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Forced Labour Products

Volume 205: debated on Friday 13 March 1992

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To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what controls exist on the import of products produced by forced labour; if these are being applied to imports from the People's Republic of China; and if he will make a statement.

There are severe practical difficulties in identifying goods allegedly produced using forced labour given the varied and complex channels of production and distribution which exist in international trade. More generally, it is highly doubtful whether the social conditions that give rise to forced labour can be improved by restricting trade: indeed, opening up trade is more likely to contribute to economic growth in the developing world, which is a prime objective of the current GATT Uruguay round negotiations.The Government do, however, urge all states which have ratified international instruments covering slavery, servitude, forced labour and similar practices to meet their obligations under those instruments, and also urges those states which have not done so to ratify at the earliest opportunity.Trade in goods produced specifically with prison labour is governed by the Foreign Prison Made Goods Act 1897, as amended in 1988. For enforcement of the Act, the Government have to rely in the main on the private sector or others to supply sufficient evidence to HM Customs and Excise.