Q&A: The point of the public register
What is a shell company?
A firm which exists on paper as a vehicle for business transactions, but has few obvious assets such as employees or premises.
How do you create one?
You only need about 10 minutes’ spare time and a credit card. It is easier than applying for a driving licence.
What are the advantages?
Keeping a company’s ultimate ownership under wraps. There are many cases of shell companies owned by a chain of other shell companies.
What will the register do?
Require UK-registered firms to declare to Companies House everyone who has a stake of 25 per cent or more in the business. Failure to comply would be a criminal offence.
Will there be exceptions?
Details could still be kept private if a risk to safety is feared – for instance, information about the owners of companies involved in animal testing.
When will it happen?
David Cameron wants it operational by 2015, but complicated legislation is required.
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