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Company bill 'first step' of reforms [UK]

Author: Jean Eaglesham, Financial Times, Published on: 26 September 2006

A fundamental review of company law going through parliament is only the "first step" in tightening statutory controls on directors with respect to environmental and social issues, a minister warned yesterday. Margaret Hodge, industry minister, also told a fringe meeting at the Labour party conference in Manchester that the government "could, over time" extend the scope of the company law bill to embrace private as well as quoted companies. The warning that more regulation could be forthcoming - the first such signal from the government in the bill's eight-year gestation - will prompt alarm in boardrooms...Once the bill is passed, the government could still use regulations to increase the reporting and behavioural requirements for directors, the minister signalled. "The way to move forward is by having this first step, which enables those who are fearful [of the bill's impact] to be convinced," Ms Hodge said. But Alistair Darling, trade and industry secretary, stressed later yesterday that the government did not intend introducing any changes at the bill's third Commons reading, due on October 19. The CBI dubbed Ms Hodge's stance "a mistake".

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