Government select committee considers beneficial ownership register

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We blogged on 26 July 2018 about the government’s plans to publish a register of beneficial ownership of UK registered land.  The government proposes that the register will be maintained by Companies House and will show the owners and controllers of overseas entities that own registered land in the UK.  It will catch all registered land interests (freehold and leases above seven years in England and Wales, 20 years in Scotland and 21 in Northern Ireland).

The government issued a consultation document last year.  A number of organisations including the Investment Property Forum, the British Property Forum and the City of London Law Society submitted responses.

The government is now in the process of taking evidence from various parties on the drafting of the bill and the key issues that it raises.

On behalf of the Investment Property Forum Regulation and Legislation Group, I was invited to give evidence at a joint select committee of parliament, chaired by Lord Faulks QC and attended by four MPs and four law lords.

I gave evidence alongside Tom Keatinge, Director, Centre for Financial Crime and Security Studies at the Royal United Services Institute and Professor Jonathan Fisher QC, Bright Line Law.

Details of the transcript will be available through the parliament.uk website in due course.

One of the key messages from the witnesses was the importance of the legislation not hindering transactions unduly.  In particular, all witnesses were keen to stress the need for Companies House to be appropriately resourced and mandated to deal with applications and provision of information promptly.

However, we were also keen to stress that transparency of ownership of land is a good thing for many reasons, including reducing the use of UK real estate for money laundering.

The committee will be taking evidence from further interested parties over the next few weeks. The government’s aim is for the register to be operational by 2021.

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