I’m angry about the impression there’s one rule for the super-rich and another for everyone else.
The release of the Panama Papers has again brought the scale of the problem to public attention, but it’s an issue I’ve been raising in Parliament for many months in my role as Shadow Foreign Minister with responsibility for the Overseas Territories. Much more has got to be done to tackle tax evasion and money laundering and crack down on the secret financial arrangements and loopholes that are allowing companies and rich individuals to avoid paying their rightful share of tax.
Many of the tax havens fuelling the problem are British Overseas Territories or crown dependencies so the UK has a responsibility to act. The Prime Minister says it’s a priority, but these are proving to be empty words. Two years after he said “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”, this has still not happened and there is no timetable for action. The Prime Minister has met no Leader of an Overseas Territory since 2013 and the Government have actively been lobbying the EU to remove Bermuda from an official blacklist of tax havens.
It is becoming increasingly clear that the Conservative Government has little willingness to take tough steps to crack down on this problem, yet the UK has constitutional control over our Overseas Territories and we can and must act. An Anti-Corruption Summit is set for 12 May 2016 in London, and I would like to see the Overseas Territories required to publish a central register of beneficial ownership by that date and for this register to be transparent and available for the general public to view.
You can read my recent blog on the subject here, which sets out my thoughts in more detail.
I can assure you that I will continue to put pressure on David Cameron and his Government to take decisive action and leadership on this important issue.