Hidden inside the Queen’s Speech last Wednesday was an announcement that the “Small business, Enterprise and Employment Bill” will include new measures to create a public register of the beneficial ownership of companies. Which basically means anyone will be able to find out who owns, controls or benefits from a particular UK-registered company.
This is fantastic news, and something ONE members across Europe have been calling for as part of our phantom firms campaign.
Developing countries lost more than half a trillion pounds through illicit financial flows in 2010. And according to research by the World Bank, 70% of large corruption deals have been found to involve anonymous shell companies, or phantom firms. This disappearing money could instead be invested in life saving health care, education, infrastructure or other poverty-busting projects.
So the announcement in the Queen’s Speech is really significant. The Bill will be the first of its kind from a major G7 country and demonstrates the UK’s continued global leadership on this issue. More than 11,000 people in the UK (and 50,00 across Europe) signed our petition asking their leaders to make this happen and more than 100 ONE members also wrote personal letters and emails to Secretary of State Vince Cable about why it mattered to them.
Tackling phantom firms and illicit financial flows will require a global response. Other G7 leaders must keep the commitments they made at the G8 Summit last year, and EU leaders need to agree similarly robust laws in Brussels.
Meanwhile in the UK, we won’t rest on our laurels. To be truly effective, the new legislation must be also be applied to trusts and other financial vehicles. Without this, criminals could simply switch from using phantom firms to using trusts. We would be closing the door to corruption while leaving a window wide open.
This part of the Queen’s Speech didn’t make news headlines like the 5p plastic bag tax, or £2000 tax -free child care. But this small change in UK policy has the potential to improve the lives of millions of people living in extreme poverty.
Thanks to everyone who has clicked, shared, tweeted, emailed, written and spoken up in support of our phantom firms campaign – you’re all amazing! Help us show others that actions really do speak louder and share this success story.
And make sure you’re part of the continuing campaign – join ONE if you haven’t already.