Last week, I revealed how Companies House is considering deleting the public records of dissolved companies after six years – rather than the current twenty years.
Campaigners have warned that such a move would make it harder to hold companies and individuals to account. Not only would it make it more difficult for legitimate companies to conduct proper due diligence on potential business partners. It would also be an attack on the right of the public, the police and journalists to carry out legitimate checks on company directors.
Since I first wrote about these worrying proposals, the Labour Party has been digging into the impact further. The result? Our research has revealed that 24 current Government ministers would see their previous links to 48 now-dissolved companies and organisations deleted - either immediately or over the course of the Parliament.
The ministers affected include Chancellor Philip Hammond who is a former director of six now-dissolved companies, Home Secretary Amber Rudd, Defence Secretary Michael Fallon and Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt. Some of the Ministers involved resigned from the companies many years ago, before they were dissolved, but the records are still publicly available.
It's not just ministers who would benefit, either. At least eight top Tory donors who between them have given more than £27 million to the Conservative Party would also benefit. This includes Andrew Fraser who was included in David Cameron’s resignation peerages and who has given the party more than £2.5 million.
It has been reported that MPs have lobbied Companies House to reduce the length of time that records have to be held. If the Tory Government was truly committed to transparency and openness then it would not allow this move – which would effectively wipe from public view the records of 2.5 million dissolved companies and the people associated with them – to go ahead.
The proposals currently under consideration by Companies House are extremely worrying and would be a backwards step. Theresa May must ensure that these proposals never see the light of day, which is why I've started a petition calling on her to act. If you're as concerned as we are about these proposals, please add your name here.
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