Proposals to delete millions of public records of dissolved companies could deny injured victims access to vital information, lawyers have warned.
Reports this week suggested Companies House is considering reducing the amount of time the records of dissolved companies are retained, from 20 years to six.
The proposals have not been confirmed yet, but the Companies House annual report for 2015/16 hinted at change, saying in the coming year it will look at how data relating to dissolved companies is handled.
The Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL) has warned that the deletion of any records will make tracking down former employers more difficult and potentially stop ill workers and bereaved families from making any negligence claims.
‘Sick and injured workers need Companies House records to identify their former employers and the relevant insurers so that they can pursue them for the full compensation they need and deserve,’ said APIL president Neil Sugarman.
‘Victims of asbestos-related disease mesothelioma, for example, are dying because of exposure at work as far back as the 1980s. Some of those companies who exposed their employees to asbestos are now likely dissolved and the records would be deleted under the plans.’
APIL has already lobbied Companies House to say thousands of claimants pursue cases each year where details of former employers are needed.
This also applies to inquests, where families need details of companies the deceased has worked for.
Deletion of records raises questions about the government’s commitment to corporate transparency is likely to be opposed by lawyers, bank compliance teams and journalists.
But Companies House, which made access to data free last year, said the increasing access has led to concerns about availability of personal data.
The organisation has received 2,151 complaints from customers about the availability of data online.