Strengthen bribery bill, MPs say

By Gabriel Huntley

Fully tackling corruption will need a much stronger bribery bill than the one currently proposed by government, MPs and peers have warned.

The draft bribery bill, currently undergoing scrutiny before it is formally introduced to parliament, aims to repeal archaic and unclear laws and replace them with new offences to prevent bribery both in the UK and abroad.

Having been published by the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) in March it has since been under consideration by a joint committee of MPs and Lords.

Elements of the bill were praised by the committee, including the new offence targeting businesses which fail to prevent bribes paid on their behalf, although it criticised the bill’s emphasis on individual negligence.

In such cases, the committee called for the offence to be strengthened by making companies liable for collective failure if bribes are paid by others on their behalf.

The committee endorsed the bill’s measures to tackle corruption internationally such as introducing a new, discrete offence of bribing foreign officials.

On the issue of parliamentary standards, the committee called for the clause of the bill dealing with parliamentary proceedings to be removed and included as part of more comprehensive legislation dealing with the issues raised by the expenses crisis.

Viscount Colville, chair of the joint committee, said: “While the draft bill is not a cure for the many challenges of corruption both within the United Kingdom and in relation to international business, we believe that, with some key changes that we recommend, it is an essential step forward that should create an improved platform for the government and the business community to build upon the increasing global commitment to tackle bribery.

“The government must now focus on the need for rigorous enforcement including the resources this will require. Given the scale of the problem and what is as stake, this is an investment that is well worth making.”