Failure to Prevent an Economic Criminal Offence

Part of Criminal Finances Bill – in the House of Commons at 4:30 pm on 21st February 2017.

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Photo of Rupa Huq Rupa Huq Shadow Minister (Home Office) (Crime and Prevention) 4:30 pm, 21st February 2017

I listened carefully to what the Minister said, and he said something similar in response to my right hon. Friend Caroline Flint. I will literally eat my hat—not that I am wearing one—if that happens. The registers must be in a format that is easily convertible to public registers.

We are not there yet. As someone who conducted empirical social science research, I wonder where the 90% figure came from. I know such things are often said across the Dispatch Box—in this case, it was in a Public Bill Committee—on the hoof, in the heat of the moment, and I would not want to label the Minister as a purveyor of fake news, but does he really think that we are 90% of the way there? Even if Government Members say that we do not normally do this, there is always a time when, if needed, we can step in, and the Labour party would argue that that time is now.

Rather worryingly, the Government recently replied to the report of the International Development Committee, “Tackling corruption overseas”, by emphatically rejecting the claim that they need to do more to ensure that the overseas territories and Crown dependencies adopt centralised public registers. That is rather different from the rhetoric we are hearing today. There is evidence that, behind the scenes—I am sorry to say this—the Government have not, to use the Minister’s words, really “cajoled” the Governments of the Crown dependencies. Alternatively, perhaps they have not been cajoling those Governments hard enough, because if this Government really had, I would not have to cite the following statement by the Chief Minister of Jersey from Jersey’s Hansard. When asked by a Deputy—they are not called MPs—when the public registers of beneficial interest would become a reality, he answered:

The U.K. Government accepts, and has accepted in conversations with us, that our approach meets the policy aims that they are trying to meet and international bodies, standard setters and reviewers, have acknowledged that our approach is a leading approach and is superior to some other approaches taken.”

It is hard to see how the Government can cajole someone to do something while simultaneously telling them that they do not need to do it—that speaks for itself.

The Government seem a bit confused about whether they do or do not want to play their part in creating a fair, ethical and transparent finance system. As for the suggestion that the UK lacks the constitutional power to legislate for the Crown dependencies, we have heard examples from both sides of the House of when such powers have been used.