Rowan Williams welcomes new measures to reduce tax evasion

Christian Aid chairman Dr Rowan Williams(Photo: Keith Blundy)

The former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Williams has welcomed the Government's decision to create a new public register detailing the owners of around 2.5 million companies. 

The announcement was made by the Government at the London Meeting of the Open Government Partnership on Thursday.

Lord Williams called it a "brave decision", while Christian Aid said it was a breakthrough in the global fight against tax evasion, corruption and financial crime.

The register will help to tackle secretive companies that exist only on paper and are used to launder money and dodge taxes that are often intended for developing countries.

"The challenge now will be to ensure that this policy is delivered effectively and that the poorest people in our world are among those who feel the benefits," said Lord Williams, chairman of Christian Aid.

"Today's announcement of a public register of who really owns of UK companies shows that the Government has genuinely listened to the arguments about the powerful benefits of transparency."

He continued: "Financial secrecy is a form of privacy that works against human dignity. 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."

Christian Aid said the public register would set a "brilliant" example to other countries around the world and encourage them to set up registers of their own. 

Christine Allen, Director of Policy and Public Affairs at Christian Aid, said: "The UK Government should now build on its excellent decision to create a public register by leading efforts to do the same thing at European Union level.

"In addition, it should ensure that the UK's Crown Dependencies and Overseas Territories set up equivalent public registers covering companies registered with them."