Press release 14th Mar 2019

Transparency International welcomes House of Lords Bribery Act Report

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14th March 2019, London – Transparency International UK (TI-UK) welcomes the publication of a report by the House of Lords Select Committee on the Bribery Act that confirms the consensus between business, politics, the judiciary and civil society on both the strength and importance of the UK’s flagship anti-corruption legislation.  


Since May of last year a Select Committee of the House of Lords has been considering the effectiveness of the Bribery Act since it came into force in 2011. TI-UK submitted written evidence and Kathryn Higgs, TI-UK’s Director of Business Integrity, appeared as a witness. TI-UK supports the principle conclusion of this inquiry that the Bribery Act is an important and effective piece of legislation and is pleased that it does not include any recommendations that would amount to the weakening of the Act.


The report also states that “[c]ertain sectors seem to be particularly affected by [the Ministry of Justice’s] unclear guidance” to the Act. Transparency International is warning that any future discussions around this Guidance must not be used as a backdoor route to watering down the Act, noting that when the Guidance was formulated in 2010-11 it was subject to intense lobbying in an attempt to weaken the Act.


Robert Barrington, Executive Director of Transparency International UK, said:


“For many years Transparency International pressed for the introduction of a Bribery Act and we are delighted that almost a decade into its existence there is a real consensus amongst industry, politicians, the judiciary and civil society that it has proven to be an effective piece of legislation. As the UK prepares to leave the European Union, look for new export markets and renegotiate trade deals it is more important than ever that British business is conducted fairly and in line with global standards.”


“We have seen more and more businesses understanding the damage that bribery does to their own companies, the markets in which they operate and the lives of ordinary people. But there is still the space to make our anti-bribery framework even stronger and we hope that this report can serve as a stimulus to improve the Bribery Act further; section 13 is clearly open to abuse and needs to be very carefully examined.”


“The Committee is right to point to the success of the ‘failure to prevent bribery’ offence, and this illustrates why there is a pressing need to create a similar offence for other economic crimes like money laundering.”


TI-UK also notes the recommendation to the Intelligence and Security Committee to consider amending or repealing section 13.  S13 provides an unnecessarily wide-ranging exemption for UK intelligence services and armed forces to pay bribes, without adequate oversight.  Military and defence-related bribery takes place in the shadows under the secretive cloak of national security, and any new consideration of this provision should help ensure it is not open to abuse by allowing acts of bribery that are contrary to the intent of the Act.   


The Committee’s call on the Government to reach conclusions on the extension of the failure to prevent offence to other economic crimes is welcome. The Government call for evidence on whether to introduce an offence of failure to prevent economic crime, such as money laundering, closed two years ago but it has not yet published a response.