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Uzbekistan: Cotton

Volume 505: debated on Wednesday 3 February 2010

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what steps his Department is taking to prevent imports of (a) cotton and (b) clothing which has been produced by child labour in Uzbekistan; and if he will make a statement. (315197)

The UK remains concerned about reports of the use of child labour in the cotton sector in Uzbekistan. The UK has raised its concerns with the Uzbek Government and through the EU. Our embassy in Tashkent also remains in regular contact with the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) on the issue. In order to support the establishment of stronger child labour monitoring systems in Uzbekistan our embassy is funding a project that has delivered informal education and vocational training to children most at risk of child labour in thirteen rural areas.

The EU welcomed Uzbekistan's signing of the International Labour Organisation Convention on the Worst Forms of Child Labour and the Minimum Age of Employment in 2008 and 2009 respectively. A National Action Plan was launched in 2008 to ensure implementation of these conventions. We continue to urge Uzbekistan to implement effectively its international obligations in this regard.

The EU can temporarily withdraw trade preferences provided to developing countries under its Generalised System of Preferences, if there is sufficient evidence of labour rights violations. However, the EU and UK believe the best way to improve labour standards is for governments to work with workers' and employers' groups to improve their ability to comply with, and enforce, labour laws.

The UK Government continue to call on businesses to look at their supply chains and take appropriate action if they find evidence that goods have been produced using child labour.

There is no legal requirement for goods to bear marks indicating their origin. As such it would be difficult for the Government to establish a blanket ban on imports of Uzbek cotton and clothing. Similarly, products manufactured using Uzbek cotton in a third country would legitimately bear the country of manufacture as the country of origin.