HC Deb 05 March 1998 vol 307 cc1180-1
3. Mr. Cousins

If she will request the Home Office reviews of the financial services industries of the Isle of Man, Jersey and Guernsey to assess the impact on the UK of legislation on the limited liability of accountants passed by the states of Jersey. [31128]

The Minister for Competition and Consumer Affairs (Mr. Nigel Griffiths)

The Home Office review will be looking into all aspects of financial regulation in the Crown dependencies, including the registration and regulation of companies and other forms of business.

Mr. Cousins

I congratulate the Government and my hon. Friend on at last tackling abuses such as the so-called "Sark lark", whereby someone can pretend to live on Sark and hide a large number of companies and tax liabilities by doing so. However, the issues are complex. For some purposes, the Channel Islands are inside Britain, but outside the European Union. Will my hon. Friend therefore assure the House that we will not legislate on limited liability for accountants before the House has had an opportunity to discuss and debate all those matters and until we have had an assurance that there will be independent regulation of accountants?

Mr. Griffiths

I very much agree. That is important and the business manifesto gives a commitment to ensure that there is a framework of independent regulation of the accountancy profession. Of course, we are considering all suggestions on the best way forward, including those of hon. Members—of course, that will be independent of the Home Office review.

Mr. Gibb

Did the Home Secretary consult the Minister before the reviews were announced? Would it not have been courteous if the Home Secretary or the President of the Board of Trade had consulted and discussed the matter with the Governors of the territories prior to the announcement of the review?

Mr. Griffiths

The review allows people to give their views on what is happening in their dependencies and domestically here. Of course, the Governors of the dependent territories are entitled to make submissions, as are Members of Parliament and anyone else involved. We will welcome such consultation and views.