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Volume 494: debated on Thursday 18 June 2009

The Government introduced a draft Bribery Bill on 25 March this year, which built on a report published by the Law Commission last November. The Bill is currently being considered by a Joint Committee, which will report next month. My noble and learned Friend the Attorney-General will appear before the Committee on 25 June.

Does the Solicitor-General share my concern that the Bill makes negligently failing to prevent bribery an offence? As I understand it, that means that, for the first time, an omission can be prosecuted. Does she not agree that that will have a profound impact on English law?

I do not think that it is an entirely new principle. This is not about omission; it is about negligently failing to take steps to prevent bribery. There are businesses that are in pole position to see when bribery is going on, and if they choose to turn away, or if they do not have sufficient procedures in place to prevent it, it is probably a poor response to say that they have a valid defence. Of course they should be under an obligation to prevent bribery from damaging themselves and others, and they should be punished if they do not do so.