This week David Cameron will host his long trailed international anti-corruption conference in London. After having a rather torrid time over his own tax transparency and now his apparent gaffe, David Cameron is presumably looking for a hard hitting, powerful symbol of his commitment. So what policy rabbit will he pull out of his hat?
Plenty is already happening. His government has recently committed to a new anti-money laundering action plan, stemming from the EU’s Fourth Money Laundering Directive. There was also the recent ‘hammer blow’ against shell companies following the agreement with five countries to share data on Beneficial Ownership (though not everyone is impressed). The government is also now backing the EU level blacklist of tax havens or ‘non-co-operative jurisdictions’ due to be put together by the end of the summer (though the media claimed the UK government had earlier lobbied against it).
So far, the global anti-corruption agency has already been trailed. So what’s left?
- Action on the ownership of foreign companies, as trailed by the Times. The government has pushed a register of Beneficial Ownership for UK business which we can all see as of June next year. In March the government launched a very brief consultation on making foreign companies supply data on ownership if they are (i) buying property (ii) part of a public service contract. This consultation conveniently closed very recently. Something spectacular to stop ‘dirty money’, as David Cameron promised last year?
- Action on UK linked tax havens. David Cameron has tried to cajole, berate and ask nicely that UK overseas territories and Dependencies join in a public register Beneficial Ownership over the past few years. The best it has got so far, following demands from the National Crime Agency, are information sharing agreements between the UK and Overseas territories and dependencies-see the agreement with the British Virgin Islands here. However, a number of territories appear to be resisting signing up to anything like a register. The Labour opposition called for the use of some rather obscure legislative instruments, orders in council, to force them to comply. This does seem possible and there is a precedent from 2009 (here’s the actual order taking over the Turks and Caicos Islands). But could it be that, before the full might of the Privy council is deployed, some of this ‘resistance’ may magically break down in time for the summit?
- Something I haven’t thought of.