China: Uighurs

Foreign and Commonwealth Office written question – answered on 29th January 2020.

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Photo of Yasmin Qureshi Yasmin Qureshi Shadow Minister (Justice)

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, with reference to the Answer of 17 October 2019 to question 261 on China: Uighurs, what steps his Department is taking to ensure that items for sale in the UK do not originate from sources that use forced labour; and which agency is tasked with investigating suspicions of slavery in supply chains.

Photo of Yasmin Qureshi Yasmin Qureshi Shadow Minister (Justice)

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, with reference to the Answer of 17 October 2019 to Question 261 on China: Uighurs, which body oversees compliance by companies with the Modern Slavery Act 2015; and how many companies that body has investigated in respect of providing (a) misleading and (b) insufficient evidence in their modern slavery statements.

Photo of Heather Wheeler Heather Wheeler The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs

As I mentioned in my answer of 17 October 2019, the UK Government is taking steps to ensure goods sold in the UK do not originate from sources that use forced labour. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office works closely with the Home Office in helping companies and industry stakeholders understand their risks overseas, and officials continue to monitor the situation in China.

The Government is committed to the eradication of all forms of forced labour, modern slavery and human trafficking as set out in Sustainable Development Goal 8.7, and has made tackling modern slavery a foreign policy priority. The Home Office have responsibility for ensuring compliance with Section 54 of the Modern Slavery Act 2015, which obliges certain commercial organisations to publish a modern slavery statement for each financial year. The requirement to publish annual statements is designed to drive progress against long-term strategies, to assess risks and identify priority areas for business improvement. As the published statutory guidance sets out, the Modern Slavery Act emphasises a transparency-focused approach rather than investigations of due diligence.

The Home Office has written twice to the CEOs of companies identified as in scope of the legislation with clear information about how to meet their obligations. Following an Independent Review of the Modern Slavery Act the Home Office has also consulted on proposals to strengthen the legislation and introduce new enforcement powers. The Home Office is currently analysing the responses to this consultation and will respond in due course.

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