Companies: Ownership and Control

House of Lords written statement – made on 31st October 2013.

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Photo of Viscount Younger of Leckie Viscount Younger of Leckie The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills

My Rt Hon Friend the Secretary of State for Business Innovation and Skills (Vince Cable) has made the following statement:

Today we are setting out our intention to create a publicly accessible central registry of information about who ultimately owns and controls UK companies.

A stronger economy depends on investors, employees and the wider public having trust and confidence in companies and those that are running them.

The vast majority of companies and directors in the UK contribute productively to the economy, abide by the rules and make an enormous contribution to society. But an errant few operate in the shadows, creating ownership structures that serve to deceive. We’re now shining a light on who really owns and controls companies in the UK and leading the world in this initiative.

We believe a public register, with information on those who really own and control UK companies (i.e. individuals with an interest in more than 25% of a company’s shares or voting rights, or who otherwise control the way it is run) will make the UK a better place to invest and do business. People have a right to know who controls UK companies and greater openness will help tackle tax evasion, money laundering and other crimes.

At the Lough Erne G8 Summit in June the Government committed to implement a central registry of company beneficial ownership information, and to consult on whether this information should be publicly accessible.

The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills published details of its intention to create a registry in the ‘Transparency and Trust’ discussion paper in July and invited responses on whether information in the registry should be publicly accessible. Following this call for evidence, the Government intends to implement an open, public registry.

Limited exemptions from public disclosure will be permitted – for example, in cases where it is necessary to protect individuals whose safety might otherwise be put at risk.

We will set out further detail in terms of what information should be held by the company and Companies House, and how it should be updated, in our formal response to the discussion paper. This will be published in early 2014.

In that response, we will also set out our plans take forward other proposals in the Transparency and Trust discussion paper including:

- to abolish bearer shares – i.e. shares whose ownership is completely opaque;- to tackle the abuse of corporate directorships – one company as a director of another; and - to address situations where a front director is registered at Companies House but the control lies concealed elsewhere.