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Bribery Act 2010

Volume 526: debated on Tuesday 29 March 2011

11. What discussions he has had with representatives of the Serious Fraud Office on his proposed guidance in respect of the Bribery Act 2010. (49331)

The Serious Fraud Office has been fully involved in the preparation of the guidance under section 9 of the Act about commercial organisations preventing bribery, as indeed has the Crown Prosecution Service.

I thank the Secretary of State for his reply. He will be aware that the continued delay in the publication of the guidance is causing considerable confusion and concern within the business community. Can he give me assurances that the guidance will be consistent with that for other OECD countries and that it will be published and issued quickly?

I am as committed to the Act as anyone else. The UK should remain at the forefront of the fight against corruption and bribery internationally. The delay, as the hon. Gentleman calls it, has been the result of consultation to ensure that legitimate business is not faced with additional costs and burdens that are not necessary for the implementation of the Act. We will announce the results of our consultation and information on when we will implement the Act very shortly.

The United States has expressed concern about guidance watering down the Bribery Act. The OECD is concerned that Britain will be weak on corruption. Business is rightly worried about London’s reputation, as shown by the letter from investment fund managers in today’s Financial Times. Even the Ministry of Justice must be concerned, as it still has on its website an announcement that my right hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn (Mr Straw) is the anti-corruption champion. With the head of the Serious Fraud Office warning about weak guidance, will the Secretary of State now wake up to the seriousness of the issue and, with the eyes of the world on him, draw up robust guidance that protects Britain’s reputation and British business?

I have been in touch with the United States Attorney-General and with Angel Gurría, the secretary-general of the OECD, and reassured them that Britain’s commitment to the anti-corruption drive internationally is not remotely in doubt. I am happy to join the right hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr Straw), as his successor as a champion against corruption. We are introducing the Act in a way that will enable us to modernise the law and catch corruption without putting burdens and costs on legitimate businesses, which are easily frightened by some sections of the compliance industry into believing that millions of pounds need to be spent on complying with it and that perfectly ordinary hospitality has to be banned. It has other fears that we hope to be able to dispel.