CAFOD today welcomed the UK government’s commitment to make data public on who ultimately controls and benefits from companies.
Prime Minister David Cameron made the announcement at the Open Government Partnership Summit in London, attended by delegates from CAFOD, following pressure from us and other transparency campaigners.
Making information on 'beneficial ownership' publicly available will be an important tool to improve corporate transparency and reduce the risk of corruption. It sets a valuable precedent for civil society and governments in developing countries in their efforts to ensure that company operations do no harm and contribute to local development and poverty reduction.
At the G8 Summit in June, the UK government committed to create a central register of company ownership, and after public consultation with CAFOD and other agencies, it has gone further by committing to make the information public.
CAFOD’s Director, Chris Bain, said:
“This is a very welcome announcement; it is both the right thing to do as it will support the global fight against money laundering and tax evasion, and also shows that the government has listened to public opinion. Above all it will be vital for our international partners in their fight to prevent resources intended for poverty eradication being siphoned off.”
We will continue to press the Government to include Trusts in the Register, as well as the UK’s Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies, such as the British Virgin Islands, where many anonymous companies are registered. And to truly combat illicit financial flows, CAFOD and its international partners will continue to urge other key financial centres throughout the European Union and G20 to set up similar registers.
The UK government announced the creation of the public register as one of the flagship commitments of its National Action Plan for the Open Government Partnership, also launched today. CAFOD welcomes the collaborative approach the government has shown in developing its plan and the cooperation across different Whitehall departments to make this possible. Many of the commitments in the Action Plan such as a government anti-corruption strategy, greater transparency in natural resources and in aid flows are also significant steps in the right direction.
That is all the more reason why CAFOD is urging the Government to re-think the current Lobbying Bill, which moves in the opposite direction by threatening to reduce democratic participation of many groups around elections and fails to introduce a comprehensive register of lobbyists. With the threat of the Lobbying Bill still looming, CAFOD believes there is still some way to go if this administration wants to live up to its aim of being ‘the most transparent government in the world.’