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UK bribery law was delayed (again).



The Bribery law was meant to bring the UK closer in line with the US, which has taken a tougher approach in rooting out corruption in foreign business deals.

The UK justice secretary has signaled that the implementation of the Bribery Act had been pushed back because of intense business lobbying and because the Act was "not fit for purpose" because it lacked clarity and could harm British companies.

British companies have been warned that they could be put on an export "blacklist" by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development if the government continues to delay tough new anti-corruption laws. Such a move could make British companies less competitive than their international rivals because of the need for more due diligence on contracts.

British business leaders agree that they are fully behind the need to tighten up on anti-graft laws, but argue the proposed guidelines are not clear enough to give them confidence they will not fall foul of new laws on hospitality and the recruitment of overseas agents.

The Bribery Act, which carries a maximum jail sentence of 10 years, creates two general offences of bribery, a specific offence of bribery of a foreign public official and an offence of failure by a company to prevent a bribe being paid for or on its behalf.

Parts of UK bribery legislation are 120 years old so it does need some updating and other areas of this legislation are grey. Therefore there are serious concerns about how it might affect corporate culture and the need to see if its impact may be softened a bit.

Most observers do not believe that the review would lead to significant amendments of key parts of the act. Observers also agree that the act was not intended to create an additional burden for business but due to pressure from other countries to introduce tougher measures against corruption and bribery.

There has been more or less constant consultation with industry and many other interested parties for almost four years. The risk for the UK is that it will be viewed as soft on serious international corruption at a time when most major economies are moving to address this very serious problem.