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Uyghur Region: Solar Industry Sourcing

Volume 737: debated on Tuesday 19 September 2023

7. What assessment she has made of the implications for her policies of the report by Sheffield Hallam University entitled “Over-exposed: Uyghur Region Exposure Assessment for Solar Industry Sourcing”, published in August 2023. (906458)

The Government are determined to ensure that our energy system is not dependent on forced labour at home or abroad. The supply chain and innovation sub-group of the solar taskforce is therefore considering this issue as a top priority.

I start by welcoming my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State to her place.

What conversations has my hon. Friend the Minister had with the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office and the Department for Business and Trade on eradicating forced labour from our supply chains? Does he agree that we must ban the worst offending companies from our shores? Will he therefore lead a cross-Government effort to take action on tackling slave labour in our supply chains, just as Germany, America and the EU already have done?

My hon. Friend knows that this issue is a top priority for the Government and for me. A range of tools can be used to tackle forced labour in global supply chains. The Government continue to keep our policy responses under close review, and we are working closely with our partners, including at the United Nations, to hold China to account for its egregious human rights violations in Xinjiang. We have already taken robust action, introduced new guidance on the risks of doing business in Xinjiang, enhanced export controls and introduced financial penalties under the Modern Slavery Act 2015.

I thank the Minister for that answer. As chair of the all-party parliamentary group for international freedom of religion or belief, I commend the hon. Member for Rutland and Melton (Alicia Kearns) on raising this matter. For me, freedom of religious belief in China is paramount and should be a priority for the Government—I think it is. To make it happen, we need clear legislation in this place and real power from this Government, and we need to be assured that no company that uses forced labour in China can have its products sold in this country. Again, I seek confirmation from the Minister that that serious strong will is there.

I concur very much with the hon. Gentleman’s view on this matter. The Government are determined to ensure that our energy system is not dependent on forced labour. As I said, we are continuing to work with international partners to do what we can to hold China to account for its egregious human rights violations, and to work with the solar industry to see what we can do to weed out forced labour and ensure that it is not part of that supply chain moving forward.