§ 7. Mr. French
To ask the President of the Board of Trade what representations he has received about the implementation of the EC insurance accounts directive; and if he will make a statement.
§ The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Corporate Affairs (Mr. Neil Hamilton)
I have received a number of comments from a range of interested parties in response to a consultative document that I issued in June 1992. My officials have been in informal contact with a number of such parties. I expect to publish draft regulations for comment next month.
§ Mr. French
Does my hon. Friend agree that although the directive is, broadly, a step in the right direction in terms of establishing proper comparability between insurance company accounts in this country and those in other European countries, it will work only if carried out on a consistent basis? Will he, therefore, explain why the Government seem inclined to go beyond the directive on the disclosure of distributable profits, when the only certain consequence of that would be that British insurance companies could be put at a disadvantage in takeovers?
§ Mr. Hamilton
It is not our intention to go further than European directives require of us unless we can justify such extensions. The consultation has hardly started yet, so my hon. Friend is a little premature in assuming that we have come to any final conclusions. I shall certainly bear what he says strongly in mind.
§ Mr. Malcolm Bruce
Does the Minister accept that for British insurers to reap the full benefits of the single market which flow from the proposals that he has put forward for consultation, we need to resolve the problem of the long shadow of Maxwell, which affects the credibility of British insurers in the European single market? What steps will he take to ensure that that matter is finally resolved before his regulations are in place?
§ Mr. Hamilton
As the hon. Gentleman knows, that has little relevance to the question asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Gloucester (Mr. French). Of course, we do not countenance fraud in any way, but we have to be realistic. As my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Technology said in answer to the question about travel companies, we cannot pass laws that will make fraud impossible; we can only make fraud more difficult. As the hon. Gentleman knows, that is a policy of the highest importance, to which the Government are firmly committed.