Examination of Witness

Part of Financial Services Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 2:22 pm on 19th November 2020.

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Duncan Hames:

We might want to talk about beneficial ownership transparency. As I say, Ministers had a duty placed on them in the Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Act in relation to Britain’s overseas territories and what would need to happen if they did not adopt public registers of their own volition, and I think they have found that duty helpful. Certainly at a diplomatic level, Ministers in the Foreign Office would celebrate the statements that have been made by those overseas territories as that deadline has approached. That is illustrative of how effective using legislation like this to convey a duty on a Minister can be, in order to rachet up the pressure for change.

The problem we have, of course, is that in some cases, those overseas territories are quite grudgingly coming around to this position. The last statement to complete the set was from the British Virgin Islands, and in his statement the Chief Minister—having agreed to the things the Government were hoping he would agree to—started to list a whole list of reservations and conditions, and concluded by saying that of course, this would only happen at a pace at which they consider deliverable. That does not fill me with hope that, without further incentive or, ultimately, the threat of action through Orders in Council, this will actually happen, which brings me back to my original point about implementation. It is one thing to have the policy—another, even, to have the laws—but if we have not had the implementation, we have not really changed anything. I would encourage you to look at what levers you might be able to grant Ministers through additional measures in a Bill such as this.