Madam Speaker, I want to make a statement about an issue which has arisen in the UK Parliament.
This relates to the legislative progress of a UK Parliamentary Bill, the Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Bill. Throughout its progress the BVI and other Overseas Territories have faced attempts by the Opposition to amend the bill so that public registers of beneficial ownership would be imposed on the Overseas Territories by the UK Parliament. As the bill reaches its final stages on Tuesday of next week, a number of senior Conservative MPs have now added their support to those of the Opposition to try and pass this amendment.
The BVI’s London Office has engaged UK Parliamentarians throughout passage of the bill to explain our robust regulatory system - a system which has been recently enhanced with the introduction of the Beneficial Ownership Secure Search System. This puts BVI at the cutting edge of facilitating effective law enforcement against those who might seek to use our business companies for nefarious purposes. It ensures that verified and current beneficial ownership information is directly and immediately available to BVI competent authorities. The UK Government is supportive of BVI’s position and continues to oppose the amendment, but as a minority administration there is no certainty that its view will prevail.
The BVI’s London Office will continue to engage with Parliamentarians in the UK. It is focused on explaining the full and cooperative part BVI has played in the development and implementation of global tax transparency standards and the steps we have taken in the fight against financial crime. The Government will continue to make clear that should public registers become the global standard, then BVI will comply.
We reject the idea that that our democratically elected Government should be superseded by the UK Parliament, especially in an area which has been entrusted to the BVI people. This flies in the face of constitutional arrangements made with the UK when our new Constitution was approved in 2007. It would undermine the constitutional relationship between the BVI and the UK and indeed be a sad day for democracy.