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Anti-Corruption Summit

Volume 611: debated on Wednesday 15 June 2016

7. Whether the agreements reached at the anti-corruption summit in May 2016 will be applied to other countries. (905415)

This Government and this Prime Minister have taken a global lead on tackling the scourge of corruption. Each delegation at the anti-corruption summit signed up to the commitments set out in the communiqué. In addition, 42 countries and eight international organisations issued statements setting out further measures that they will take.

In April 2014, the Prime Minister said:

“I believe that beneficial ownership and public access to a central register is key to improving the transparency of company ownership and vital to meeting the urgent challenges of illicit finance and tax evasion.”

Will the Minister explain why the Government are no longer calling for public registers of beneficial ownership in the British overseas territories?

We are calling for them. The Prime Minister was absolutely right then, and we are delivering on that now. Later this month we will publish the beneficial ownership register for the UK. All the overseas territories have signed up to beneficial ownership registers, and we urge them to make them public.

11. In the run-up to the anti-corruption summit, leaders of charities and faith groups around the world were calling on the Prime Minister to insist on the same levels of transparency in our overseas territories and Crown dependencies as we have here in mainland UK. Why did the Prime Minister ignore them? Was he unable or unwilling to stop the facilitation of corruption in our tax havens? (905419)

We have made huge progress in ensuring that we have registers of beneficial ownership in the overseas territories. We are also publishing the beneficial ownership register for the UK. The progress that has been made in the overseas territories is the greatest under any Government in history, which perhaps is one reason Transparency International said that the summit had been a good day for anti-corruption.

The Panama papers have shown how illicit finance robs the very poorest countries of the world. Malawi, for example, loses about $130 million a year through such finance. Will the Minister explain why the Malawian company Press Trust Overseas Ltd cannot have its tax affairs scrutinised because it is in the British Virgin Islands? Should not the summit have come to an agreement to force such overseas jurisdictions to publish central beneficial registers?

If the hon. Gentleman cares so much about the matter, he might have congratulated us on the progress that we made at the summit. He will be delighted to know that the British Virgin Islands has signed up to have a beneficial ownership register and to share that information with the UK Government. We are making progress in tackling the scourge of corruption, about which previous Governments, including the one he supported, did too little.