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Taking Stock: Dozy government MPs ‘snooze’ through key insolvency vote

YOU SNOOZE, you lose; so the saying goes. And it appears government MPs have proved the truth of that saying, after apparently forgetting to vote on a key committee-stage amendment to the Small Business, Enterprise, and Employment Bill earlier this week.

The government had proposed that physical creditor meetings could only be held if requested by 10% of creditors in an insolvency. A Labour amendment during the Bill’s committee stage proposed that a physical meeting must be held if just one creditor requested a meeting.

However, the government’s plans to make it harder to hold physical creditor meetings in insolvencies ran into a bit of trouble after the they apparently failed to register their opposition when a vote was called.

According to a transcript of the parliamentary debate between Jo Swinson, the Liberal Democrat BIS minister for employment relations and consumer affairs, and Toby Perkins, the Labour shadow, opposition was voiced albeit after the horse had left the stable, won the Grand National and was being sent to the knackers yard.

“Sorry-too late. You were too slow, Minister, so it stands. You will need to table an amendment for later proceedings. It pays to pay attention,” the chair said.

And Perkins was quick to twist the knife. “It is a pleasure to know that I have been so persuasive in my efforts so far. I hope that the winning record continues,” he chortled, adding that Swinson “has shown already today that she is in generous mood”.

Swinson, to her credit, admitted that her “generosity is being overstated”.

“What this shows is that if you snooze, you lose. Perhaps I should have been a little more attentive at a key point, when I was also trying to look ahead to check a particular fact,” she said.

The government has one last chance to reverse the amendment at the Bill’s report stage later this month (dates to be announced).

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