Speech at the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe on ‘Lessons from the Panama Papers’ on October 12th, 2016
The Panama Papers prove the length some rich individuals and corporations will go to avoid tax, which undermines equality, fair distribution of wealth and the funding of public services in many of our countries and from which we all benefit.
And in an economy which is now global, where many feel as though they are left behind, it is important the international community works together to regulate financial markets and and tax regimes so that at least tax havens are closed down. That is why the London Anti-Corruption Summit held in May this year was an important step to ensure we all work together.
The summit was important because it brought together nations from around the world to expose, punish and drive out corruption.
While Britain, France and the Netherlands have agreed to publish a regular of who really own companies in their territories, a so called register of beneficial ownership, other nations have not. There is therefore a great deal more to do.
But the issue is also about which companies pay what taxes where. That is why multinationals such as Google, Amazon and Starbucks, for example, must pay tax on their profits in the country where their profits are generated. This, in my view, is only fair and equitable.
And it is why the UK accepted an amendment to the government’s latest finance bill which calls for greater corporate transparency under new rules forcing companies to open up their tax affairs to public security. This should be undertaken on a country by country basis.
The financial Action Task Force established by the G7 in 1989 laid down principles that the international community should follow.
Develop domestic co-ordination
Tackle money laundering
Apply preventive means for the financial sector
Establish powers and responsibilities for the competent authorities, for example, law enforcement
Facilitate international co-operation
It’s the final two principles together, transparency through international co-operation, which will lead to confidence in the global economy.
Now is the time, more than ever, for international institutions such as the Council of Europe, and others, to work together so we can expose greed, alleviate poverty, promote opportunity and equality and stamp out corruption, so globalisation can work for all people, at all times in all places around the world.