Bishop & Sewell

Did you know it’s ten years since the introduction of the UK’s primary anti-corruption law, the Bribery Act 2010?

There can be fewer pieces of legislation in Corporate and Commercial law which cause more inconvenience with so little consequence for the client, writes David Little, a Partner in our Corporate and Commercial team.

On the few occasions when the Crown Prosecution Service takes a breach to court the media invariably has a field day when the Prosecution’s case falls down. There are in fact very few prosecutions, but in fact, that’s the point.

The fact that the UK has a Bribery Act has not only elevated the importance to senior leadership teams that they need to take anti bribery and corruption measures seriously in corporate life. Around the world the UK’s legal jurisdiction, system and processes are still highly admired.

Will our elected representatives stiffen the law still further so that securing convictions against miscreants becomes more successful? No. The Law Commission has consulted on changes to the law for three years but no further legislation is planned.

On the other hand radical change is really afoot in the UK, or should that be, on the rails.

When it comes to mass transportation systems the UK has long been one of the poorer nations of Europe. At least we’re not as bad as Iceland.

(They don’t have a railway network).

This column rarely has cause to dip in to Rail magazine but on this occasion their analysis of the government’s intentions is insightful. The government recently published a White Paper on the future of the rail industry.

It was 18 months later than scheduled. Grant Shapps the Secretary of State for Transport has announced that Britain’s rail industry will remain a semi-privatised hybrid system of state-owned infrastructure and privately run trains.

Recognising that the current model has generated years of “fragmentation, confusion and overcomplication”, the government is scrapping the franchise system and creating a single public body, Great British Railways (GBR) – a “guiding mind” that will manage all parts of the industry for the first time since the abolition of British Rail in the mid-1990s.

Like Network Rail, the public body it will replace and absorb GBR will own the network and manage the 20,000 miles of track. Unlike Network Rail, it will also set fares and timetables and act as a central point for ticketing. And instead of a franchise system – in which train-operating companies bid to run services and then have considerable commercial freedom to set fares – GBR will award licences on a concession system, meaning train operators will be given contracts to run individual lines for a fixed fee. They will be contracted solely to operate a defined service to certain standards of safety, security and cleanliness – with some greater commercial flexibility on marketing and ticket prices on inter-city routes, where trains have to compete with airlines.

Why is this interesting? Simple because we all need the UK’s economy not only to fire up again but to do so in a commercially efficient and environmentally sustainable way.

Not everyone’s convinced.

For the millions of commuters whose lives were sapped before the pandemic by the endless wildcat strikes on South Eastern trains, or the business travellers from London to Scotland who have to pay twice the cost of a fare to arrive four times as slowly than by plane, let’s hope this ‘radical transformation’ really works this time and we’re not waiting another ten years to discover we’ve bought a dud.

David Little is a Partner at Bishop & Sewell in our expert Corporate & Commercial Team. You can contact him on 020 7631 4141 or you can email

The above is accurate as at 30 June 2021. The information above may be subject to change during these ever-changing times.

The content of this note should not be considered legal advice and each matter should be considered on a case-by-case basis.

Category: Blog | Date: 30th Jun 2021

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