UK's Bribery Act reflects the reality that today's business has gone global
Britain's Bribery Act comes into effect on July 1. In his opinion piece ('Britain's bribery law crosses the line into imperialism', June 23), Paul Karl Lukacs argues that its provisions amount to an act of 'cultural imperialism'.
We are unapologetic about the introduction of some of the toughest anti-corruption legislation in the world.
Corruption hurts honest companies. It threatens the principle of free and fair competition. It raises the cost of doing business. Research has shown that corruption adds up to 10 per cent of the cost of doing business globally and up to 25 per cent to the cost of procurement in developing countries.
It is true that the Bribery Act will apply to companies with links to Britain, wherever an offence takes place. That reflects the reality that today's business is global and that measures to address corruption need an equally broad reach. As argued in the leader ('Tougher rules on bribery welcome', June 19): 'As an international business and financial centre, it is in Hong Kong's interest that the best practices [on bribery] are maintained.'
Britain is not alone in taking an international approach: foreign bribery is also pursued actively by Denmark, Germany, Italy, Norway, Switzerland and the United States. Britain also co-operates with international partners through the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development and the UN.
Mr Lukacs acknowledges that the British secretary of state for justice has said a 'common sense approach' should be taken to the application of the law. What this means in practice will be a question for the courts. But as an example: the government does not intend that reasonable and proportionate business hospitality be caught under the act. There is a great deal of information available to companies on how they can prepare themselves ahead of the introduction of the act, including on the websites of the Department for Business (www.bis.gov.uk) and the Ministry of Justice (www.justice.gov.uk).
Mr Lukacs makes some specific points about holders of British National (Overseas) passports. The act does apply to those who have a close connection with Britain, including all its passport holders. The British National (Overseas) passport has the benefit of visa-free access to Britain and a large number of other countries - approximately 100 countries including the Schengen group of countries within the European Union. And BN(O) passport holders are entitled to British consular protection.
Andrew Seaton, British consul-general to Hong Kong