NEW JOINT COMMITTEE ON THE DRAFT BRIBERY BILL ESTABLISHED
First oral evidence session and call for written evidence announced
The new Committee set up to scrutinise the Draft bribery Bill has today met for the first time and elected Viscount Colville of Culross as Chairman.
The Committee is today calling for evidence to be submitted on the provisions of the draft Bill. The Joint Committee comprises 12 MPs and 12 peers and will take oral and written evidence on the draft Bribery Bill, culminating in a report of recommendations to Parliament and Government, expected by 21st July 2009.
The first evidence on the Draft Bill will be heard this Thursday, May 14th, with Professor Jeremy Horder, Criminal Commissioner of the Law Commission. The session will begin at 10.30 am
The Committee would like to invite written submissions to assist it in its scrutiny of the draft Bill. The areas it will examine include:
The background to the draft Bill, including the reasons for the shift in approach from the current law and the 2003 draft Corruption Bill (Cm 5777, 2003).
The proposed new offences of bribing (clause 1) and being bribed (clause 2), together with the functions that they cover (clause 3), including:
i) Clarity: whether the draft Bill clearly states what types of conduct and behaviour will be punishable as bribery using terms and concepts that will be readily understood and predictably applied by police, prosecutors, jurors, businesses and the public etc.;
ii) Scope: whether the scope of the draft Bill is adequate to capture all the circumstances in which bribery should be deemed to have occurred without capturing conduct that should be considered innocent.
iii) Special cases: whether the offences adequately address special or difficult issues such as facilitation payments, lobbying versus trading in influence, corporate hospitality and commission payments;
The proposed new offence of bribing foreign public officials (clause 4), including:
i) International obligations: the extent to which it ensures compliance with the UK's international obligations, particularly the OECD Convention on Combating Bribery of Foreign Public Officials in International Business Transactions.
ii) Clarity and scope: whether the clarity and scope of the offence is appropriate, including the test of whether an advantage was "legitimately due" under the foreign law applying to the official.
The proposed new offence for commercial organizations that negligently fail to prevent bribery (clause 5), namely:
i) Justification: the evidence of need for regulation in this area;
ii) Impact: the impact on businesses, particularly small businesses, of such regulation, together with the effect on the UK's competitiveness;
iii) Clarity: the clarity and predictability of the offence, including the terms that are used such as "negligence" and "adequate procedures";
Whether the extra-territorial reach of the offences (clauses 5(7) and 7) is appropriate, including the new corporate offence's application to any company or partnership from anywhere in the world that is carrying on business (or part of a business) in the UK.
The benefits and disadvantages of the removal of the requirement for the Attorney-General's consent for prosecution of bribery offences (clause 10), together with the remaining powers of direction that are unaffected by the draft Bill.
The penalties proposed in relation to the new offences.
Whether the exemptions from prosecution proposed for the intelligence services are appropriate and workable.
Whether parliamentary privilege should be narrowed as part of a balance between convicting the corrupt and protecting free speech in Parliament. If so, whether the proposals are workable and otherwise appropriate.
Whether the changes that have been made by the Government to the Law Commission's recent draft Bill (HC 928, November 2008) are appropriate.
Compliance with the Human Rights Act 1998.
Whether there are any specific changes that should be made to improve the draft Bill, together with any other issues that ought to be addressed.
Deadline for submissions
Submissions, which should be original and not copies of papers written for the Government consultation or any other inquiry, must be received by Wednesday 17th June. However, owing to the short timetable the Committee is working to, papers received by the beginning of June are most likely to influence the work of the Committee.
The programme of oral evidence sessions will be announced soon. It will be available, together with the written and oral evidence received, on the website:
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More information on submitting evidence is available online: http://www.parliament.uk/parliamentary_committees/witness.cfm