Criminal Finances Bill: Bishop of Peterborough supports amendment on tax transparency

14.02 PeterboroughOn the 3rd April 2017, the House of Lords considered the Government’s Criminal Finances Bill in Committee. Baroness Stern moved an amendment  requiring public registers of beneficial ownership of companies in the Overseas Territories. The Bishop of Peterborough, the Rt Rev Donald Allister, spoke in favour of the amendment, which was withdrawn after the debate

The Lord Bishop of Peterborough: My Lords, I support the amendment. I also support the Bill and I am grateful for it.

I particularly support and follow a point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Stern, about this being a moral issue. I refer to Amendment 167. This time last year, shortly after the publication of the Panama Papers, there was a question in the House about this issue. I asked a supplementary and was assured by the then Minister that this was seen by the Government as a moral issue. It is important that we hold to that.

It is particularly a moral issue because of the effect of tax havens on people in developing countries. According to the United Nations conference on trade and development, tax havens cost developing countries at least $100 billion a year. That means three times the global aid budget is lost to developing countries in this way. It is a huge amount which would be able to do a great deal in terms of health, education and so on in those countries which so badly need it.

My right reverend friend the Bishop of Oxford spoke on this issue in the Second Reading debate. He is sorry that he cannot be here in your Lordships’ House today but, on his behalf and others, I gladly ally these Benches with the four signatories to Amendment 167, who come from four different parts of the House.

Lord Thomas of Cresford (extract): My Lords, the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Peterborough reminded us that corruption in the modern world is a moral issue—and so it is; perhaps one of the greatest moral issues that we face. I was reminded by the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Naseby, that the great moral issue of the late 18th century and the beginning of the 19th century was slavery. It was the judgment of Lord Mansfield in the 1780s that put an end to slavery in this country…

Baroness Stern (extract): I thank all noble Lords who have spoken in this debate, which has been a cornucopia of oratory wisdom and detailed, reliable knowledge. I am very grateful to my co-signatories for their strong support. I appreciate the words of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Peterborough that this is a moral issue, and the contribution of the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford, about the United States and the abolition of slavery. I am most grateful for the detailed information from the Minister on progress; it was a bit much to digest in one go, but I will read it with interest. There is much that has been said in this debate to reflect on and consider before Report…