Bribery Act should be rewritten, says MP

The UK Bribery Act should be rewritten to allow businesses to make 'facilitation payments' when abroad, says MP Adam Afriyie.

Adam Afriyie MP
Adam Afriyie MP

The Conservative MP for Windsor said that adhering to facilitation payments – small fees to foreign officials to speed up routine government decisions and processes – should be acceptable when abroad.

He said that in developing countries, particularly Africa, South America and some Middle-Eastern countries, facilitation payments are part-and-parcel of doing efficient business.

"These payment don't change the government decision itself, they just secure a speedier outcome," he added. "Failing to pay these fees can incur serious delays – there are extreme instances of businesses waiting years to register their companies, assets or properties abroad."

The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) added that UK companies are suffering these problems right now. Jim Bligh, head of public services at the CBI, said: "If you're a small company doing business for the first time in a new market, [the illegality of facilitating payments] is a significant block on your ability to land a contract."

Whilst illegal in the UK, these payments are legal in many competing developed countries, including the USA. "This puts UK SMEs at a severe competitive disadvantage. It is very hard to operate in a country where facilitation payments are the norm. Indeed this is why many companies have decided not to operate in such countries," added Afriyie.

Meanwhile, the BBC has recently published a world 'bribery map', topped by Sierra Leone.


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