UK delays enforcement of stricter bribery laws
LONDON (Reuters) - Britain delayed the introduction of new bribery laws on Monday after complaints from companies the rules were too strict and created uncertainty for multinationals and firms seeking business abroad.
Anti-corruption groups and charities criticised the decision but the government said it was listening to the concerns of business and reexamining the legislation.
Under the Bribery Act, due to come into force in April, companies with any British interest face unlimited fines if they cannot show they have made "adequate procedures" to prevent bribery.
Lawyers say the act, approved by lawmakers in April last year, was more draconian than already tough U.S. rules.
The government was expected to issue guidance on the laws this month but said on Monday it was still working on the advice, which it would publish "in due course."
It said there would be a three-month notice period after the publication of the guidance and the act being implemented, meaning the legislation will not come into force until some time after April.
"We are looking again at this issue. We have listened to the concerns of business about the regulatory burden imposed by this legislation and we are looking again to see what we can do there," said a spokesman for Prime Minister David Cameron.
John Cridland, head of the Confederation of British Industry lobby group, said uncertainty over the scope of the act's regulations would hinder government plans to boost exports to sustain a stumbling economic recovery.
"Exporters won't be able to hoover up the demand in developing countries, like Asia, if the new bribery act prevents them from knowing which side of the law they stand," he told BBC radio.
Anti-corruption group Transparency International (TI) said the delay was "disastrous" and criticism of the new act was misinformed.
"The act is a robust piece of legislation that will help to level the playing field for the vast majority of UK companies that want to conduct their business in an ethical manner," said TI executive director Chandrashekhar Krishnan.
(Additional reporting by Luke Balleny; Editing by Dan Lalor)
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