Ending Exploitation in Supermarket Supply Chains

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 1:04 pm on 18th October 2018.

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Photo of Deidre Brock Deidre Brock Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Devolved Government Relations), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Environment and Rural Affairs), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Wales) 1:04 pm, 18th October 2018

I certainly do. I am well aware of that, having attended Fairtrade coffee mornings in my constituency for the last couple of years. It is great to see people really getting behind the Fairtrade initiative.

Clearly, as the Government recognise, the picture is patchy, and there are many issues relating to how the measures in the Modern Slavery Act are working on the ground. Encouraging transparency and fairness is simply not enough. We know that agriculture, fishing and forestry businesses are amongst the highest-risk offenders in respect of forced labour worldwide, but a year after the Act came into force, only 19% of agriculture companies were doing all that is required to comply with section 54. Even when businesses do comply, it can be seen as little more than a box-ticking exercise—very little effort is made to get to the root of the problem. Companies must be made, not just encouraged, to comply. As all who have suffered at the hand of austerity since 2007 would agree, light-touch regulation is not enough.

The discovery of slavery in supply chains should hit businesses where it hurts most, and highlighting their brands, their profitability and those all-important dividends should be key. We should be shouting from the rooftops the names of those who take a stand, and holding liable all those who do not. We all have a responsibility to ensure that, wherever they come from, workers who help to put food and other products on our shelves earn enough to enjoy a decent, dignified standard of living.