19 November 2009 | by Jake Kanter
The Bribery Bill came one step closer to becoming law after it was announced in yesterday's Queen's speech.
The legislation, which is likely to come into force early next year, will make it easier for companies or senior management to be prosecuted when bribes have been offered, paid or received.
The UK government said it will replace the current "fragmented" rules and make it illegal to receive or accept kickbacks in the UK or abroad. It will also make it an offence if a firm fails to prevent bribery.
The UK has been repeatedly criticised for not being tougher on corruption. This week fraud watchdog Transparency International (TI) said the country is struggling to improve its reputation on the issue after failing to crackdown on firms involved in overseas bribery (Web news, 17 November).
Chandrashekhar Krishnan, executive director of TI UK, welcomed yesterday's announcement. "All political parties must now unite around the recommendations of the Joint Parliamentary Scrutiny Committee to ensure an effective Bribery Bill is enacted before the next general election," he said.
"This would greatly enhance the reputation of the country at a time when Britain's anti-corruption credentials have been battered by the MPs' expenses scandal."
Neill Blundell, partner and head of the fraud group at law firm Eversheds, said the Bill is a warning shot to businesses, which must ensure they have strong controls in place to fight and prevent bribery. "A new regime in tackling bribery and corruption will be born with this legislation," he said.