Second reading of Bribery Bill in Commons

04 March 2010

Justice Secretary, Jack Straw, introduced the second reading of the Bribery Bill in the Commons. It passed without a vote and now goes to a Public Bill Committee for further consideration. It has already passed all its stages in the House of Lords.

The Bill

The Bill provides a modern and comprehensive scheme of bribery offences so prosecutors and courts can deal effectively with bribery in the UK and abroad.

The UK government has been under pressure to reform its bribery laws for a considerable time. Pressure has come from international organisations such as the OECD and non-governmental organisations.

This is not because the UK is seen as an especially corrupt country but because of its poor record in prosecuting offences. Until 2009 there had not been a single case of a British company being convicted of bribery offences.

The current Bill followed consideration of a draft Bill in March 2009. Various changes were made when the Bill was introduced into the Lords in November 2009.

Key areas

  • replaces old and fragmented laws with a modern and consolidated bribery law, based on the recommendations of the Law Commission
  • creates offences of offering, promising or giving of a bribe and requesting, agreeing to receive or accepting of a bribe either in the UK or abroad, in the public or private sectors
  • creates an offence of bribery of a foreign public official in order to obtain or retain business
  • creates a new offence in relation to commercial organisations which fail to prevent a bribe being paid by those who perform services for or on behalf of the organisation. It will, however, be a defence if an organisation has adequate procedures in place to prevent bribery.

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