The National Security Bill, currently before the House of Lords on a shortened timetable, raises significant challenges for a wide range of businesses and others with international dimensions or interests, including charities, NGOs, institutions and other friendly international bodies. In essence, the Bill requires all foreign organisations, including companies, LLPs and unincorporated associations, whether businesses, charities or otherwise, to register publicly each of their interactions with UK policy and decision makers.
The main scheme can be described, in brief, as follows:
- Public registration requirements fall on almost all foreign entities (even if fully UK based and operated), with no focus on national security related characteristics. In addition to all foreign organisations, a foreign subsidiary of a UK business would fulfil the criteria to be caught by requirements of the scheme. Similarly, a UK subsidiary of a foreign organisation where directed (or worried about the perception of direction) by its parent would be caught.
- The scheme relates to a swathe of activities with no focus on national security related characteristics. Any routine UK / regulatory decisions for business from whatever branches of Government are included. E.g. BEIS, the CMA, Ofgem, HMRC and so on, would have to be assumed to be in scope in practice in circumstances where the content might involve civil servants of deputy director (or equivalent) in correspondence or meetings. Any engagement with such officials in relation to public policy debates which are live in any UK parliament are also in scope, as is engagement with any MP, MSP, MS or peer to influence on anything (the latter not limited to government decisions or policy).
- The information required has limited confidentiality exemptions and is unusually intrusive.
Our HSF colleagues, James Palmer (Partner and former Chair and Senior Partner) and Paul Butcher (Director of Public Policy) have produced an in-depth briefing on this issue, including examples of potential unintended impacts, which can be read here: THE UK’S PROPOSED NEW FOREIGN INFLUENCE REGISTRATION SCHEME: SIGNIFICANT UNINTENDED CHALLENGES | Herbert Smith Freehills | Global law firm.