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MPs call for public registers in Crown dependencies

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‘A very odd state of affairs altogether’, is how the speaker of the House of Commons described the postponement at very short notice of the report stage debate on the Financial Services (Implementation of Legislation) Bill on 4 March.

The government was facing an amendment tabled by a cross-party group of MPs, led by Andrew Mitchell and Dame Margaret Hodge, requiring the Crown dependencies (Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man) to introduce publicly-accessible registers of beneficial ownership of companies within their jurisdiction by 31 December 2020. The amendment (see also sought to bring forward the date for the British overseas territories to introduce public registers of beneficial ownership to December 2020 (rather than 2023), by forcing an amendment to the Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Act 2018, s 51.

The Crown dependencies continue to resist the introduction of public registers. The financial secretary to the Treasury, Mel Stride, defended the decision to pull the debate on the Bill, which he said would give the government ‘time to consider these important matters’. The amendment would have ‘considerable and significant constitutional ramifications for our Crown dependencies’, Stride said, adding that, ‘the government feel that it is important to reflect carefully upon that before we come back with the legislation in due course’.

The Financial Services (Implementation of Legislation) Bill was introduced in the House of Lords in November to provide the government with the power to implement and make changes to ‘in flight’ financial services legislation for two years after the UK’s withdrawal from the EU in a no-deal scenario.

In place of the report stage debate and third reading of the Bill, the financial secretary made a statement to the House on ‘tax avoidance, evasion and compliance’, in which he announced the imminent publication of the government’s consultation on implementing the extension of the off-payroll rules to the private sector from April 2020. The statement also threw up questions about the loan charge, in response to which the financial secretary again confirmed that the government has no plans to delay or abandon introduction of the loan charge legislation from April 2019.

Earlier in the day, Andrew Mitchell’s point of order on the decision to postpone the debate drew a response reminiscent of Monty Python from the speaker, John Bercow. ‘All of a sudden, the business that was scheduled for today has been evacuated from Parliament; it has been air-lifted from the premises; it has suffered a mysterious and hitherto unexplained disappearance’, Mr Bercow said.

Issue: 1434
Categories: News