MPs relax stance on ownership registers
UK MPs pushing for a change in the Island’s financial services law appear to have stepped back from attempting to force public registers of beneficial ownership on the Crown Dependencies via the UK parliament.
Andrew Mitchell and Dame Margaret Hodge, who are visiting Guernsey this week, instead said the decision rested with each government in Guernsey, Jersey and the Isle of Man.
Their comments came after talks with Policy and Resources President Gavin St Pier, who is known as the island’s chief minister externally.
‘I think it would be fair to say that we have had very good discussions indeed,’ said Mr Mitchell, speaking for Dame Margaret as well. ‘We’ve been very clear about the importance of transparency and cleaning up the amount of dirty money that is laundered, money that is stolen for example from Africa and Africans.
‘I must say that the Chief Minister and his colleagues engaged in what I thought was a very interesting and sensible discussion.
‘It’s clear that Guernsey is a good regulator. The question really is what Guernsey will choose to do when the new directive – the European directive, which says open registers will be the norm across the whole of the European Union – comes into force at the end of next year.’
Mr Mitchell added: ‘That’s a big decision for Guernsey and I very much hope they will make the right decision when that time comes.’
Asked if the island would make the right decision, Mr Mitchell said it was a decision for Deputy St Pier, his officials and elected colleagues.
Challenged about whether the UK parliament would step in and make the decision for the Crown Dependencies, as had happened with the British Overseas Territories, Mr Mitchell said: ‘The UK parliament is very determined that where countries, whether they be Crown Dependencies or the Overseas Territories, fly under flag, share our Queen, that they must also engage with the same values that we hold.
‘So, I think the UK parliament is very much hoping that Guernsey and indeed the other two Crown Dependencies, the Isle of Man and Jersey, will make the right decision on this.
‘Obviously, the last thing that the UK parliament wants to do is embark on a constitutional exchange on this issue. But I am very hopeful off the back of our meetings today that Guernsey will set a very good example and make the right decision.’
Mr Mitchell continued: ‘You are going to make your decision. The thing that makes the biggest difference is that not only does the UK have open registers, and the Overseas Territories likewise, but the European Union is going to do this [as well].’