Insolvency Regulation (BHS): 28th June 2016

Martin Docherty-Hughes (West Dunbartonshire) (SNP)
4. What assessment he has made of the effect of the case of BHS on his policy on regulating insolvency. [905536]

The Minister for Small Business, Industry and Enterprise (Anna Soubry)
As the hon. Gentleman knows, the Insolvency Service’s investigation into BHS continues. We are always looking to ensure that Britain is an open place in which to do business, but with the proper regulation in place to protect workers and prevent abuses. We recently launched our consultation “A Review of the Corporate Insolvency Framework”—not something that trips off the tongue. Importantly, if there are any early emerging findings arising out of the BHS case, I can assure him that they will be fully taken into account.

Martin Docherty-Hughes
I am grateful to the Minister for her response. Nevertheless, I am sure that Members of the House and people across the country were dismayed yesterday when they read that the pensions black hole in this country has reached a high of £900 billion. Can she assure this House, me and my constituents who work at BHS in Clydebank that, after reflecting on last week’s vote and the BHS scandal, the Government are doing everything in their power to assure their pension funds?

Anna Soubry
The hon. Gentleman makes a good point. Yesterday was a dreadful day on the markets— two of our banks actually had to stop trading. Today, according to the results, is a better day. As the Prime Minister said yesterday, nothing has changed at the ​moment, so it is really important that we talk up our great country and our great economy, and that we instil confidence and stability on all sides.

Stephen Kinnock (Aberavon) (Lab)
The issue of pensions is very important in the context of not just BHS, but Tata Steel. The consultation finished on 23 June. Will the Minister please update the House on where we are with the pensions scheme, and also reflect on the fact that the trade unions and many others have said that putting that scheme into the Pension Protection Fund would be a complete disaster?

Anna Soubry
The consultation has, of course, now finished. There were concerns, certainly among Government Members, that Opposition Members perhaps had not been as supportive about the future plans for Tata as we would have liked, but, as the hon. Gentleman knows, our doors always remain open to him. He has done great work to ensure that we have a sustainable steel industry in south Wales.

Hannah Bardell (Livingston) (SNP)
Many workers at BHS, such as those in my constituency, will no doubt have been watching in horror as events unfolded. What further support and assurance can the Minister give to the staff at BHS to support them through this difficult time? Furthermore, I have found—I am sure that other Members have, too—that BHS is not willing to engage with me as a local Member of Parliament. What can she do to ensure that it will engage with Members?
 
Anna Soubry
I am quite surprised that BHS will not engage, as the hon. Lady puts it; that is not at all satisfactory. We are working hand in glove with the Department for Work and Pensions to ensure that people are getting the support and opportunities that they need to get jobs. I am pleased that that work continues. In fact, government does continue, notwithstanding last week’s vote.