Directors and other controllers of companies would be required to prove their identities under reforms to corporate transparency proposed by Companies House today. A set of measures aimed at tackling financial crime would also enable Companies House to cross-check information with other organisations.
A document published for consultation proposes what is claimed to be the biggest change since the Register of Companies was created in 1844. The announcement follows the government's proposals on corporate transparency and registration reform, published earlier this month.
Proposals fall into four main themes:
- Identity checks. 'We’re proposing that directors, people with significant control and those filing information should have their identity verified. We’re also considering whether more information should be disclosed about shareholders.’
- Improving the quality of information on the register. Companies House would have new powers to query information before it is entered on the register, making it easier to remove inaccurate information.
- Better protection of personal information. Access to the register will be ’carefully managed’, with only identified or authorised people allowed to file information. Sensitive information will also be better protected.
- Enabling cross-checking of Companies House data against data held by other organisations. ’We want to see the exchange of intelligence made easier so we can quickly identify possible criminal behaviour.’
Campaign group Transparency International UK described the announcement as a step in the right direction. 'The system at the moment where you can set up a company without even producing a passport is not fit for purpose,' said Ben Cowdock, senior research officer. He strongly welcomed the proposal to give Companies House more power to check data. 'For example of 4 million UK companies, more than 300,000 claim they don't have or can't find a beneficial owner. That needs to be fixed.'
The government's consultation closes on 5 August.