“Condition for exercise of power to increase limit: prohibition on use of tax havens

Part of Commonwealth Development Corporation Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 4:15 pm on 6 December 2016.

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Photo of Rory Stewart Rory Stewart The Minister of State, Department for International Development 4:15, 6 December 2016

I shall try, for the sake of right hon. and hon. Members who are under time pressure, to be quite short in answering. Of course, I agree strongly with points made about the absolute importance of this. The CDC never invests in any of these locations in order to save tax or to avoid scrutiny. There are only two reasons why we would do it, and those are the reasons that were raised by the hon. Member for Cardiff South and Penarth; which is to say either because the regulatory environment in the country in which we are investing is not sufficiently robust for us to be able to trust UK taxpayers’ money to that location, or because we are attempting to accumulate a larger fund where we are trying to get co-investors. We are very proud of that. We have brought in, at times, £1 billion of investment and have managed to bring in £30 billion behind it, so that is a multiplier effect of 30 which might not have been possible had we not been able to ensure that we were able to go through certain offshore centres.

However, we are very focused on this issue. The Labour Government made great progress in focusing on the white list. The hon. Gentleman mentioned Anguilla and the British Virgin Islands. To be absolutely clear, as I think he is aware, we do not, nor would ever, invest in those locations, nor would we invest in Panama. We only invest in the places that have been put through the OECD’s Global Forum on Transparency and Exchange of Information for Tax Purposes as compliant locations.

Nevertheless, I agree that in the long run we need to develop financial sectors within Africa to ensure we can make secure investments through African locations, rather than having to go through offshore centres. DFID is now running a big programme on that, which is something the CDC can learn from. To respond to my hon. Friend the Member for Stafford, we absolutely should be taking the lead on this. On that basis, I ask that the motion be withdrawn.