Failure to Prevent an Economic Criminal Offence

Part of Criminal Finances Bill – in the House of Commons at 4:00 pm on 21st February 2017.

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Photo of Bob Neill Bob Neill Chair, Justice Committee, Chair, Justice Committee 4:00 pm, 21st February 2017

The reason was very properly and sensibly set out by my right hon. Friend the Member for Sutton Coldfield. There is a risk of a competitive disadvantage, and as I have said, we must bear in mind the situation in which Gibraltar finds itself. I suggest it would be inappropriate for it to be at a competitive disadvantage compared with other Mediterranean jurisdictions, some of which are not well disposed towards it.

Gibraltar has done a great deal, and continuing dialogue is a sensible way forward. It would not be appropriate to legislate, particularly as undermining Gibraltar’s constitution, even if it was legally possible theoretically—I suspect it would be challenged in the courts—would be most undesirable politically, because our commitment to Gibraltar must be made particularly clear as we leave the European Union.

It is worth adding that Gibraltar has taken very considerable practical steps and has been recognised internationally for doing so. It is worth simply saying that it has transposed all the necessary EU directives into its law—perfectly willingly, without any difficulty and of its own volition—and it has also complied with all OECD initiatives in this regard. It has gone beyond that establish a central register, under the terms of the fourth anti-money laundering directive, for which the deadline is this June. It has entered into an exchange of notes to accelerate access to all UK authorities for investigative purposes. It has agreed to the EU5 proposal for the automatic exchange of beneficial ownership with participating countries, covering all EU countries, including Spain. Gibraltar has therefore been extremely willing to co-operate, even with countries that do not always behave well towards it, and that needs to be recognised. The Gibraltar Government are actively looking at the 5 July 2016 EU proposal to amend the fourth anti-money laundering directive by introducing a register, and that ought to be their decision. As I think the Minister would confirm, Her Majesty’s Government have worked very closely with Her Majesty’s Government of Gibraltar on this issue. A constructive dialogue is taking place, which is the right way to deal with it.

Finally, before I move on to Crown dependencies, it is worth saying that Gibraltar’s record of effectiveness in the exchange of information was recognised by the 2014 OECD “Phase 2” review, when it was ranked as largely compliant. That is actually a very high ranking, which ranks Gibraltar as being as good in terms of compliance as the United Kingdom, the United States and Germany. Gibraltar, therefore, is doing the job. That really needs to be stressed, so that others do not misuse the linkage, which, in Gibraltar’s case, is not borne out by the evidence: it has some 135 tax information exchange mechanisms with some 80 countries; it has already implemented the Financial Action Task Force recommendations with the United States and the United Kingdom; and it is implementing common reporting standards, the global standard, along with the UK and other countries. I therefore suggest it would be heavy-handed and inappropriate to involve Gibraltar in this approach when it is already doing so much.

I would like to touch on the Crown dependencies, as did my right hon. Friend the Member for Sutton Coldfield. Frankly, I think the constitutional position is more difficult because they are not, and never have been, subject to the United Kingdom. Their allegiance is purely to the British Crown, not the United Kingdom. The difficulty of attempting to legislate for them would be real and profound in constitutional terms. That is why the relationship falls under the Ministry of Justice and their legislation is signed off by the Privy Council. The new clauses that seek to bring them into the position here are not well-conceived legally in that regard. That is the key issue.

It is also worth observing, since the Justice Committee recently visited all three Crown dependencies as part of an inquiry, that they, too, are up to the highest standards of reporting and ensuring information is readily available to the authorities. It is worth saying in relation to Jersey, but it applies to them all, that a report by Moneyval, an established body of international repute, stated:

“Jersey’s combination of a central register of the UBO with a high level of vetting/evaluation not found elsewhere and regulation of TCSPs of a standard found in few other jurisdictions has been widely recognised by international organisations and individual jurisdictions as placing Jersey in a leading position in meeting standards of beneficial ownership transparency.”

Similar provisions, in different legislative forms, have also been made in the two other Crown dependencies. Again, it would be unfair, inappropriate and disproportionate to lump the Crown dependencies in with this issue.

We all share the same objective. We want to make sure there is maximum transparency and honest money in our system. For the reasons I have set out, however, I hope those who support the new clause, and other new clauses that have not yet been moved, will reflect and conclude that this is not the appropriate legislative vehicle to achieve that objective.