I do not know. My understanding is that it would not, but I shall take advice before responding properly to that question.
New clause 20 is designed to allow certain directors to be excluded from the existing provisions of the Companies Act 1985 that require them to make their home addresses available for public inspection and to substitute service addresses. They will still be obliged to provide their home addresses, but that information will be kept on a separate, secure register. The home addresses will be available to public bodies, such as law enforcement agencies. The clause is essentially making provision for regulations. Much of the detail will be left to regulation, which will be subject to affirmative resolution in both Houses and will therefore, no doubt, be rapturously welcomed by the Opposition.
The clause will provide for the Companies Act 1985 to be amended by the insertion of new subsections. The first new subsection will allow a present or prospective director or company secretary to apply to the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry for a confidentiality order. The application may be made if the applicant considers that the availability for inspection by the public of his residential address will create a serious risk that he, or a person who lives with him, will be subjected to violence or intimidation. The regulations will explain how the process will work.
The effect of the confidentiality order will be that Companies House will display for public inspection the service address rather than the home address. Subsequent regulations will make provisions covering inspection of the confidential records and applications for access. The regulations will provide for the similar protection of home addresses found on a company's own register of directors.
The new provisions will apply to any company formed under the Companies Acts, overseas companies and companies that are registered abroad but have a United Kingdom branch. The regulations will make it an offence for anyone to provide false information when applying for an order, or to provide confidential information improperly. This is not the signalling of a rogues charter. There will be a high threshold test for the Secretary of State, who will need to be satisfied that the public availability of a director's residential address is likely to create a serious risk that the individual, or a person who lives with him or her, will be subjected to violence or intimidation.
We expect the majority of company directors to continue to provide their home addresses, while necessary privacy will be provided for those at real risk. Directors will still have to provide their home addresses, to be kept on a secure register. That register will be available to law enforcement and other public bodies. That will not provide an instant solution because existing records cannot be expunged. However, in time it should offer added protection for directors in certain circumstances and help to reduce the kind of intimidation that has regrettably occurred recently.