British Overseas Territories: Companies

Foreign and Commonwealth Office written question – answered on 11th November 2015.

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Photo of Margaret Hodge Margaret Hodge Labour, Barking

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, what his objectives are at the Joint Ministerial Council during the week of 30 November 2015 in respect of central registries of beneficial ownership in the Overseas Territories.

Photo of James Duddridge James Duddridge The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs

In March the Financial Secretary to the Treasury and I wrote to the Premiers of the British Virgin Islands, the Cayman Islands and Bermuda asking them to set out plans and a timetable for the implementation of central registers of company beneficial ownership, or similarly effective systems, by the November Joint Ministerial Council.

We set out that any system should meet the following criteria:

a)UK law enforcement and tax authorities must be able to access company beneficial ownership information without restriction, subject to relevant safeguards;

b)These competent authorities should be able to quickly identify all companies that a particular beneficial owner has a stake in without needing to submit multiple and repeated requests; and

c)Companies or their beneficial owners must not be alerted to the fact that an investigation is underway.

My objective is to press the Premiers to repeat their commitments to uphold international standards of transparency to ensure the highest degree of effectiveness including on holding beneficial ownership information. I will be discussing their proposals and timetable for doing so.

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