HOUSE OF COMMONS
Second Standing Committee on Delegated Legislation
COMPANY AND BUSINESS NAMES (AMENDMENT) REGULATIONS 1995
Tuesday 12 December 1995
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The Committee consisted of the following Members:
Chairman: Mr. James Hill
Allason, Mr. Rupert (Torbay)
Ashton, Mr. Joseph (Bassetlaw)
Bell, Mr. Stuart (Middlesbrough)
Carlisle, Sir Kenneth (Lincoln)
Carttiss, Mr. Michael (Great Yarmouth)
Church, Ms Judith (Dagenham)
Dykes, Mr. Hugh (Harrow, East)
Fabricant, Mr. Michael (Mid-Staffordshire)
Forman, Mr. Nigel (Carshalton and Wallington)
Fox, Dr. Liam (Lord Commissioner to the Treasury)
Gilbert, Dr. John (Dudley, East)
Harvey, Mr. Nick (North Devon)
Lamont, Mr. Norman (Kingston upon Thames)
Lord, Mr. Michael (Central Suffolk)
Olner, Mr. Bill (Nuneaton)
Oppenheim, Mr. Phillip (Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Trade and Industry)
Pearson, Mr. Ian (Dudley, West)
Simpson, Mr. Alan (Nottingham, South)
Mr. E. P. Silk, Committee Clerk2 3 Second Standing Committee on Delegated Legislation Tuesday 12 December 1995
[MR. JAMES HILL in the Chair]
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Trade and Industry (Mr. Phillip Oppenheim): I beg to move, "That the Committee has considered the Company and Business Names (Amendment) Regulations 1995 (S.I. 1995, No. 3022). It is a great pleasure for me to be here this afternoon, Mr. Hill, and to present these regulations under your Chairmanship. The regulations amend the Company and Business Names Regulations 1981. The 1981 regulations set out a list of expressions which can be used only as part of the name of a company or unincorporated business with the approval of the Secretary of State. These expressions are regulated to protect the public from confusion. A business name might, for example, imply pre-eminence, as in "international", or expertise, as in "health service". Companies must demonstrate that the nature of their business warrants the use of such an expression, and that public confusion will not arise. A person wishing to use one of the controlled expressions must apply to the Secretary of State at Companies house. Companies house does not impose unnecessarily onerous conditions, but businesses have to be able to demonstrate that public confusion will not be caused by their use of an expression on the list. The main amendment that I propose is the addition to the list of "chamber of commerce, training and enterprise". "Chamber of commerce" is already listed but changed circumstances mean that we must extend the protection specifically to those chambers who merge with training and enterprise councils to form chambers of commerce, training and enterprise. The Government have decided to permit voluntary mergers between local TECs and chambers of commerce. Such mergers will take place where individual TECs and chambers have decided to merge, and have satisfied the Secretary of State for Education and Employment, and the President of the Board of Trade, that certain conditions have been met. Chambers which merge in this way occupy a special position and will have a contract with the Department for Education and Employment. It is important that bodies which are not in this position should not be able to use the expression "chamber of commerce, training and enterprise" without the consent of the Secretary of State. The public have known for many years that the TECs provide training services under Government sponsorship. They would be likely to be confused if a body outside the network were to use the expression "chamber of commerce, training and enterprise". 4 In addition, we are taking this opportunity to make some minor deletions from the list of controlled expressions. The words "breed", "breeder", and "breeding" are to be deleted, as is "nursing home". The Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food informs me that no special cachet is any longer associated with the term "breed"—so we have succeeded in creating the classless society at last. Such phrases were originally controlled when only a few businesses were involved with artificial breeding. The use of those words then implied a higher quality than might necessarily have been the case. Now there are many more operators in the area, and that can no longer be said to be true. Protection for "nursing home" is already provided by the Registered Homes Act 1984. Under the Act it is an offence to indicate that premises are a nursing home unless they are registered as such, and it is an offence to operate an unregistered home. I commend the regulations to the Committee.
Mr. Stuart Bell (Middlesbrough): Mr. Hill, it is a great pleasure for me to be under your chairmanship again, although this is the first time that the Under-Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, the hon. Member for Amber Valley (Mr. Oppenheim), will have experienced this wonderful and salubrious Committee, and the willingness, ability and great interest of the serried ranks behind me. It is pleasant to be among friends, such as the hon. Member for Mid-Staffordshire (Mr. Fabricant), who is always close to my heart, and the hon. Member for Harrow, East (Mr. Dykes), who, all things being equal, is a fellow European. In addition, my hon. Friend the Member for Nuneaton (Mr. Olner) was kind enough to waltz me off to dinner last night, and I am also glad to see my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley, West (Mr. Pearson) here to witness our proceedings. Regulations such as these require the assent of the Committee. The document before us is harmless and we will support it. Nevertheless, it reflects a change in our commercial society, in which the chambers of commerce and the training and enterprise councils are voluntarily merging. We have supported the principle of that voluntary merger, and wonder out loud how they will relate to business links, if that concept develops, and how local authorities, chambers of commerce, TECs and business links will come together as a coherent whole. It is interesting that the order links the Department of Trade and Industry with the Department for Education and Employment—two Departments are therefore covered by the same measure. Although we accept the Minister's comments on breed, breeder and breeding, I am intrigued that the words "nursing home" will no longer cover registered nursing homes. That is a small change in the law that may have consequences that go far beyond today's debate. I have no intention of delaying the Committee at this stage or of dividing on this issue, but we will be looking at the change regarding registered nursing homes and nursing homes per se that will result from this measure.5
Mr. Bill Olner (Nuneaton): I am pleased that the Minister cannot now describe himself as a "little breeder". I seek some clarification regarding the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Middlesbrough (Mr. Bell). People in my constituency and elsewhere will wish to know that the nursing home provision will be strictly enforced. Are there adequate procedures in place to ensure that nursing homes are properly registered, and are those procedures sufficiently cast iron and watertight to ensure that unscrupulous organisations cannot slip through the net?
The Chairman: We have had a very interesting debate. Do you want to wind it up, Minister?
Mr. Oppenheim: Thank you, Mr. Hill, for your chairmanship. I thank the hon. Member for Middlesbrough for a fine example of consensual cross-party agreement which, as my hon. Friends know, is a sadly uncharacteristic thing for me to say. However, as it is the season of good will, I shall swallow my normal impulse to hurl gratuitous insults at Opposition Members. I assure the hon. Member for Nuneaton that protection for the term "nursing home" is already provided by the Registered Homes Act 1984. Under that Act it is an offence to indicate that premises are a nursing home, so this part of the order effectively becomes superfluous. I think that I am right in saying that the duty to enforce that provision falls to the 6 Department of Health. In any case, I shall make sure that the hon. Gentleman's comments are passed on to the relevant Department and that officials there write to try and reassure him. In short, the regulations make some small but desirable changes which will come into force on 1 January 1996. They provide a necessary protection for the growing network of chambers of commerce, training and enterprise, as it develops. In terms of the small deletions, the regulations also provide a useful deregulatory benefit. I am therefore pleased to commend the regulations to the Committee.
Mr. Bell: I am grateful to the Minister for his response. He picked up our slight concern regarding registered nursing homes, which I believe is also covered in the Children Act 1989. As for the point about the Department of Health and the protection of registered homes, my hon. Friends the Members for Nuneaton, for Dudley, West and I would welcome reassurance in writing and I thank the Minister for offering to arrange that.
Question put and agreed to.
That the Committee has considered the Company and Business Names (Amendment) Regulations 1995 (S.I. 1995, No. 3022).
Committee rose at twenty-one minutes to Five o'clock.
THE FOLLOWING MEMBERS ATTENDED THE COMMITTEE:
Hill, Mr. James (Chairman)
Fox, Dr. Liam