A new report, published by the House of Lords Select Committee on Small and Medium Sized Enterprises (SMEs) (the Committee), considered the impact of the Bribery Act 2010 (the Act) on SMEs. The report explained that while the Act has enhanced the UK's reputation in terms of ethical business standards, there are perceptions that it restricts the ability of suppliers to grow and develop through overseas contract opportunities.
Criticisms from SMEs focussed on the competitive disadvantage that they face as a result of the Act and the lack of certainty over its scope. A suggestion that it would be necessary to wait for case law to refine the workings of the Act was rejected by the Committee.
The Foreign & Commonwealth Office is currently training staff to advise UK firms operating abroad on commercial issues relating to bribery and corruption. However, the Committee has called for the Government to go a step further and actively promote the harmonisation of international standards. It has also called for post-legislative scrutiny by a select committee to clarify uncertainty caused by the Act.