Clause 31 - Application of money laundering regulations to overseas trustees

Financial Services Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 10:30 am on 1 December 2020.

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Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Photo of Rupa Huq Rupa Huq Labour, Ealing Central and Acton

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

New clause 30—Application of money laundering regulations to overseas trustees: review of effect on tax revenues—

‘(1) The Chancellor of the Exchequer must review the effects on tax revenues of section 31 and lay a report of that review before the House of Commons within six months of the date on which this Act receives Royal Assent.

(2) The review under sub-paragraph (1) must consider—

(a) the expected change in corporation and income tax paid attributable to the provisions in this Schedule; and

(b) an estimate of any change attributable to the provisions of section 31 in the difference between the amount of tax required to be paid to the Commissioners and the amount paid.

(3) The review must under subparagraph (2)(b) consider taxes payable by the owners and employees of Scottish Limited Partnerships.’

This new clause would require the Chancellor of the Exchequer to review the effect on public finances, and on reducing the tax gap, of section 31, and in particular on the taxes payable by owners and employees of Scottish Limited Partnerships.

New clause 35—Money laundering and overseas trustees: review—

‘(1) The Treasury must, within six months of this Act being passed, prepare, publish and lay before Parliament a report on the effects on money laundering of the provisions in section 31 of this Act.

(2) The report must address—

(a) the anticipated change to the volume of money laundering attributable to the provisions of section 31; and

(b) alleged money laundering involving overseas trusts by the owners and employees of Scottish Limited Partnerships.’

This new clause would require the Treasury to review the effects on money laundering of the provisions in section 31 of this Act, and in particular on the use of overseas trusts for the purposes of money laundering by owners and employees of Scottish Limited Partnerships.

Photo of John Glen John Glen Minister of State (Treasury) (City), The Economic Secretary to the Treasury

This amendment to the Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Act 2018 ensures that the Government have the power to change, and Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs has the power to enforce, elements of our anti-money laundering regime relating to extraterritorial trusts. Enacting this amendment will cement HMRC’s power to access information on who really owns and benefits from overseas trusts with links to the UK. This is part of our wider reform efforts to improve beneficial ownership transparency.

It is important to stress that this merely ensures the continuation of existing powers. After the end of the transition period, the Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Act will take over from the European Communities Act 1972 as the statutory framework for implementing sanctions and anti-money laundering policy in the UK. Changes introduced by the Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2020 provide for the expansion of the HMRC trust registration service. Some non-UK express trusts with a connection to the UK, including those buying UK land or property, will need for the first time to register with HMRC’s trust registration service. The number of registered trusts is expected to increase from 120,000 to an estimated 3 to 6 million as a result of those changes made by the money laundering regulations.

The amendment made by the clause will confirm the Government’s ability, after the end of the EU exit transition period, to make regulations applying to trustees of overseas trusts with links to the UK, even where they are non-resident. It also confirms HMRC’s ability to take enforcement action against those trustees. I therefore recommend that the clause stand part of the Bill.

Photo of Alison Thewliss Alison Thewliss Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Treasury)

New clauses 30 and 35 are the result of long-standing concerns that I and my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen South have about money laundering in the UK. That was accentuated by what the Minister said about increasing the number of trusts. It goes some way to reflect the evidence we took during prelegislative scrutiny of the draft Registration of Overseas Entities Bill, where a witness suggested that if he were going to hide some money, trusts are pretty much where he would go to do so. The Government should be doing an awful lot more on this, because with this increase in trusts and the Government’s response, it feels as though the Government are pursuing a Whac-a-Mole strategy. However, Whac-a-Mole is not a mole-eradication strategy; it just makes them pop up somewhere else. The Government need to be wiser to that.

Our new clauses would require the Treasury to review the effects on money laundering of the provisions in clause 31, and in particular on the use of overseas trusts for the purposes of money laundering by owners and employees of Scottish limited partnerships. The Minister will be fed up with me talking about Scottish limited partnerships, because I and the colleagues who preceded me have never shut up about them, but they remain a problem. The number of people fined for misuse of SLPs remains pretty much at zero, as far I am aware. The Government need to do a huge amount more.

It beggars belief that the Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Act left an oligarch loophole, allowing money laundering by overseas trusts to buy UK property with impunity. That Act contains the framework that the UK will use to implement sanctions and anti-money laundering policy after leaving the European Union single market. However, as the Government have observed, it is not clear that under the current drafting anti-money laundering regulations can be made in relation to non-UK trustees of trusts based outside the UK. Even though a trust may be based outside the UK, and the trustee may be a non-UK corporate or individual, the trust may have links to the UK—for example, because it owns UK property. We start to see the very complexity of the web that exists here, and the difficulty in dealing with it and finding who is really in control. New clause 31 would amend schedule 2 to the 2018 Act to ensure that regulations can be made in respect of trustees with links. Without this, any powers HMRC sought to exercise to access information about such trusts are at risk of being held invalid under legal challenge.

The Government, for their part, believe that the change will reaffirm the UK’s global leadership in the use of public registers of beneficial ownership, as identified by the Financial Action Task Force mutual evaluation of the UK in 2018. They will further support public and private sectors sufficiently and effectively target resources towards potential criminal activity using trusts, maintaining the resilience of the UK’s defences against economic crime. That is quite a joke; it really is not good enough. Trusts are the largest gaping loophole that we have. We want the Government to accept our amendments and come clean on how little impact this measure, as with many others previously, has had on money laundering.

In June 2019, HMRC published revised estimates that put the tax gap at £35 billion for 2017-18, representing 5.6% of total tax liabilities. While welcome action has been taken and that gap has had some impact, no Government have yet created a comprehensive anti-avoidance rule, because at the moment people are allowed to move around in different ways and find different loopholes and different mechanisms to avoid paying their tax.

We need a workable general anti-avoidance rule that tackles tax avoidance in all its forms; does not exempt existing and established abuse from action being taken; includes within its scope international tax abuse; gives the right to a tax authority to take action against tax avoidance, which it defines in an objective fashion capable of being numerically assessed without the consent of any unelected authority; and places the burden of proof of this issue on the taxpayer. The UK Government need to introduce a robust and transparent system of company registration in order to combat money launderers’ attempts to register entities for illicit purposes. As has been highlighted previously, Companies House is not responsible for anti-money laundering responsibilities, and the FCA register does not link up with the Companies House register. There are huge gaping holes that the Government do not seem interested in properly addressing.

I appreciate that the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy has had consultations upon consultations, but the gaps have been evident for quite some time. The extent of the abuse in the current system was laid bare in the Global Witness report “Getting the UK’s house in order”, which highlights the severe deficiencies at Companies House in compliance with ownership regulations. I have particularly looked at the extent of missing information and the accuracy through the persons of significant control register, which is a mechanism that ought to be collecting information on all persons and corporate entities with significant control of a business or company.

The current system allows those with intent to conceal or deceive to easily do so by registering effectively in secret as a Scottish limited partnership. Unlike English limited partnerships, those financial vehicles have legal personality, which means that agreements can be made by individuals in the name of the financial product without ever having to name the person or people who control it, and they can hold property as well. The abuses of SLPs have been well documented by Richard Smith and David Leask, formally of The Herald in Glasgow. There have been all kinds of criminality, such as arms running, money laundering and theft from overseas Governments. The Government really need to clamp down on that. SLPs have been used for years to funnel millions of pounds of dirty money created by illicit business activities, enabled in no small part by a lack of proper checks at Companies House. The Government have consistently failed to take the tough action needed to stop that.

We know for sure that the links between SLPs and criminality pose a threat to combatting organised crime, yet nothing really has happened. Every time I table parliamentary questions on SLPs and the number of people prosecuted or fined for not having persons of significant control registered, it comes back as nothing, because Companies House is not an enforcement body; all it does is collect information, and it does not check if it is good information or absolute guff. A lot of the times with these organisations, it is absolute guff. The only person to be prosecuted was a whistleblower, who was doing so in order to expose the nonsense of Companies House, which is absolutely bizarre.

In the last Parliament, we secured support for a Finance Bill amendment seeking a review into the impact of UK tax avoidance measures and forced the Government to accept the need to tackle the use of SLPs. We were also strongly involved in the Magnitsky amendments in the Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Act 2018. But there is much still to be done. Our new clauses are a further suggestion of what more the Government could and should be doing if they are serious about the scourge of dirty money on our doorstep. I move these amendments in my name and hope that the Government will at some point listen, enforce these things and act to deal with this, because it should not be this way. I have been here for five and a half years, banging on about SLPs, as did my former colleague Roger Mullin, yet the issue is still not resolved. The Government must do better.

Photo of Rupa Huq Rupa Huq Labour, Ealing Central and Acton

Just a note of caution: these amendments have not been formally moved yet, but on Thursday, when we reach that point, the hon. Member can move them.

Photo of Pat McFadden Pat McFadden Shadow Economic Secretary (Treasury)

Sometimes, when I look at this Bill and all the different things it attempts to deal with, I have an image in my head of somebody cleaning out a cupboard in the Treasury, finding lots of policy things and looking for a legislative truck on which they can be loaded.

Photo of Pat McFadden Pat McFadden Shadow Economic Secretary (Treasury)

Otherwise known as a portmanteau Bill. It is a shame that they could not find more in the cupboard. A couple of small measures are not objectionable in themselves, but we have to ask whether they are up to the challenge. This measure deals with money laundering and trustees based overseas. I do not think that Opposition members of the Committee will object to that, but we must ask, given the scale of money laundering, whether the Government could not have done more.

The membership of this Bill Committee includes a few illustrious members of the Treasury Committee, which has looked into this issue. In fact, it reported on it last year. In compiling that report, it took evidence from witnesses who suggested that the scale of the problem could run to hundreds of billions of pounds. Of course, by definition, as the Minister said a few minutes ago, it is difficult to pin down the size of an unknown, and we cannot be certain, but these were credible witnesses. Even the Government’s then Security Minister, Mr Wallace, told the Committee in his evidence that the figure of £90 billion was probably “a conservative estimate”.

The Treasury Committee’s report highlighted that in a post-Brexit situation, new trading opportunities could also

“provide opportunities to those wishing to undertake economic crime in countries that are more vulnerable to corruption.”

That is why I am asking the Minister how these things will be monitored and how we will insulate ourselves against the temptation to strike trade deals here, there and everywhere and, in so doing, perhaps not always looking as deeply as we would into the regulatory systems and so on. The Committee pointed out in its report:

“There is a clearly identified risk that company formation may be used in money laundering.”

The Treasury Committee heard evidence that there had been no fines or criminal proceedings relating to the issue of beneficial ownership. As the hon. Member for Glasgow Central pointed out, the one Companies House-related prosecution that took place was simply intended to show how weak the system of scrutiny was. In discussing the role of Companies House, the report concluded that it represented “a weakness”. That is quite a damning conclusion for a very eminent Committee of this House to reach, and it painted a picture of an organisation that saw its role as keeping a register—being a librarian rather than a partner in law enforcement.

There is a history to this, of course. We have always prided ourselves on being a country where it is easy to set up a business—it is a fast process and there are not many barriers. That approach has a lot of strengths, but given that only a few individuals control literally thousands of companies on the register, we cannot afford to be so lax. The Government have to some degree recognised that. In September, just before this Bill was published, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy in September made an announcement, in which it recognised the problem with the current structure of Companies House and proposed some changes.

The three most important proposals were compulsory identity verification, which has not been happening up until now, a greater power to query false information, and powers on data. The Minister for Security, James Brokenshire, said that those changes would make it easier

“to crack down on dirty money and financial exploitation, to protect our security and prosperity.”

That is all good, but the Royal United Services Institute, a respected think-tank, had a look at the Government announcements and tested them against the problem, noting also that 3,000 potentially suspicious UK company structures were cited in what was leaked from the recent Financial Crimes Enforcement Network files.

Let us look at the proposals, starting with mandatory ID verification for the directors of companies or persons of significant control. It would be good if that is done, but there is a big, gaping loophole in it. The proposal will apply only to those incorporating companies directly with Companies House, rather than to the estimated 60% that choose to incorporate via third-party agents. It is a good measure, but it applies only to the minority of companies that register with Companies House.

The second proposal is to give the registrar and CEO of Companies House the power to query information. Up until now, the registrar has had no legal power to do that and has had to accept all information on trust. It is simply astonishing that that has been the case up until now, given that they hold a register of 4 million companies. The scope of the power and how it will be operationalised remain subject to future consultation, so we do not really know how far it will go in allowing the Companies House registrar to probe what they are being told when people come along to register a company.

Thirdly, the proposals about data sharing are welcome, including for bulk data sharing between Companies House and other public sector datasets. The reason that they are important relates to what I asked earlier about the job description of Companies House: is it a register, or is it an organisation that sees itself like any kind of regulator?

The Government proposals are stark. A big hole has been identified in them, but they are also a recognition of the scale of the problem and that we cannot adequately crack down on the big money laundering problem unless we do something about Companies House, too. Global Witness, a charity that the hon. Member for Glasgow Central referred to, estimates that more than 336,000 companies have not disclosed their beneficial owner. It also found that 2,000 company owners had been disqualified directors. The September proposals are a start, but what more can the Minister tell us about how they will be taken forward?

I have mentioned the Treasury Committee, but we also have the Intelligence and Security Committee’s report on Russia, which referred to “the London laundromat”. That report exposed the weaknesses in unexplained wealth orders and, in particular, their applicability to people who may have been here for some time and invested in property. Property is at the heart of clause 31, because it is through investment in property that those who may not have come by their money legitimately can cleanse their property and say that their wealth is explained, after all. In evidence to the Intelligence and Security Committee’s inquiry, the National Crime Agency called for amendments to the Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Act 2018, specifically using serious and organised crime as a justification for sanctions.

Reference has also been made to the draft Registration of Overseas Entities Bill, and I would be grateful if the Minister could update us on where we are with that, because that is another important piece of this jigsaw. As I said, since the Russia report, we have had the FinCEN files, which once again place a number of British financial institutions at the centre of further allegations of money laundering.

In the face of all that, we have before us a clause that deals with one specific part of this. We certainly do not object to it, but given what the Treasury Committee and the Intelligence and Security Committee have said about it, and given what the Government themselves have said about the weaknesses in Companies House, the Bill seems to miss the opportunity to do more about it. Where is the broader plan to tackle corruption and money laundering, especially as we are on the cusp of moving from European regulation to a post-Brexit situation? We will return to some of these issues when we debate the new clauses on Thursday, but it is important to put that on the record and to put this clause in some kind of context, given the size of the problem we face.

Photo of Rupa Huq Rupa Huq Labour, Ealing Central and Acton 11:00, 1 December 2020

A couple of boring things: first, I have been told that I am being too generous with interventions—I do not think there are any at the moment. Secondly, that last oration was good on the generalities of money laundering, but I think clause 31 focuses tightly on overseas investors, so if it happens too often, knuckles will be rapped. However, it was interesting and I learned a lot, so thank you, Pat McFadden.

Photo of Angela Eagle Angela Eagle Labour, Wallasey

I suspect you have just wiped out most of my speech, Dr Huq. We want to hear from the Minister about the adequacy of having just this clause, and not a lot else, to deal with the issue in this portmanteau Bill. In the debate on clause 30, we heard that it had taken the Treasury five years to increase from seven to 10 years the potential sentence for market abuse. The Treasury Committee’s 2019 report—I am now a member of that Committee—was excoriating about the scale of the problem, with between tens of billions and potentially £100 billion lost. As we have discussed in relation to other parts of the Bill, we know that small weaknesses in the defences can be ruthlessly targeted and become much bigger if they are not closed off.

We are reassured about the point that the Minister is trying to make with clause 31, but given that our country has been described as a laundromat for money laundering, perhaps the Government could have used this Bill as a suitable legislative opportunity to make other changes to the money laundering legislation that this clause amends. Perhaps the Minister could explain why that action has not been taken and give us an idea of what will follow. He has already referred to a reform of the suspicious activity reports regime. Why is that not included in this Bill, given that an analysis of it has found that over 80% of the reports are from banks, and very few from other places where there might be suspicious activity, such as property ownership in the UK? As we know, that is how money can be laundered.

We seem to have got ourselves into a situation where the banking structures just produce suspicious activity reports in massive numbers—three quarters of a million of them in a year, I think. Among those, the real ones are perhaps hidden, but the regulators are trying to get through them all and do very little. At the same time, we know that when the FinCEN papers were actually leaked, that involved, between 2000 and 2017, the transfer of close to $2 trillion of transactions, which were included in these suspicious activity reports.

Many transactions laundered money through our systems—many from overseas, in terms of what we are dealing with in clause 4. HSBC allowed fraudsters to move millions of dollars of stolen money around the world even though they knew it was a scam. J.P. Morgan allowed a company to move more than one billion through a London account without knowing who owned it. I could go on.

It seems that clause 31 is a tiny little attempt to stop an abuse, given that the abuse going on is of that scale. There is also the husband of a woman who donated £1.7 million to the UK’s Conservative party, secretly funded by a Russian oligarch with close ties to President Putin. Again, I could go on. I hope that the Minister is going to at least give us some view about what is going on here and whether clause 31 is the be-all and end-all of what the Government intend to put in place to deal with this issue.

On victims of fraud, criminals have successfully stolen £1.2 billion from individuals through banking fraud; in an earlier debate, the Minister was talking about his own frustrations with trying to get a grip of that issue. That figure on scams comes from 2018. It is also estimated that £5.9 billion a year is defrauded from businesses in the public sector.

The issue is not just about oligarchs running their money around the world and laundering it into property and other things. It is not just about mafiosi or corrupt political leaders doing the same, although all that is happening. This involves your constituents, Dr Huq, and my constituents, who are losing money through banking scams. Our public sector is losing money through other scams, which bleeds away the resources available to us to do the other things we need to, especially when these resources are scarce.

This issue can sometimes look very technical—it is about overseas investors and is only little clause 31. But it is not only about corrupt laundromats, Russian reports and corruption on a scale we can only think about. It is also about some of our well-known high street banks indulging in such activity and covering it up somehow, because having the business is so profitable for them—and, again, the risks of being caught and fined are outweighed by the profits that can be made by turning a blind eye. It involves all of the major banking and investment institutions. It involves estate agents, lawyers and accountants who are facilitators—wittingly or unwittingly—to all these activities.

We had better get a grip: the more this kind of money is present, the worse and dirtier it makes our structures and systems and the more cynical it makes our constituents. It makes all of us less likely to follow the rule of law and agree that the right thing should be done. It changes the balance that people calculate between the risks of doing something wrong and the rewards of not being caught. None of that helps the rule of law; none of it helps honesty; and none of it helps those of our constituents who strive their whole lives to do the right thing and yet see others profit massively from scams and reprehensible behaviour—criminal behaviour, in a lot of cases.

Dr Huq, I have ranged a bit wider than the terms of clause 31, but I think that it is the start of a fightback on money laundering regulations. Even though it represents a tiny, tiny little step, the Government have yet to persuade me that they want to get a grip of the situation and intend to do so through the Bill.

Photo of John Glen John Glen Minister of State (Treasury) (City), The Economic Secretary to the Treasury

I thank Members for their contributions, although at times as I listened I thought that I was in the wrong place, given the wider conversation about economic crime. However, I greatly respect the sentiments and points expressed and I will try to address the questions put.

The right hon. Member for Wolverhampton South East spoke of a mental image of a cupboard being cleared out. I will not deny that in my three years as Economic Secretary I needed to legislate on a number of matters, and the Bill necessarily brings together a number of them. However, there will be more legislation if I can persuade the authorities in this place to grant me that opportunity. I assure him that the Bill does not represent the end point on a number of matters. The clause, however, merely ensures the continuation of, and ability to vary in future, existing powers and requirements with respect to overseas trusts.

New clause 30, proposed by the hon. Member for Glasgow Central, would impose a requirement on the Treasury to report on the impact of the provisions of clause 31 on the expected change in corporation tax and income tax paid, and the expected change in the difference between the amount of tax required and the amount tax paid in relation to overseas trusts and Scottish limited partnerships. I reiterate that the Government are committed to ensuring that the UK’s corporate structures are not exploited by those seeking to avoid or evade tax. For reasons that I will outline, however, the Government cannot support the proposed new clause.

As I have said, the Government have introduced changes through amendments to the money laundering regulations that directly aim to improve the transparency of the ownership of trusts. In particular, those changes significantly expand the requirement for non-UK trusts to register with the HMRC trust registration service. Trusts will have to provide evidence that they are registered before entering into business arrangements with regulated firms under the money laundering regulations. HMRC needs clear powers to take enforcement action against those who do not comply with registration requirements, and the Government need to maintain the ability to amend those requirements in future.

The powers in the Sanctions and Anti-money Laundering Act 2018 will ensure that the UK Government can continue to make and amend their regulations. The proposed new clause would require the Treasury to publish a report on the effects of clause 31 on the amount of taxes paid, but it is not in line with effects of that clause, which does not make changes to taxes. The provision is not expected to bring about any changes in the amount of corporation tax and income tax paid nor any change to the tax gap in relation to Scottish limited partnerships or otherwise. Neither is it envisioned that it would be possible to attribute any variation in taxes paid, nor the tax gap, to clause 31.

New clause 35 imposes a requirement on the Treasury to report on the impact of the provisions in clause 31 on money laundering volumes involving overseas trusts and Scottish limited partnerships. I understand that it seeks to measure the impact of our efforts to prevent money laundering through trusts, but may I remind hon. Members that the current Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2020 and the 2017 regulations that they amended, namely, the Money Laundering, Terrorist Financing and Transfer of Funds (Information on the Payer) Regulations 2017, already require the Treasury to carry out a review of its regulatory provisions and publish a report setting out the conclusions of its review by June 2022? That wider review will provide a more meaningful evaluation than simply reporting on the narrow provision of the clause, and provide continuity in the Government’s powers to make changes in the UK’s anti-money laundering regime.

I also remind colleagues that Scottish limited partnerships are not specifically within the scope of the trust register, and point them towards separate legislation that deals with transparency for those vehicles. In June 2017, Scottish limited partnerships were brought into scope with the public register of beneficial ownership maintained by Companies House. Since the Government introduced new reporting requirements for Scottish limited partnerships in 2017, new registrations of Scottish limited partnerships have greatly reduced, with registrations falling from 4,932 in 2016-17 to 2,689 in 2017-18, and falling further to 657 in 2019-20.

I want to take this opportunity to address some of the broader points on the alleged failures, and the work in progress, with respect to anti-money laundering and trusts. I think it reasonable to say that the UK is recognised as having some of the strongest controls internationally for tackling money laundering and terrorist financing. In recent years, we have taken a number of steps, including creating a new National Economic Crime Centre, passing the Criminal Finances Act 2017, and establishing the Office for Professional Body Anti-Money Laundering Supervision.

The hon. Member for Wallasey referred to the challenge of suspicious activity reports processing. The economic crime levy, in working with industry, is a direct attempt to invest in that reform. She asked specifically why legislation on that is not included in the Bill. That is continuing work that urgently needs to move forward, but provision for extra investment to process SARs more efficiently is being conducted at pace.

Last year, the Government published the landmark economic crime plan, which brought law enforcement and the private sector together in closer co-operation than ever before to deliver a whole-system response to economic crime. This year, we completed the transposition of the fifth anti-money laundering directive into domestic law. That remains comprehensive and responsive to emerging threats, in line with the evolving standards set out by the Financial Action Task Force—the international body that monitors such matters.

The expansion of the trusts registration service referenced today will bring millions more trusts in scope, including overseas trusts that purchase land or property in the UK. We will ensure that information on the register is made available in certain circumstances to those with a legitimate interest. We do recognise—I acknowledge the sentiments that have been expressed—that more needs to be done, and we are committed to making further progress, building on that made so far, to lead the global fight against illicit financial flows.

New clauses 30 and 35 make small amendments to clarify that the Government can enforce extraterritorial trust registration in relation to non-UK resident trustees and update those requirements in future. On why we are not doing more in the Bill, I have mentioned a number of the activities that the Government are undertaking, but I recognise that more needs to be done.

I should also mention the overseas entities Bill. In line with the ongoing commitment to combatting illicit finance, we intend to implement a register of beneficial owners of overseas entities that buy or own land in the UK as a measure of the economic crime plan 2019 to 2022. The register will be the first of its type in the world. The Government published a draft of that legislation, which accepted many of the subsequent recommendations by the Joint Committee that carried out that pre-legislative scrutiny. As the hon. Member for Glasgow Central knows, the Queen’s Speech last year committed to this Bill and to the continuing progress of that draft legislation. Lord Callanan’s written ministerial statement in July outlined the progress to date of that draft Bill.

On Companies House register reform—another matter mentioned by several colleagues—the Government are currently considering a broad package of reforms to Companies House to boost its potential as an enabler of business transactions and economic growth, but also giving it a bigger role in combatting economic crime. Following last year’s consultation, the Government issued our response to the corporate transparency and register reform on 18 September. The response summarises the views received and sets out how the Government will take forward those plans.

The Government will legislate when the parliamentary calendar allows and intend to deliver more reliable information on the companies register—reinforced by the verification of the identity of people who manage, control or set up companies, as has been referenced—and greater powers for those at Companies House to query and challenge information, so they are not just librarians, as I think they were described.

We will bring effective protection of personal information provided to Companies House and a more effective investigation and enforcement regime for non-disclosure and false-filing; the removal of technological and legal barriers to allow enhanced cross-checks on corporate data with other public and private sector bodies; continued investment in technology and in the skills of Companies House staff to make that register more efficient, effective and resilient; and broader reforms to clamp down on the misuse of entities I hope that my answers have done some justice to the questions asked, and I ask the hon. Member for Glasgow Central to withdraw the new clauses.

Photo of Rupa Huq Rupa Huq Labour, Ealing Central and Acton

Actually, new clauses 30 and 35 will not be decided until Thursday because of where they are on the amendment paper, so the hon. Member for Glasgow Central can decide then whether to press or withdraw them. For now, we are on clause 31 stand part.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 31 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Ordered, That further consideration be now adjourned.—(David Rutley.)

Adjourned till this day at Two o’clock.