Lord Chidgey’s full contribution:
My Lords, I would like to speak to the anti-money laundering issues raised in the Queen’s Speech. I begin by mentioning the Government’s recent anti-corruption summit, which was welcome, if belated. Noble Lords may recall that some years ago, with the help of Transparency International UK, I introduced a Bribery Bill to the House. Although generally welcomed, it failed to progress in the other place. In the next Parliament, however, lo and behold, it reappeared as a government Bill, passing into law in 2010 and generally proving a major success. As a member of the advisory board of TI-UK, I want to place on record my congratulations to Robert Barrington, director of TI-UK, and his team on their work over the past 20 years. At the end of the anti-corruption summit, it was heartening to see, as the Prime Minister said in his final speech, an idea whose time has come. To quote Robert Barrington:
“Well, TI started 20 years ago, so it’s certainly good to see realisation dawn”.
The communique at the end of the summit confirmed that several countries had signed up to public registers of beneficial ownership. Yet there is still a whole raft of UK overseas territories and dependencies that have yet to agree to make registers of beneficial ownership open to public scrutiny.
The Government have announced a new anti-corruption strategy and support for a wide range of international institutions and initiatives. However, what we now need to hear is the plan of action to end:
“The misuse of companies, other legal entities and legal arrangements, including trusts, to hide the proceeds of corruption”.
How can we be taken seriously when the City of London is considered by many to be the money laundering capital of the world? London is the destination of choice, for example, for billions of dollars whisked out of the Crimea and the proceeds of the diamond fields of Zimbabwe and the bauxite mines of Guinea.
I turn to the second issue that I would like to raise, and another area that is perhaps more complex. It concerns the soon-to-be-realised economic partnership agreements between African nations and the European Commission—the trading agreements between developed Europe and developing Africa. The noble Lord, Lord Bridges of Headley, may not be able to answer my comments at the end of this debate, but we can and we will return to them.
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