Joint Committee on The Draft Corruption Bill Report


The draft Bill is the product of a long policy-making process dating back nearly thirty years. The Law Commission published a draft Bill on corruption in essentially similar terms five years ago. The written and oral evidence we have received has been highly critical of the Bill from a wide range of different viewpoints. While no one has challenged the need for new legislation, there have been many adverse comments on the approach adopted in the Bill and its drafting, clarity and comprehensibility.

At the start of this report we list the key questions we have addressed in this inquiry. Our answers to those questions are as follows:

Is the existing law on corruption so deficient that it is necessary now to legislate?


If so, does the draft Bill criminalise all conduct which is corrupt without criminalising any conduct which is not?

It fails to cover some corrupt conduct such as when the head of one firm bribes the head of another firm or when an employer consents to the bribery of his agent.

Further, does the draft Bill state clearly what types of conduct are punishable as corrupt in language which can readily understood by the police, by prosecutors, by jurors and by the public, including - especially - the business and public sector communities, and their advisors, both here and abroad?


What is the essence of corrupt conduct? How might it be defined? What distinguishes corrupt conduct from lawful conduct? Does this Bill draw that line in the correct place? In particular, is the definition in the Bill - which confined corruptness exclusively to a principal/agent relationship - both complete and robust, and is it clear so that it can readily be understood by all relevant parties?

We believe that (leaving aside related offences) the essence of corruption would be better expressed in the following terms:

A person acts corruptly if he gives, offers or agrees to give an improper advantage with the intention of influencing the recipient in the performance of his duties or functions;

A person acts corruptly if he receives, asks for or agrees to receive an improper advantage with the intention that it will influence him in the performance of his duties or functions.

Should parliamentary privilege be waived in corruption cases?

Yes - but in a narrower form than proposed in the draft Bill.

Should the Attorney General's consent for prosecution for corruption offences be required?

No - the consent of the Director of Public Prosecutions or one nominated deputy would be sufficient.

Should the Intelligence Services be exempt from prosecution for corruption offences?'

The compatibility of this provision with international law needs to be re-considered.

The Committee invites the Home Office to bring forward a revised Bill taking account of these points.

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Prepared 31 July 2003