Failure to Prevent an Economic Criminal Offence

Part of Criminal Finances Bill – in the House of Commons at 5:00 pm on 21st February 2017.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Ben Wallace Ben Wallace Minister of State (Home Office) (Security) 5:00 pm, 21st February 2017

We find criminals using banking systems all over the world to hide their money, whether that is in Northern Ireland, London, the Republic of Ireland, Crown dependencies or elsewhere. Such places have agreed to work with our law enforcement agencies, and we will allow their law enforcement agencies access to our databases in order to follow up such activity.

The hon. Member for Ealing Central and Acton underplays the success of the United Kingdom’s leadership role. Without imposing on democratically elected Governments in those countries and without imposing our will in some sort of post-colonial way, we have achieved linked registers and access to registers for our law enforcement agencies across many Crown dependencies and overseas territories. We might compare ourselves with our nearest neighbours, the major economies—with all due respect, I do not mean Christmas Island—such as Germany and other European neighbours such as Spain. We are the ones with a public register and we, not them, are the ones ready to have a unified central register. Perhaps we should start by looking at the major economies, rather than sailing out on a gunboat to impose our will on overseas territories that have done an awful lot so far in getting to a position in which I am confident that our law enforcement agencies can bring people to justice. That is the fundamental point of this principle. We have not abandoned our ambition. We have decided that the way to do it is not to impose our will on overseas territories.

The Labour party’s new clause 17 is probably constitutionally bankrupt, if I may use that phrase. It would certainly cause all sorts of problems, although I am not sure that we can actually impose our will on a Crown dependency like that. All the good words of the hon. Member for Ealing Central and Acton seem to have disappeared because the new clause leaves out overseas territories and would apply only to Crown dependencies. If Labour Members think that such a provision is right for Crown dependencies, why is it not right for overseas territories? I do not understand why they have left that out, although I suspect it is because, when it really comes to it, Labour Members do not know what they are talking about. If the Labour party wanted to be successful with this, it might have done it in its 13 years in Government.

I respect devolution and constitutional arrangements, and it is important to do that at this stage. Crucially, if we do this in partnership, we will get there. When we see people being prosecuted and the system of information exchange between law enforcement agencies working, we will have arrived at a successful point. I am confident that we will get there. I do not shy away from telling the overseas territories and Crown dependencies that our ambition is for transparency but, first and foremost, our ambition is for a central register that is easily interrogated by our law enforcement agencies.