“Corruption threatens our national security, economic prosperity and international reputation. It is often the root cause of international instability and conflict.” So ran the opening lines to the 2014 Government’s “UK Anti-Corruption Plan”.
Since then various promises have been made that legislation would be introduced by David Cameron and Boris Johnson, but they have been put on the back burner (we can all speculate why this might be).
Worse, on January 26 the Guardian revealed that Boris Johnson intended to kill off the bill, as revealed by Lord Agnew’s resignation:
“The government was forced to deny claims that it had scrapped a crucial economic crime bill on Wednesday, as MPs from across the house rounded on ministers for failing to tackle the UK capital’s “Londongrad” reputation as a money-laundering hub used by Russian oligarchs, criminals and kleptocrats.
The scathing comments in the House of Commons follow the shock resignation of junior minster Lord Agnew on Monday, who revealed in his departing letter that the government had only last week made a “foolish” decision to kill off the bill during the next parliamentary year.”
It must be to the everlasting shame of the Conservative Party that it has taken this unbearably tragic invasion of Ukraine to get them to finally acknowledge that “Corruption threatens our national security, economic prosperity and international reputation. It is often the root cause of international instability and conflict.”
In other words to wake up and look at who they are sharing their beds with.
On Monday the bill was voted through the Commons in a single day.
Amongst other things the bill allows persons of interest a six month “grace period” to register ownership of luxury properties in the UK. The original, hastily prepared bill, proposed an 18 month period.
Because this reduction to six months is now already an amendment to the tabled bill, no further amendment to slash this further was allowed by the speaker. Many think 28 days is more than sufficient for registering legitimate ownership. Leave it too long and all the property will likely have been sold and the proceeds sent to a tax haven. What Keir Starmer has described as a “get out of jail free card”.
Despite that, our two local MPs, along with most, but not all, of their Tory chums voted against three other amendments, aimed at toughening up the bill and ensuring enforcement agencies are adequately funded.
Owl singles out the first and third of these amendments because they are reasonably self explanatory.
So here is what Neil Parish and Simon Jupp voted against:
New Clause 2 – Report on funding of enforcement agencies (Dame Margaret Hodge)
“Within 28 days of this Act being passed, the Secretary of State must publish and lay before Parliament a report on the funding of enforcement agencies in connection with the provisions of Part 2 of this Act.”—(Dame Margaret Hodge.)
This new clause would require the Secretary of State to publish and lay before Parliament a report on the funding of enforcement agencies in connection with the reforms to unexplained wealth orders, as provided for in Part 2 of the Bill.
Question put, That the clause be added to the Bill. Voted no (division #206; result was 230 aye, 303 no)
New Clause 29 – Asset freezing in respect of individuals considered for sanctions (Mr David Davis)
“(1) Not later than 28 days from when Part 1 of this Act comes into force, the Secretary of State must publish draft legislation for the purpose of making further reforms to Companies House, including to support the effective functioning of the register of overseas entities.
(2) The draft legislation must include—
(a) new powers for the registrar to aid the verification of foreign entities applying for registration as set out in section 4 of this Act;
(b) new powers for the registrar to better share data with enforcement agencies; and
(c) reforms that will improve the quality and veracity of the information on the register.”—(Jonathan Reynolds.)
This new clause would compel the Secretary of State to publish draft legislation on reforms to Companies House, including reforms that would support the operation of the Act.
Question put, That the clause be added to the Bill.
“(1) The Secretary of State may by notice publish the name of a person being considered as a subject for sanctions.
(2) A person in respect of whom a notice has been published under subsection (1) is immediately subject to the provisions of this section.
(3) A person in respect of whom a notice has been published under subsection (1) is prohibited from—
(a) selling any assets they own or have an interest in,
(b) moving any assets they own or have an interest in out of the United Kingdom, or
(c) moving any of their funds out of the United Kingdom.
(4) ‘Assets’ in subsection (3)(a) or (b) includes (but is not limited to)—
(b) houses, flats or other private accommodation;
(c) commercial, industrial, agricultural and other buildings, premises or property;
(e) personal possessions, works of art, jewellery or collectibles with an individual value of more than £500;
(f) motor vehicles;
(g) yachts or boats; and
(5) ‘Funds’ in subsection (3)(c) means financial assets and economic benefits of any kind, including (but not limited to)—
(a) gold, cash, cheques, claims on money, drafts, money orders and other payment instruments;
(b) deposits with relevant institutions or other persons, balances on accounts, debts and debt obligations;
(c) publicly and privately traded securities and debt instruments, including stocks and shares, certificates representing securities, bonds, notes, warrants, debentures and derivative products;
(d) interest, dividends or other income on or value accruing from or generated by assets;
(e) credit, rights of set-off, guarantees, performance bonds or other financial commitments;
(f) (letters of credit, bills of lading, bills of sale; and
(g) documents providing evidence of an interest in funds or financial resources.
(6) A person who breaches any prohibition under this section commits an offence.
(7) A person who engages in an activity knowing or intending that it will enable or facilitate the commission by another person of an offence under paragraph (6) commits an offence.
(8) A person guilty of an offence under subsection (6) is liable—
(a) on conviction on indictment, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years or to a fine or to both;
(b) on summary conviction—
(i) to imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months; or
(ii) to a fine which in Scotland or Northern Ireland may not exceed the statutory maximum,
or to both.
(9) A person guilty of an offence under subsection (7) is liable on summary conviction—
(a) to imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months; or
(b) to a fine which in Scotland or Northern Ireland may not exceed level 5 on the standard scale,
or to both.”—(Mr David Davis.)
This new clause would prevent individuals whom the Secretary of State has named as being considered as a subject for sanctions from selling their assets or moving funds or assets out of the UK.
Question put, That the clause be added to the Bill.
The Committee proceeded to a Division. Voted no (division #208; result was 234 aye, 297 no)
After all the previous evidence why on earth would anyone rational and not brainwashed expect anything other than Tory MPs voting to water down (or refuse to tighten up) anti-corruption or anti-money laundering legislation.
It is a matter of fact that many Tory MPs (and ministers) are up to their armpits in money of dubious origin. These votes are driven by a wish to protect themselves and their friends AND MANY TORY PARTY DONORS from restrictions that would hamper their ability to invest dubious money wherever they liked.
This is quite possibly THE single most corrupt UK government ever, perhaps even after you consider those during the rotten-borough eras.