8.In December 2009 the Joint Committee on Human Rights published a report entitled Any of our business? Human rights and the UK private sector.
9.The report called on the Government to show leadership in relation to business and human rights and to support the work of the UN Special Representative, John Ruggie, who was at that point developing the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. It also made a number of specific recommendations, some of which, for instance those around public sector procurement, are repeated in similar terms in this report.
10.The European Convention on Human Rights guarantees rights such as the right to life (Article 2), the prohibition of slavery and forced labour (Article 4), freedom of assembly and association (Article 11), the right to an effective remedy (Article 13), and prohibition of discrimination (Article 14).
11.On 16 June 2011 the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) endorsed the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs). The principles are based on the UN ‘Protect, Respect and Remedy’ Framework, developed by Professor John Ruggie in his capacity as the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Business and Human Rights. This Framework had been approved by the UN Human Rights Council in June 2008.
12.There are 31 Guiding Principles focused around three main pillars:
13.In September 2013, in response to the endorsement of the UNGPs by the UNHRC, the Coalition Government issued a command paper entitled Good Business: Implementing the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. This was presented jointly by the then Foreign Secretary, Rt Hon William Hague MP, and the then Business, Innovation and Skills Secretary, Rt Hon Vince Cable MP.
14.The document welcomed the creation of the UN Guiding Principles and committed the UK to implementing them. It argued that “the promotion of business and respect for human rights should go hand in hand”, and set out a National Action Plan to achieve implementation of the principles. This was aimed to supply British companies with “certainty about the Government’s expectations of them on human rights, and … support in meeting those expectations”.
15.The Action Plan set out the Government’s intention to:
16.The UK was the first country in the world to publish a National Action Plan for business and human rights. Since then, according to data from the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre, 11 other countries have published plans, and 26 other countries have plans in development.
17.In October 2013 the then Government stated that it intended to publish a report on progress with the National Action Plan “by [the] end [of] 2015”. The report was finally published in May 2016, and we consider its contents in Chapter 4.
8 Joint Committee on Human Rights, , (First Report, Session 2009–10, HC 64–1, HL Paper 5–1)
9 United Nations, Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights: Implementing the United Nations “Protect, Respect and Remedy” Framework (2011): [accessed 14 February 2017]
10 Ibid. p 1
11 Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Good Business: Implementing the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, Cm 8695, September 2013: [accessed 14 February 2017]
12 Ibid. p 4
13 Ibid. p 6
14 Ibid. p 6-7
15 [accessed 14 February 2017]
16 Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Good Business: Implementing the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, Cm 8695, September 2013, p 19: [accessed 14 February 2017]
17 Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Good Business: Implementing the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights Updated May 2016, Cm 9255, May 2016, [accessed 14 February 2017]
4 April 2017