MPs to visit Jersey on transparency crusade?

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Rebel Tory MP Andrew Mitchell and Labour MP Dame Margaret Hodge have said they are planning to visit the Isle of Man soon and could also travel to Jersey and Guernsey to try to ‘persuade’ the islands’ governments to make their company registers publicly accessible.

Last month, Dame Margaret lodged an amendment to a House of Commons bill to enforce a public register of beneficial ownership – a list of who ultimately owns a company – on the Crown Dependencies in an effort to tackle money laundering through offshore centres.

However, it was withdrawn after Chief Minister Ian Gorst and External Relations Minister Sir Philip Bailhache, along with other representatives of the Crown Dependencies, travelled to London to lobby MPs. They argued that the UK did not have the constitutional right to legislate for Jersey.

Proposals to enforce a public register on British Overseas Territories, such as the Cayman Islands and British Virgin Islands, were passed, leading to an outcry from their governments.

In an article in the Guardian this week, both MPs said they would not drop their campaign.

‘What we plan to do now is to go to the Isle of Man for talks there and then possibly to Guernsey and Jersey,’ said Mr Mitchell.

‘The intention is that we will try to persuade them of the wisdom of copying what Britain and the Overseas Territories have done and what most of Europe is going to do.’

Dame Margaret added that no British territories should be allowed to continue financial services business without a publicly accessible list of beneficial ownership.

‘All territories associated with Britain ought to be governed to the same standards and with the same transparency,’ said Dame Margaret.

‘The purpose of this measure is to tackle all dirty money entering through any British territories. You cannot leave a few out.’

Meanwhile, in a letter to Guernsey’s Chief Minister, Gavin St Pier, Mr Mitchell said that he and Dame Margaret thought Jersey and Guernsey’s current lists were ‘not adequate’.

He hinted that Royal powers could be used to force the issue and added: ‘We do believe that registers of beneficial ownership where the information is only available to law enforcement agencies is not adequate,’ he said.

‘What is required are registers which are open to the media and non-governmental organisations to identify more easily illegal behaviour and corruption.

‘I fully understand the constitutional issues and your obvious concern about them. No one in this day and age would wish to use the Royal Prerogative and an order in council [UK parliamentary powers] unless parliament thought it absolutely necessary.’

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