Ministers ‘played no part’ in removal of threat to finance
A UK MP has dismissed claims that Jersey politicians successfully lobbied Parliament to withdraw anti-secrecy proposals that threatened the finance industry – and says he is confident he will persuade the States to introduce the measure.
And, speaking exclusively to the JEP, Andrew Mitchell has confirmed that he and fellow MP Dame Margaret Hodge are planning to visit Jersey in the autumn in an attempt to persuade the States to introduce a public register of beneficial ownership of companies, which would reveal the true ownership of assets held in the Island.
In April, an amendment to the Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Bill was tabled in the House of Commons which, if passed, would have led to the Crown Dependencies being forced to create a public register.
Jersey currently has a closed list accessible only to law enforcement and tax authorities.
The Crown Dependencies were later dropped from the amendment, reportedly after States ministers along with representatives from the Isle of Man and Guernsey successfully lobbied UK government ministers.
However, a similar proposal for the British Overseas Territories was adopted.
Mr Mitchell has now said the islands’ politicians played no part in the removal of the Crown Dependencies from the amendment and that it would have merely been ‘too complicated’ to include both types of entities within a single proposal.
‘We decided that we would not go after the Crown Dependencies because they have a slightly different form of governance [from British Overseas Territories] and to put them in the same amendment would have been too complicated,’ he said.
‘It was not that we were stopped or that Parliament does not have the will to do it, it was that the amendment did not work in that form. It is not correct to say that lobbying from Jersey in any way affected the decision of Parliament,’ he added.
A spokesman for the External Relations Department said that there were a number of factors, including engagement between States ministers and their UK counterparts, that led to the removal of Crown Dependencies from the amendment.
They also said that they had not yet been contacted by Mr Mitchell but welcomed any UK parliamentarian to the Island.
‘The developments in relation to the Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Bill were a result of a combination of factors, including Jersey’s recognised reputation as a transparent and well-regulated jurisdiction, the engagement between Jersey ministers and their UK counterparts, and the ongoing work by the Jersey London Office to engage UK parliamentarians and provide a deeper understanding of our constitutional position,’ he said.
‘The government of Jersey has consistently said that it will consider introducing a public register of beneficial ownership if it becomes the agreed global standard, in line with our early adoption of other international standards.
‘That decision is one of domestic competence and is for the States Assembly to make, not for the UK Parliament. We are not represented in the UK Parliament, and it is an agreed constitutional position that the UK does not legislate for Jersey.’
Mr Mitchell said that he and Dame Margaret, a Labour MP, wanted to persuade the States to voluntarily introduce a public register of beneficial ownership during their visit but would force them to do so through royal powers if it was necessary.
‘The law officers have made it absolutely clear that on these sorts of issues Parliament has every right to legislate [for the islands],’ he said.
‘But we are not coming with a big stick: we are coming with the hope of securing an agreement.’