The Ministry of Justice has confirmed this week that there is now a second delay to the planned implementation of the Bribery Act 2010. Brought onto the statute books back in April 2010 in the ‘wash up’ process ahead of the general election, the Bribery Act still needs implementing legislation to finally bring it into force.
The Act requires the Government to issue guidance to businesses as to how they can implement ‘adequate procedures’ which are sufficient in nature to amount to a defence to the so called ‘corporate offence’. This new offence, created by the Act, targets commercial organisations which fail to prevent bribery taking place by a person associated with them.
The Act’s implementation was delayed from October 2010 to April 2011 when the Government confirmed it needed time to carry out the consultation necessary to issue that required guidance. Having issued draft guidance and completed the consultation process back in November last year, we were all expecting the guidance to be finalised and released in January. However, it has been confirmed this week that the guidance isn’t yet ready and this means the Act will not now be implemented in April 2011.
The Ministry of Justice has confirmed that when the guidance is issued there will be at least a three month period before the Act comes into force, to give businesses time to put in place adequate procedures.
This news follows hot on the heels of the announcement a couple of weeks ago confirming that the Act’s implementation is being reviewed by the Government as part of the growth review tasked with identifying the barriers to the UK’s economic growth.
International pressure remains high from the likes of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). Indeed, given that the UK ratified the OECD’s anti-bribery convention back in 1998 it wouldn’t seem unreasonable for our convention colleagues to wonder what’s taking us so long!
So it seems incredibly unlikely that the Act will be amended during this period of review. However, maybe the Ministry of Justice has finally recognised that UK businesses are looking for much more clarity on how they can defend themselves from the exposure created by the wide drafting of this controversial new Act.