Robin Walker, Worcester’s MP has welcomed the first international anti-corruption summit being hosted by the UK Prime Minister today and spoken up for UK continuing to play a leading global role.
He has rejected criticism of the Prime Minister for speaking out about corruption in developing countries and praised the wisdom the Afghanistan’s president in comparing problems in his own country today with problems in Eighteenth century England. Robin recently visited Worcester’s Blessed Edward Oldcorne Catholic College to hear from children about their send my friend to school campaign, supporting the UK’s investment in international development and especially the sustainable global development goal of enabling all children to access education. He pointed out in answers to questions that along with investment in schools and teaching materials, action against corruption was crucial for success in this goal and others.
The UK, which led the world in abolishing the slave trade during the nineteenth century, helped to establish the case for international free trade and is the first country to meet its ambition stated before the United Nations of spending 0.7% of GDP on international development, has a proud history of supporting international cooperation against corruption.
David Cameron was the first British Prime Minister to put tax transparency on to the agenda of global forums such as the G7 and G20 and at home to create public registers of beneficial ownership for companies. The Government of Tony Blair launched the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, but failed to sign the UK up to it, creating the unfortunate impression that other countries should not sign up unless they acknowledged they had a problem with corruption. In the last Parliament Robin joined a cross party group of MPs in campaigning for the UK to put right this mistake and through speaking in Parliament and taking part in a BIS Select Committee Inquiry, helped to persuade the UK to sign up.
Most recently the Prime Minister has reached agreement with British Overseas Territories to create central registers of beneficial ownership which will be available to the Inland Revenue and other international tax bodies so that money from corruption cannot be hidden in tax havens. Today he opens the Global Anti-Corruption Summit with leaders from all over the world gathering to see how corruption can be rooted out and development better supported.
In launching the summit today the Prime Minister said:
“The evil of corruption reaches into every corner of the world. It lies at the heart of the most urgent problems we face – from economic uncertainty, to endemic poverty, to the ever-present threat of radicalisation and extremism. A global problem needs a truly global solution. It needs an unprecedented, courageous commitment from world leaders to stand united, to speak into the silence, and to demand change. That is why I am hosting this summit. Today is just the start of a more co-ordinated, ambitious global effort to defeat corruption.”
Justin Greening, Secretary of State for International Development speaking ahead of the summit said
This week is a once-in-a-generation opportunity for developed countries to get their house in order and for developing countries who suffer the most from corruption – and have the most to gain by stamping it out. There is no question that corruption matters wherever you are in the world, whoever you are and whatever field you represent.
That’s why this Anti-Corruption Summit needs to stick – it can’t be a one-off, it has to be the start of a truly global movement to stamp out corruption. Governments need to live up to their promises – and civil society and businesses need to hold governments to account but also commit to learning and adapting from each other.
We won’t eradicate all corruption at the summit tomorrow, but we are taking a crucial step in the journey. And I firmly believe that, with the right global effort, we can turn back the tide of corruption. We owe this to the poorest people in the world – we owe it to ourselves. The world and our global economy can’t afford not to tackle corruption. The world needs to look very different by 2020. Let’s make sure tomorrow’s summit is the crucial step to driving just that.
“I know my constituents feel strongly about the need for greater transparency around the world when it comes to taxes and making sure that the money we invest in development is spent properly. People who work hard and pay their taxes expect others to do the same. It is right that our Government should lead the world in ensuring that what should be paid is. This is just one aspect of what has become a global battle against corruption. Our country has a proud record of international activism when it comes to human rights, development and rooting out corruption. Today’s summit is just the latest stage.”
“Speaking to school pupils recently in Worcester I received the message loudly and clearly that they care about what happens in the rest of the world. Pupils in our local schools understand the benefits of investment in health and education to make the whole world a better place and they can argue passionately about the case for our country – one of the richest in the world – investing a small proportion of its wealth in helping those who are worse off. It is in our national interest to do so from the perspective of security and prosperity but we will only succeed so long as we ensure every penny is properly spent.”
“The Prime Minister has been criticised for acknowledging that there is corruption in some of the countries that we invest in but he is absolutely right to do so. We should speak out against corruption wherever it is found and continue to lead the fight against it. President Ghani is right that no country has been immune for corruption and, having studied British history, I do recognise his criticism of our politics before the Great Reform Act and vital reforms to the civil service that took place in the Nineteenth Century. In the heart of our Parliament in Westminster Hall are plaques that commemorate the trial of Warren Hastings, an early example of Britain tackling accusations of international corruption. Today however Britain is rightly a beacon for best practice when it comes to transparency and rooting out corruption. As our Prime Minister has shown through his leadership on extractive and tax transparency we can continue to lead the way.”
“I am proud to have played a very small part in supporting the UK’s transparency agenda through my campaign on extractive industries transparency but this is just one part of a much larger whole. We must continue to ensure our country is at the forefront of tackling corruption wherever it might be.”
Notes to editors:
For the Prime Minister’s statement on the summit see:
Key announcements on the first morning of the anti-corruption summit include
- For the first time, foreign companies that already hold or want to buy property in the UK will be forced to reveal who really owns them.
- 40 jurisdictions, including a number of Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies with major financial centres will automatically share beneficial ownership information.
- The UK will host the first ever International Anti-Corruption Coordination Centre in London to strengthen cross-border investigations.
In other significant milestones announced today:
- France, the Netherlands, Nigeria and Afghanistan will follow the UK’s lead and commit to launch their own public registers of true company ownership, while Australia, New Zealand, Jordan, Indonesia, Ireland and Georgia will agree to take the initial steps towards making similar arrangements. The UK will launch its own fully public register next month – the first G20 country to do so.
- 40 jurisdictions, including a number of Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies with major financial centres have signed up to a ground-breaking international deal to automatically share their beneficial ownership registers with other countries. For the first time, police and law enforcement will be able to see exactly who really owns and controls every company incorporated in these jurisdictions.
- The UK will create the world’s first ever International Anti-Corruption Coordination Centre, hosted in London, in partnership with the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Switzerland, and Interpol. Experts, including from the National Crime Agency, will provide international co-ordination and support to help law enforcement agencies and prosecutors work together across borders to investigate and punish corrupt elites and recover stolen assets.
The International Development Secretary Justine Greening spoke yesterday on how civil society, business and government leaders can tackle corruption together.
President Ghani of Afghanistan has defended the Prime Minister’s comments about corruption in his own country pointing out that Britain itself has suffered from corruption in the past
For Robin’s campaigns on Extractives transparency see:
For his campaigns on tax transparency see: