Belfast Telegraph

New anti-bribery laws in force by the summer

By Alan Jones

The Government has finalised plans to update century-old bribery laws saying it would reinforce the UK's reputation as a world leader in the fight against corruption.

Justice Secretary Kenneth Clarke announced that the Bribery Act will come into force on July 1, allowing the UK to clamp down on corruption but without being a burden on business.

He said he had listened to business groups to make sure the legislation was implemented in a "workable, common sense" way.

He said: "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 act."

The Government said it did not intend that "genuine hospitality" or similar business expenditure that was reasonable would be caught by the act.

Business Secretary Vince Cable said regulatory burdens were being minimised and firms were being given time to prepare.

Mr Clarke said: "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."

Mr Cable 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 guide for small and medium-sized companies 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."

John Smart, partner in fraud investigation and dispute services at Ernst -amp; Young, said: "The revised guidance sets the right tone and provides clarifications and examples which will be welcomed by the business community. The guidance has been extensively reworked and more detail provided on many of the areas of sensitivity and ambiguity that gave rise to so much critical comment."