Moving from Justice, having left a legacy? And what is the future? – Tearfund's Policy Blog

September 4, 2012 By melissalawson

David Cameron’s cabinet re-shuffle today left Rt Hon Ken Clarke stepping down from his position as Secretary of State for Justice and moving to a roving economic brief in the Cabinet.  ‘Newby’, Chris Grayling MP, will now be taking the reigns of the Ministry of Justice and assuming that the precedent of the past continues, is also likely to take the responsibility and position of International Anti-Corruption Champion.

But what has Rt Hon Clarke left as his anti-corruption legacy?  In his 2 years as the Anti-Corruption Tsar, Clarke has shown leadership in ensuring that the UK Bribery Act became implemented into law.  This has been a major focus, and this key Act (passed during the previous Government) reforms the criminal law, bringing the UK in line with International Conventions such as the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention.  Yet one could argue that this was more of a matter of preventing further delay and ‘holding the fort’ rather than ushering-in strong anti-corruption measures…

So what should the new International Anti-Corruption Champion focus on?  There are numerous areas that could be addressed, as anti-corruption involves at least 11 different government departments and agencies.  But if the position is appointed as expected – the new Justice Secretary, I would suggest the following are essential in order to ensure increased momentum and to ensure that progress made thus far is not thwarted;

  1. Extend the UK Bribery Act to all legal persons incorporated in Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies, as recommended by the OECD Anti-Bribery Reviewteam earlier this year.Unless addressed, firms incorporated in these jurisdictions, but which do not carry on a business in the UK can be used to commit foreign bribery without fear of prosecution under the Act.  The OECD Review demonstrates that the UK can, and has the legal powers, to extend the Actso why is the Government not making visible progress on this?  Is it an attempt to look good internationally, but actually allow bribery to continue?  Surely this is a key priority for any new International Anti-Corruption Champion.
  1. Sufficient resourcing for enforcement of the Bribery Act.  Perhaps not the most exciting of issues, but it is crucial – otherwise progress to tackle bribery will amount to very little.  The Serious Fraud Office has the responsibility to enforce this new piece of legislation, but have had their budget cut from £52 million in 2008 to £32 million in 2012.  Perhaps a little contradictory and sending mixed messages?

Either way, a Champion must show leadership and use their position to see justice for those most impacted by corruption – the worlds poorest and most vulnerable.  This really would be working for justice….