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Response to the Queen’s Speech: Missing bill to tackle the corruption on our doorstep ‘very disappointing’

14 October, London – The absence of the Registration of Overseas Entities Bill from today’s Queen’s Speech is a missed opportunity to tackle corruption on our doorstep.

The bill would close a loophole which allows criminals and the corrupt to hide their ownership of UK property by purchasing it via anonymous companies in secrecy jurisdictions.

Duncan Hames, Director of Policy at Transparency International UK, said:

“To its credit, the British Government has long recognised that transparency over property ownership is key to preventing money laundering by criminals and the corrupt. It is therefore very disappointing that the Registration of Overseas Entities Bill has not been included in today’s Queen’s Speech and this new session of Parliament won’t get the chance to act on secretive ownership of UK real estate.

“It has been three years since the Government first committed to bring about transparency over who is buying luxury property across the UK, so this bill is conspicuous by its absence. The draft bill to enact this has cross-party support, so would be an easy win for the Government in an otherwise difficult legislative session, further delay to its introduction risks undermining the credibility of this key component of the Government’s Economic Crime Plan.

“Whilst we recognise other important issues have dominated parliamentary proceedings in recent months, Brexit should not cause further delay to this vital piece of legislation. It is in fact a reason to further tighten our defences against illicit financial flows as the UK seeks to attract overseas investment.

“Every day that passes, criminals and the corrupt are able to hide behind the cloak of anonymity to launder their stolen wealth into our property market. If we are to stop the UK being a safe haven for dirty money, and show we are serious about tackling the corruption on our doorstep, now is the time to act.”

***ENDS***

Notes to editors:

At the London Anti-Corruption Summit in 2016 the UK Government committed to establish a public register of company beneficial ownership information for foreign companies who already own or buy property in the UK, or who bid on UK central government contracts, and committed to introduce primary legislation by April 2018 in the UK Open Government National Action Plan.

Recognising delays to this schedule, speaking in Parliament in January 2018, Ministers committed to introducing full legislation in 2019 and achieving an operational register in 2021, a target they included in the Government’s Economic Crime Plan as recently as July 2019. Now even this revised timetable is at risk.

This is despite bicameral cross-party support for the legislation, as expressed in a Parliamentary report by the Joint Committee on the Draft Registration of Overseas Entities Bill in May 2019 which called for legislation to be put before Parliament “as soon as possible”, noting the “need for a Register of Overseas Entities has increased”.

 

Contact:

Harvey Gavin
harvey.gavin@transparency.org.uk
+44 (0)20 3096 7695
+44 (0)79 6456 0340

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Read 153 times Last modified on Monday, 14 October 2019 15:15

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