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Pooled Client Bank Accounts: Guidance

Volume 705: debated on Tuesday 7 December 2021

12. What assessment he has made of the effect on businesses of the Joint Money Laundering Steering Group guidance on pooled client bank accounts. (904608)

The Joint Money Laundering Steering Group guidance helps firms to meet their obligations under the money laundering regulations. Banks should take measures to assess risks presented by pooled client accounts to ensure that the accounts are not abused for criminal purposes.

Yacht brokers have been using pooled client accounts for years to protect large sums of their clients’ money, without issue. Changes to the guidance have meant that banks are now closing some of these accounts, putting some of these professional, long-established businesses at risk. Will my hon. Friend meet me, UK Finance, and the Association of Brokers and Yacht Agents, to find a solution quickly? This is an important sector of the economy for some of our coastal communities, such as my constituency.

My hon. Friend knows a lot about this matter and the industry, and I take her concerns very seriously. Although the Government will never insist on individual lending decisions and behaviours of banks, we will engage closely. I will meet her, and the Association of Brokers and Yacht Agents, and I will write to UK Finance to ensure that the guidance that is posted is being used effectively in the circumstances that she has raised.

The Pandora papers show how overseas shell companies secretly buy up luxury property in the UK. In 2018, the Government published draft legislation for a new register of such entities to crack down on the use of UK property for money laundering. This is a matter of law and order. Ministers promised to deliver that register in 2021, yet for some reason, since the current Prime Minister took office, that commitment seems to have been abandoned. Will the Minister now, four years since the UK anti-corruption strategy was published, finally admit that the promise of delivering a register in 2021 has been broken, and will he give us a firm date by which the register will be in place?

I draw the hon. Gentleman’s attention to the financial action taskforce report in December 2018 that gave the UK the best ever evaluation in terms of anti-money laundering. There are two or three areas where we have taken action.

The hon. Member keeps asking “Where is the register?” I will answer the question in a moment. What the Government have done is put in an additional £63 million in the last Budget to deal with Companies House reform, which is one of the areas. We have been the world’s leader in terms of common reporting standards. We were the first country, five years ago, to raise the standard in terms of transparency. We will implement that register when legislative time becomes available.