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

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 10:26 am on 18th December 2018.

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Photo of Alistair Burt Alistair Burt Minister of State (Department for International Development) (Joint with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office), Minister of State (Foreign and Commonwealth Office) (Joint with the Department for International Development) 10:26 am, 18th December 2018

My remarks have gone even wider than the copy that was obviously supplied to the right hon. Member for East Ham. DFID has recently updated its supplier code of conduct to require companies to sign up to the UN global compact, thereby promoting responsible businesses and committing companies to take action to address such issues. Responsible business is about more than just small or one-off projects that create win-win outcomes for business and society; it is the expansion of firms’ core business in developing markets, embracing socially and environmentally positive conduct through supply chains. That is why we have updated the code. We are encouraging businesses to contribute to economic development in ways that are socially responsible and environmentally sound, and that help to defeat modern slavery.

Hon. Members raised the question of gender focus, and all DFID private sector work goes through a gender lens. We recognise the changes that have taken place, as well as the particular pressures on women when working through these issues. The Commonwealth Development Corporation has a gender strategy, and DFID has its Work and Opportunities for Women programme. As I have explained, there are specific programmes directed at supporting women.

The hon. Member for Blaydon asked us to consider legislation to make human rights due diligence mandatory. That is a matter on which we must encourage, rather than legislate. We are encouraging better reporting on human rights, through grants to Shift and the Ethical Trading Initiative. We also rank human rights performance through corporate human rights benchmarking. We do not have plans at present to make that mandatory through legislation. It would be difficult to enforce. However, the question of how to promote that and to work with others on it is much on our minds. I think that is important.

There is more we must do to ensure that the benefits of trade are spread widely, levelling the playing field for those on the margins. That is important between countries, which is why the Government have a range of programmes to support the least developed countries to benefit from global trade, including our flagship trade facilitation programme TradeMark East Africa, and the recently launched Commonwealth Standards Network.