UK MPs Continue To Discuss OT’s Registers

December 23, 2018 | 2 Comments

The topic of enforcing the UK’s legislation for the British Overseas Territories, including Bermuda, to make their beneficial ownership registers public continues to be discussed in British Parliament and Committees.

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According to the Hansard for Thursday, Baroness Stern asked “what technical assistance will be provided to the British Overseas Territories to support the introduction of public registers of beneficial ownership.”

In response, the Minister of State Lord Ahmad said, “I announced at the Overseas Territories Joint Ministerial Council the setting up of technical workshops between the UK and the British Overseas Territories that will be scheduled from spring next year to support the introduction of public registers of company beneficial ownership.

Baroness Stern also asked “how much financial assistance will be provided to each British Overseas Territory to support the introduction of public registers of beneficial ownership, as established by section 51 of the Anti-Money Laundering Act 2018.”

In response, Lord Ahmad said, “The British Government is considering what financial support is possible for the Official Development Assistance-eligible territories to support the introduction of public registers of company beneficial ownership.”

According to the UK Government website, the Overseas Territories which are eligible for Official Development Assistance are Montserrat, St Helena, Tristan da Cunha, and the Pitcairn Islands; none of which have financial services industries.

According to Friday’s Hansard, Labour MP Dame Margaret Hodge asked what discussions the UK Government had during the Overseas Territories Joint Ministerial Council on “requests for assistance provided by the UK Government.”

In response, Minister of State Sir Alan Duncan explained that the UK Government “has not received any formal requests for assistance from the Overseas Territories thus far.”

Baroness Stern also posed a question on Friday which said, “To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the Written Answer by Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon on 26 November, which Government departments will be responsible for providing financial and technical assistance to the British Overseas Territories to support the introduction of public registers of beneficial ownership.”

In response, Lord Ahmad said that the British Government departments that will assist in enforcing the British legislation on the territories will include “Companies House, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, the Department for International Development and the Home Office.”

The discussions in British Parliament follow after they passed legislation earlier this year which seeks to allow them to directly order the territories to make their beneficial ownership registers publicly accessible; a move which was condemned by the island’s leaders as a return to colonialism.

beneficial ownership register is a database of information on business owners, and Bermuda has had one for decades, and provides information to law enforcement and tax authorities at request.

Other nations also have them, and while the vast majority do not make theirs public at this time, the UK made their register public in 2016, and the British Parliament invoked their rarely-used ability to pass laws for the territories with an aim to implement the same policy across all the territories.

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