Commons Select Treasury Committee. The Labour Party has been in power in the UK since 1997. Since then, it has restricted the freedom of Anguilla and the other Overseas Territories to offer international financial services, even though we are some of the world's leading tax and asset protection havens. For decades before that, British governments promoted these offshore havens, encouraging their growth and expansion. Now, the UK has forced 'reforms' on us. They have made it clear that the intention is to end financial privacy.
They demand total bank and investment account surveillance.
They have made foreign tax evasion a criminal offence.
They have forced disclosure of previously confidential information about true ownership of international business corporations.
They have imposed the EU savings tax directive.
They are insisting that we sign Tax Information Exchange Agreements with the United States.
They have imposed new 'international standards' against money laundering.
They have demanded that our financial systems become more 'transparent'.
We are obliged to cooperate with foreign law enforcement and tax authorities.
Thus was the Labour Government's policies imposed on us without any chance of appeal on our part.
As a result, we have adopted strict anti-money laundering, and know-your customer rules. It makes opening a bank account in Anguilla a nightmare of bureaucracy and technicalities.
Then, in March 2008, the House of Commons Treasury Select Committee published a report on Financial Stability and Transparency. In it, the Committee indicated that it intended to undertake further work into International Financial Centres in the context of their ongoing scrutiny of financial stability and transparency. They would seek to ascertain what risk, if any, such entities pose to financial stability in the UK.
On 30 April of this year, the Committee announced its inquiry into Offshore Financial Centres and invited interested parties to submit written evidence.
All of the submissions can be found here.
Why are the international financial centres under attack again? I am not entirely sure. It seems likely that we are to be collateral damage arising out of the Northern Rock debacle in the UK. The question then must be asked, what, if anything, are we doing to protect our own interests?
Guernsey is one of our sister financial centres. They have come out fighting in their own defence.
Jersey has been quick to respond to the urgent need to meet with the committee to defend Jersey's interests.
I have not heard of any initiative sponsored by either the Anguilla Financial Services Association or the government of Anguilla. The governor's office has not produced a single release on this inquiry. The Ministry of Finance has not made any response. Are they all being too complacent?
Is AFSA even aware of the serious challenges it faces as a result of this inquiry?
Is this another case where we in Anguilla will ignore all that is published, all that is swirling in the air around us, and then complain later that nobody told us anything, and how abused we are by the foreign oppressors?