Stephen Byers, trade and industry secretary, has a deadline of 6 March to table an amendment to the Criminal Justice and Police Bill, currently passing through the House of Commons, enabling directors who believe they are at risk to apply for anonymity.
Concern over the protection of directors reached new heights last week following the attack on Huntingdon Life Sciences’ managing director, accountant Brian Cass.
Under existing law, directors are forced to make public their home addresses at Companies House.
Directors’ privacy has formed part of the DTI’s company law review but the final report, whose deadline for responses passed this week, will not be published until late April at the earliest.
One member of the review committee, Richard Sykes QC, chairman of the Financial Reporting Review Panel, hinted that the government could act independently of the review findings.
Others supported the move to greater privacy.
Peter Wyman, partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers, said: ‘Personally, I believe directors are entitled to more privacy than they enjoy at the moment. The theory is fine for rogue directors but public access has been badly abused.’
Ken Wilde, technical partner at Deloitte & Touche said: ‘Why do directors need to give a home address? Provided you have a genuine address and not just a letterbox it is still possible to get at them.’
Wyman pointed out it was not just protestors that made use of private address – the media had often been accused of hounding directors’ families.As a result of the protests at HLS, Jack Straw, the home secretary, has announced police are to be given stronger powers to prevent protests by animal rights activists outside the homes of laboratory workers and shareholders in scientific companies.
The Company Law Review discussion document, Completing the Structure, can be downloaded from www.dti.gov.uk/cld/review.htm.
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