Debates between Lord Faulks and Lord Vaux of Harrowden during the 2019 Parliament

Economic Crime and Corporate Transparency Bill

Debate between Lord Faulks and Lord Vaux of Harrowden
Lord Faulks Portrait Lord Faulks (Non-Afl)
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My Lords, in terms of timing, it is important to bear in mind that the genesis of much of this legislation can be found as long ago as 2015. It has taken a long time for anything to happen in response to what was then identified as a major threat—the corruption which has permeated our society. Eventually we got the Criminal Finances Act, then there were many promises of legislation, which did not materialise, then we had the Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Act, which dealt with some aspects of this, and then it took the invasion of Ukraine before we had the last piece of legislation. Now, eight years after the initiative of 2015, we have this legislation, which may or may not be the final chance. So, with respect, keeping the Government up to the mark with an annual report and not having a sunset clause is something we should learn from the very chronology that I have just described.

Lord Vaux of Harrowden Portrait Lord Vaux of Harrowden (CB)
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My Lords, I intended to sign Amendment 72, but I was beaten in the stampede to support it, which must in itself say something about the quality of the amendment. Amendment 64 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, is very similar. Like others, I think that both include important elements and it would be great to try to combine the best of both when we get to Report.

I shall not repeat what has already been said, but it does seem that adding this level of transparency into the system must help in ensuring that we have got this right. During the debates on ECB 1, the previous economic crime Bill, the noble Lord, Lord Callanan said:

“When we introduced the provisions on PSCs—persons with significant control—in relation to UK companies, we had to make some iterative changes to that, as it became evident over time that aspects were not working as effectively as we had hoped”.—[Official Report, 14/3/22; col. 44.]


The best way to see if things are not working as effectively as we had hoped is transparency and reporting, so I hope the Minister can accept this very simple and sensible amendment to promote that level of transparency.

With permission, I will make one addition to the list of items to report on set out in the amendment. Given the importance of the ACSPs to the process, as we discussed in the previous group, I think it would be useful to include some statistics on the number of ACSPs that have approved, both UK and foreign, who they are regulated by and the number which are suspended. With that addition, I add my support to these amendments.

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Lord Faulks Portrait Lord Faulks (Non-Afl)
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My Lords, to take up the noble Baroness’s final point on technology, in the very helpful session we had yesterday—unfortunately the Minister could not be there—we were provided with some written information about the use of technology that was going to develop. I asked about artificial intelligence. Either in the course of answering these amendments or generally, could the Minister assist us as to how, with this increasing amount of information that Companies House will now have, artificial intelligence will allow it and the prosecuting authorities to have a great deal more information to put two and two together, which will assist with this legislation’s overall objectives?

Lord Vaux of Harrowden Portrait Lord Vaux of Harrowden (CB)
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My Lords, this discussion about how we fight economic crime would be an awful lot easier and better informed if we had seen the Government’s national fraud strategy, which I believe was supposed to be with us at the back end of last year. Perhaps the Minister might like to find out when we might finally see it.

Economic Crime and Corporate Transparency Bill

Debate between Lord Faulks and Lord Vaux of Harrowden
Lord Vaux of Harrowden Portrait Lord Vaux of Harrowden (CB)
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The noble Lord is quite right. What we are really trying to get to here is the ultimate beneficial owner, which is a problem that sits throughout this and the overseas property register. Neither of them really gets to that point. The wording requires refinement, but that is what I was trying to get to—that the ultimate beneficial owner, the directing mind behind the shareholding, is disclosed.

Lord Faulks Portrait Lord Faulks (Non-Afl)
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Does the noble Lord think this goes far enough? I chaired the Joint Committee on the Draft Registration of Overseas Entities Bill, and one of our recommendations was that there should be improved verification procedures for Companies House. We also thought it was well worth considering ensuring that regulated professionals acting should also provide statements, which would concentrate the minds of those advising who are responsible for providing this information.

Lord Vaux of Harrowden Portrait Lord Vaux of Harrowden (CB)
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I made exactly the same argument during the passage of what we used to call ECB 1—the first economic crime Bill. I entirely agree, and noble Lords will see that I have a number of later amendments dealing with those issues of the verification statements and the authorised corporate service providers being named publicly as opposed to—as is proposed at the moment—not being named on the register. That is really important. I agree that this probably does not go far enough. I am mindful of the Minister’s comments about not making this overly burdensome—if we do, it will not work—but we need to find a way to make sure that we understand who owns the shares.

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Lord Faulks Portrait Lord Faulks (Non-Afl)
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I am not wholly convinced that what you would be required to do under this amendment is very onerous. I remember looking at this when we were examining the desirability of transparency in relation to ownership of shares. Presuming bad actors—although this is, I hope, infrequently the case—it is very easy for someone to, as it were, redistribute their shares to smaller packages if they wanted to conceal their identity. I am not saying that that is what people do most of the time, but it would be more difficult if there were an obligation to disclose of the sort contained in this amendment.

Lord Vaux of Harrowden Portrait Lord Vaux of Harrowden (CB)
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My Lords, very quickly, I will not repeat what we said on an earlier group, but these two amendments cover very much the same sort of areas of transparency. I ask the Minister—probably as a matter of relative urgency, given the discussions we have had—whether he could facilitate a meeting of the various interested parties so that we can try to thrash out where we want to start to coalesce around these issues, as that would be helpful.