Legislation to create the register of beneficial ownership will not be laid until the next session of parliament, the business secretary Vince Cable revealed today.
Cable (pictured) was speaking at a session of the Open Government Partnership summit in London the day after the prime minister announced that the UK would be the first country in the world to make public the names of individual owners of registered companies.
Cable said a decision to set up the register had been taken at the G8 summit in June. ‘The big outstanding question was would it be open or private.’ After a consultation which attracted 300 replies the government opted for public, he said.
Cable indicated that the register would be created by Companies House, though details of how it will work will not be revealed until the government responds to the consultation in the new year.
He also indicated that some shareholders would be able to escape identification. 'There will be exceptions,' he said, referring to cases where shareholders have been threatened by animal rights activists. ‘Where there is a risk of harm we may want to make an exception, but we want to keep that to the minimum.’
Other uncertainties include identifying owners of trusts, he said. ‘We’re now working on an Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development system on automatic exchange of information where trusts are concerned.’
Transparency activists and corruption investigators strongly welcomed the UK's announcement of a register. ‘The biggest challenge when tackling corruption is piercing the corporate veil,’ Detective Chief Inspector Jonathan Benton of the Metropolitan Police told the conference.