Catherine McKinnell – 2015 Parliamentary Question to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office

The below Parliamentary question was asked by Catherine McKinnell on 2015-11-16.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, pursuant to the Answer of 22 June 2015 to Question HL381, what steps he has taken following allegations of breaches of bribery and corruption laws by Soco International in Virunga National Park; what guidance his Department provides on the exploration of natural resources by UK listed companies operating in national parks and UNESCO wold heritage sites; and if he will make a statement.

James Duddridge

We are aware of allegations of breaches of bribery and corruption laws made against Soco International in relation to its activities in the Virunga National Park, and have ensured that the relevant law enforcement agencies both here and in the Democratic Republic of Congo are aware of the allegations.

Foreign investment in sectors such as hydrocarbons and the extractive industries can play a vital role in boosting the development of countries such as the Democratic Republic of Congo, helping lift people out of poverty. Such investment must be conducted responsibly and sustainably, in compliance with local law and conforming to international standards. The government encourage all British companies to uphold the highest of standards, but where they do not it is important that allegations of wrongdoing are investigated and perpetrators are held to account. Anyone with evidence of serious fraud, bribery or corruption should pass this to the Serious Fraud Office.

The government also encourages UK companies to observe the international standards for responsible conduct of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises, and provides a National Contact Point for the Guidelines complaint process. It was under the UK National Contact Point process that World Wildlife Fund and SOCO reached their 2014 agreement for SOCO to end its operations in Virunga.