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Government considering relaxing part of Bribery Act 2010

Date: (30 May 2013)    |    

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The government is said to be reconsidering whether to relax part of the Bribery Act 2010 to soften the impact on SMEs the Financial Times had reported.
The Bribery Act 2010 came into force on 1 July 2011 which describes a facilitation payment as a type of bribe and which should be seen as such. A common example being a government official given money or goods to perform or speed up the performance of an existing duty.
Facilitation payments were illegal before the Bribery Act came into force and they are illegal under the Bribery Act, regardless of their size or frequency.
To reduce red tape and responding to pressure from businesses concerned that the new rules were too prescriptive, the government could launch a review of the Act as early as next month the paper said.

The review would be to focus on ‘facilitation payments’ to officials to speed things up or make sure something happens and the procedures that SMEs would need to have in place to make sure they were not unfairly prosecuted under the new law.

A lawyer from a leading firm has said relaxing of the rules was likely to send out the wrong message though for the right reason.

He added that the Act was unusual in that it was accompanied by statutory guidance on its interpretation.

The legislation was always about the ability of business to operate profitably, but ethically by Western standards, in the global market place," he said.
Before the passing of the new legislation there was lot of concern that it would have an adverse effect on business. With the current economic scenario in the UK it seems the government would want the standards to be much relaxed to help smaller businesses.
There was always a balance to be struck, but that was intended to be achieved through broad drafting and prosecutorial discretion which seemed reasonable to most people.
But a government spokesman responded that the government was clear that the Bribery Act and its associated guidance should not impose unnecessary costs or burdensome procedures on legitimate business.
The Ministry of Justice and BIS were working together to ensure that small firms understood the requirements and only put in proportionate measures to comply.