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‘Historic’ economic crime bill introduced to parliament

‘Historic’ economic crime bill introduced to parliament
  Business Secretary Jacob Rees-Mogg's department announced the bill's introduction to parliament yesterday (September 22)

The government has introduced an upgraded bill to parliament designed to drive out “dirty money” from the UK and make “historic” reforms to the Companies House register.

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy confirmed in an announcement yesterday (September 22) that the Economic Crime and Corporate Transparency bill has been introduced to parliament ahead of chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng’s mini-budget later this morning.

The package of measures will build upon the earlier Economic Crime (Transparency and Enforcement) Act, which was given Royal Assent back in March following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine to impose sanctions on oligarchs.

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It marks the biggest upgrade to the rules governing UK company creation in 170 years, according to the government.

Business Secretary Jacob Rees-Mogg described the bill as “historic”.

He said it will equip Companies House and law enforcement with the tools they need to “root out criminals” attempting to hide their activities without burdening law-abiding companies with “unnecessary bureaucracy”. 

He added: “Above all, via strict enforcement measures we are telling investors that the UK is open for legitimate business only.”

The new reforms include:

  • New powers for Companies House allowing it to “check, challenge and decline incorrect or fraudulent information”, making it “a more active gatekeeper” over company creation;
  • Investigation and enforcement powers of Companies House will be upgraded, enabling it to cross check data with public and private partners, as well as report suspicious activity to security agencies and law enforcement;
  • Registration and transparency requirements of ‘limited partnerships’ will be tightened to help prevent abuse of these entities;
  • Additional powers given to law enforcement to seize and recover suspected criminal cryptoassets;
  • Reforms to give businesses more confidence to share information in order to tackle money laundering and other economic crime;
  • New intelligence gathering powers for law enforcement and removal of nugatory burdens on business;
  • Law-abiding businesses and investors across the UK to benefit from “simplified filing requirements”.

So far, BEIS has invested £20mn in its transformation programme of Companies House, with a further £63mn pledged up to 2024/25. 

Changes to the powers of Companies House form part of a government-led programme to “transform” the register, first announced back in September 2020. 

The programme has been hailed by the government as “the most fundamental change” to the register’s role and purpose since its creation in 1844.

Back in February, the government outlined other powers to be handed to Companies House, including a new querying power which allows it to pull into question information submitted pre- and post-company registration. 

Only if companies provide sufficient evidence that the information they submitted is correct can the information remain.

ruby.hinchliffe@ft.com