Human Rights and Business: Committee launches inquiry

16 June 2016

The Joint Committee on Human Rights, chaired by Rt Hon Harriet Harman MP, has announced an inquiry into human rights and business. This considers progress by the Government in implementing the United Nations Guiding Principles on business and human rights, by means of the National Action Plan published in 2013 and revised in May 2016.

Inquiry background

The inquiry looks in particular at:

  • What steps the Government takes to monitor compliance with the UN Guiding Principles
  • How far the Government is able to enforce the UN Guiding Principles
  • Whether, and if so what, progress British business has made in carrying out its responsibility to respect human rights
  • Whether victims of human rights abuse involving business enterprises within UK jurisdiction have access to effective remedy

For the purposes of the inquiry, the Committee will adopt the Government’s definition of British or UK companies, businesses and business enterprises as all enterprises domiciled in the UK.

The inquiry will focus on the following industries in relation to the proposed terms of reference:

  • Extractive industries
  • Textiles
  • Agriculture/Food and Beverages
  • Financial Services
  • Manufacturers

Call for written submissions

The inquiry will consider, amongst other matters, the following questions:

National Action Plan

What is your assessment of the UK National Action Plan (Good Business: Implementing the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights) updated in May 2016?

Does it demonstrate significant progress has been made on business and human rights since 2013? Is it ambitious enough in the commitments it makes for the future?

Are any of the requirements placed on businesses ineffective or counter-productive?

How are small and very small businesses affected?

What more could the Government and businesses be doing to improve human rights in the sphere of business?

Government engagement with business and human rights

To what extent are different Government departments engaged with the business and human rights agenda and the National Action Plan?

What is the level of ministerial buy-in and commitment to the business and human rights agenda and National Action Plan?

How effective is the cross-Whitehall Steering Group which monitors the Action Plan?

What more could be done to ensure consistent commitment from all Government departments?

Does the National Contact Point have sufficient powers not only to monitor but to enforce compliance with the Action Plan?

How effective are current rules in ensuring that human rights-related matters are reflected in the procurement of public goods, works and services?

Monitoring transparency and compliance

Has significant progress been made in monitoring compliance with the National Action Plan (including, e.g., transparency of supply chains) since 2013?

How effective is the new reporting requirement introduced by the Modern Slavery Act for holding businesses to account?

What more could be done to protect against slavery and exploitation?

Access to remedy

How effective is the current system in ensuring victims have access to remedy?

Are remedies available to victims sufficient, and if not, what more could be done? 

What more could be done to enable victims to access remedies when their human rights have been breached by a UK business?

Would creating more criminal sanctions improve compliance?

Get involved

The Joint Committee on Human Rights welcomes written submissions on any aspects of its inquiry.

Send a written submission through the Human Rights and Business inquiry page.

Deadline for written submissions is Friday 15 July 2016.

Further information

Image: iStockphoto

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