Professor Robert McCorquodale, Director at BIICL was a special advisor to the Joint Committee on Human Rights and business
The Final report of the inquiry was published today. In its report the committee concluded that
'Legislation and enforcement need to be improved to ensure adequate protection of workers' human rights.' The report, Human Rights and Business 2017: Promoting responsibility and ensuring accountability proposes providing more accessible and effective mechanisms to improve access to justice in cases where human rights may have been breached.
On publishing the report, Chair of JCHR Rt Hon Harriet Harman MP commented: "No one wants to be wearing clothes made by child labour, or slave labour. UK
companies need to have high standards abroad as well as here at home and they must ensure that there are not human rights abuses in their supply chain.
"More can be done by the UK Government to ensure that human rights are respected by UK companies in their operations outside the UK. The Government must toughen up the law with a new legal duty on businesses to respect human rights when they are operating abroad. Victims of human rights abuses must have access to the courts. And the Government should ensure that when it buys on our behalf it doesn't do so from suppliers who are abusing human rights.
"Over the course of this inquiry we were pleased to hear of the growing importance of human rights issues to businesses, consumers and government. Indeed, developments such as the Gangmasters Licensing Authority and Modern Slavery Act have caused real improvements. Yet, all too often, cases were brought to our attention where people were making the products we use every day in conditions that are simply not acceptable. In the UK, this can mean pay below the minimum wage and dangerous working conditions; in other countries it can mean virtual slavery and long-term damage to the natural environment.
"The UK must build on work already done and create human rights protections that demand high standards of businesses. Businesses must be required by law to demonstrate how they are ensuring human rights are respected in their operations - if they do not then public bodies must exclude them from procurement opportunities.