Letter from Amnesty Intl. UK Director to Financial Times: Companies bill should provide increased corporate accountability for human rights

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Article
28 September 2006

Debate on human rights not polarised [UK]

Author: Kate Allen, Director, Amnesty Intl. UK, in Financial Times

Sir, Your reporting on the companies bill mistakenly focuses on "pestering" by "green" lobby groups. Amnesty International is part of a broader coalition of groups pressing the government to ensure that UK plc is more accountable to all its stakeholders as their behaviour affects far more than climate change...The Universal Declaration of Human Rights clearly says that all organs of society must respect human rights within their sphere of influence. An amended companies bill, the biggest shake-up in company law for a century, should provide the basis for this long-overdue accountability.

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Article
28 September 2006

Further companies bill regulations would lessen accountability of directors to their shareholders [UK]

Author: Miles Templeman, Director General, Institute of Directors [UK]

Directors already have serious concerns that the statutory expression of directors' duties contained in the companies bill will require them to make and record decisions in an artificial and burdensome way, without reaching a different decision from the one they would have made anyway. At the IoD we have long recognised, and teach on our courses, that decisions made in the boardroom must meet the interests of appropriate stakeholders. To go further than what we now have in the bill is, in the words of a former minister until recently responsible for this area of law, "bonkers", as it would diminish the directors' accountability to shareholders.

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Article
28 September 2006

Government needs to show strength of its convictions [UK]

Author: Julian Oram, Chair, Corporate Responsibility Coalition [UK], in Financial Times

Sir, Margaret Hodge's suggestion that the social and environmental provisions in the company law bill could be extended once the legislation is on the statute book is an encouraging statement of intent by the government. The industry minister has recognised the mounting evidence showing that transparent, responsible companies perform better in the market over the long term, and that the business lobby has greatly overstated the potential costs of directors tackling the social and environmental impacts made by their companies.

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Article
26 September 2006

Company bill 'first step' of reforms [UK]

Author: Jean Eaglesham, Financial Times

A fundamental review of company law going through parliament is only the "first step" in tightening statutory controls on directors with respect to environmental and social issues, a minister warned yesterday. Margaret Hodge, industry minister, also told a fringe meeting at the Labour party conference in Manchester that the government "could, over time" extend the scope of the company law bill to embrace private as well as quoted companies. The warning that more regulation could be forthcoming - the first such signal from the government in the bill's eight-year gestation - will prompt alarm in boardrooms...Once the bill is passed, the government could still use regulations to increase the reporting and behavioural requirements for directors, the minister signalled. "The way to move forward is by having this first step, which enables those who are fearful [of the bill's impact] to be convinced," Ms Hodge said. But Alistair Darling, trade and industry secretary, stressed later yesterday that the government did not intend introducing any changes at the bill's third Commons reading, due on October 19. The CBI dubbed Ms Hodge's stance "a mistake".

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