27 June 2023
Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown backs calls for the repurposing of seized Russian assets to rebuild Ukraine

Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown speaks in a debate on the repurposing of seized Russian assets to rebuild Ukraine and calls for the reform of Companies House regulations to provide proper verification of the people in charge of companies, and to allow Companies House to work more closely with fraud investigations.

Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown (The Cotswolds) (Con)

I agree entirely with the thrust of the right hon. Gentleman’s speech. Does he agree that the possible lacuna in the tracing of Russian assets is in Companies House and shell companies? Does he agree that we need to amend the regulations surrounding Companies House to provide proper verification of the people in charge of those companies, and allow Companies House to liaise more closely with the fraud authorities and report suspected fraud?

Mr David Lammy (Tottenham) (Lab)

The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right. That has been a standing issue that the official Opposition have taken up. We do think further reform is necessary at Companies House, and we were slightly concerned that that was not supported by the Government in the Economic Crime and Corporate Transparency Bill.


Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown 

The right hon. Gentleman is a lawyer. Is he aware that one of the biggest arbitration cases ever is before the United Kingdom commercial court? It concerns the seizure by Russia, a month before it went to war in Ukraine, of several hundred civil commercial aircraft. That case is going to cover many billions of pounds, both here and in the US. When we consider what measures we take against Russia, should we not consider that act of expropriation by the Russian authorities?

Mr Lammy 

The hon. Gentleman puts before the House an important case, which we should look at very closely, as it will be of concern to all of us in relation to how we move forward in these areas. It has been some time since I practised law, although I was pleased to be made an honorary doctor of laws by the University of Glasgow last week.


Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown 

The Russian economy is worth about $1.8 trillion, ranking it 11th in the world. Does my hon. Friend agree that the UK has a strong legal base and that we need to work with our international partners so that we can send out a strong message to the Ukrainians today that there is a hope that one day their country will be rebuilt?

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs (Leo Docherty)

I am grateful for that intervention, as I entirely agree with it. If we look at the work that has been carried out by G7 allies, European nations and other states around the world in constraining the export of Russian hydrocarbons and finding alternative supplies, we see that the European energy picture has changed radically overnight. That was a consequence of allied will and effort. If we bring that same determination to the issues we have discussed today, we can have a very significant impact.