MPs vow to continue fight over Jersey's tax 'secrecy'
ATTEMPTS to force public company ownership registers on Jersey through the UK parliament will continue despite the Island’s own commitment to end financial secrecy, two MPs have warned.
Andrew Mitchell and Dame Margaret Hodge say they have serious concerns about a pledge made by Jersey, Guernsey and Isle of Man’s governments to introduce the register – aimed at preventing money laundering – by 2023.
However, during Prime Minister’s questions yesterday, Theresa May welcomed the move, adding that it was an important issue.
But Dame Margaret and Mr Mitchell say the proposals put forward contain a number of ‘get out clauses’ that are not acceptable and the time frame put in place for the introduction is too long. They have also asked for assurance that any register will be genuinely open, free to access and easy to use.
Their comments follow previous attempts by the pair to force the rules upon Crown Dependencies. A bill which invited MPs to vote on whether or not public registers should be implemented in the islands was brought before Parliament in March. However, it was pulled at the last minute.
And the islands’ governments have since warned the UK that it had no right to legislate for them and that doing so could trigger a ‘constitutional crisis’.
In a statement, Mr Mitchell and Dame Margaret said: ‘We warmly welcome today’s moves by the Crown Dependencies as a demonstration of their willingness to listen. We acknowledge the importance of this issue to them. But fighting money laundering, economic crime and tax avoidance matters too.
‘Until we receive the assurances we need and that we have set out, we will pursue our plans to introduce legislation enforcing open registers of beneficial ownership in these jurisdictions.’
Explaining some of their demands, they added: ‘The timetable set out in the paper is unacceptably long. Public registers will not be available until 2024/25 and that simply delays for a further five years the introduction of a tool that is vital in the global fight against corruption, money laundering and economic crime.
‘It is not acceptable that the ‘‘obliged entities’’, that is banks, accountants and others – the very people who devise the schemes exploited by those who trade in dirty money or avoid paying their tax – should have access to the registers before the public, civil society and the media.
‘We need further details to assure ourselves that the registers will be genuinely open. Will they be free to access or will there be a charge for the public? Will information be presented in an open data format and structured so that the registers can be easily understood and used?’
In Prime Minister’s questions yesterday, Theresa May said: ‘I am very pleased to see the announcement today from Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man, and indeed we continue to work with Overseas Territories to ensure that they do follow those standards and open those books, so that people can see who is actually owning these companies.’