Theresa May has said she wants to tackle ‘crony capitalism’ and make the economy work for everyone, rather than for a privileged few.
But reports today that Companies House is considering deleting the public records of dissolved companies after six years – rather than the current twenty years – suggests yet more empty rhetoric from a Tory Government standing up for their own interests, rather than those of the British people.
This proposal from Companies House would only protect criminals who seek to hide their past corporate misdeeds from public view. It would harm the global fight against corruption and tax avoidance. Crucially, it would also be an attack on the right of the public, the police and journalists to carry out legitimate checks on company directors. More importantly, it will make it harder for legitimate companies to conduct proper due diligence on potential business partners.
It is absolutely inconceivable for a Government that claims it wants to be the most transparent in the world to place such a damaging restriction on these rights, which would effectively wipe from public view the records of 2.5 million dissolved companies and the people associated with them.
That’s why today, I have written to Theresa May to seek assurance that this proposal from the Cameron and Osborne era will not see the light of day.
There are currently 2 million searches a day carried out using Companies House, for information that previously had to be paid for. It is vital the public continues to have open access to this important data.
It has been reported that MPs have lobbied Companies House to reduce the length of time that records have to be held. I have told the Prime Minister I would be interested to know which MPs have been demanding this changes, and what their motivation is for doing so.
Because there is absolutely no cost or administrative burden that would be avoided by adopting such a measure, and no good reason for Companies House to do so.
If indeed these reports are true, Theresa May must personally intervene. Failure to do so will show yet more empty words from a Tory Government obsessed with looking after the few – not the many.
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