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UK businesses and government should do more on human rights

The UK government should impose a duty on all companies to prevent human rights abuses with the failure to do so becoming an offence, the parliamentary joint committee on human rights has recommended in its report on human rights and business.

The committee inquiry had examined how the UK was currently implementing the European Convention on Human Rights and the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights which place duties on countries to protect against human rights abuses by businesses and provide access to remedy for victims. They also place a corresponding responsibility on businesses to respect human rights.

The committee said the UK had demonstrated its commitment to the UN Guiding Principles by publishing a National Action Plan in 2013. However, the committee suggested that the updated plan produced in 2016 was “modest in scope and fails to incorporate best practice regarding having measureable objectives.

The committee recommended that before producing the next update to the national action plan the government should consult widely with a range of stakeholders, “to develop more ambitious and specific targets, and to implement measures to allow for these targets to be evaluated.

The committee also said that the UK National Contact Point, which forms part of the mechanism for enforcing the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises, which encompasses the UN’s Guiding Principles,  is not fit for purpose. The committee said in lacked the resources and profile needed to fulfil its role and recommended that the Government create an independent steering board for the NCP, provide extra resources to the NCP, and find new ways to publicise its findings.

UK human rights business

Committee chair Harriet Harman MP: UK government can do more to ensure companies respect human rights

Harriet Harman MP, chair of the committee,  said: “No one wants to be wearing clothes made by child labour, or slave labour. UK companies need to have high standards abroad as well as here at home and they must ensure that there are not human rights abuses in their supply chain.

More can be done by the UK Government to ensure that human rights are respected by UK companies in their operations outside the UK. The Government must toughen up the law with a new legal duty on businesses to respect human rights when they are operating abroad. Victims of human rights abuses must have access to the courts. And the Government should ensure that when it buys on our behalf it doesn’t do so from suppliers who are abusing human rights.”

 

What do you think?