Select Committee on International Development Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum submitted by the Defence Manufacturers Association Limited

  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 out corruption.

Major General Alan G. Sharman, CEng, FIMechE

Director General, Defence Manufacturers Association Limited

October 2000

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