With the introduction of the long-awaited Register of Overseas Entities finally being realised this month, an important step has now been taken to address economic crime in the UK.

The Register comes as a result of the Economic Crime Act, brought forward earlier this year in response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the need to directly tackle fraud, money laundering, tax evasion, and illicit Russian money in the UK.

The changes were first promised in 2016, and then draft legislation sat on the shelf untouched from 2018. Even with this delay, the Government’s initial plans still provided months and months before its implementation, giving criminals a head-start on selling and hiding their ill-gotten gains, thereby avoiding sanction.

Labour successfully pressed the Government for a quicker implementation of the register, reducing the waiting period to allow crime agencies to crack down sooner on this activity.

Better late than never, the Register is now an important tool at our disposal – but alone, it unfortunately won’t be sufficient. Once again the Government are back to promising action at some point – but not now. A second Economic Crime Bill must be brought forward as a matter of urgency to address weakness in our current system that many seek to exploit.

Companies House reform is essential as is proper resourcing for enforcement agencies if these changes are to have any meaningful impact on rooting dirty money from our economy and restoring confidence in Britain as a place of fair play.

Because at its very heart, this isn’t just about Russia and Putin’s cronies, as important as that is. It’s about how our economy runs, and the strong, fair and transparent regulation that should govern it.

It is simply not fair, for instance, that unscrupulous companies and individuals hiding their illicit gains in our economy through shell companies are too often subject to fewer hoops and less scrutiny than a legitimate business wanting to buy a shopfront.

The Co-operative Party knows this more than most, and with a historic commitment to a fairer form of business, it was with the help of Co-operative Party members that we were able to press the Government into swifter action on the initial legislation and Register of Overseas Entities.

And as the Labour and Co-operative Shadow Secretary of State, I’ll soon be asking members and supporters of the Party to join me once again in calling for the Government to do more on this matter, and bring forward further legislation that will allow us to properly crack down on economic crime and truly establish a fairer way of doing business.