Where oh where is the National Action Plan review...?

March 30, 2016 - Mary Milne, Traidcraft Campaigns Manager

Since last summer, Traidcraft campaigners have been calling on the government to use its review of the National Action Plan on Business and Human Rights to prioritise justice for people who have suffered because of the operations of a British business abroad.

The Coalition government was the first in the world to publish a National Action Plan on this topic, which they did in September 2013. It was in response to a process at the United Nations which resulted in international agreement on ‘guiding principles’ for business and human rights.

The UK Action Plan included a commitment to review by the end of 2015. Last summer, the newly elected Conservative government announced that they would carry out the review as promised.

At Traidcraft, we welcomed this, as we felt that this would be an opportunity to make some changes and improvements, particularly in the area of ‘access to remedy’ which was the least well developed in the original plan. 

Since last summer, we have engaged with the review in lots of different ways:

-        Traidcraft campaigners visited all the main government departments – including the Foreign Office and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills – in July 2015 and called on them to put justice for victims at the heart of the review.

-        Traidcraft’s policy experts attended meetings and submitted detailed comments and proposals.

-        And throughout the summer hundreds of campaigners emailed the ministers concerned.

As we moved into the autumn, it began to look as though the review process was running out of steam. Traidcraft alerted our supporters, and campaigners wrote to their MPs, asking them to contact the Prime Minister and encourage him to take a lead.

Well over 1500 campaigners wrote or emailed their MP, and at least 75 MPs contacted the Prime Minister. Those letters were diverted to the Foreign Office, who were leading the review.

Baroness Anelay, Minister of State at the Foreign Office, wrote to Traidcraft to assure us that we were being listened to. The news from civil servants was that the review would be published ‘any time now’.

That was January. And now, nearly three months since the review was promised, nothing. It’s all gone quiet. The latest rumour is that it’s being delayed until after the EU Referendum.

Frankly, that’s not good enough.

The Secretary of State for Business, Rt Hon Sajid Javid MP, said in a speech last year: ‘…being pro-business does not mean that you turn a blind eye to bad practice.’

We agree. The National Action Plan review is an opportunity to update the law so that big companies can be held accountable through the courts for their actions.

If you agree, you can email the Secretary of State now.