Companies House has announced that it intends to make available for free most of the digital data it holds on UK companies and limited liability partnerships. Such an initiative enhanced also by the Government’s proposed Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Bill, which includes proposals to create a new People with Significant Control Register (PSC) as part of wider corporate filing changes including to companies’ requirement to present Annual Returns.
Maintenance of a PSC Register will be mandatory for all private companies, except those limited by guarantee, and will have to include the name of any PSCs, their nationality, address and the nature of control. Failure to do so will be a criminal office albeit individuals’ data may remain private if they are able to demonstrate that they may be at ‘serious risk of harm’ through disclosure.
A PSC is currently broadly defined as someone that:
- holds more than 25% of the shares in the company;
- exercises, or controls the exercise of, more than 25% of the voting rights in the company;
- is entitled to appoint a majority of the board of directors or control the exercise of rights to appoint or remove a majority of the board; or
- has the right to exercise significant influence or control over the company, or actually exercise such influence or control.
Such a development reflects the UK Government’s wider strategy to maximise the value of open data in the national economy – making the UK the first country to establish a truly open register of business information – while also making it easier for businesses and members of the public to research and scrutinise the activities and ownership of companies and connected persons.
Currently, Companies House charges for access and downloads of information about a company, its accounts, resolutions, appointments and charges. In the year 2013/14 customers spent £8.7 million accessing its register.
Going forward all basic searches and copies of electronic images of company records will be available for free. In addition, the Government intends to make public the data held by the Land Registry, Met Office and Ordnance Survey.
No firm timetable has yet been given by the Government as to when such open access will take effect, albeit the hope is that it will be no later than June 2015 for Companies House. Similarly, the intention is for the Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Bill to gain Parliamentary approval before the General Election next May and for the PSC Register to take effect soon after.
For more information on company issues then please call Tris Moore on +44 (0)1273 704789 or email [email protected].