Financial Services Bill

13th January 2021

Andrew Mitchell outlines his support for economic crime and genocide amendments.

 

Mr Andrew Mitchell (Sutton Coldfield) (Con)

I draw the House’s attention to my entry in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests. I rise to say just a few words about new clause 4 and amendment 7, both of which I support. New clause 4, on the facilitation of economic crime, has been ably tabled by the right hon. Member for Barking (Dame Margaret Hodge), who, together with me and many others across the House, has sought to drive forward this agenda. The agenda is driven forward by the Bill, which has been so ably handled by my hon. Friend the Minister. It goes with the grain of Government policy and builds on the changes already achieved. I do not think that the House should be divided on it today, but we should send a signal to the Government about the importance of pursuing this agenda.
 
We have, as I said, achieved considerable change. The right hon. Member for Barking and I managed to persuade the Government to introduce open registers of beneficial ownership, both for the overseas territories and now for the Crown dependencies. The Foreign Office was not in favour of that at the time, but it now strongly supports it, so progress can be made. We are building on the excellent G8, where these matters were first championed by David Cameron as Prime Minister, and also on the recent US legislation. The evidence of the Paradise and Panama papers showed without any doubt the sophistication of financial advisers and the fact that there is an inequality of arms in so much of this. They are ahead of the financial enforcement authorities, and we need to be aware of that. The Bill helps, but new clause 4 would drive the matter further forward in clamping down on the facilitation of economic crime. I hope that the Minister will send a clear message on that when he sums up. I would also say to him that the reforms to Companies House led the world, but the trouble is that Companies House has become a sort of library, rather than an investigator. What it needs is more resources, and I very much hope that he will make the point across Government that Companies House with more resources would be an extremely valuable tool in the fight against economic crime.
 
Amendment 7—the genocide clause, as it were—has been tabled so ably by my right hon. Friend the Member for Chingford and Woodford Green (Sir Iain Duncan Smith). He makes the point that money cannot somehow be divorced from its provenance. We have had much focus on money laundering, on dirty money and on money stolen by corrupt dictators from Africa, by business people and by warlords. Shining the light of transparency on this is incredibly important, and this is a good amendment because it underlines our abhorrence of genocide. I have worked with much pleasure with the hon. Member for Bethnal Green and Bow (Rushanara Ali) on what the UN Committee that visited Burma and Bangladesh referred to as the genocidal activities over the Rohingya, and with my right hon. Friend the Member for Chingford and Woodford Green on the human rights abuses in China. The House is right to take a very strong line on the issue of genocide. If global Britain means anything, it is driven by values. These values matter, and when regimes such as the Saudis, for example, butcher journalists in foreign consulates or imprison women campaigning for human rights, we should speak out.
 
5.15pm
 
However, I have to tell the House that we have questions to answer here in the UK on the issue of genocide. There are today five alleged perpetrators of genocide living freely in the UK, one of whom was involved in the terrible genocidal massacre at Murambi. They have been caught up in the British legal system now for 13 years—lost in an ineffective legal system, with huge legal costs and huge benefit claimant costs to the taxpayer.
 
I hope very much that my hon. Friend on the Front Bench will make it clear that, when the genocide debate takes place later this month, we expect the Minister to say from the Dispatch Box what Britain is doing to ensure that these five alleged perpetrators are brought to justice.