Written questions enable MPs to raise queries to government ministers for information on the work, policy and activities of government departments. Bryon Davies MP submitted the following written question on 9 September 2015: “… what progress [the Secretary of State for Justice] has made on Action 36 of the UK Anti-Corruption Plan; and when [the Secretary of State for Justice] expects corporate criminal liability to be introduced”. Action 36 provides that the Ministry of Justice will examine the case for a new offence of a corporate failure to prevent economic crime and the rules on establishing corporate criminal liability more widely by June 2015.
On 28 September 2015, Andrew Selous MP responded explaining: “The UK has corporate criminal liability and commercial organisations can be, and are, prosecuted for wrongdoing. The UK Anti-Corruption Plan tasked the Ministry of Justice to examine the case for a new offence of a corporate failure to prevent economic crime and the rules on establishing corporate criminal liability more widely. Ministers have decided not to carry out further work at this stage as there have been no prosecutions under the model Bribery Act offence and there is little evidence of corporate economic wrongdoing going unpunished.” This represents a blow to the Director of the Serious Fraud Office who has argued recently for such an offence to extend the weapons available to him. The current HMRC consultation (for which responses are due by 8 October 2015), “Tackling offshore tax evasion: a new corporate criminal offence of failure to prevent the facilitation of evasion,” will keep alive the possibility of a similar offence becoming law (in the narrower context of “criminally facilitating tax evasion”) but, for now, the broader corporate offence seems unlikely to pass into law.