HC Deb 19 March 1998 vol 308 cc1405-6
24. Mr. Bayley

What advice he has given the Government on the implementation of the EU and OECD conventions on international bribery. [33782]

The Attorney-General (Mr. John Morris)

Officials in the departments for which I am responsible are involved in providing assistance in such matters, but my hon. Friend will know that, by convention, advice given by the Law Officers, and even the fact of its existence, is not disclosed outside Government.

Mr. Bayley

What action are the Government taking during the United Kingdom's presidency of the EU to combat corruption in the public and private sectors?

The Attorney-General

I know of my hon. Friend's strong interest in this matter. Indeed, he introduced a Bill on the subject in February. The Government have been a strong supporter of measures to penalise corruption. As president, the United Kingdom is taking forward a Luxembourg presidency initiative on corruption in the private sector, which will build on and complement existing EU legislation against corruption of officials. Furthermore, a detailed report being produced by the presidency and the Commission evaluates existing anti-corruption measures in both the first and third pillars.

Mr. Ian Bruce

Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman tell us more about what the Government are trying to do to ensure that our EU partners are not using bribery or other corrupt practices to obtain contracts in other parts of the world? During my visits to other countries, I have heard that Britain often loses out because companies, rightly, are not willing to engage in bribery and corruption with officials in countries such as the former Soviet Union, whereas some other notable large countries in the EU appear only too pleased to do so, to win contracts from Britain.

The Attorney-General

I am sure that my right hon. Friends who will be concerned with such matters in any discussions will seek to do what they can within the European Union to ensure that there is a level playing field. In our domestic law, we can deal only with offences committed within the jurisdiction.

Mr. Skinner

As we are told that Cyprus is trying to join the European Union and will thus be affected to some extent by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development and all the other areas of influence, will my right hon. and learned Friend tell me whether, if discussions take place, the Government will tell the people of Cyprus that we shall bargain to ensure that Asil Nadir is brought back to this country as part of any deal so that he can tell us precisely when he handed the money over to the Tory party and what steps will be taken to give it back to the shareholders who were robbed of it in the first place?

The Attorney-General

I know of my hon. Friend's repeated concern and interest in this matter, which I suspect will not arise during the discussions. I shall take it up with my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary.