It is nice to see you in the Chair again, Mr McCabe, in this much warmer Committee Room 12.
Clause 44 is a concession that the Government made in the other place because there was a lot of concern that they had not cracked on with making progress towards a register of beneficial owners of overseas entities—an extremely important part of the machinery for preventing money laundering. It is rather a pathetic clause, so the Opposition have tabled a new clause that would speed up the timetable, for reasons that I will explain when I move it. I want to register the fact that although we do not intend to vote against clause 44, we think it somewhat weak as a concession.
As the hon. Lady says, clause 44 fulfils a Government commitment made at an earlier stage of the Bill in response to a call for clarity on our intentions for the delivery of a separate anti-corruption policy. My noble Friend Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon committed us to reporting on progress made on our policy to create a register of beneficial owners of overseas entities that own or buy property in the UK or that participate in UK Government procurement. We are committed to the register being operational in 2021.
The clause requires the Secretary of State to publish and lay before Parliament three reports on the progress made towards putting the register in place, each of which will be due after the expiry of a 12-month reporting period. The first and second reports must set out
“the steps that are to be taken in the next reporting period towards putting the register in place, and…an assessment of when the register will be put in place.”
“must include a statement setting out what further steps, if any, are to be taken towards putting the register in place.”
The obligation to report to the House on progress reinforces the commitments on our timetable that the Government have given elsewhere.