What is Companies House?
Companies have been registered in the United Kingdom since 1844. Today, there are over 3 million limited corporations registered in the UK. Each year, more than 400,000 new businesses are incorporated. Company registration is guided by legislation, specifically the Companies Act, 2006. Companies House acts on behalf of the Secretary of State to register all limited companies in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
About Companies House
Companies House is an Executive Agency of the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills. The agency maintains trading fund status, which allows Companies House to manage its own finances. The Chief Executive of Companies House is responsible for the agency's day-to-day operations. The Minister of State for Business and Enterprise is accountable for Companies House, while the Chief Executive is in turn responsible to the Minister. Responsible for company law, the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Employment Relations and Consumer Affairs also has oversight for Companies House. The agency acts within the functions and duties outlined in the Companies House Framework Document, the agency's annual business plans, ministerial targets and commitments, and the provisions of the Companies Act
The main role of Companies House is to incorporate and dissolve limited companies. Companies House is also responsible for examining and storing company information that is provided under the Companies Act and other legislation. For example, all registered limited companies including their subsidiaries must file financial statements and annual company returns each year. Companies House also has a role in publicly sharing information that is provided by companies.
Companies that may be registered include big and small companies, public limited companies (PLC), private companies limited by shares or guarantees, private unlimited companies, limited liability partnerships (LLP) and limited partnerships (LP), European Union-wide Societas Europaea (SE) companies, community interest companies, and companies incorporated by Royal Charter. Companies registered in England are registered in England and Wales, while companies in Scotland must register in Scotland. Companies in Wales may be registered in Wales or in England and Wales. While companies registered in England and Wales are subject to English law, those registered in Scotland are subject to Scots law.
All companies registering with Companies House must also register their directors. Companies must appoint one or more directors depending on the type of business. Company directors must not be disqualified by the courts or the Insolvency Service from acting as one. Companies House maintains a list of disqualified company directors through its Disqualified Directors Register under the Companies Act. Company directors must also not have gone through an undercharged bankruptcy, unless an exception is provided by the courts.
Companies House provides a variety of services to companies and the public, including tools to find information on individual businesses. Available information includes historical background on the company, accounts and annual returns, address information, and company registration information. Companies House also allows companies to file and submit company information online, by post or at information centres in London, Edinburgh, Cardiff or Belfast. The agency also maintains a range of data products in a variety of software formats, including data snapshots with company data on active businesses.
Strategic directions for Companies House are set by the Main Board. The Main Board is responsible for the agency's stewardship and governance. It is also tasked with ensuring organisational capacity meets the needs of clients. The board advises ministers and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, and prepares an annual business plan with activities and strategies. The Main Board includes an Independent Chair, the Chief Executive, the agency’s Directors, a senior representative of the Shareholder Executive, and four Non-Executive Board Members.
The Audit Committee is tasked with assisting and advising the Accounting Officer, who also serves as the Chief Executive and Registrar for Companies House. The advisory committee provides advice on audit and corporate governance issues. It also supports the Main Board and the Chief Executive by reviewing the reliability and integrity of the assurance matters. The committee includes three non-executive members of the Main Board, one of whom acts as the chair. The Chief Executive, Director of Finance, Head of Assurance, Risk and Consultancy, and a representative from the National Audit Office are invited to committee meetings.
The Remuneration Committee approves the annual pay remit for Companies House. It is also responsible for developing the formula for payments, which is based on the agency’s performance and budget. The committee may also be involved in senior recruitment and comments on pay strategy decisions made by the agency's Executive Team. Reporting to the Main Board, the committee includes the Chair and a non-executive member of the Main Board, the Chief Executive and a senior representative of the Shareholder Executive. The agency's Head of Human Resources is also invited to attend meetings.