UK legislative programme will grant new powers to Registrar of Companies

Thursday, 12 May 2022
The Queen's Speech 2022, presented to the UK parliament on 10 May 2022, promised a new Economic Crime and Corporate Transparency Bill; granting the Registrar of Companies (the Registrar) new powers to enforce the accuracy of information on the Companies Register.
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The existence of the draft Bill was first mentioned in February 2022, when legislation implementing the register of overseas entities was introduced to the UK parliament in the immediate aftermath of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. That Bill, called the Economic Crime (Transparency and Enforcement) Bill, was rushed through parliament in a matter of weeks, with the UK government promising that it would be followed by consultation on a second economic crime Bill increasing the powers of Companies House.

Under the new Bill, the Registrar will be authorised to check, remove or decline information submitted to or already on the Companies Register. People who manage, own and control companies and other UK registered entities will also be subject to identity verification, investigation and enforcement powers operated by the Registrar. Data will be cross-checked against that held by other public and private sector bodies. Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Kwasi Kwarteng said during the debates that all entities registered at Companies House would have to have at least one fully verified natural person directly associated with them on the public register.

The new Bill announced this week will also contain anti-abuse measures regarding limited partnerships (LPs), including Scottish LPs, strengthening their disclosure requirements and enabling them to be properly wound up.

There will also be a new civil forfeiture power enabling rapid seizure and recovery of crypto-assets, which are the principal medium used by ransomware fraudsters to collect the proceeds of their crimes. The prevalence of ransomware incidents has increased rapidly in recent years and the new forfeiture power ‘will mitigate the risk posed by those who cannot be criminally prosecuted but use their funds to further criminality’, said the government.

A Draft Audit Reform Bill will establish a new statutory regulator with powers to enforce directors’ financial reporting duties, supervise corporate reporting and oversee and regulate the accountancy and actuarial professions.

The government says that its final response to its consultation on the Restoring trust in audit and corporate governance white paper will be published shortly.


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