Transparency and anti-corruption

Thursday 21 April 2016

There's been a lot of action over the last couple of weeks aimed at tackling corruption and increasing transparency from both Parliament, in the form of a Private Members Bill which aims to create a register of property owners for London, and the Government who announced a taskforce following the release of the Panama Papers.

Labour MP Frank Field has brought forward a Private Member’s Bill which would require the creation of a register of owners of property in the Greater London area, including details of the name of the owner of each property and the name of the beneficiary owner in the case of properties owned by a trust or similar body.

Field wants the new Bill - The Property Ownership in London (Registration) Bill – to be adopted by the Government at the upcoming Queen’s Speech in May. However, as the Bill is not a Government Bill the chances of it becoming law on its own is slim.

Cameron promised to do something similar in Singapore last year and the proposals are currently out for consultation.

Field claims to have cross party support but in reality only Bob Stewart and Andrew Rosidenell (who is chair of the overseas territories APPG) from the Conservatives have signed it, along with Lib Dem Tom Brake, so the Bill could be seen as Labour trying to win back the initiative over tax secrecy.

Of course, if there is a Bill that addresses the issue at the Queen’s Speech, Labour will likely claim credit as a result of Field’s Bill, despite the fact that it is on the Government’s agenda already. The Bill is also well timed to co-inside with the upcoming transparency summit.

Please find the press release here and the full sponsors of the Bill below (which includes John McDonnell and Sadiq Khan):

  •          Bob Stewart (Con)
  •          David Lammy (Lab)
  •          Andrew Rosindell (Con)
  •          Gareth Thomas (Lab)
  •          Tom Brake (LD)
  •          Siobhain McDonagh (Lab)
  •          West Streeting (Lab)
  •          Stephen Timms (Lab)
  •          Jon Cruddas (Lab)
  •          Steve Pound (Lab)
  •          Virendra Sharma (Lab)
  •          Jim Dowd (Lab)
  •          John McDonnell (Lab)
  •          Seema Malhotra (Lab)
  •          John Cryer (Lab)
  •          Neil Coyle (Lab)
  •          Catherine West (Lab)
  •          Helen Hayes (Lab)
  •          Matthew Pennycook (Lab)
  •          Barry Gardiner (Lab)
  •          Rushanara Ali (Lab)
  •          Sadiq Khan (Lab)

HM Treasury: UK launches cross-government taskforce on the ‘Panama Papers’
On the wider theme of anti-corruption and transparency, following controversy surrounding the release of the Panama Papers, the Prime Minister announced that a new taskforce would be formed to investigate the leaked information. The taskforce will be led jointly the National Crime Agency and HMRC with support supplied by investigators, compliance specialists and analysts from HMRC, the National Crime Agency, the Serious Fraud Office and the Financial Conduct Authority. David Cameron went on to pledge up to £10m in funding for the taskforce in order that the leaked Mossack Fonseca files can be investigated fully and properly.

Commenting on the creation of the task force, the Prime Minister said:

“The UK has been at the forefront of international action to tackle the global scourge of aggressive tax avoidance and evasion, and international corruption more broadly.

There is clearly further to go and this taskforce will bring together the best of British expertise to deal with any wrongdoing relating to the Panama Papers.

This world-class operation will report to the Chancellor and the Home Secretary on their strategy for taking action later this year, when we will update Parliament.”