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Register of Overseas Entities

Volume 712: debated on Tuesday 26 April 2022

My noble Friend Lord Callanan, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State (Minister for Climate Change and Corporate Responsibility) has today made the following statement:

I welcome the opportunity to update Parliament on the progress the Government are making implementing the register of overseas entities, six weeks after the expedited Economic Crime (Transparency and Enforcement) Act 2022 received Royal Assent.

The Act sets out measures to tackle economic crime, by creating a register of the beneficial owners of overseas entities which own or buy property in the UK, as well as measures on unexplained wealth orders and sanctions.

Since the legislation received Royal Assent, the Government have been working at pace to ensure the register is in place as soon as reasonably practicable. There are two main aspects to this work—the technical development of the register itself and the establishment of the appropriate legal framework through secondary legislation. An implementation group comprising officials from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, Companies House and the UK Land Registries has been established and is driving forward delivery across both aspects.

On developing the register, Companies House digital design teams are making strong progress in building the register for operational readiness. They have been working at pace alongside the three land registries to have systems and processes in place to identify and capture information on overseas entities who buy, sell or transfer property in the UK. This work will ensure that a first phase of the register can be operational as soon as possible capturing new transactions from the moment the register is live, enabling those in scope already owning land in the UK to register, and capturing disposals of assets between 28 February 2022 and the end of the six-month transitional period. This important amendment introduced during passage of the Act will ensure we have information on any relevant property sales taking place before the register is operational. Further steps will be taken over the course of the transitional period to enhance the functionality of the register.

On legislation, as set out in the Act, a number of important aspects of the register need to be defined through secondary legislation before the register can come into force. These include technical details of verification requirements to ensure the register is sufficiently robust; the protection regime for beneficial owners and managing officers that wish to have their details protected from public disclosure due to a risk of serious harm or violence; and mandating the digital delivery of information to Companies House.

In the weeks since Royal Assent, good progress has been made on finalising the policy on these areas of detail. These details are vital to get right if the register is to work as intended. Engagement with expert stakeholders, such as the UK’s law societies, on technical aspects of the register and the supporting legislation is ongoing and we welcome their constructive input to ensure the register works as intended across the UK. Drafting the actual regulations and accompanying guidance will begin imminently and we will lay the regulations for parliamentary scrutiny as soon as possible.