Ministry of Justice
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New laws to aid global fight against bribery

The UK will further cement its reputation as one of the least corrupt countries in the world with new laws that will enable courts to tackle bribery at home and abroad more effectively, said Justice Secretary, Jack Straw.

The Bribery Bill, introduced into Parliament yesterday, will ensure the UK is at the forefront of the battle against bribery and pave the way for fairer practice by encouraging businesses to adopt anti-bribery safeguards.

Justice Secretary and anti-corruption champion Jack Straw said:

'Bribery eats away at the heart of both business and public life and has no place in British commerce. It blights free and fair competition and adds to the cost of doing business. It is particularly harmful to trade and development in the fragile economies of the developing world.
'It is important that in this age of international commerce that our law gives the prosecuting authorities the tools they need to deal with bribery swiftly and effectively in the UK and abroad.

'Modernisation of the law is a priority in order to deal with those who offer or accept bribes, and to reinforce transparency and accountability in international business.'

The proposed Bill will: 

  • Make it a criminal offence to give, promise or offer a bribe and to request, agree to receive or accept a bribe either at home or abroad. The measures cover bribery of a foreign public official.
  • Increase the maximum penalty for bribery from seven to 10 years’ imprisonment, with an unlimited fine.
  • Introduce a corporate offence of failure to prevent bribery by persons working on behalf of a business. A business can avoid conviction if it can show that it has adequate procedures in place to prevent bribery.

These new laws, which modernise and simplify existing legislation, play an important part in the UK’s contribution to the global fight against bribery. They build on a new government strategy to fight foreign bribery which will be published at the end of the year.

Minister for Trade, Investment and Small Business Lord Davies said:

'Bribery distorts competition and has no place in British business. This Bill will ensure that responsible companies are not undercut by unscrupulous competitors.'

Richard Alderman, Director of the Serious Fraud Office said:

'We welcome the positive role the Bill will have in creating an ethical business culture. The removal of the negligence test will make the law clearer for everyone. The Serious Fraud Office looks forward to contributing directly to a common ethical culture for all corporations, large or small, by working with them to improve their procedures.'

The government response to the joint committee review of the Draft Bribery Bill was published last week.

Notes to editors

  1. Copies of the Bribery Bill are available.
  2. The Bribery Bill will replace offences in common law and the Prevention of Corruption Acts 1889-1916.
  3. The Bill was introduced into Parliament on November 19.
  4. The UK is recognised as one of the least corrupt countries in the world – 17th in the world and 3rd of G8 countries according to Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index 2009.
  5. The government's Bribery Bill builds on a solid foundation of international anti-corruption work established through annual Anti-Corruption Action Plans in 2006/07 and 2007/08. This includes the establishment of the City of London Police's dedicated Overseas Anti-Corruption Unit which led to the first UK conviction for foreign bribery last September. The Serious Fraud Office was also granted new civil asset recovery powers in April 2008, leading to a multi-million pound fine of a UK construction firm last October for inaccurate accounting of payments by one of their overseas subsidiaries.
  6. For further information or to request an interview with a Minister, please contact the Ministry of Justice Newsdesk on 020 3334 3536.

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