trying to achieve—that the new offences should be as effective as possible at changing corporate behaviour, and that law enforcement should have the tools it needs to police the new laws effectively. However, I hope to reassure him and his hon. Friends that those matters are already provided for.

As the hon. Gentleman said, new clause 7 would introduce a system of corporate probation orders, which would allow a court to require relevant bodies found guilty of the new corporate offences to make changes to their prevention procedures. Hon. Members should be aware that clause 43(2) adds those offences to the list of offences for which a serious crime prevention order can be imposed under the Serious Crime Act 2007. Serious crime prevention orders allow for a court passing sentence on a person or corporate body to impose prohibitions, restrictions or requirements to prevent, restrict or disrupt involvement in serious crime. Those orders are already available and can successfully disrupt tax fraud. Where such an order is made against a relevant body, its terms may require the body to allow a law enforcement agency to monitor how it provides services in the future.

Additionally, where the corporation in question is in the regulated sector, the regulator may, quite independently of a serious crime prevention order, undertake monitoring of the relevant body, relevant to failings in its systems and controls. For example, the Financial Conduct Authority could take steps to disqualify directors or put extra conditions on to the companies. It is the Government’s view that the hon. Gentleman’s objective can be achieved by applying the existing power to impose serious crime prevention orders on conviction of the new offences, or within the terms of the deferred prosecution agreement. Those orders can do anything that corporation probation would do.

New clause 8 would create a duty on the Secretary of State to investigate the directors of a company found guilty of a UK or foreign tax evasion offence, to see whether they should be disqualified. The existing law already allows the Secretary of State to apply to a court to have a director disqualified where he or she believes that that is in the public interest. A court can grant such an order when it is satisfied that the director’s conduct makes him unfit to be concerned in the management of the company. There is no evidence of which we are aware that the power is not being used in the appropriate cases. When not used, it is not used for appropriate reasons. When company directors are charged with offences, the sentencing court can consider disqualification.

Where the new offence is charged and the relevant body is not tried alongside a director, prosecutors will still be able to refer cases to the Secretary of State so that an application for disqualification can be considered. Indeed, there may be cases when sentencing judges recommend that this is done in their sentencing remarks. In short, rather than creating new law, we again consider it proper for the new offences to sit alongside, and work within, the existing legislative framework for disqualifying directors. If regulators have evidence that a director is unfit to be concerned in the management of the company, they can refer the case to the Secretary of State to make an application to have that director disqualified.

I hope that the hon. Members for Ealing Central and for Bootle, and others, agree that these points are therefore already accounted for, that they do not feel the need to move their new clauses, and that clause 38 can stand part of the Bill.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 38, as amended, accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 39