Anas Sarwar MP guest blogs for UN Anti-Corruption Day

Anas Sarwar MPPhoto: parliament.uk

Anas Sarwar MP
Photo: parliament.uk

This is a guest blog by Anas Sarwar MP.  Anas Sarwar is the Member of Parliament for Glasgow Central, Deputy Leader of the Scottish Labour Party, and Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Anti-Corruption. 

UN International Anti-Corruption Day 2012 took place over the weekend. This might not sound like news at all. Another dedicated day, another interest piece on a daytime news show or a nod in a national paper.

But I’d disagree.

With Government plans to cut benefits further and faster and squeeze our much-needed public services even tighter, it is crucial that we step up the battle against corruption, at home and abroad.

2013 will be a landmark year. The UK will take over the presidency of the G8 while also co-chairing the Open Government Partnership and taking forward the encouraging advances in tackling corruption that we have seen in recent months.

In August, the US Securities and Exchange Commission made the important decision to pass the Dodd-Frank Act, which would ensure that oil, gas and mining companies publish what they pay for the natural resources they extract from developing countries, resources worth over seven times the amount to countries like Nigeria, the Democratic of the Congo and Tanzania, than they receive in overseas aid. This is something I campaigned for in the UK with the introduction of my 10 Minute Rule Bill entitled Resource Extraction (Transparency & Reporting).  I am delighted that in Europe, the EU Accounting and Transparency Directives are in the process of being agreed. Coupled with the US legislation, this would cover two thirds of the world’s extractive industry companies and pave the way for a global standard.

My colleague, Arlene McCarthy MEP, has been tireless in fighting for robust Directives in her role as rapporteur, and there is cross party support for the legislation, with the UK Government taking a strong approach to the negotiations. It now falls to Business Minister, Jo Swinson, and her colleagues in the Treasury to ensure that the final legislation does not allow for exemptions of any kind for any company, and that there is a definition of a mining ‘project’ that is linked to its legal contract, so that published information is meaningful, relevant and usable by citizens in that country.

Back home, the passing of the UK Bribery Act has been welcomed by parliamentarians of all parties and in both Houses. A landmark piece of legislation, the Act reforms criminal law and provides a comprehensive scheme of bribery offences, bringing the UK in line with its international commitments.

Nevertheless, I have concerns for the Act, which does not extend to prosecute legal persons incorporated in our Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies. In short, this means that companies incorporated in these locations, but which do not carry out business in the UK, could be used to commit foreign bribery without being subject to prosecution in the UK.

With 802,850 companies registered in the British Virgin Islands alone in 2007, it is clear that the Government should prioritise the fight against corruption and extend the Act to these territories. They also need to ensure sufficient resources for the Serious Fraud Office to implement the Act at home.

Finally, the Government’s Anti-Corruption Champion, Ken Clarke, must set out a clear and ambitious Whitehall anti-corruption strategy. The officers of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Anti-Corruption have written to the Prime Minister asking him to clarify Mr Clarke’s role and urging him to get the ball rolling on a prescriptive and effective strategy.

The issue of corruption comes down to fairness. Is it fair that US$160 billion a year is being denied from developing countries thanks to a number of ruthless multinational companies using tax havens to dodge tax? And is it fair that although exports of oil and minerals from Africa were estimated at $333 billion in 2010, 63% of the population of Sierra Leone continue to live in extreme poverty?

These are some of the issues I am hoping to raise with the Government during today’s Westminster Hall debate to mark UN Anti-Corruption Day.

Trackbacks

  1. […] MP, Co-Chair of the Anti-Corruption APPG wrote a ‘guest blog’ for Tearfund’s Just Policy Blog which was also posted on […]

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