Any of our business? Human Rights and the UK private sector - Human Rights Joint Committee Contents


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.

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