Developing Countries: Clothing

Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office written question – answered on 24th June 2022.

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Photo of Barry Sheerman Barry Sheerman Labour/Co-operative, Huddersfield

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs, what steps she is taking to work with partners abroad to improve workplace rights for people employed in the fashion industry.

Photo of Barry Sheerman Barry Sheerman Labour/Co-operative, Huddersfield

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs, what steps she is taking to help ensure UK fashion brands are not complicit in exploitative labour practices in their overseas supply chain.

Photo of Barry Sheerman Barry Sheerman Labour/Co-operative, Huddersfield

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs, what assessment she has made of the adequacy of the treatment of women in overseas factories producing clothes for the UK market.

Photo of Vicky Ford Vicky Ford Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office)

The Government is clear that it expects all UK businesses to respect human rights throughout their operations, in line with the UN Guiding Principles and the UK National Action Plan on Business and Human Rights. This also applies to the fashion industry. Section 54 of the Modern Slavery Act places a requirement on businesses with a turnover of £36 million or more, to publish an annual modern slavery statement setting out the steps they have taken to prevent modern slavery in their operations and supply chains. Additionally, we announced in 2021 that financial penalties for non-compliance would be introduced. These measures will be included in the Modern Slavery Bill that was announced as part of the Queen's Speech in May 2022.

We know that women and girls are most at risk of modern slavery, making up approximately 70% of victims. Our work overseas seeks to support women and girls, including in the overseas garment sector. The "Work in Freedom" programme works to reduce vulnerability to trafficking and forced labour of women and girls who want to work in the care, textiles, clothing, leather and footwear sectors in South Asia and the Arab States. This programme has reached over 380,000 women and girls since 2018.

The UK's Presidency of the G7 in 2021 and the resulting commitments from G7 members to tackle forced labour in global supply chains, demonstrated our continued commitment to ending modern slavery.

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