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Imports: Manufactured Goods

Volume 486: debated on Wednesday 21 January 2009

To ask the Minister of State, Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform what steps his Department is taking to ensure that imported goods have not been produced by foreign workers who have been exploited. (245025)

The UK Government fully recognise the importance of protecting overseas workers from exploitation.

We fully support the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Decent Work Agenda, which promotes employment, labour standards, social protection and social dialogue; and we actively encourage all ILO member states to improve working conditions and, particularly, to work towards ratifying and implementing the eight ILO core labour conventions, which cover forced and child labour, trade union rights and discrimination in employment.

We also fully support the ILO’s Tripartite Declaration of Principles concerning Multinational Enterprises and Social Policy, and the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises, which are voluntary standards of responsible corporate behaviour. Allegations of breaches of the guidelines by UK companies can be investigated by the UK’s National Contact Point.

We also fund the Ethical Trade Initiative, an alliance of businesses, trade unions and charities. This initiative works to secure better conditions for workers in supply chains making products for export to the UK and other countries; for example, workers who make clothes, shoes, toys and food items.

In addition, the EU’s special incentive arrangement for sustainable development and good governance (GSP+) incentivises economically vulnerable countries to improve their labour standards by allowing preferential access to EU markets if they ratify and effectively implement key international instruments including the eight ILO conventions.

Given the size and complexity of many supply chains, the Government strongly believe that this approach are more practical and effective than a UK-based monitoring system.