Christian Aid calls for greater financial transparency from FTSE companies

By agency reporter
November 13, 2013

The UK should require the mining, oil and gas companies listed on the London Stock Exchange to reveal more about their finances across the world, UK-based churches' global development agency Christian Aid has told MPs who are investigating the country’s extractives industries.

In written evidence to the House of Commons Business, Information and Skills Committee, the charity reminds MPs that David Cameron himself has argued that rich countries should use their power to help poor countries reap the benefits of their natural resources.

Joseph Stead, Christian Aid’s Senior Economic Justice Adviser, said: "Financial transparency is a powerful weapon against serious crime - and the UK can and should require it of all the companies which seek the advantages of a listing on the London Stock Exchange.

"Several hundred mining, oil and gas companies are listed, according to a 2012 estimate by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism. That puts the UK in a powerful position to influence major firms’ behaviour across the world, in ways that help millions of people living in poverty."

He added: "When companies publicly reveal information such as who’s really in charge and what their profits and tax payments are in each country where they work, it becomes far easier to spot who is paying bribes or failing to pay their fair share of tax. That is vital, if poor countries are to get a fair share of the profits made by companies exploiting their natural resources.

"The UK Government has already taken a brave and hugely significant step forward, by deciding to create a public register of who owns millions of companies in the UK.

"This will help detect and deter criminals using UK companies to commit crimes including tax evasion, corruption and money laundering. It will also encourage other countries to create similar public registers, making it increasingly difficult for criminals involved with mining, oil and gas companies around the world to escape detection, when they evade tax and pay or take bribes."

Christian Aid’s evidence to MPs also argues that the UK should require extractives (and other) companies listed on the London Stock Exchange to report their finances publicly on a country-by-country basis. This would mean reporting separate tax, profit and other data for each country in which they work.

The evidence states: "Country by country reporting will enable citizens to be able to see the full picture of what extractive industries are contributing – or not – to their societies and be able to demand accountability either from governments for poor contract negotiation, or companies for sharp practice."

Christian Aid estimates that at present, tax dodging by multinational companies deprives poor countries of $160 billion a year – much more than they receive in aid.

[Ekk/4]

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