News & what's on - Written by on Wednesday, July 17, 2013 0:10 - 0 Comments

UK climb down? Minister of Justice rules out watering down Bribery Act

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In recent weeks there has been speculation that the UK government would water down the Bribery Act.  This followed recommendations from the House of Lords Committee for SME’s earlier in the year (which we always thought was junk in and junk out)  and a story in the Financial Times.

In an exchange of correspondence this month between the Bond Group a governance and democracy NGO and Chris Grayling the Minister of Justice firmly scotched any suggestion that the Bribery Act would be watered down.

He said:

“I would like to reassure you that the UK Government is serious about its commitment to tackling corruption.  We have no plans to diminish the role of, what we agree, is world leading legislation.”

Pretty clear.

He went on to confirm that:

“As part of our continuing implementation of the Bribery Act, we want to make sure that businesses, particularly SMEs, properly understand the requirements of the Act and the Ministry of Justice guidance.  I can confirm, however, that there is no intention to relax the application of the Bribery Act.”

The recently announced training initiative of the City of London Police and the BSI around the Bribery Act and compliance squares neatly with this.

SFO out of step?

Interestingly the City of London Police approach contrasts with the SFO’s position.

The (not so new) SFO Director’s view is that the SFO is a prosecutor and not an advisory service for corporates.  He has previously said that in his view there is plenty of guidance out there already and advising those still looking advice should talk to their advisers.

In our view this is a shame, since it seemed to us that both sides gained from the dialogue.

Proof of the pudding

Of course the legislation is one thing.  The real question is what the UK does with it now it has it.  Recent reports indicate that there are plenty of active investigations.  It will be interesting to see what, if anything, the UK law enforcement agencies do in the wake of the highly public allegations involving GSK which have appeared in the media.

The full reply from Chris Grayling, Minister of Justice, below.

Chris Grayling Reply to AC Group_11.07.13

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