The Bribery Act’s introduction has once again been delayed over concerns it would prevent UK multinationals winning business abroad.
The legislation will not now come into force in April as planned, but will be put on hold while the Government rewrites guidance for businesses on how to comply with the 2010 law — one of Labour’s last in office. Under the Act, companies with any British interest face unlimited fines if they cannot show they have made “adequate procedures” to prevent bribery.
While The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) has not indicated when new guidance will be published, Justice Secretary Kenneth Clarke has made it clear that three months must pass between the publication of guidance and the implementation of the Bribery Act.
The legislation creates four offences: the paying and or the receipt of bribes, the bribing of a foreign government official and, most controversially, failing to prevent bribes being paid by a local contractor.
“We are working on the guidance to make it practical and comprehensive for business,” said a spokesman for the MoJ. “When the guidance is published it will be followed by a three-month notice period before implementation of the Bribery Act.”
John Cridland, new head of the Confederation of British Industry, said uncertainty over the act’s scope would hamper government plans to boost much-needed exports. “Exporters won’t be able to hoover up the demand in developing countries, like Asia, if the new bribery act prevents them from knowing which side of the law they stand,” Cridland told BBC radio.