Labour and Co-operative Member of
Parliament for Kemptown and Peacehaven

Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Bill

by Lloyd on 20.02.18 in Uncategorised
I agree with many of the comments we have heard today from both sides of the House, which I would summarise as—a necessary start but not good enough, not far enough, not strong enough. One area I am interested in is arms control, which the Bill misses an opportunity to address. The arms export control system we use in the UK goes hand in hand with the sanctions system we use to stop arms getting to certain regimes.
I agree with many of the comments we have heard today from both sides of the House, which I would summarise as—a necessary start but not good enough, not far enough, not strong enough. One area I am interested in is arms control, which the Bill misses an opportunity to address. The arms export control system we use in the UK goes hand in hand with the sanctions system we use to stop arms getting to certain regimes.

The arms export regime we operate in this country is, of course, underpinned by EU consolidated criteria. There is no mention of consolidated criteria or of bringing the arms licensing regulations into a system such as the sanctions regulations. It is, I suggest, a great shame. The Bill does not touch on that area.

All of this is all very good, but enforcement is needed. Without enforcement, there is no point and the Bill is not worth the paper it is written on. Since 2011, there have been no prosecutions by Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs of people who have broken the arms export regime or broken sanctions on arms sales. What is the point of introducing a Bill with a raft of sanctions against arms sales to certain regimes if we are not going to enforce them? It is not like in this time, there have not been significant and very credible reports that arms export controls have been breached and that arms have been sold to some of the most dangerous regimes in the world. We have just failed on enforcement because HMRC is under-resourced and these issues are under-prioritised in that department.​

Turning to another area, I have a constituent who is a local business owner with a foreign national. She has reported many times her feeling that the company that she co-owns has been engaged in money laundering. She reported it to Action Fraud, Sussex police and HMRC, but for over a year, nothing was done. It took us hiring forensic accountants for HMRC suddenly to realise that hundreds of thousands of pounds might well have been laundered through the company. This was a director who wanted to blow the whistle, but HMRC and Action Fraud were just not interested. That is another example of how what is written in the Bill is all well and good, but the enforcement is just no good.

When Labour Members talk about wanting to give more money to our nurses, teachers and firefighters, we are often mocked by Government Members, who say that we want a magic money tree. It seems to me that a crop of magic money trees is growing with incredible health in some of our 14 British overseas territories. They are very clean because they are laundered daily, and they clearly like the climes—the balmy 32° that it is right now—in the British Virgin Islands. I note that many of the people in the Virgin Islands never really see these trees because they are lovely brass-plate trees.

Maybe it is not the climate that encourages magic money trees to locate in our overseas territories. Perhaps they thrive as part of a protection racket to shelter the very wealthiest in our society from paying their fair share. As we leave the European Union, it is vital that we have the mechanisms in place to replace the sanctions and money laundering provisions of the EU. I commend the Government for taking the first steps, but the Bill falls so short of creating a public, central and open register of beneficial ownership for our overseas territories.

More than 70% of corruption cases surveyed by the World Bank between 1980 and 2010 rely on anonymously owned companies helping to obscure what they are doing. It is the overseas territories that fly the flag of brand Britain and endanger that flag by not opening up. I am sure that you will have a moment to reply later on, Mr Foreign Secretary. You do not need to chunter from your seat. These corrupt regimes are under the British flag. We have seen in the Paradise papers how companies such as Appleby—I call them crooked Appleby—advertise themselves as respectable offshore sector companies. However, they are now suing The Guardian for telling the truth that six of their 10 offices are located in overseas territories and are involved in money laundering, and what will the Bill do to help people? Not enough.

We might hear from Government Members that we cannot do much on these issues, but a raft of people from overseas territories have written to me, begging us to take action, saying that they see no benefits in the territories for people on the ground from this tax evasion. It does not benefit our overseas territories. It benefits a small, super-elite and if we do not take action on enforcement in our overseas territories, who will? The Bill must go further. If it does not, we must ensure that amendments are forced in Committee and on the Floor of the House because there is cross-party support for ensuring that brand Britain stays clean and that we kick out the dodgy dark money from our country and our overseas territories. ​

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Labour and Co-operative Member of
Parliament for Kemptown and Peacehaven

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