308. Under the Human Rights Act 1998, private
sector entities performing a public function are subject to the
duty to behave in a Convention compatible way. The Act also has
a broader impact on UK businesses: private entities have their
own rights guaranteed; human rights arguments arise in business
disputes; and the legal and regulatory frameworks in which businesses
operate are influenced by the Act. The activities of UK businesses
operating abroad also impact on the Government's international
human rights obligations. We are therefore disappointed that the
Government has no coherent strategy in this area.
309. The UK should provide leadership by ensuring
that all UK businesses understand their responsibility to respect
human rights no matter where they operate. Unfortunately few businesses
understand what relevance human rights principles, or the UK's
international human rights obligations, have for their operations.
Our intention in this Report is to encourage the Government to
develop a new strategy on Business and Human Rights which clearly
sets out the standards which UK businesses are expected to meet.
In doing this the Government should draw on the work of the UN
Special Representative and build on his 'protect, respect and
remedy' framework. The goal must be international agreement on
an approach to Business and Human Rights and the best way to achieve
this would be to work with other countries to agree a consistent
approach to business and human rights.
310. The UK is in a good position to show leadership
in this area. This country is a major consumer of internationally
produced goods and provides a base for many large multinational
companies. The UK's reputation is particularly vulnerable when
these companies are associated with allegations of human rights
abuses overseas. If the UK takes the international lead in this
area it will be beneficial to the competitiveness of UK companies
overseas and to the UK's international reputation. By providing
consistent leadership the Government can help ensure that human
rights are respected more fully.