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Anna Soubry - Department for Business, Innovation and Skills

My noble Friend the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills (Baroness Neville-Rolfe) has today made the following statement.

The Government has carefully considered responses to questions posed on the audit exemption threshold in the Government’s discussion paper on the implementation of the Audit Directive (2014/56/EU) and the Audit Regulation (Regulation 537/2014). Some stakeholders argued that amending the audit exemption threshold increases the risk of poor financial reporting and that the thresholds should be maintained at the previous level or raised to some intermediate level lower than the thresholds now used to determine a “small company” for financial reporting purposes. Others argued for the thresholds rising to the maximum permitted, quoting the erosion of the value of the audit exemption thresholds due to inflationary effects and the need to avoid imposing avoidable regulation on small companies. Moreover removing the link between the thresholds for eligibility for the small company regime and those for the audit exemption would introduce unnecessary complexity into company law and cause confusion for users.

The Government has concluded that, as now, all companies should continue to be able to have an audit. Companies will not however be required to have an audit for the financial years commencing on or after 1 January 2016 if at their balance sheet date they satisfy at least two of the three following criteria, in general for two consecutive financial years:

Turnover ≤ £10.2m

Balance sheet total ≤ £ 5.1m

Number of employees ≤ 50

and they are not otherwise excluded from accessing the audit exemption, for example due to the nature of their business.

Audit and auditors will continue to have an important role in supporting small businesses to achieve their ambitions and grow; and in providing assurance to owners and lenders about a company’s performance. Although it is estimated that raising the audit exemption thresholds will bring a further 7,400 companies within scope of the exemption, on current practice the Government anticipates that 4,400 will choose to continue to have an external audit. Of the 3,000 companies expected additionally to take up the exemption, some will seek alternative routes to ensure that the company’s systems are robust; for example, through assurance reviews or increased oversight of accounts preparation.

In view of the news expressed by stakeholders the Government will keep the changes in the audit exemption thresholds under review. We will respond quickly should evidence emerge that further action is required to ensure that the UK continues to have a world-class financial reporting and assurance framework which meets the needs of users and regulators.


Harriett Baldwin - HM Treasury

The Chancellor has this morning announced that Andrew Bailey has been appointed as the next Chief Executive of the Financial Conduct Authority.

Andrew will succeed Tracey McDermott, interim CEO, and bring his extensive skills and experience of regulation to ensure that the UK financial services sector is the best regulated in the world.

The Chancellor has also announced the appointments of Bradley Fried, Baroness Hogg, Ruth Kelly and Tom Wright as Non-Executive Directors.

These appointments are being made by HM Treasury under, and in accordance with, the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000 as amended.


Mrs Theresa May - Home Office

Efficient and effective emergency services are essential to keeping our communities safe. Closer working between the police, fire and rescue and NHS ambulance services can improve the way they serve communities, protect the public and provide value for money for taxpayers.

The Government is committed to supporting collaborative and innovative blue light working, and has invested over £80 million in such projects. While there are good examples of joint working in some local areas, there is much more to be done before collaborative working becomes the norm. For example, there could be savings to be made from greater sharing of premises, back offices, IT and procurement systems, which can release valuable resources to the frontline.

I have worked closely with the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government and the Secretary of State for Health to develop a range of proposals to enable closer working between the emergency services and to provide for stronger local accountability. On 11 September 2015, we published a joint consultation paper setting out our proposals and seeking views on how best to implement them. The consultation ended on 23 October 2015. Over 300 responses were received from national, local and regional organisations, police forces, police and crime commissioners, fire and rescue authorities, local councils, ambulance trusts, front line practitioners, associations and other interested groups and individuals. We would like to thank all those who gave their time to respond and contribute to the consultation process.

Today, we have published the Government’s response to the consultation, which summarises the comments we received and sets out how we intend to proceed.

Having carefully considered all the consultation responses, we intend to legislate to:

  • introduce a high-level duty to collaborate on all three emergency services, to improve efficiency or effectiveness;
  • enable Police and Crime Commissioners to take on the functions and duties of fire and rescue authorities, where a local case is made;
  • further enable Police and Crime Commissioners to create a single employer for police and fire staff where they take on the responsibilities of their local fire and rescue service, and where a local case is made;
  • in areas where a Police and Crime Commissioner has not become responsible for fire and rescue, enabling them to have representation on their local fire and rescue authority with voting rights, where the fire and rescue authority agrees; and
  • abolish the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority and give the Mayor of London direct responsibility for the fire and rescue service in London.

The intention is that these measures will ensure collaboration is widespread and ambitious across the country.

Bringing police and fire together locally under the leadership of a PCC will provide greater direct accountability for the public and will accelerate local collaboration. This does not mean a takeover of the fire service by the police. The important distinction between operational policing and fire-fighting will be maintained, with the current law that prevents a full time police officer from being a firefighter remaining in place, and with no intention to give firefighters the power of arrest.

Alongside this, the Prime Minister’s recent announcement that responsibility for fire policy has transferred from the Department for Communities and Local Government to the Home Office shows the Government’s commitment to closer collaboration between police and fire and rescue services. Bringing together responsibility for fire and police in the same Department provides the same clear leadership in central Government that our proposals on emergency services collaboration seek to deliver locally. It provides an excellent opportunity for sharing good practice to drive reform and to deliver better outcomes for the public.

These measures will apply to England only. Further details on the measures and how the consultation has informed them, are set out within the Government’s published response.

Copies of the Government’s response to the consultation will be placed in the House Library.


Joseph Johnson - Department for Business, Innovation and Skills

My noble Friend the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills has today made the following statement.

On Monday the 25 January, I laid before Parliament draft regulations in connection with Part 21A Companies Act 2006. These establish the public register of information about people with significant control (PSC) over UK companies and limited liability partnerships (LLPs). This is an important step in providing much greater transparency about who owns UK companies and LLPs. This will boost trust in UK businesses, and reduce the risk of UK companies and LLPs being used for corrupt purposes.

The Government appreciates that transparency is usually in the public interest, as it is useful to know with whom one is doing business and helps deter and identify where corporate entities are being used for criminal activities.

The Government recognises that in certain rare circumstances publication of PSC information could put individuals at serious risk of violence or intimidation.

The draft regulations therefore provide for applications to be made to withhold the personal information of PSCs from public disclosure. In such cases the information must still be provided, and the fact that the information exists but is protected, will be made public. This is set out in more detail in Section 790ZG and regulations 33-45 of the draft Companies (Register of People with Significant Control) Regulations 2016.

Section 790J also enables the Secretary of State to make general exemptions to the new requirements. The Secretary of State has not granted any such exemptions, and would only be prepared to grant exemptions in very limited circumstances. These circumstances would be that the exemption is in the interests of national security; the economic wellbeing of the UK, or in the support of the prevention or detection of serious crime.

An exemption would also only be granted if the Secretary of State received satisfactory assurances on other matters like the company or LLP was not being run for personal benefit of any individual and that the exemption was necessary for the person seeking it to achieve their lawful objectives. I do not propose to comment further on whether I have received any such requests or whether I have granted them.

 


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