Bribery Act: No more delays!

6 April 2011

Earlier this year, CAFOD supporters lobbied their MPs on the UK Bribery Act, which faced long delays and fears of dilution as a result of intense corporate lobbying of government.

Now, after months of delay, the government has revealed the Act will finally come into force in July this year – a major triumph in the fight against bribery and corruption and their devastating effects on the world’s poorest people.

On 30 March, UK Justice Secretary Kenneth Clarke published guidance to accompany the new law. The report lays out in some detail what exactly will be classed as ‘bribery’ and the ways in which a company can defend itself against bribery allegations. Now that the guidance has been made public, the Act itself – passed last April with cross-party support – can finally be implemented on 1 July 2011.

Who is held to account?

There are still concerns. The government has not yet announced how the Bribery Act will be enforced. There is also an issue over which companies can be held to account under the new UK legislation and whether the government will commit enough money to make sure the law can be enforced according to the spirit of the Act. But for the first time in UK law, a corporate offence will come into force for failure to prevent bribery that could result in unlimited fines. This means UK companies will face prosecution if employees or others acting on their behalf are found to have engaged in bribery anywhere in the world: a major step forward in the fight against corruption.

Our verdict

CAFOD’s Corruption Analyst Karen Luyckx said: “While Ken Clarke has wasted time dealing with the business lobby’s unfounded fears that they will be hauled over the coals for corporate hospitality, some communities in the poorest countries are suffering because some unscrupulous international companies feed bribes into local government systems.

“The government has yet to prove its anti-corruption credentials and it must now ensure that enforcement of this excellent piece of legislation remains true to the spirit of the Act. There must not be room for potentially misleading interpretations by the Ministry of Justice to create loopholes for companies to exploit.”

While these concerns will be addressed in the weeks ahead, CAFOD’s Government and Parliamentary Relations Coordinator, Dominic Goggins, welcomed the news and praised the role of CAFOD’s MP Correspondents. He said:

“It is a testament to the impact CAFOD’s MP Correspondents can have that the government published the guidance in the face of so much pressure from big business. This issue has been on the agenda in the House of Commons for weeks because MP Correspondents used their power as constituents and called on the government to implement the Act. Without their voice, it would have been a lot easier for the government to bury this legislation.”

For help and support on using your power and passion to challenge the systems that keep people in poverty become an MP Correspondent with CAFOD today.

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