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28 Nov 2023

Anti-Slavery International

Baroness Young of Hornsey Introduces Groundbreaking Private Member’s Bill in The House of Lords

Today, Baroness Young of Hornsey, a crossbench Peer and leading advocate for new laws to protect people and the planet, will introduce to the House of Lords a proposal for the UK’s first law requiring companies to conduct human rights and environmental due diligence. Businesses, policymakers, civil society, trade unions and the public have been calling for a law requiring companies to consider their impact on people and the planet, and this Bill is a step in the right direction. The UK has been left behind in addressing the negative impact of businesses on human rights and the environment.

The Bill, titled the Commercial Organisations and Public Authorities Duty (Human Rights and Environment) Bill, is being led by Baroness Lola Young of Hornsey, a patron of Anti-Slavery International and a committed advocate for human rights. The 2022 Global Estimates on Modern Slavery estimate that 17.3 million people are in forced labour in the private sector. Nearly nine years on from the Modern Slavery Act (2015), and on the heels of similar provisions introduced abroad, this Bill would address the shortfalls of existing legislation by compelling companies to take meaningful steps to address modern slavery and the risk thereof in their operations and would hold them accountable for their failure to prevent harm.

Key provisions of the Bill include:

  • Compel businesses and other organisations to undertake human rights and environmental due diligence to identify, address, prevent, mitigate and remedy harms in their operations and value chains.
  • Hold companies accountable for a failure to prevent abuses through liability provisions.
  • Help to level the playing field between businesses, bringing them all up to the same standard of practice and providing clarity and certainty on legal obligations.
  • Enable victims of abuses, including modern slavery, to access justice through the courts of the home country of the lead company in a supply chain.

The Bill enters parliament with a wealth of existing support:

  • A pledge supporting a new law in the UK on business, human rights and the environment to protect people and the planet from abuse was signed by 44 MPs and Peers from 7 different parties.
  • A statement in August 2022 saw 38 UK investors representing £4.5 trillion in assets under management calling for such a Bill in the UK.
  • A growing statement now totalling 50 UK businesses and investors, including the British Retail Consortium, John Lewis, Tesco and Aviva, calling for UK human rights due diligence legislation.
  • Evidence of public support with YouGov Polling showing that 4 in 5 of the British public want a law to prevent business human rights and environmental harm.