New Clause 27 - Money laundering offences: electronic money institutions, payment institutions and deposit-taking bodies

Part of Financial Services Bill – in the House of Commons at 4:45 pm on 13th January 2021.

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Photo of Nigel Mills Nigel Mills Conservative, Amber Valley 4:45 pm, 13th January 2021

It is a pleasure to follow the right hon. Lady. I want to speak in support of new clause 4, and I will start where she finished by reminding the House that this was a manifesto promise of the Conservative party back in 2015. We said that we would introduce criminal sanctions for failure to prevent economic crime. We got as far as introducing sanctions for bribery and tax evasion. What those two measures have shown is that these “failure to prevent” rules actually work: they do crackdown, they do change behaviours and they do stop businesses allowing their staff to carry out the activity or turning a blind eye to it. When the main counter-argument is that these regulations would be too expensive or too hard to implement, we have to understand that the world has carried on with those two powers in place; that is not a compelling argument for not extending them to the rest of the economic crimes as this clause would do. Most economic crime around bribery or tax evasion includes some money laundering as well, so all that we are really doing is tidying up the rules to make sure that they are consistent across the piece.

I think that it is probably fair to say that, since we made that manifesto promise, we have been a little busy on other matters, but now we are through most of those it is time to get back to delivering on that promise. I suspect that we will not convince most Members this evening to accept this new clause, but, hopefully, when we see the Law Commission review later in the year, we can then make some rapid progress on getting our law to the right place.

The Minister said at the start of this debate that the Bill was a part of our taking back control following Brexit, that we will try to make our regulations world-leading and that that was our aspiration. Surely as we embark on our vision of global Britain, we should make it very clear that our values are to be the cleanest financial services sector in the world—not the dirtiest, not a magnet for dirty money, and not one that tolerates any kind of bad behaviour. We need the powers in the new clause so that we can say clearly to the whole world that this behaviour is not tolerated here and that we will go after not only those who behave in that way, but those who allow it to happen: we will go after those businesses that seek to profit from allowing their staff to behave in such a way. That is the kind of vision that a global Britain should have—more beacon than buccaneer in this kind of situation.

Finally, if we are really after world-leading regulation in this area and setting an example, I personally would support more divergence. That is one reason why I supported Brexit, but I am not sure that the best place to start diverging is by not following the EU’s anti-money laundering rules. Last month, it introduced its sixth anti-money laundering directive, which included the requirement that member states take criminal sanctions for failure to prevent money laundering. We did not opt into that directive before the end of the transition period. I would have thought that, as a signal of goodwill when we want the EU to recognise our financial services regulation, it would be a good thing to adopt. It is the right thing to do. It is the right measure. It is one that, given the size of our financial services industry, we should be leading on, not following. Let us not make that our first divergence. Let us introduce these rules. Let us pass this new clause and have real powers in place which we need to tackle this awful economic crime.