§ The following Questions stood upon the Order Paper:
§ 42. Mr. BELLENGER
To ask the Secretary of State for Industry, Trade and Regional Development whether he is aware of the intention of the board of directors of Rolls Razor Limited to liquidate that company; and, in view of the damage caused to investors in the shares of that company, if he will cause an inquiry to be made into the conduct of the company's business.
§ 44. Mr. COOPER
To ask the Secretary of State for Industry, Trade and Regional Development if he will set up a committee of inquiry into the affairs of Rolls Razor Limited.
§ 46. Mr. A. LEWIS
To ask the Secretary of State for Industry, Trade and Regional Development whether he is aware of the concern felt by shareholders in Rolls Razor Limited and English Overseas Investments Limited at the administration of these companies, necessitating the winding-up of the Rolls Razor Company Limited; and whether he will cause an investigation to be made into these companies under the Companies Act.
§ 47. Mr. DIAMOND
To ask the Secretary of State for Industry, Trade and Regional Development whether he will hold an inquiry under the Companies Act into the affairs of Rolls Razor Limited.
§ 49. Mr. DARLING
To ask the Secretary of State for Industry, Trade and Regional Development if he will hold an inquiry under the Companies Act into the affairs of the Rolls Razor Company and its subsidiary companies; and if he will make a statement.
§ The Secretary of State for Industry, Trade and Regional Development and President of the Board of Trade (Mr. Edward Heath)
With your permission, Mr. Speaker, and that of the House, I will now answer Questions Nos. 42, 44, 46, 47 and 49.
I have decided to appoint inspectors under Section 165(b) of the Companies Act, 1948, to investigate the affairs of Rolls Razor Limited.
§ Mr. Bellenger
I congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on taking this step so expeditiously. Is he quite sure, now that the company is going into voluntary liquidation, that he has complete powers? If so, will he exercise them to make sure that all books and documents are available to the inspectors forthwith?
§ Mr. A. Lewis
Will the inspectors have an opportunity to examine the fact that, on 2nd July, the chairman of the company made a favourable report about its potentialities and then resigned a couple of days later, while within 15 days of the annual meeting the company went into liquidation? Will these inspectors be able to ascertain from the then chairman—who occupied that position throughout the whole period—just what his views are on this question?
§ Mr. Diamond
I, too, congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on acting in this way, but why could not he have taken this decision a little earlier and without pressure from hon. Members on both sides of the House? One understands the difficulties in these matters, but will he ask for the earliest possible publication of the report in view of the considerable anxiety in many cross-sections of the community and everyone's wish, quite naturally, not to come to any conclusions until the report of the inspectors has been fully studied?
§ Mr. Darling
Will the terms of reference under the Companies Act allow the inspectors to look at the situation that has arisen for customers of this company, particularly those with hire-purchase agreements and those who have paid cash for their washing machines, to whom the company has an obligation to maintain servicing arrangements? Is it possible to 692 find out whether contractual obligations in this regard will rank higher than, for instance, those to trade creditors when it comes to the winding up?
§ Mr. A. Lewis
Will the right hon. Gentleman look into the question whether or not the inspectors will have the power to call the former chairman of the company, who was in that position right the way through until 2nd July and who resigned two days after issuing a statement saying that the company was all right? Will the right hon. Gentleman see to it that that is put before the inspectors?