§ Mr. Streeter
To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what discussions he has had with the(a) Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs and (b) Secretary of State for International Development about educating UK businesses to employ business practices that promote religious freedom overseas. 
§ Dr. Howells
[holding answer 27 April 2001]: There have not been any discussions between my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry and his colleagues at FCO and DfID on this issue.
However, promotion of human rights is at the heart of the UK's foreign policy and HMG regard religious freedom as a fundamental human right. The Government condemn instances where individuals are persecuted because of their faith, wherever it happens and whatever the religion of the individual or group concerned.
The Government acknowledge that UK businesses operating in international markets can play an important role in promoting human rights and are keen to help encourage this as part of the work to promote Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). Last year I was appointed as Minister with responsibility for corporate social responsibility with a remit including improving co-ordination of activity across Government to promote CSR, including establishment of an Interdepartmental Group of officials. Both FCO and DfID are among the Departments represented on this group.452W
Government are working in a variety of ways to promote business awareness of human rights. For example, DTI supported Business in the Community's report "Winning With Integrity" which includes practical advice to businesses on how they can ensure their operations respect human rights. The DTI is actively promoting the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprise which refer to businesses respecting human rights and works closely with other Government Departments in these efforts. FCO has established a Global Citizenship Unit with a remit to work with Trade Partners UK, other Government Departments, individual companies, NGOs and posts abroad in support of global citizenship initiatives. British Trade International recognises that companies applying corporate social responsibility principles will have a better understanding of key social and environmental issues and will manage such risks in a more effective and competitive manner.