‘No Public Register Until House Votes For It’

May 4, 2018 | 23 Comments

“There will be no public register of Beneficial Ownership in Bermuda until this Honourable House, elected by the people of Bermuda votes to implement one,” Premier David Burt said, adding that the “Government rejects the regressive colonial mindset that some in London hold.”

Background

The Premier’s comments follow after a Bill passed in the UK House of Commons that contains an amendment which would allow the UK to order Overseas Territories to make their beneficial ownership registers publicly accessible.

A beneficial ownership register is a database of information on business owners, and while most nations worldwide do not make theirs public, the UK does, with their register going public in 2016, becoming the first nation in the world to do so.

This matter has been discussed for years, and the Bermuda’s Government’s position over the years has been that they maintain registers, provide information to official entities at request and will make the registers public when it becomes world standard, which it currently is not.

Other Overseas Territories, such as Gibraltar, the British Virgin Islands and Cayman Islands, have also expressed concern about the UK legislating for their islands, and a brief look at some of their comments in the video below.

Premier’s Comments

Speaking in the House of Assembly today [May 4], Premier Burt said, “The amendment to the Bill is intended to impose on the Overseas Territories a requirement to implement a public register of beneficial ownership.

“This action is imposed in the absence of any applicable international standard and can only be viewed as a direct assault on the conduct of legal business in the Overseas Territories.

“Of greater concern to the Government and people of Bermuda is the wider issue of the UK Parliament’s wanton disregard for the unique constitutional position of Bermuda,” Premier Burt added, saying that “London’s action on Tuesday is an egregious breach of well-established constitutional conventions.”

“There is no case in which legislation from England has been imposed on Bermuda,” the Premier added, explaining that “this is one of those issues that bridges the partisan divide” and saying that former Minister of Finance Bob Richards reached out for him to “express his well stated views on what he considers an undue act of aggression by the British.”

“There will be no public register of Beneficial Ownership in Bermuda until this Honourable House, elected by the people of Bermuda votes to implement one,” the Premier said.

“The Government rejects the regressive colonial mindset that some in London hold, that a Parliament 3000 miles away can impose anything on Bermuda that does not fall under the areas of Defence, Internal Security, the Judiciary, and External Affairs.”

The Premier’s full statement follows below:

Mr. Speaker, Honourable Members will, by now, be aware of the action taken by the House of Commons in London on Tuesday. In the knowledge that an amendment to the Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Bill could not be defeated, the UK Government conceded a position that has caused considerable angst in the Overseas Territories.

Mr. Speaker, the amendment to the Bill is intended to impose on the Overseas Territories a requirement to implement a public register of beneficial ownership. This action is imposed in the absence of any applicable international standard and can only be viewed as a direct assault on the conduct of legal business in the Overseas Territories.

Mr. Speaker, successive governments in Bermuda have made the case on behalf of Bermuda over many years. Successive Ministers of Finance have addressed the issue of beneficial ownership at home and abroad. There is not a day of the week that the business conducted in Overseas Territories is not under the attack from the willfully uniformed that sit in the UK Parliament.

Mr. Speaker, Honourable Members and the public could easily be forgiven for feeling frustrated at the refusal of London and other jurisdictions to heed basic facts about the manner in which Bermuda has effectively regulated business over several decades.

Mr. Speaker, of greater concern to the Government and people of Bermuda is the wider issue of the UK Parliament’s wanton disregard for the unique constitutional position of Bermuda.

Mr. Speaker, Bermuda’s 50 year old Constitution is forty-five years beyond its intended shelf-life. It contains unique features of self-government that were meant to lay the foundation for independence within five years of the Order’s passage.

Among those features, we say, is the inability of the British Parliament to legislate for Bermuda from London. Quite simply, Mr. Speaker, London’s action on Tuesday is an egregious breach of well-established constitutional coventions.

Mr. Speaker, Alan Duncan, the Foreign Office Minister leading Tuesday’s debate on behalf of the UK Government told the House of Commons that a consensual approach to working with the Overseas Territories would have been preferred by the UK Government. He further stated: “We do not want to legislate directly for them, nor do we want to risk damaging our long-standing constitutional arrangements which respects their autonomy.”

Mr. Speaker, these comments are especially telling because they speak to the very point to be made in this entire display of UK internal politics run amuck. Mr. Speaker, the constitutional position is founded in entrenched conventions that any legislative power sought to be exercised by the UK Parliament over Bermuda can only be done with the consent of the Bermuda Legislature.

Mr. Speaker, there is no case in which legislation from England has been imposed on Bermuda. Some Honourable Members will recall that even in the case of the abolition of capital punishment, the integrity of Bermuda’s self-government was recognized by the UK’s Parliament.

Contrary to the other Overseas Territories, no order was made to force Bermuda to act, instead the UK Government at that time stated that they hoped “that the Government of Bermuda will decide to follow this example as soon as possible.”

Mr. Speaker, there is some irony in that language as it mirrors language used in the wake of Tuesday’s debate to justify the fact that the action of the UK Parliament has not been applied to the Crown Dependencies of Guernsey, Jersey and the Isle of Man.

Bermuda’s constitution has not materially changed since 1991 and the comments on capital punishment, and so it seems clear that the action of the UK Parliament is one designed for the Caribbean and Bermuda only.

Mr. Speaker, this is one of those issues that bridges the partisan divide. I can advise Honourable Members that even the former Honourable Member and former Minister of Finance, the Hon. E.T. “Bob” Richards reached out for me to express his well stated views on what he considers an undue act of aggression by the British.

Mr. Speaker, in closing, allow me to use a phrase that was often uttered by another former member of this Honourable House, the late Julian Hall – “let me be pellucidly clear”…… There will be no public register of Beneficial Ownership in Bermuda until this Honourable House, elected by the people of Bermuda votes to implement one!

The Government rejects the regressive colonial mindset that some in London hold, that a Parliament 3000 miles away can impose anything on Bermuda that does not fall under the areas of Defence, Internal Security, the Judiciary, and External Affairs.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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Comments (23)

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  1. BermudaTurtle says:

    Well, isn’t their demand that they give the BOTs till 2020 to vote in their local legislatures or else it will be forced? You have time!

  2. Warwick West says:

    I don’t understand why everyone is getting their knickers in a twist over this including Mr. Burt and Mr. Richards. Nor would I ever agree to a hugely expensive law suit with the UK over this. Our money is MUCH MORE needed here at home, NOT in some Lawyers pockets in London!

    Why don’t we just say NO !!! There is nothing they can do and frankly, if ALL OF THE OTs’ collectively and jointly say NO that’s it. End of story. Walk away and put the ball right back into their court. No, No, No. Unified voice from all of the OTs. Saying NO is a whole heck of a lot cheaper than employing hugely expensive lawyers for a hugely expensive law suits that Bermuda does not need. Keep it simple and cheap. IMO.

    • aceboy says:

      Sure we can say no. We will be on the Black List immediately.

    • nerema says:

      Part of the end game must be preserving Bermuda’s position as a financial centre. “Just saying no” would destroy our credibility. It has to be something more sophisticated than that.

  3. Joe Bloggs says:

    “There will be no public register of Beneficial Ownership in Bermuda until this Honourable House, elected by the people of Bermuda votes to implement one,” Premier David Burt said, adding that the “Government rejects the regressive colonial mindset that some in London hold”

    Well, here is a political tempest in a tea cup. The British MPs make noise about something they know they cannot do (and which England does not do) and then the Bermudian and Cayman leaders jump on the political bandwagon.

    This is nothing but political noise, but it may be used as an excuse to push the independence train out of the garage.

    • sandgrownan says:

      Exactly. As I said elsewhere…The UK are wrong on their approach, but the end game is correct and ultimately we will have to do it one way or the other to remain relevant.

      The danger for Bermuda is not the UK, but rather the Burts/DREB’s and the rest of the chest thumping idiots who see this as a political opportunity to be exploited.

      • mixitup says:

        Are you calling our Premier and Idiot? Are you willing to add your beloved Bob Richards to this idiot’s list?

        • sandgrownan says:

          Bitcoin Dave and Bob Richards were both wrong in their comments, and for different reasons.

          Dave.com is being clever though, because he knows this type of rhetoric plays well with the base. It’s populist bs.

          BR was wrong because a) he used the race card right from the get go and b)knows exactly why this came up in the UK Parliament – he’s being disingenuous.

          • SMH says:

            I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again… This is one topic that BR/DB and the OBA/PLP have always agreed on. It’s a power play coming out of the UK as they’re guilty of the things that are accusing others of and to quote BR, how can the UK try and enforce something that they haven’t implemented yet. BR may not have been my favorite politician but this is one topic that I’ve always agreed with him on… this goes pass political posturing and gets right down to right and wrong and in this case the UK is wrong and are trying to use her size and position to bully jurisdictions like ourselves.

    • BermudaTurtle says:

      What do you mean cannot do? It is within the UK’s right to do this.

      • Joe Bloggs says:

        Not without our consent it is not. The UK has not legislated for an overseas territory against the wishes of its Government since before the First World War (and the Bolshevik Revolution).

        • puzzled says:

          Not directly Joe but you know what and how pollytics work.
          Ask Donald.

        • Anbu says:

          But……… they can if they wish. What are u not understanding abt it. If they want to, they can. No if ands or buts. They own us.

          • Joe Bloggs says:

            Anbu, please look into the matter. The UK does not “own” us or the Cayman Islands or any other overseas territory. The UK cannot legislate for Bermuda without the request of the Bermuda Government.

            This whole thing is political grandstanding.

            • Clem says:

              The UK can suspend the contitution and impose direct rule like they did in TCI .

              • Black Panther says:

                Exactly Clem,you are correct.
                What we have is a constitution bequeathed to us through a constitutional order by the controlling power (the UK).

                When all is said and done we are still a colony.

                • Joe Bloggs says:

                  Ok, I give up. You clearly want to push your own agenda regardless of the truth.

              • Anbu says:

                Thank you clem

  4. facts of the rock says:

    Burt and the plp or any other Bermuda Government of the day have NO option but to do exactly as HM Government tells them,failing which the Bermuda Government would be disbanded and people could face arrest and be shipped to the UK for Trial,FACT!
    It is highly unlikely to happen but it could.
    Should anyone decide to disobey the British Army would take over and Martial Law established,
    It would be a terrible mistake to believe that this could not happen,the UK Government has the final say.
    Look what happened down south in the TCI.

  5. SMH says:

    “Look what happened down south in the TCI.”

    …And look at what lead to that, and look at who his friends are.

  6. Triangle Drifter says:

    Whine & stomp your feet in protest. That should do it. A child gets it’s way every time by squawking & being annoying. Problem is, this is adults world. A statesman is needed.

  7. Stevie says:

    Do you realise Burt has one tie? It’s green. Guess he can’t afford ties, yet runs away on senseless trips.

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