China is the largest cotton producer in the world, with 84% of cotton coming from the Xinjiang region. The region also produces 45% of the world’s supply of the key component in solar panels, polysilicon, which means that the supply chains are tainted with forced Uyghur labour. In a response given in the other place, the Government outlined that they would
“continue to pursue a positive economic relationship with China and…increase trade with China.”—[Official Report, House of Lords, 21 October 2021; Vol. 815, c. 252.]
In light of the genocide against the Uyghur Muslims, does the Minister think that is an acceptable approach, and will the Minister now follow in the footsteps of the US and ban imports from China’s Xinjiang region?
First, I thank the hon. Gentleman for raising the issue. The more we can talk about it, keep it on our agenda and raise the profile of such matters consistently, the more helpful it is. We are looking at what other nations are doing and we keep our policies under review. He is right: we need a mix of targeted responses against states and also companies that have those practices. We have a good track record on combating modern slavery and being a global leader in this field, but we also need the transparency and tools for consumers and customers of those businesses to find other suppliers if they have concerns. We will keep the matter under review, and I can tell the hon. Gentleman that we take those matters very seriously.