Inaugural meeting – Monday 7th November 2011
Committee Room 5, 5-7pm.
ATTENDEES: Catherine McKinnell MP, Rt Hon Ken Clarke MP, John Githongo, Tony Baldry MP, Lord Newby, Baroness Jenkin of Kennington, Lord Howe, John Hemming MP, Lord Jones of Cheltenham, Lord Steel of Aikwood, Lord Elton, Baroness Stern, Hugh Bayley MP, Virenda Sharma MP.
APOLOGIES: Anas Sarwar MP, Karen Bradley MP, Lord Eden, Baroness Mary Goudie
James Brokenshire MP, Andrew Tyrie MP, Lord Ashdown, Baroness Finlay, Cathy Jamieson MP, Oliver Heald MP, Clive Efford MP, Rebecca Harris MP, John Thurso MP, Caroline Lucas, Luciana Berger MP, Naomi Long MP, Anne McGuire MP, Lord Lindsay, Baroness Brinton, Pauline Latham MP, Lord Roper, Baroness Gibson, Jeremy Lefroy MP, Lord Bowness, Lord Judd, Jonathan Reynolds MP, Rushanara Ali MP, Bishop of Derby, Ben Gummer MP, James Arbuthnot MP
MINUTES: Jennie Breukelman, Tearfund.
Arrival and introduction from Catherine McKinnell MP
Catherine McKinnell MP welcomed all those present and thanked them for attending the meeting. Ms McKinnell briefly highlighted the importance of tackling corruption, particularly for international development, as discovered in her role as Shadow Solicitor General.
Keynote speaker: John Githongo (anti-corruption activist)
Mr Githongo began be thanking all those present for initiating the APPG, noting that the timing of the group is both prescient and critical. Mr Githongo discussed the importance of the Bribery Act, particularly sections 6 and 7 and their international implications.
Mr Githongo then outlined how the new APPG could assist partnerships round the world in several ways, including through:
Leading by example. The police have made an outstanding contribution to the fight against corruption. Mr Githongo noted the importance of continuing to invest in this area, including in austere times, as in the long term tackling corruption will save money.
After the fall of the Berlin Wall, the fight against corruption gained currency. Civil society felt newly empowered, whilst multilateral institutions have fostered more transparency. These processes culminated in the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC).
He highlighted Zambia as being a good example – the government was elected partly due to anti-corruption policies.
Mr Githongo observed that corruption has become more complex – a malevolent nexus exists between corruption, terrorism and drugs. He noted that much can be done by parliamentary groups in fighting against these issues. Corruption functions most effectively via networks and should therefore also be fought through networks. Mr Githongo therefore highlighted the place of the APPG within the Global Organisation of Parliamentarians Against Corruption, as one such mechanism..
Mr Githongo closed by reminding all those present that ‘It is not a battle we can afford to lose’.
Catherine McKinnell offered her thanks to the honoured and distinguished speakers. She reiterated the importance of the issue and introduced Rt Hon Ken Clarke.
Keynote speaker: The Right Honourable Ken Clarke MP, Secretary of State for Justice.
The Secretary of State began by commenting that ‘if I have to persuade you of the evils of corruption you’re in the wrong meeting!’ He went on to highlight what he believes to be the main challenges of corruption, namely:
- The damaging effects on trade and business.
- The problem of corruption being deeply ingrained in the culture in some parts of the world.
Mr Clarke stated that it is important to have a lead person on the issue of corruption. He said that it is important to focus efforts in places where Britain has influence and can make a difference. He outlined that his role as International Anti-Corruption Champion seeks to provide this focal point and co-ordination.
Mr Clarke discussed the necessity of implementing the Bribery Act as the previous laws were very out of date, and stated that British legislation is now in line with international practice. He noted that now companies have been persuaded of the benefits of the legislation, it is necessary to ensure they are complying. Companies must demonstrate they have adequate procedures in place to prevent bribery.
The Secretary of State also highlighted his concern for small businesses. Although they must exercise due diligence, the law should not be prohibitive. He noted how his Department is working with the Foreign Office to implement the legislation overseas.
Mr Clarke highlighted the existence and importance of international agreements, multilateral anti-corruption legislation and conventions. He claimed that significant steps have been taken following the 2008 OECD Anti-Bribery Convention report, commenting that Transparency International has shown Britain to be one of seven active enforcers of this law.
Mr Clarke offered reflections on the role that the UK can play in supporting other countries in their efforts to tackle corruption, suggesting that Britain can have significant influence in Central and Eastern Europe. He gave the example of Croatia as a country where corruption has been endemic but specific steps have been taken to tackle the problem, such as through the independence of the judiciary. Mr Clarke concluded by saying that where the UK is invited to give advice or help, they will press to improve standards. The UK has a somewhat limited role but the most important thing is that they are at the forefront of efforts to tackle corruption, supporting those countries that are seeking to improve their standards.
There was then a time for Questions and Answers.
Mr Githongo discussed the importance of the UK police in empowering international police forces, and asked Mr Clarke how they are resourced.
Mr Clarke answered that they are trying to raise the enforcement of financial crime and highlighted the role of the Serious Fraud Office. He said that financial crime is very complicated, and said that there is a need for a National Crime Agency to effectively tackle crime, especially fraud. He highlighted the importance of raising the national enforcement of all crime, including financial crime and bribery.
Lord Phillips of Sudbury congratulated the formation of the group. He stated that corruption is on the increase, and pointed to the founding of the Centre of Integrity at the University of Essex as a potentially useful tool.
Catherine McKinnell thanked Mr Clarke for his contribution as he left the meeting, and reinforced the notion that the fight against corruption needs to be a number one priority.
Lord Howe asked Mr Githongo about the extent to which Kenya is ahead of the field in the fight against corruption, and asked how far China are on the same side as us.
Mr Githongo responded that civil society and media in Kenya are ahead of other countries in the fight against corruption, as are Nigeria. However, there is not necessarily impunity to corruption in the country. There are high levels of economic growth and corruption, and a young population which can lead to political volatility and instability. The new Kenyan constitution has integrity, and if it is implemented Kenya will be moving ahead.
Mr Githongo referred to China as the elephant in the room. He said they are not on the same page at all, citing the extractives sector as an example, and don’t pretend to be on the same page. He said a lot of work is still to be done on this issue.
Laurence Cockroft (Transparency International) asked if the humanitarian effort in Somalia had been impeded by corruption.
Mr Githongo said that Somalia is a massive challenge as it is an economy without a state, and they are engaging in corruption.
John Hemming MP said there is an issue of court orders preventing the spread of information. He said that the UK Parliament is not investigating secret cases and should do this.
Mr Githongo responded that his only experience is in Kenya. He suggested that there is a danger of it becoming a political witch-hunt which can affect other processes in the courts. He cited an example from Kenya, whereby Parliament looked into issues of corruption related to the theft of maize. He highlighted the importance of ensuring that the issues are not overly politicised through this process.
Miles Litvinoff (Publish What You Pay) asked a question about corruption in the extractives sector.
Mr Githongo responded that it is key to tackle the problems in the extractives sector. He said that one of the huge challenges surrounds disaggregating the issues for the public.
Baroness Stern emphasised that it is essential that the world’s poor are not forgotten. In some places, they will not get access to justice without paying the police or the courts.
Mr Githongo agreed that this is a critical point. Corruption networks can deepen poverty and inequality, which is in turn easily politicized and ethnicised. He suggested that whilst Africa is growing, nascent democracy and civil society can create regional and ethnic issues.
George Boden (Global Witness) asked about bribery and the role of banks in corruption.
Mr Githongo responded that lawyers are a key architect of anti-corruption deals.
Oliver Spencer (Article 19) suggested that the Freedom of Information law in Kenya isn’t very strong, and asked what the APPG can do about this.
Mr Githongo suggested there is a need to learn from the members and practices of the APPG. The law in Kenya can be improved, but it will take time.
Catherine McKinnell opened the AGM. She stated the need to raise awareness of the group and encourage MPs to support it.
Ms McKinnell offered a list of the proposed officers of the group, namely:
Co-chair: Catherine McKinnell MP
Co-chair: Anas Sarwar MP
Vice chair: Pauline Latham MP
Treasurer: Lord Newby
Secretary: Tony Baldry MP
John Hemming wished to nominate himself as a vice-chair from the Liberal Democrats. This was approved by all those present at the AGM.
Catherine McKinnell discussed the Global Organisation of Parliamentarians Against Corruption (GOPAC) toolkit.
John Hemming requested that the APPG do an audit of the UK. This was agreed by the members present.
Catherine McKinnell mentioned the Freedom of Information Act as being a strong tool in the UK.
Baroness Stern suggested that Andrew Mitchell is invited to the group to explain how DFID money is used to fight against corruption.
Catherine McKinnell agreed that this is a good suggestion for providing scrutiny and raising the issue on the agenda.
Lord Newby suggested talking to international parliamentarians.
John Githongo proposed that as the APPG is linked to GOPAC, the group will benefit from the tremendous good will extended to them and will be able to learn from other Parliamentarians working to tackle corruption.
Chandu Krishnan (Transparency International) commented that Rt Hon Ken Clarke is not prominent in his role as International Anti-Corruption Champion and noted that there is no document outlining the Secretary of State’s vision to tackle corruption. Mr Krishnan urged the APPG to put pressure on Mr Clarke to produce such a document and to encourage him to regularly update on his plans to implement. He noted that corruption is also a problem in the UK, and questioned whether Mr Clarke is also the domestic anti-corruption champion?
Tim Boyes-Watson (Mango) said that British officials should be trying to prevent corruption in their individual roles.
This was the final suggestion raised at the meeting. The meeting was adjourned.