Press release

UK clamps down on corruption with new Bribery Act

This news article was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

The UK will reinforce its reputation as a leader in the global fight against corruption when the Bribery Act comes into force on July 1, Justice Secretary Kenneth Clarke announced today.

The Act will ensure the UK is at the forefront of the battle against bribery, allowing the country to clamp down on corruption without being burdensome to business.

Guidance on the safeguards businesses can put in place to prevent bribery has been published today, following in-depth consultation with non-governmental organisations and business. This will ensure that everyone - from the multinational to the lone trader - can deal with the threat of bribery simply and effectively.

Justice Secretary, Kenneth Clarke, said:

‘I have listened carefully to business representatives to ensure the Bribery Act is implemented fully and in a workable, commonsense way - this is particularly important for small firms that have limited resources. I hope this guidance shows that combating the risks of bribery is largely about common sense, not burdensome procedures.

‘Without changing the substance of the Act, this guidance should save organisations of all sizes from the fears sometimes aroused by the compliance industry that millions of pounds must be spent on new systems that, in my opinion, no honest business will require in response to the commencement of this Act.

‘Some have asked whether business can afford this legislation - especially at a time of economic recovery. But the choice is a false one. We don’t have to decide between tackling corruption and supporting growth. Addressing bribery is good for business because it creates the conditions for free markets to flourish.’

Vince Cable, Secretary of State for Business said:

‘Bribery has no place in British business, at home or abroad. This new robust law reflects the UK’s leading role in the fight against bribery, updates regulation dating back to 1906 and paves the way for competitive but fair practice.

‘We have listened to the concerns from business. That’s why today we are minimising regulatory burdens and publishing easy-to-understand guidance and a ‘Quick-start’ guide for SMEs three months before the Act will come into force. This will give these businesses time to prepare.

‘Over time we expect the new Act to boost the prospects of UK businesses through enhanced reputation for ethical standards, reduced costs and a level international playing field.’

Dr Adam Marshall, Director of Policy and External Affairs at the British Chambers of Commerce, said:

‘Business needs real clarity and certainty when it comes to implementing the Bribery Act. We are encouraged by the Government’s recent efforts to make the Act clearer, especially for small- and medium-sized companies. The new guidance highlights that common sense, rather than bureaucratic procedures, should lie at the heart of smaller companies’ approach. 

‘We must avoid creating a situation where companies choose not to trade in fast-growing overseas markets because they are afraid it of getting it wrong. Legitimate businesses must be able to operate in foreign markets, engage agents, and entertain potential clients without fear of falling foul of the law. Meanwhile, the full force of the law should be brought to bear on the unscrupulous.’

Stephen Pattison, Director at the International Chamber of Commerce (UK), said:

‘The International Chamber of Commerce has long supported the modernisation of the UK law on bribery. The publication of guidance today, following consultation with business, is a welcome step in providing greater certainty for businesses operating internationally. This additional clarity is particularly welcome in important areas such as corporate hospitality and the treatment of joint ventures.’

The guidance has been published on the website along with easy-to-understand Quick-start guidance for small business, allowing a three-month familiarisation period before the Act commences.

As well as advising on anti-bribery procedures the guidance includes practical case studies on hospitality, facilitation payments and joint ventures.

Notes to editors

  1. View the guidance and Quick Start Guide: Guidance - Bribery
  2. Guidance will be published alongside joint prosecution guidance issued by the Director of the Serious Fraud Office and the Director of Public Prosecutions.
  3. The Bribery Act will:
    • 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.
      • 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.
  4. The Bribery Act received Royal Assent on 8 April 2010.