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Prime Minister's Climbdown On Tax Havens Is Unacceptable

11 April 2016 David Cameron has not gone far enough to counter the abuse of UK tax havens, Christian Aid said today after the Prime Minister announced that most UK Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies will create central registers of companies’ beneficial owners.

“The Prime Minister himself knows that central registers do not solve the problem and that to curb the sort of activities exposed in the Panama Papers, the public, journalists and other businesses must be able to see those registers,” said Toby Quantrill, Principal Adviser on Economic Justice at Christian Aid.

“In announcing a public register of beneficial ownership in the UK, the Prime Minister strongly made the case for it to be public in October 2013. He said:

Now some people will question whether it is right to make this register public. Surely we can get the same effect just by compiling the information and using it within government and sharing it between governments? Now of course, we in government will use this data to pursue those who break the rules, and we’re going to do that relentlessly, but there are also many wider benefits to making this information available to everyone.

It’s better for businesses here, who’ll be better able to identify who really owns the companies they’re trading with. It’s better for developing countries, who’ll have easy access to all this data without having to submit endless requests for each line of inquiry. And it’s better for us all to have an open system which everyone has access to, because the more eyes that look at this information the more accurate it will be.

This is, I believe, a complete world first on transparency and I’m proud that Britain is leading the way. And today I call on the rest of the world to join us on this journey. Together we can make an even bigger difference. And together we can close the door on the shadowy, corrupt, illegal practices once and for all.

Mr Quantrill added: “David Cameron was spot on then and he remains right today. This is not the time for a climbdown – all the more so in the wake of the Panama Papers scandal, which shows all too clearly how secretly-owned companies can be abused.

“We don’t believe he has done enough to ensure UK tax havens create the public registers that he knows are vital. The Prime Minister should now announce the date by which UK Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies will have public registers before or at his Anti-Corruption Summit on May 12th.

“He will have the backing of the vast majority of the British public, who overwhelmingly support greater transparency in UK tax havens, as our poll with Global Witness shows.”

For more information please contact Rachel Baird on rbaird@christian-aid.org  or call the 24-hour press duty phone: 07850 242950.

Notes to editors:

1. Christian Aid works in some of the world's poorest communities in around 40 countries at any one time. We act where there is great need, regardless of religion, helping people to live a full life, free from poverty. We provide urgent, practical and effective assistance in tackling the root causes of poverty as well as its effects.

2. Christian Aid’s core belief is that the world can and must be changed so that poverty is ended: this is what we stand for. Everything we do is about ending poverty and injustice: swiftly, effectively, sustainably. Our strategy document Partnership for Change explains how we set about this task.

3. Christian Aid is a member of ACT Alliance, a global coalition of more than 130 churches and church-related organisations that work together in humanitarian assistance, advocacy and development.

4. Follow Christian Aid's newswire on Twitter

5. For more information about the work of Christian Aid visit http://www.christianaid.org.uk

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