On 11th April, Baroness Stowell of Beeston repeated a statement regarding the Panama Papers made by the Prime Minister in the House of Commons. The Bishop of Coventry, the Rt Revd Christopher Cocksworth, asked a follow up question.
The Lord Bishop of Coventry: My Lords, I am mindful that the OECD has estimated that tax havens may be costing developing countries up to three times the global aid budget. I am also mindful of the role of UK overseas territories and Crown dependencies in the international movement of finance. I very much welcome the Prime Minister’s Statement about transparency and making the exchange of information available to particular agencies, and I also welcome the clarifications that the noble Baroness the Leader of the House gave. Perhaps I may ask for a little clarification on the Prime Minister’s point about taking that further and putting the information in the public domain. Am I right in thinking that, as well as encouraging other countries to do that, there will be a particular focus on the UK overseas territories and Crown dependencies, bearing in mind our responsibilities towards them and with them?
Baroness Stowell of Beeston: My Lords, I can tell the right reverend Prelate that the register of beneficial ownership, which will be established in the United Kingdom, will, from June, be available publicly to anybody who wants to access it.
The overseas territories and Crown dependencies have committed to collate the relevant information on beneficial ownership so that our law enforcement agencies are able to access it. That is a step forward and a significant improvement on the current situation. They have not committed to preparing a public register but nor has any other country around the world, so I think we should acknowledge the positive steps that the Crown dependencies and overseas territories are taking. Clearly, we will continue to work with them so that they always look at taking further steps. We will make sure that they are in a strong position by adopting the standards that we would expect of any overseas territory, any Crown dependency or any place associated with the United Kingdom, so that they are chosen as places where those who are respected can invest in a respectful way and so that they, as nations, can prosper from those investments.