Sefton Central Labour MP Bill Esterson has backed a bill that could help lift millions out of poverty in developing countries across the world.
The new legislation would require oil, gas and mining companies listed on the London Stock Exchange to publish what they pay to developing countries.
Such transparency would allow people in some of the poorest countries in the world to hold their leaders to account for the billions of pounds of revenues they receive for precious natural resources – money that is often mismanaged or lost to corruption instead of being used for desperately-needed schools, hospitals and other basic services.
The Resource Extraction (Transparency and Reporting) Bill, or ‘Publish What You Pay’ Bill, was tabled by a cross-party group of MPs has been given its first reading in the House of Commons.
Bill Esterson said: “Many of the world’s poorest countries are actually rich in natural resources. For example, in oil-rich Equatorial Guinea, GDP per head is $30,000, similar to that in Italy or Spain, but most of the population still live on less than one dollar a day.
“I am pleased to support this bill which could help to eradicate the corruption that has blighted some mineral rich states and improve the lives of millions of people in the developing world.”
The bill would build on a new US law, passed in July 2010, which requires all oil, mining and gas companies registered with the US stock exchange to report their payments to foreign governments on a country-by-country, and a project-by-project basis. The Hong Kong stock exchange also recently introduced similar rules.
Anas Sarwar MP, who sits on the International Development Select Committee, said: “I’m delighted that Bill Esterson is backing this bill which could help lift millions of people out of poverty in developing countries.
“I want to see the vast sums of money made through natural resource extraction in developing countries put to effective use for the public good.
“Bill Esterson's backing brings this dream one step closer to reality.”
The bill is being championed by the Publish What You Pay campaign, a network of over 600 civil society organisations all over the world campaigning for oil and mining transparency. This huge network in resource-rich but poor countries is ready to use this information and hold their governments to account.
Faith Nwadishi of Publish What You Pay Nigeria said: "This transparency law would give us the hard data we need to demand investment in services like health and education from our governments, rather than seeing the revenues from our valuable natural resources lost to corruption and mismanagement.
Gavin Hayman, Campaigns Director at Global Witness and member of the Publish What You Pay campaign said: “Support from the UK Government is vital as the London Stock Exchange is one of the largest and most important financial markets in the world, where more than a trillion pounds worth of oil, gas and mining shares are listed."