Hewitt challenged over bribery rules climb-down

Link: DTI to rexamine dilution of bribery rules

Lib Dem Shadow Trade and Industry Secretary Malcolm Bruce wanted to know what representations she received from BAE, Rolls Royce and Airbus that had persuaded her to accept a rapid about-turn by the Export Credit Guarantee Department last May.

Hewitt has also not replied to questions seeking a comparison between the ECGD’s revised anti-bribery rules and those of other G7 countries, a request for a copy of the rules that applied to Airbus before May, a clarification of what other companies made representations about the ECGD’s aborted crackdown, and a call for copies of the minutes of meetings between her officials, the ECGD and other organisations over the procedures.

Bruce said he feared: ‘The fact that the DTI has back-pedalled on their consultation on anti-corruption rules is indicative to my mind that the problem of corruption is bigger that people previously thought.

‘Companies are unhappy about being asked to investigate their agents and employees and being held responsible for them.’

In response to the claim that companies would lose business and jobs be put at risk if the rules were enforced, he said: ‘Jobs that are dependent on corruption are dubious jobs.’

He said it appeared hundreds of millions of pounds could be being siphoned off, and suggested the best way of dealing with the problem was to privatise the ECGD and make its business transparent.

The government has been forced to agree to further consultations over the rules after a legal challenge from anti-corruption campaigners.

Bribery and corruption by Britons abroad is a crime punishable in the UK, but there are allegations that British diplomats responsible for enforcing it have been turning a blind eye.

Hewitt has denied the revised ECGD rules represent a watering down, claiming they remain among the toughest in the world.

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