Exporters lobby ECGD to dilute its anti-corruption rules

first published 13 January 2005

In December 2004, The Corner House instituted legal proceedings against the UK's Secretary of State for Trade and Industry as the government minister responsible for the Export Credits Guarantee Department. It argued that the ECGD1had, in November 2004, significantly weakened its rules aimed at reducing corruption without consulting The Corner House or other interested NGOs, although it had carried out extensive and detailed consultation with its corporate customers and their representatives, who had lobbied the ECGD intensively on these rules.

On 13 January 2005, just as the two-day judicial review hearing2 in the High Court was to begin, the government settled out of court, agreeing to make public some 380 pages of ECGD's correspondence with three British companies (Airbus, BAe Systems and Rolls Royce) and an industry grouping, the Confederation of British Industry (CBI).

The documents include the initial complaints these exporters made to the ECGD about the Department's rules aimed at reducing corruption and the subsequent detailed exchanges and negotiations on the revisions that the exporters wanted.

The judicial review never came to court, however, as ECGD agreed to hold a public consultation on its anti-bribery measures (see Corner House submission to this consultation), after which it adopted significantly strengthened procedures.

1The ECGD is the UK's official export credit agency and reports to the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry. It uses taxpayers' money to provide financial guarantees to UK exporters of capital equipment and project-related goods and services to help them win business and invest overseas (http://www.ecgd.gov.uk).

2 In a judicial review, a court of law asseses a specific action or decision taken by a government official or entity or by another legally-appointed person. It reviews whether a decision, action or failure to act in relation to the exercise of a public function was lawful or not.