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Developing Countries: Exports

Volume 464: debated on Monday 15 October 2007

To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what restrictions are available to be applied to imported goods which are manufactured for United Kingdom-based retailers by work forces (a) employed under conditions that do not meet minimum International Labour Organisation standards and (b) operating in factory conditions that breach local environmental pollution regulations; and what mechanisms are in place to evaluate the working conditions of work forces abroad producing goods for import into the United Kingdom. (156196)

We continue to provide support and advice to build developing countries own ability to meet International Labour Organisation (ILO) and environmental standards, rather than seeking to impose solutions from outside.

The UK has consistently promoted efforts to ensure that international trade takes place on a sustainable basis, the principles of which include respect for the rights of workers and for environmental standards. We support voluntary codes of practice such as the Ethical Trading Initiative and the Fairtrade Foundation. We also support the work of the International Labour Organisation (ILO), which has a three-year, £20 million partnership agreement with DFID. The UK Government are also supporting sustainable development through measures such as the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) and the EU Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) initiative.

There are no restrictions available to be applied to imported goods which are manufactured for United Kingdom-based retailers by work forces that are either employed under conditions that do not meet International Labour Organisation (ILO) standards, or that operate in factory conditions that breach local environmental pollution regulations. This is because there would be significant practical obstacles to implementing such measures, as well as the fact that it would be difficult to make them compatible with World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules.