The pretext is a claim that UK businesses are finding it hard to do business overseas, so apparently it’s Johnny Foreigner’s fault for wanting backhanders before letting our goods into his country.
The government is now consulting on whether facilitation payments – money or goods paid to foreign government officials to perform or speed up their duties – should be re-legalised.
They were banned in the Coalition Government’s Bribery Act of 2011, in which the Conservative Party played a large part – meaning this will be a policy U-turn by the Tories.
Critics have pointed out that the proposed change would undermine the law in other countries along with the UK, as well as global efforts to counter corruption.
And anti-corruption campaigner Transparency International said corporate lobbying appeared to be the basis for the review, rather than evidence. It said 89 per cent of companies surveyed in the Government’s own research (released earlier this month) reported that the Act had no impact on their ability to export.
It seems the pressure to reverse the law is coming from a minority of businesses – who, let’s not forget, are still allowed to lobby the government despite the Transparency of Lobbying Act, which we know was passed to make it harder for those with more legitimate issues to raise them.
So we’re looking at a situation in which businesses want the ability to bribe governments – and our own government is considering allowing it.
Conflict of interest?
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