Human Rights

House of Lords written question – answered on 25th January 2010.

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Photo of Lord Lester of Herne Hill Lord Lester of Herne Hill Spokesperson for Women and Equality

To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment has been made of the impact of the proposed revisions to the Export Credits Guarantee Department's business principles and ancillary policies on the protection of social and human rights, including protection against the use of child workers and forced labour abroad.

To ask Her Majesty's Government why the current public consultation on proposed revisions to the Export Credits Guarantee Department's business principles and ancillary policies does not contain information about the estimated impact of such revisions upon the protection of social and human rights, including protection against the use of child workers and forced labour abroad.

Photo of Lord Davies of Abersoch Lord Davies of Abersoch Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Minister of State, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, Minister of State (Department for Business, Innovation and Skills) (Trade, Investment and Small Business) (also in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office), Minister of State (Foreign and Commonwealth Office) (UK Trade and Investment) (also in the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills)

The Government have included in their public consultation on ECGD's business principles a proposal that ECGD should adopt a policy of following OECD agreements related to the environment, sustainable lending and bribery, and not, in future, separately operate and additionally create policies which go beyond those agreements. The consultation document stated that the effect of this proposal would be that certain exports, being those involving credit terms of less than two years or an UK export value of less than SDR 10 million (circa £10 million) would no longer be subject to environmental and social impact due diligence, including human rights impacts. This would be consistent with the system of protection on such matters that members of the OECD consider appropriate as set out in the relevant international agreement (the OECD recommendation on common approaches on the environment and officially supported export credits).

No assessment has been made of the potential impact of such a proposal on the protection of social and human rights, including protection against the exploitative use of child workers and the use of forced labour overseas, because ECGD does not know, and cannot estimate, the level of future demand for support for exports falling into the above category. Without such prior knowledge, ECGD cannot estimate the proportion of those within that category that might have possible environmental and social impacts, including on human rights, or determine the classification between A, B or C impacts and whether such impacts would satisfy international standards as specified in the OECD recommendation on common approaches and, therefore, be eligible in principle for ECGD support.

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