Responsible companies bill gets Commons airing

 A parliamentary bill aimed at making companies report their global social and environmental as well as financial performance was given 38 minutes of debating time in the House of Commons yesterday, before being blocked by the government. The Performance of Companies and Government Departments (Reporting) Bill, read as a private members' bill by Andy King MP, received broad support from both within parliament and outside. Christian Aid, CAFOD and other members of the Corporate Responsibility (CORE) coalition also supported Mr King, and thousands of people who responded to requests from CORE members sent emails and letters to MPs asking them to allow the debate to go ahead. As well as making social and environmental reporting mandatory, the Bill proposed that company directors be made liable for the any damaging impact their companies have on communities. "Such impacts were highlighted in a recent report by Christian Aid, Behind the mask: The real face of corporate social responsibility" said Mr King, during his 12 minute reading of the Bill. "What some of the largest companies are doing in the UK and across the world is appalling and must end." Conservatives in the House, after some initial opposition, made it clear that they would be happy for the Bill to be allowed to progress to committee stage, where its proposals would have been debated more fully. But MPs did not get the opportunity to vote because Mike O'Brien, the minister for Trade and Investment, took up the remaining parliamentary time responding to the Bill on behalf of the government. Mr O'Brien made it clear that the government did not want to 'burden business' with mandatory reporting, but promised that some corporate responsibility measures would be included in new company legislation that would be published in 'due course'. "Andy King standing up to read his Bill signalled an important moment in the debate about corporate responsibility,' said Andrew Pendleton, the author of Christian Aid's recent report.'The CORE coalition and its arguments have gained huge credibility as a result, but now we must increase the pressure on the government to beef up its proposals on company law to include greater accountability to communities."

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