Speed up transparency of foreign property ownership, says Mayor
The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has called on the Government to speed up plans for a new public register of the beneficial ownership of overseas companies that own UK property, following a statement from Ministers that its launch is still at least three years away.
According to recent research*, 44 per cent of all the UK properties owned by overseas registered companies are located in London. Sadiq has long believed that the legal and beneficial ownership of companies and other entities that own UK property should be more transparent, TO help prevent offences such as tax evasion, theft and terrorist activities.
The Mayor previously wrote to Rt Hon Greg Clark, Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, in May 2017, welcoming his call for evidence on proposals for a register, and was clear that any such measures must be backed up by effective sanctions for those not complying, In addition, he called for money-laundering checks on the purchasers, as well as vendors, of properties.
In a follow-up letter today, Sadiq underlined his frustration at the Government’s slow progress since the consultation, pointing out that Ministers had first committed to a public register of the beneficial owners – including those living overseas – of UK registered companies in 2013. It then took a further three years to expand this commitment to include foreign companies that own property in the UK, and only last month was it announced that the register would not be operational until 2021.
The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said: “The Government’s slow pace of progress on this issue has been bitterly disappointing. If the proposed timetable slips even slightly, the publication of this much-needed register could easily have taken a decade since a commitment to greater transparency was first made by the Prime Minister at the time. For an issue which is of such importance in London, this is completely unacceptable. I urge the Government to prioritise the publication of draft legislation and ask the Prime Minister to give it full backing in Parliament. Londoners deserve to know the identity of those that own property in their city, and we have waited long enough for Government to fulfil its commitments.”
Rachel Davies Teka, Head of Advocacy at Transparency International UK, said: “Giving the public transparency over the real owners of London’s multi-million pound properties would strike a huge blow against corrupt individuals who view our homes as nothing more than safety deposit boxes to hide their loot. Transparency International has been campaigning for the introduction of this register for over three years and with cross-party support there is no reason for any further delay. Nor should secretive company owners be given additional time to make their own arrangements - they have known this was coming for two years already. The Government should publish draft legislation before Easter, so that a Bill can be put before MPs in the current parliamentary session.”
Notes to editors
*Earlier this month the BBC conducted analysis of Land Registry data on overseas property ownership.