Ending Exploitation in Supermarket Supply Chains

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 1:09 pm on 18th October 2018.

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Photo of Patricia Gibson Patricia Gibson Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Consumer Affairs) 1:09 pm, 18th October 2018

Absolutely. In the past, what has worked best is a carrot-and-stick approach. The Government can lay down regulations and insist by law that certain things are done by supermarkets in the supply chain in this country, but the power of the consumer cannot be overestimated. This is a two-pronged approach, therefore, and we need both these approaches.

We need firmer regulation to protect the rights of farmers and workers. We have modern slavery legislation, but it is important that we continue to be committed to challenging all practices that put people at risk of suffering within our supply chains by convening other nations against modern slavery, as the UK has done at the UN for the last two years.

Engagement with the ongoing independent review of the Modern Slavery Act 2015, ensuring the promotion of transparency within global supply chains, and a commitment to the UN guiding principles relating to business and human rights are essential. Supporting the UN binding treaty on business and human rights is required, too, and I will be interested to hear what the Minister has to say today. As the hon. Member for Bristol East said, many who fear a race to the bottom in food standards and who raise concerns about these matters think they will only be exacerbated post Brexit.

We can do more to mitigate and ease the suffering on a global scale in our supermarket supply chains. We should do what we can, and as a matter of urgency. I am sure that today’s debate has raised the profile of this issue, and I hope that consumers will begin to exert pressure of their own in the choices they make, but we need to do more to ensure that supermarkets themselves are confronted with the part they play in this suffering and abuse of workers and small-scale farmers in some of the poorest countries in the world. That is how real change will come, but the UK Government must play their part, and I am keen to hear the Minister’s response as to how her Government will address the very serious issues raised today.