On 8 February 2023, the second reading of the Economic Crime and Corporate Transparency Bill is scheduled to take place in the House of Lords. It completed its House of Commons stages on 25 January 2023.
In brief, the bill would:
- Reform the powers of Companies House so that it has a bigger role in ensuring corporate transparency and guarding against economic crime. This would also include strengthened information requirements for companies, including identity verification.
- Improve the transparency and information requirements for limited partnerships. Limited partnerships, particularly Scottish limited partnerships, have been linked to large amounts of economic crime.
- Amend requirements for the register of overseas entities. The register was introduced by the Economic Crime (Transparency and Enforcement) Act 2022.
- Make it easier for law enforcement agencies to confiscate cryptoassets linked to economic crime or terrorism.
- Enable businesses in certain sectors to share information more effectively to prevent and detect economic crime.
- Strengthen the powers of certain regulators and investigators of economic crime.
Although the bill has been welcomed and has received cross-party support, both Labour and the SNP have said that more needs to be done to strengthen the bill. The bill has also attracted amendments supported by Conservative backbenchers. Proposed amendments receiving cross-party support included:
- protecting people against the threat of legal action intended to silence, intimidate or harass critics (known as SLAPPs) where the information was likely to be relevant for the investigation of economic crime
- introducing offences for a “failure to prevent” fraud, false accounting or money laundering
Although no non-government amendments were made to the bill during its Commons stages, the government did indicate that it would look at adding “failure to prevent” offences during the bill’s passage through the Lords.