Public Law

The UK Government’s eagerly anticipated guidance on the Bribery Act has just been published and you can find it here on the Ministry of Justice’s website.

Those of you who attended our recent Spring Seminars on the Bribery Act will know that today’s publication marks the start of the 3 month countdown to the Act coming into force. As expected, although the focus of the guidance is the ‘adequate procedures’ defence (which commercial organisations will rely on to avoid liability where an associated person bribes for their benefit) the Government has also taken the opportunity to comment on other areas of concern.

One such area is the Act’s impact on corporate hospitality. When the Bill was passing through Parliament there were indications that the intention was not to penalise “ordinary” or “routine” hospitality for “legitimate commercial purposes”. This is reflected in the guidance which retains the (vague?) principle of “reasonable and proportionate hospitality” as set out in the draft version of the guidance.

It was previously rumoured that the finalised guidance would also make greater use of examples to set the boundaries in contexts such as sporting events, lunches, foreign trips and use of hotels.  The rumours are true. Page 10 of the guidance, for example, states that:

“an invitation to foreign clients to attend a Six Nations match at Twickenham as part of a public relations exercise designed to cement good relations or enhance knowledge in the organisation’s field is extremely unlikely to engage section 1 as there is unlikely to be evidence of an intention to induce improper performance of a relevant function”.

It does, however, also contain more ambiguous statements such as:

“It is… for individual organisations, or business representative bodies, to establish and disseminate appropriate standards for hospitality and promotional or other similar expenditure” (page 14).

We will be issuing an e-update shortly with fuller details of the guidance soon but please do feel free to post any comments in the meantime.

Government, Regulation and Competition Law
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