MPs demand government action on UK tax havens

By agency reporter
May 5, 2016

MPs from major UK political parties want the government to use its Anti-Corruption Summit next week to require transparency in the UK tax havens, Christian Aid said after a Parliamentary debate in Westminster Hall.

During the debate on Tuesday, MPs made it clear to the Minister John Penrose that public registers of the real owners of the myriad companies in UK Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies would be vital, if the Anti-Corruption Summit is to be credible.
Nigel Mills, Conservative MP for Amber Valley, told MPs: “It is right that the UK takes the lead on this issue, because we are uniquely exposed to corruption. Our status as a pre-eminent global financial centre and the unfortunate financial secrecy touted by our Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies makes the UK seem a safe haven for the proceeds of corruption and the individuals and organisations that facilitate and benefit from financial crime and tax evasion."
Mr Mills, who is also Co-Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Anti-Corruption, added: “This summit and our international reputation will prevail only if we secure commitments from all our Overseas Territories and Dependencies to introduce public registers of beneficial ownership and strip companies of the secrecy that allows them to hide the proceeds of crime, corruption and tax evasion.” 

Dame Margaret Hodge, Labour Member of Parliament for Barking and Chair of the Responsible Tax All Party Parliamentary Group told MPs: “Tax havens are being used to hide money and to enable money laundering and corruption, yet the Prime Minister has failed to secure what I thought he was setting out to do: to ensure that the Crown Dependencies and the Overseas Territories have registers of beneficial ownership that are open to the public.”
Commenting on the Prime Minister's announcement in April that nearly all UK tax havens would adopt private registers of beneficial ownership,  Margaret Hodge added: “By agreeing to what is not really a register but a secret gathering of information, we have ended up giving a veil of legitimacy to the bad practices in Overseas Territories that allow money laundering and corruption.

"I say to the Minister that that is simply unacceptable. It is vital that such registers are properly compiled and public. Only then will we know who owns the assets that are at present in the tax havens.”
The Scottish National Party’s Westminster lead on international development, Patrick Grady, told MPs: “In developing countries, corruption and tax dodging can hit economies very badly indeed. Some estimates suggest that about $1 trillion flows out of developing countries via illicit financial flows every year. As a result, the continent of Africa is actually a net creditor to the world economy; that is not something that is generally understood.
"The OECD has estimated that tax havens may be costing developing countries a sum that is up to three times the size of the global aid budget. In a few weeks, we are expected to debate the aid budget here in Westminster Hall.

"If people really want as [sic] reduction in aid budgets, the money for resources to take people out of poverty in developing countries has to come from somewhere and it has to come from developing countries being allowed to develop their own tax base.”
Christian Aid’s Parliamentary and Political Adviser Simon Kirkland welcomed MPs' support for decisive action against secrecy in UK tax havens. “It was excellent to see MPs from all parties demand that the Government finally acts to ensure transparency in its tax havens at its Anti-Corruption Summit next week", he said.

"For over two years now, the Prime Minister has called on the Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies to introduce the same level of transparency as we have in the UK. As MPs have said, the time for action is now.
"Given the UK’s role in facilitating corruption, we have a moral responsibility to act. The announcement that registers would be private will be of no comfort at all to women and men in developing countries who suffer the effects of corruption facilitated by the UK." 

* Christian Aid


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