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Government demand answers from fashion and tech businesses in forced labour inquiry

Tom Shearsmith
19 October 2020

The Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) Committee has written to a range of businesses in sectors including fashion, retail and technology, to seek answers in relation to the Committee’s inquiry.

The inquiry seeks to explore the extent to which businesses in the UK are exploiting the forced labour of Uyghur in the Xinjiang region of China.

The Committee’s request for information to these named businesses also includes an invitation to give evidence at the BEIS Committee’s public hearing on Thursday 5 November 2020.

Government Minister Paul Scully will also be giving evidence at this session. Further witness details will be announced in due course.

The BEIS Committee has written to companies including: Adidas, Amazon, Boohoo, Gap, H&M Group, Marks and Spencer, Nike, Puma, Stella McCartney, The North Face, The Walt Disney Company, Victoria’s Secret and Zara.

The letters include questions around supply-chain transparency and regarding evidence of compliance with labour, procurement and anti-slavery laws.

Businesses have been asked to submit written information by 23 October addressing the following questions:

  • Do any of your organisation’s value chains link directly or indirectly to the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region of China, and what steps are you taking to ensure that you have visibility of your entire value chain?
  • What actions are you taking to prevent modern slavery and human rights abuses within your organisation and its value chains?
  • What evidence can you supply of compliance with all applicable labour, procurement and anti-slavery laws?
  • What are your human rights due diligence processes in respect of your workers and value chains?
  • What action does your organisation take to ensure modern slavery compliance in your value chain?

Nusrat Ghani MP (Lead BEIS Committee member for the inquiry) said: “The Australian Strategic Policy Institute’s ‘Uyghur’s for Sale’ report names 82 foreign and Chinese companies directly or indirectly benefiting from the exploitation of Uyghur workers in Xinjiang.

"The companies listed in the Australian Strategic Policy Institute’s report span industries including the fashion, retail and information technology sectors. On the BEIS Committee, we are determined to ask prominent businesses operating in Britain in these sectors what they are doing to ensure their profits are not on the back of forced labour in China.

"These businesses are trusted by many British consumers and I hope they will repay this faith by coming forward to answer these questions and also take up the opportunity to give evidence to the Business Committee in public.

“There have been a series of accounts of products being sold in the UK which can be traced back to forced labour at camps in China. On the BEIS Committee, we want to get a clearer sense of the extent of this problem, how seriously businesses ask questions of their own supply and value-chains, and to also examine the steps both Government and business could take to ensure that businesses and consumers in the UK do not perpetuate the forced labour of Uyghur.”

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