by Urs Geiser, swissinfo.ch
June 19, 2013 – 17:42
Parliament has thrown out a draft law enabling Swiss banks to hand over confidential data to the United States for cracking down on suspected tax cheats. However, it called on the cabinet to find legal means to resolve the standoff. For the second time in as many days, the House of Representatives on Wednesday rejected a government-sponsored bill which would have paved the way for the Swiss banks suspected of helping wealthy Americans evade taxes to take part in a US programme to come clean with their past.
An alliance of the rightwing Swiss People’s Party, the centre-right Radical Party and most of the centre-left Social Democrats won the upper hand with 123 votes against 63; votes in support of the legislation came mainly from centrist parties led by the Christian Democrats.
Opponents of the bill argued that not enough was known about the consequences of the law and that the deal could set a precedent for other countries waiting to put pressure on Switzerland.
They said it was up to the banks and the cabinet to act and accused the cabinet and supporters of alarmism over the possible impact of a rejection of the bill.
“Parliament must not act without full knowledge of the proposed deal and under pressure,” said Social Democrat Susanne Leutenegger Oberholzer.
Supporters of the bill again warned of unforeseeable consequences for the banking industry and the entire Swiss economy if the draft law is rejected.
“It risks destabilising the financial centre and causing legal uncertainty,” said Christian Democratic Senator Konrad Graber.