The Government has published its guidance on the new Bribery Act.
The Act is due to come into force on 1 July and will be implemented in what Justice Secretary, Kenneth Clarke described as a workable and common sense way.
Addressing concerns that the legislation will impose additional costs and burdens on businesses, 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.”
The guidance sets out six principles that underpin the anti-corruption terms of the Act. These are proportionate procedures, top-level commitment, risk assessment, due diligence, communication, and monitoring and review.
Worries had been raised over the legality of corporate hospitality under the Act. In particular whether business owners could fall foul of the new laws simply by entertaining their clients.
Many business owners were also concerned that they may have had to put time-consuming internal procedures in place just to comply with the new legislation and guard against prosecution, irrespective of the nature of their business.
However, the new guidance for businesses states that these concerns are unfounded.
It explains that normal methods of entertaining clients will not be outlawed and SMEs only need to introduce new processes if they believe they are at high risk of exposure to bribery. An example is if they carry out overseas work in countries with a known culture of corruption.
Mr Clarke added: “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.”
Vince Cable, Secretary of State for Business, commented: “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 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.”
The guidance can be found at http://www.justice.gov.uk/guidance/bribery.htm