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Tax havens linked to UK must comply with transparency drive, MPs say

Published 08/06/2016

David Cameron speaking at an anti-corruption summit
David Cameron speaking at an anti-corruption summit

UK-linked tax havens must take measures to become more transparent as soon as possible, MPs have demanded.

A cross-party committee called on the Government to put pressure on the British overseas territories and Crown dependencies to introduce central registers showing the true owners of firms based there.

The MPs on the International Development Select Committee said they "remain concerned" about successive governments' approaches towards fairer tax rules despite David Cameron's work on the agenda.

The committee also called for a cross-government approach to implementing the United Nations sustainable development goals (SDGs) in the UK.

The Prime Minister hosted an anti-corruption summit in May aimed at improving transparency to tackle tax dodgers, but used the meeting to defend the efforts made by the overseas territories and Crown dependencies.

He s aid critics should stop "picking on" UK-linked tax havens when they had moved ahead of major countries including the United States in exposing hidden wealth.

The MPs said: " We recognise the impact of tax evasion on developing countries' ability to raise revenues and welcome the Prime Minister's decision to host the recent Anti-Corruption Summit in London, positioning the UK as a leader in this debate.

"Despite this, we remain concerned about successive governments' approaches towards international tax cooperation and fairer tax rules. We believe that strong commitment to addressing these areas is essential.

"We welcome the progress made so far, as outlined by the Prime Minister. However, we urge the Government to ensure that the overseas territories and Crown dependencies introduce central beneficial ownership registries as soon as possible, in accordance with the Prime Minister's statement."

They also called for international work on the agenda to be led by an inclusive organisation such as the UN, rather than just the OECD - which only includes richer nations.

The committee said it would return to the issue in an inquiry into tackling overseas corruption.

The MPs said responsibility for implementing the 17 sustainable development goals should not purely rest with International Development Secretary Justine Greening "who already faces a substantial challenge in working to support international implementation of the goals".

Committee chairman Stephen Twigg said: "The Government has been slow to work out how best to implement the Goals here in the UK. Despite the leading role which the Prime Minister played in shaping the SDGs globally, progress on working out how we will implement them in our own country has been disappointing so far.

"The goals require a cross-Government approach. This is not an agenda for developing countries alone, but for the whole world. It can only be achieved if all countries work to implement the agenda in its entirety.

"A high level of influence across all government departments will be vital to ensure UK implementation is on track. The SDGs must be on the radar of every secretary of state and minister; not just the secretary of state for international development."

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