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14 March 2013 | Adam Leach
The ability of suppliers to grow and develop through overseas contract opportunities is being restricted by the UK Bribery Act, according to a House of Lords Committee.
Roads To Success, published on Friday by the Committee on Small and Medium Enterprises, said while the legislation had enhanced the UK’s reputation in terms of ethical business standards, it had damaged some companies’ business prospects.
The report suggested the disparity between the ways UK companies are required to do business as a result of the Act, compared with conventions in markets such as Brazil and China puts them at a disadvantage.
Giving evidence to the committee, Andy Mears, group sales director at Deltex Medical Services, said: “BRIC countries, especially, raise challenging questions around the Bribery Act. My fellow directors and I have concerns over how we operate correctly under the Bribery Act within those countries. We have taken legal advice. We have made changes to our contracts. All of those areas have ways of trading that are different from those that we have in the UK, and different standards.”
The government is currently training up staff in the Foreign & Commonwealth Office to equip them with the skills and knowledge required to advise UK firms operating in foreign countries on the issue of bribery and corruption. But the committee also called for the government to go further and actively promote the harmonisation of international standards around the issue of bribery and corruption. It also called for post-legislative scrutiny by a select committee to clarify and firm up the implications of the Act.
The committee said: “Whilst we acknowledge the importance of the example of high ethical standards being set up by the UK, application of the Bribery Act 2010 has been met with confusion and uncertainty. We recommend, therefore, that, at the earliest opportunity, the Act should be the subject of post-legislative scrutiny by a parliamentary select committee.”