HC Deb 18 June 1998 vol 314 cc492-3
4. Mr. Hugh Bayley (City of York)

If she will make a statement about combating bribery in international trade. [45053]

The Minister for Competition and Consumer Affairs (Mr. Nigel Griffiths)

The Government played a leading role in bringing negotiations on the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development bribery convention to a successful conclusion in December. We are playing an active part in the negotiations that are under way on anti-corruption measures in the European Union and the Council of Europe. We are determined to combat bribery in international trade. Corruption distorts competition and constitutes an unfair barrier to trade.

Mr. Bayley

Does my hon. Friend agree with Adair Turner of the Confederation of British Industry, who said:

Corruption's become a big issue because it just costs business so much more these days"? Will the Government examine the arguments for amending the law, as proposed by the Law Commission, to provide for the prosecution of United Kingdom citizens when they commit offences of bribery abroad?

Mr. Griffiths

My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary is examining the need both to clarify the statute on corruption and to bring up to date anti-corruption legislation. I shall draw my hon. Friend's remarks to his attention.

Sir Sydney Chapman(Chipping Barnet)

Has the Minister estimated bribery and corruption by British companies abroad or, indeed, British personnel who work for foreign companies or multinationals—if, indeed, there is any? What powers do the Government really have to stop foreign personnel or foreign companies indulging in bribery and corruption? I know that we all want an end to it.

Mr. Griffiths

That is why we played our part in negotiations on the OECD bribery convention. I am not aware of any reliable estimates of the cost of bribery, which I know the whole House will condemn as anti-competitive and corrosive to the countries or their enterprises which may seek to offer bribes and to those who choose to take them.