UK: Groups tell Blair Company Law is key to tackling poverty

The Prime Minister will be urged to follow up on his commitment to tackling global poverty today (Tuesday 6 June 2006) as the Company Law Reform Bill enters the House of Commons. Faith groups, campaigners and lawyers say the Bill represents a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to ensure that business operates for the benefit of people and the environment [1].

They have called on the Prime Minister, in an open letter, to follow up on his public commitments to more sustainable development and amend the Bill so that company directors have a legal duty to take reasonable steps to minimise the harm their company may cause to local communities and the environment.

The letter, which has been coordinated by the Trade Justice Movement and the Corporate Responsibility (CORE) campaign also calls for a legal requirement for companies to report on their social and environmental impacts and improved access to legal action in UK courts for people overseas affected by the impacts of a UK company.

Hannah Ellis, Coordinator of the Corporate Responsibility Coalition (CORE) said:

“The Prime Minister has been a great advocate for tackling global poverty and this Bill provides his Government with a real opportunity to do just that. UK companies currently benefit from access to cheap resources and labour overseas, but do not always consider the impact of their activities on the local environment or the community or act responsibly. The law currently recognises that companies may wish to consider the impacts they have, but is not tough enough. The Government must be bolder in their approach and ensure that UK companies become a real force for good rather than too often a cause for shame.”

The letter follows pleas from more than 100,000 people around the country who have urged their MPs to support these changes to the Company Law Reform Bill. And a poll of the general public found that 90 per cent of voters agreed that “the Government should set out enforceable rules to ensure companies are socially responsible”.

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Read the open letter to Tony Blair (word)

Signatories to the letter are:

Deborah Doane, Director, The Corporate Responsibility (CORE) Coalition
Glen Tarman, Coordinator, Trade Justice Movement
Richard Miller, Director, ActionAid UK
Kate Allen, Director, Amnesty International UK
Jacqui Mackay, National Coordinator, Banana Link
Richard Bennett, General Secretary, BOND (British Overseas NGOs for Development)
Penny Newman, Chief Executive, Cafédirect plc
Chris Bain, Director, CAFOD
Maggie Robbins, UK Director, Centre for Corporate Accountability
Paul Valentin, International Director, Christian Aid
Miles Litvinoff, Coordinator, Ecumenical Council for Corporate Responsibility
Harriet Lamb, Director, Fairtrade Foundation
Tony Juniper, Executive Director, Friends of the Earth England, Wales & N. Ireland
David Forsdick, Barrister, Landmark Chambers
Martyn Day, Senior Partner, Leigh Day & Co
Fay Mansell, Chair, National Federation of Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights’s Institutes
Wendy Martin, Editor, New Consumer Magazine
Graham Bennett, Director, One World Action
Barbara Stocking, Director, Oxfam GB
Ian Leggett, Director, People & Planet
Sophie Paton, Co-ordinator, Peru Support Group
Mark Serwotka, General Secretary, Public and Commercial Services Union
Paul Noon, General Secretary, Prospect
Paul Chitnis, Chief Executive, Scottish Catholic International Aid Fund (SCIAF)
Ben Gilchrist, Director, SPEAK
Matthew Frost, Chief Executive, Tearfund
Paul Chandler, Chief Executive, Traidcraft Exchange
Charles Middleton, UK Managing Director, Triodos Bank NV
Jeremy Wagg, Executive Director, Relationships and Marketing, Unity Trust Bank plc
Louise Richards, Chief Executive , War on Want
Benedict Southworth, Director, World Development Movement
Robert Napier, Chief Executive, WWF-UK
Rt Revd. Dr Michael Nazir-Ali , Bishop of Rochester
Rt Rev Tim Stevens, Bishop of Leicester

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