Debates between Lord Faulks and Lord Eatwell during the 2019 Parliament

Mon 11th Sep 2023

Economic Crime and Corporate Transparency Bill

Debate between Lord Faulks and Lord Eatwell
Lord Eatwell Portrait Lord Eatwell (Lab)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I strongly support the amendment from the noble Lord, Lord Agnew. I do this as a former chair of the Jersey Financial Services Commission. In Jersey we made a major effort to increase the transparency of trust information so that beneficial ownership could be accurately identified. One of the inhibitions for cleaning up, if you like, the register in Jersey was the behaviour of the Government in the United Kingdom, and their persistent obfuscation of the way in which trusts were to be treated.

The amendment from the noble Lord, Lord Agnew, contains exactly the process that needs to be dealt with in a consultation. I understand the assurances he may have received and that he may feel it appropriate to withdraw his amendment, but I hope he proves as dogged as we know him to be in pursuing this. I assure him of my continuing support.

Lord Faulks Portrait Lord Faulks (Non-Afl)
- Hansard - -

My Lords, I also support what the noble Lord, Lord Agnew, has said and done. I am very sorry that the Government did not accept the amendment in relation to trusts. It was entirely in keeping with the purpose of the Bill, and more specifically with the purpose of the introduction of the register of overseas entities.

Some of us have been advancing the cause of this register—some would say banging on about it—for some considerable time. I had the privilege of chairing the Joint Committee on a draft Bill. We recommended legislation as soon as possible. Unfortunately, it took the invasion of Ukraine for the Government to incorporate the necessary legislation into the last economic crime Bill.

During the taking of evidence by the committee in 2019, the need to avoid trusts being used to avoid the identification of the true owner of property was specifically brought to our attention. It then became part of our recommendations that the legislation, when it came before your Lordships’ House, should cater for this obvious loophole. The Government ignored the recommendation then and have now resisted the amendment passed by your Lordships’ House.

If there is concern about minors and keeping them ignorant about their status as beneficiaries, this could have been catered for by an appropriate provision. Instead, the Government, against whom the former Lord Chancellor voted in the other place on this issue, have resorted to “financial privilege” as a means of blocking the amendment.

Trust lawyers are going to be very busy, as foreign owners will set about frustrating the purpose of the register and the aspirations that we all share for this and related legislation. I hope the Government bear that in mind.