Memorandum submitted by the Defence Manufacturers
Thank you for the opportunity to give evidence
to the Select Committee Inquiry into Bribery.
We must state at the outset that of course bribery
is wrong, and counter-productive for business in the long run.
We would not countenance it either by our Members' employees or
by their representatives. We strongly support the proposed action
of the UK Government.
That said, we have a few concerns over the proposed
possible definitions. As always the devil is in the detail. Firstly,
the definition of bribery must be realistic and not lead to the
ridiculous situation that has arisen in the US where Armed Forces
Officers cannot accept a cup of coffee from Industry, let alone
a meal. Reasonable hospitality is not bribery, and definitions
must allow for this.
Secondly, the issue of "excessive agent's
commission" is also problematical and its definition
needs care. While companies should not be able to pay agents excessive
commissions in the expectation that the agent will be paying bribes,
agents' genuine costs are higher in some parts of the world than
others. This should be recognised.
We would hope that a decision that bribery has
taken place in a particular instance should rely upon a legal
judgement, made in a court of law, either in this country, under
the Prevention of Corruption Act, or in the nation concerned.
We feel that it is inappropriate for Government officials to judge
in such cases.
If Parliament legislates that a corrupt activity
committed overseas and found by an overseas jurisdiction to constitute
an offence locally is also a breach of English law, we are content.
This is not yet the case, although it has been mentioned recently
in the press.
We hope that the UK Government will also use
its good offices to ensure that this welcome initiative is similarly
adopted by other countries, in a multilateral effort to stamp
Major General Alan G. Sharman, CEng, FIMechE
Director General, Defence Manufacturers Association