Human Rights and Business 2017: Promoting responsibility and ensuring accountability Contents


Our inquiry

1.On 16 June 2016, the Joint Committee on Human Rights announced an inquiry into human rights and business, to consider progress made by the UK Government in implementing the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights,2 by means of the National Action Plan that was published in 20133 and revised in May 2016.4

2.The Committee published an open call for evidence along with a detailed set of questions, which served as the terms of reference for the inquiry.5 The Committee focused on four main issues: the National Action Plan, Government engagement with business and human rights, monitoring transparency and compliance, and access to remedy.

Conducting the inquiry

3.As part of this inquiry, we have conducted eight oral evidence sessions with a total of 27 witnesses. We are grateful to all the witnesses who appeared before us to give evidence.

4.Alongside this, we received a total of 53 written submissions. All of the evidence, both written and oral, can be viewed on our website.6 We are also grateful to everyone who took time to submit written evidence, the quality and range of which has aided our inquiry enormously.

5.Members of the Committee have also conducted three visits as part of this inquiry, looking at supply chains in the UK and abroad. On 3 November 2016, we visited the UK National Contact Point for the OECD Guidelines on Multinational Enterprises, housed within the Department for International Trade. From 28 November to 1 December 2016, we travelled to Istanbul and Ankara to gain a more in-depth understanding of the garment sector in Turkey, which supplies clothing to many large UK brands. Finally, on 2 March 2017, we visited Leicester, following reports of human rights abuses in garment factories there. We are indebted to all of the people who assisted us with each of our visits.

6.The Committee was ably assisted by two specialist advisers, Professor Robert McCorquodale7 and Dr Virginia Mantouvalou. We are grateful for their expertise and insight.

The structure of this report

7.Chapter 2 explains the policy background, both domestic and international, to the National Action Plan. Chapter 3 explores the relationship between businesses and human rights and puts the inquiry in context. Chapter 4 examines the UK Government’s approach to the human rights and business agenda and looks in detail at the updated National Action Plan. Chapter 5 sets out the current regulatory framework for preventing human rights abuses by businesses and assesses whether it is fit for purpose. Chapter 6 examines the mechanisms, both judicial and non-judicial, for accessing justice after a human rights breach has happened, and considers whether the current law is sufficient for this purpose. Finally, Chapter 7 assesses the possible impacts of Brexit on human rights within the business sphere.

2 United Nations, Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights: Implementing the United Nations “Protect, Respect and Remedy” Framework (2011): [accessed 12 March 2017]

3 Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Good Business: Implementing the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, Cm 8695, September 2013: [accessed 12 March 2017]

4 Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Good Business: Implementing the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights Updated May 2016, Cm 9255, May 2016, [accessed 12 March 2017]

7 Declaration of interest: Executive Director, British Institute of International and Comparative Law

4 April 2017