Arundel & South Downs MP Nick Herbert has helped to secure major changes to offshore tax havens, requiring them to become more transparent to help tackle crime and corruption.
The House of Commons agreed on Tuesday (1 May) to compel Britain’s Overseas Territories, including Bermuda, the British Virgin Islands and the Cayman Islands, to publish public registers of the true owners of firms by the end of next year.
Mr Herbert was a leading backer of a cross-party amendment to the Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Bill which was accepted by the Government without a vote.
Opaque tax havens are widely believed to facilitate global crime and corruption on a huge scale. The United Nations has estimated the cost to developing countries alone at over £70 billion a year.
David Cameron insisted on public registers of beneficial ownership of companies in the UK, and the EU and a number of other countries are following suit. Mr Herbert argued that the UK’s Overseas Territories should do the same thing, ahead of transparency becoming the international standard.
The MP said that he would have preferred to support a Government compromise that would have given the Overseas Territories more time to adjust, but this amendment was not permitted by the Speaker to be debated.
Mr Herbert argued that the potential economic impact on the Overseas Territories was not a reason to avoid action, but it did mean that the UK should now be ready to help the Territories’ economies adjust.
Following the Commons’ decision, Nick Herbert said:
“Tax havens harm the world’s poorest most of all, and I’m glad that the tide is now turning in the direction of increasing transparency.
“The UK has been at the forefront of global efforts to crack down on tax evasion, money laundering, corruption and fraud. But the uncomfortable truth is that some of our Overseas Territories are the worst culprits when it comes to tax havens. The time has come to deal with it.
“Public registers will help shine a light on the problem and ensure that we tackle corruption wherever we find it.
“Clearly we want to avoid the displacement of ‘dirty money’ to other jurisdictions, including in the US. So there must be global measures for transparency. The UK now has the moral high ground to drive such action”.