Traidcraft and Fair Trade — [Mr Philip Hollobone in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 9:49 am on 18th December 2018.

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Photo of Jim Shannon Jim Shannon Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Human Rights), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Health) 9:49 am, 18th December 2018

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. We should not be inhibited in supporting Fairtrade and Traidcraft. I was going to say at the end of my speech —he may have gone through my notes—that even if it means paying an extra 50p or £1 for a product just to keep it all going while the pound strengthens again, we should do that. I thank him for that comment. As always, he brings knowledge and wisdom to the debate.

I read a briefing by Traidcraft that said that, as Traidcraft plc goes forward, it will be striving to offer consumers ever greater levels of transparency about where its products come from and where its money goes. Hon. Members in this Chamber probably know where the products come from and the benefits of them, but it is important that others see that too. Fair trade is increasingly seen as the norm for all businesses. Traidcraft Exchange is also encouraging mainstream businesses, through its “Who picked my tea?” campaign, to know and make public information about their suppliers. There are small things we can do to assist that. I believe that that is vital in providing workers and community groups in supplier companies with the information and opportunity to hold companies to account for the standards that are expected in their supply chains—for example, with reference to working conditions and vulnerability to modern slavery.

There is a real need to ensure that workers’ conditions are at a good standard. Traidcraft has said:

“We urge Government as part of the review of the Modern Slavery Act to update the official guidance to encourage companies, as part of their reporting, to publish where they buy their goods from and the wages of their supply chain workers. We also encourage Government to consider legislation that would make Human Rights Due Diligence mandatory.”

I am my party’s human rights spokesperson, so like all hon. Members in this Chamber and others outside it, I have a deep interest in this issue. Therefore, the issue of fair wages and good working conditions are important to me.

I am pleased that, in this debate, we have a shadow Minister who has a deep interest in this issue and a Minister who understands it better than most. I know that both their contributions will be worth listening to, and that they will respond to our concerns. I have no doubt that they will both reply very positively and supportively.

I support Traidcraft in what it is asking the Government to do. There is an onus on us to ensure that we do not support the trafficking and ill-treatment of children or adults throughout the world. I sincerely believe that we must do more and be more for those who have no voices and no one willing to stand up for them. As often happens in this House, we are the voice of the voiceless. This debate gives us the opportunity to do just that.

I say well done to all in Traidcraft and Fairtrade for how far they have brought us. It heartens me that my own grandchildren—those who have children and grandchildren have probably found the same—already know what the Fairtrade symbol is. It is encouraging that grandchildren remind people of what the Fairtrade symbol is and what it means. Perhaps their parents or grandparents do not know, but it is good to know that the children of today—in both primary school and secondary school—know about the Fairtrade symbol. That encourages us to buy things with the symbol. That needs to continue. We need to teach a generation to be cognisant of the fact that an extra 50p or £1 on an item could make the difference between a child slave and a paid wage. That is the importance of what we are doing. We encourage people to purchase Traidcraft and Fairtrade items.

I offer my full support to those who wish simply to do the right thing, and to do all in their power to ensure that the people they buy from also do the right thing. We need to make people aware legislatively that “see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil” in the process of their purchases will no longer be possible or, indeed, acceptable.

I again apologise, Mr Hollobone. I have asked your permission to leave early, because I have a meeting with a Minister. I apologise that I will not be here at the end of the debate for the contributions of the shadow Minister, the Minister and the mover of the debate.