Kelly Tolhurst – 2019 Statement on the Companies Register

Below is the text of the speech made by Kelly Tolhurst, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, in the House of Commons on 7 May 2019.

One of the key foundations of our modern industrial strategy is delivering a strong, transparent and attractive business environment in the UK. The strength of the UK’s business environment is founded on our fair and open regulatory frameworks. The companies register is the base on which that strength is built.

While the overwhelming majority of UK corporates operate wholly legitimately, concerns have been expressed about the misuse of UK corporate entities, the filing of false information on the companies register held at Companies House and the use of innocent people’s information on the register to commit fraud and other acts of harm.

In the last three years there have been almost 10,000 complaints to Companies House from people concerned about their personal details, with worries including fraud and misuse of personal details topping the list.

We are therefore seeking views on a series of reforms to limit the risks of misuse. These include measures to: provide greater certainty over the identity of those shown as owning, running or controlling companies, including identity verification; improve the accuracy and usability of data on the register; protect personal information; ensure compliance and take action against offenders; and deter abuse of UK-registered corporate entities. We are committed to minimising burdens on law abiding businesses, especially the smallest. The consultation will therefore look at the best way to minimise burdens on businesses.

These reforms build on our global reputation as a trusted and welcoming place to do business and a leading exponent of greater corporate transparency.

The UK has one of the highest ratings for cracking down on anonymous companies, and the Government’s proposed measures build on the Britain’s world-leading anti-corruption activity. In 2016, the UK became the first country in the G20 to introduce a public register of company ownership, while new protections against identity fraud for company directors were introduced in 2018.

These measures will boost the reputation of the UK’s business environment, ensuring reliability of the UK’s company register. Knowing that a company’s information is accurate and transparent is a fundamental part of a leading business environment—giving entrepreneurs and businesses the confidence they need to do business in the UK.

I will place a copy of the consultation in the Libraries of both Houses.