The Government has announced that it has had second thoughts regarding its proposal to reduce the length of time records of dissolved companies are kept from 20 to six years, which is good news for anyone who develops an industrial disease as a result of past exposure to a harmful substance and seeks to gain compensation from a former employer.
Companies House maintains a database of information on every firm incorporated in the UK, which can be searched by the general public without charge. The plan to reduce the period of time records of dissolved companies are maintained was first mooted in August 2016, reportedly in response to complaints that retaining, and making publicly available, information relating to long-dissolved companies is inconsistent with data protection law.
However, opponents of the proposal argued that more than 2.5 million records of use when tracing white collar criminals and combating money laundering would be lost.
The Asbestos Victims Support Groups Forum UK vehemently opposed the plan and intended to take legal action against the Government had it gone ahead with it, as exposure to harmful asbestos in the workplace can cause workers to develop health problems many years later. Mesothelioma, a particularly virulent form of cancer that attacks the lining of the lungs, is caused when asbestos fibres enter the body, causing healthy cells to mutate into cancerous cells. These can lie dormant for many years before a victim shows any signs of illness. By the time mesothelioma is diagnosed the survival rate is poor, with around 75 per cent of sufferers dying within one year of diagnosis. It is therefore vital that the employers responsible for the exposure are traced as soon as possible, with many having gone out of business by the time the disease manifests itself, so that compensation is paid to those affected at the earliest possible time.
Responding to Parliamentary questions, Margot James MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, said, "The Government has no current plans to bring forward proposals to reduce the period of time that Companies House retains records of dissolved companies.
"Nevertheless, we will continue to keep the retention period under review, during which time the Registrar of Companies will ensure there is no destruction of records. Additionally, any future proposal to change the retention period would be subject to public consultation."