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UK Bribery Act - UK Government succumbs to pressure and delays implementation of the Act

Feb.01.2011

On January 31 2011, the UK Justice Minister, Ken Clarke, announced that the Bribery Act ("the Act"), which had been due to come into force in April 2011, will be delayed for at least three months. This was confirmation of what many believed would happen after the Government announced, in early January 2011, that there was to be a review of the legislation following growing concerns from UK businesses and trade organisations that the wording of the Act is ambiguous and that it lacks clarity.

The Ministry of Justice has confirmed that the delay will give the Government time to conduct a thorough review and to issue "practical" and "comprehensive" guidance to companies about what measures need to be put in place prior to the Act coming in to force. There has been much debate in the UK (and abroad) as to how specific this guidance should be –particularly given the Act introduces the new corporate offence of failing to prevent bribery, where a violation is uncovered.

Many had also expressed concern about the lack of any real lead in time between the Government's guidance being issued and the Act coming in to force. The Ministry of Justice has, to a degree, recognised this and said yesterday that there would be at least a three month gap between the guidance being issued and the Act coming in to force.

The delay has been criticised by Transparency International and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD); with the OECD yesterday threatened to put the UK on an export blacklist if the Government continues to delay the implementation of the Act.
Save for any further delays, the Act is now unlikely to come in to force until June/July, at the earliest. Companies with operations in the UK have therefore been given an extra few months to review their Anti-Bribery Polices and Procedures to ensure compliance with the new law.

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