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Beneficial Ownership

Volume 602: debated on Tuesday 24 November 2015

3. What recent discussions he has had with the Governments of British overseas territories with financial centres on central registers of beneficial ownership. (902304)

I discussed progress on central registers of beneficial ownership with the Premiers of the Cayman Islands, the British Virgin Islands and Bermuda yesterday and will have a further opportunity to do so when they are in London next week for the joint ministerial council.

In April 2014, the Prime Minister wrote to the overseas territories:

“The rest of the world is watching us closely and public registries will demonstrate the sincerity of our commitment to improve corporate behaviour and set a new standard for transparency of company ownership.”

It is clear he wants overseas territories to have public registers of beneficial ownership. Will the Minister ensure that overseas territories adopt public registers or, at the very least, ensure access for the public in line with the fourth EU anti-money laundering directive?

The hon. Gentleman should give the overseas territories credit where credit is due. Progress has been made towards the greater use of central registers, and we are currently working on security and police forces’ access to them, but, in the longer term, he is entirely right: ultimately, we will have to move in the direction of public access to that information. But the overseas territories are making progress.

Clear progress has already been made. The territories have already fulfilled their commitments on automatic tax exchange, and this was achieved working in partnership with them.