UK to FORCE British tax havens to be more transparent after Tory MP's Bill amendment
Debating the Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Bill in Parliament, ministers were forced to give up their opposition due to the possibility of a Commons defeat after nearly two dozen Conservative MPs backed the amendment.
Ministers had originally opposed the bill, stating they did not want to impose rules on British Overseas territories which include the Falklands, Cayman Islands and British Virgin Islands.
Foreign Office Minister Sir Alan Duncan said the Government did not want to damage the “autonomy” of the territories by imposing legislation from Westminster.
However he noted the Government would “respect the will of the House”.
He added: "We've listened to the strength of feeling in the House on this issue and accept that it is without a doubt the majority view of this House that the overseas territories should have public registers."
The amendment, which was proposed by Conservative MP Andrew Mitchell and Labour’s Dame Margaret Hodge, would require the UK Government to force British Overseas Territories to establish publicly accessibly registers outlining the ownership of companies.
Mr Mitchell commented on the amendment, saying: "The overseas territories share our freedom.
“They travel under our flag, and they should also share our values.
“This amendment reflects a thoroughly good Conservative principle – supporting transparency and openness, bearing down on illicit money flows, money laundering, corruption and tax evasion.”
And Dame Margaret described the move as "a remarkable, important and really world-changing measure in relation to the fight against corruption”.
Lib Dem MP Tom Brake welcomed the result, saying: "These people and their money are not welcome in the UK and must not be given sanctuary in our cities."
Transparency International also said the result was "a hugely significant moment"
Lorna Smith, interim Executive Director of British Virgin Island Finance, slammed the amendment and said its supporters were displaying signs of "colonialism".
Ms Smith said: "If this bill goes through, it's like Scotland feeling that Westminster is legislating for Scotland.
"It's simply not right."