ANTI-CORRUPTION campaigners have welcomed Government plans to
create a public register listing who owns every company in the UK.
Charities, including Christian Aid and Tearfund, said that the move
would help crack down on tax avoidance and money laundering.
Announcing the decision on Thursday, David Cameron told the Open
Government Partnership summit in London that some firms had hidden
their dealings in a "complex web of shell companies" for too
"This cloak of secrecy has fuelled all manner of questionable
practice and downright illegality," he said.
Making a register of company
ownership open to the public was a key demand of anti-corruption
campaigners at the G8 meeting in Northern Ireland earlier this year
14 June, 21
The former Archbishop of
Canterbury Lord Williams, who chairs Christian Aid, said in a
statement: "Today's announcement of a public register of who really
owns UK companies shows the Government has genuinely listened to
the arguments about the powerful benefits of transparency.
"Getting this information about
who owns what out into the open could strike a powerful blow
against corrupt and destructive business practices - it is one more
signpost on the path to an economics of the common good."
Melissa Lawson, who leads
Tearfund's anti-corruption campaign, said that the
register would empower the poor to hold governments and businesses
to account. "At last, people will have clear information about what
London-listed extractive companies pay to foreign governments.
"This means poor communities -
often exploited by their own governments and unscrupulous
businesses - will know what is paid and be able to ask the right
questions of their MPs and officials about how that money is
All eight nations at the G8
summit in June signed the Lough Erne Declaration, committing
themselves to working together to combat tax evasion. One of the
specific pledges in the declaration was to declare the
ownership of corporations and firms.
The Archbishop of Wales, Dr
Barry Morgan, backed the Christian Aid campaign earlier this month.
"No one likes paying taxes, but they are the bedrock of a fairer
and more equal society, both here in Wales and in developing
countries," he said. "Tax dodging, particularly through the set-up
of phantom companies, drives poverty and injustice."
After receiving a petition from Christian Aid on Wednesday, the
Business Secretary, Vince Cable said: "Sunlight is the best
disinfectant, preventing companies from being misused for tax
evasion, money laundering and corruption."