Wednesday 27 January 2016
Business, Innovation and Skills
Register of People with Significant Control
My noble Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills (Baroness Neville-Rolfe) has today made the following statement.
I laid before Parliament on Monday 25 January draft regulations that implement the public register of information about people with significant control (PSCs) over UK incorporated companies and limited liability partnerships (LLPs). These regulations are derived from powers under Part 21A of the Companies Act 2006.
These regulations form the detailed requirements of the register of people with significant control, which will come into force on the 6 April 2016 subject to consideration. The register is the cornerstone of the UK’s response to the problem of corporate opacity. It ensures the UK meets international standards which tackle the misuse of companies. The reforms provide greater transparency over company ownership and control for enforcement agencies, business, and citizens. By making this information public, without charge, we are setting a standard for open government that we aim to persuade international partners to follow.
On Monday 25 January I also laid, in draft, statutory guidance on the meaning of significant influence or control in the context of companies, for the register of people with significant influence or control. This is required by paragraph 24 to Schedule 1A of the Companies Act 2006, and is subject to the approval of the House. The term “significant influence or control” is included in the fourth and fifth specified conditions for being a person with significant control. The statutory guidance is required to explain how that term should be interpreted.
I have also published, in draft, the statutory guidance on the meaning of significant influence or control in the context of limited liability partnerships. I intend to lay this document in draft before the House, once The Limited Liability Partnerships (Register of People with Significant Control) Regulations 2016 have been commenced, following the approval of the House.
This month I will also publish the general guidance for companies and limited liability partnerships on how to comply with the register of people with significant control requirements. This has been developed with the help of business, civil society and legal experts, and will enable companies, limited liability partnerships and individuals to familiarise themselves with the framework before it comes into force.
Securitisation Framework: Justice and Home Affairs
The Government have decided not to opt in to the justice and home affairs (JHA) provisions within the European Commission’s proposal for laying down common rules on securitisation and creating a European framework for simple, and transparent and standardised securitisation.
Article 19(2) of the proposal requires that where member states have chosen to pursue a criminal sanctions regime for breaches of elements of the proposals, those member states must ensure that information can be shared between competent authorities across the EU. As the provision requires co-operation involving law enforcement bodies, the Government believe these are JHA obligations and therefore our JHA opt-in is triggered and we have informed Council of that fact.
The Government have decided not to opt in to these provisions as there are no significant benefits to be gained from doing so. The obligation to share information will fall on member states who have a relevant criminal sanctions regime, and UK competent authorities will be in a position to access this data irrespective of the decision to opt in. The Government have no intention to introduce a criminal sanctions regime in a way that would lead to this regulation imposing an obligation on the UK or on our competent authorities.
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
Foreign Affairs Council and General Affairs Council
My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs attended the Foreign Affairs Council and I attended the General Affairs Council on 18 January. The Foreign Affairs Council was chaired by the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Federica Mogherini, and the General Affairs Council was chaired by the Dutch presidency. The meetings were held in Brussels.
Foreign Affairs Council
A provisional report of the meeting and conclusions adopted can be found at: http://www.consilium.europa.eu/en/meetings/fac/2016/01/18/.
In her introductory remarks Ms Mogherini welcomed the progress that had been made on implementation of the Iranian nuclear deal and updated Ministers on the political situation in Venezuela. During the morning sessions, Ministers discussed Syria—including the London conference—and Iraq. The Jordanian Foreign Minister joined Ministers for lunch. The afternoon concluded with discussions on Ukraine and the middle east peace process.
Syria and recent developments in the region
Ms Mogherini updated Ministers on the political process in Syria, highlighting recent tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran. The Foreign Secretary welcomed the Riyadh conference of the Syrian opposition, and underlined the need for confidence-building measures in parallel with the UN-led talks. All member states welcomed the political progress made in the final months of 2015 but cautioned that the process was fragile. Ministers also discussed preparations for the Syria conference taking place in London on 4 February. The conference has three main objectives: to increase available funding to the most affected countries, to address the long-term economic needs of refugees in the region, and increase the protection of civilians. The Foreign Secretary underlined the need to do more for the vulnerable and displaced inside Syria and the millions of Syrian refugees in neighbouring countries.
Ministers exchanged views on Iraq following the adoption of conclusions at the December 2015 Foreign Affairs Council. Ms Mogherini focused on how the EU could support the domestic reform agenda and national reconciliation. The Foreign Secretary noted the recent military successes against Daesh in Sinjar and Ramadi, which had relieved some of the pressure on the Iraqi Government.
Lunch with Jordanian Foreign Minister
Over lunch, Ministers exchanged views with the Jordanian Foreign Minister, Mr Nasser Judeh, on foreign policy challenges in the region. They looked ahead to the London Syria conference. Ms Mogherini expressed support to Jordan in the fight against Daesh and counter radicalisation.
Ms. Mogherini opened the discussion by underlining progress made by the Government of Ukraine on their reform programme under very difficult circumstances. She stressed the need for the EU and member states to continue to support Ukraine. Ministers exchanged views on how this could best be achieved.
Middle east peace process Council conclusions
Following discussion, the Council approved conclusions on the middle east peace process. Ministers agreed without discussion a number of measures:
The Council adopted conclusions on Libya.
The Council adopted a regulation concerning restrictive measures in view of the situation in Libya.
The Council adopted the EU priorities for co-operation with the Council of Europe in 2016-2017.
The Council set a financial reference amount of EUR 14 850 000 to cover the expenditure related to the EU’s CSDP mission in Mali (EUCAP) Sahel Mali between 15 January 2016 and 14 January 2017.
The Council adopted a decision supporting the biological and toxin weapons convention (BTWC).
The Council concluded that all the conditions have been met for EUNAVFOR MED Operation Sophia to implement on the High Seas UN Security Council Resolution 2240.
General Affairs Council
The General Affairs Council (GAC) on 18 January 2016 focused on the presidency work programme and preparation of the European Council on 18 and 19 February 2016.
A provisional report of the meeting and conclusions adopted can be found at:
Presidency Work programme
The Dutch presidency commenced on 1 January. The Dutch Foreign Minister, Bert Koenders, set out the presidency’s programme and priorities for the current semester, and referred to his letter on improving the role of the GAC highlighting three priorities: open and inclusive dialogue at the multiannual financial framework high-level conference on 28 January; continued work on rule of law; and implementation of the inter-institutional agreement, transparency and better governance.
The Dutch programme is based on the presidency Trio programme, developed jointly with Slovakia and Malta, but focuses on four main themes: jobs and growth; labour mobility; the eurozone; and a union of freedom, justice and security.
I welcomed the presidency’s priorities, particularly those based on supporting job creation and economic growth. I also highlighted the importance of continuity of Trio programmes and looked forward to working with Estonia and Bulgaria—the UK’s Trio partners—and the current Trio to deliver real results on competitiveness, the internal market, investment, and entrenching the EU’s position at the heart of global trade.
Preparation of the February European Council
The GAC prepared the agenda for the 18 and 19 February European Council, which the Prime Minister will attend. The draft February European Council agenda covers: the UK’s EU renegotiation; migration, and economic issues.
On the UK’s EU renegotiation, I reiterated the Prime Minister’s message that what mattered more than the timing of a deal was getting the substance right.
On migration, I highlighted the UK’s role in efforts to tackle the migration crisis through chairing the upcoming Syria conference in London; chairing the Khartoum process; supporting the action plans from the Valletta and Turkey summits; supporting the Turkey Refugee Fund; and providing technical assistance to EU agencies.