Scottish MP’s quest to end modern slavery

A worker in Bangladesh, scene of 2013 tragedy. Picture: Getty Images

A worker in Bangladesh, scene of 2013 tragedy. Picture: Getty Images

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BIG businesses will have to sign up to an ethical agreement promising to eradicate slavery from their supply chains under a new clause put up by a Scots MP as part of the Modern Slavery Bill, Scotland on Sunday can reveal.

Companies with a global turnover of more than a set amount – probably £60 million – will have to display a “kitemark” to prove they have checked every supplier under new rules driven by Linlithgow and Falkirk East MP Michael Connarty.

They are likely to apply to major retailers and international businesses in the UK and will be legally enforceable.

The bill is to have its final reading in the Commons on Tuesday and then will pass through the House of Lords. It is expected the kitemark will be in use within months.

Labour MP Connarty, vice-chair of the UK Parliamentary Group Against Modern Day Slavery, said: “This simple measure will be welcomed by customers, who would like to be reassured what they buy is not the product of slave labour, but tell me they think it should be the responsibility of businesses, not the customers, to carry out the checks.

“Respectable businesses now realise the law will expose disreputable competitors who ­undercut them by indulging in inhuman employment ­practices.

“It is crucial in the fight against human trafficking and modern-day slavery that the law reaches out to abuses in supply chains overseas, so the UK can truly challenge the modern version of the slavery we thought had been outlawed in the 19th century by William Wilberforce.”

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The bill aims to prevent a repeat of tragedies such as the Rana Plaza disaster, when more than 1,100 people were killed and a further 2,000 injured when an eight-storey clothing factory in Dhaka, Bangladesh, collapsed in April 2013. Workers there were being paid £3.80 a day, with an overtime payment of 25p for working until midnight.

A similar law is already in place in California.

Karen Bradley, minister for Modern Slavery and Organised Crime, said the Connarty amendment would increase supply chain transparency.

In a letter to shadow justice minister David Hanson, she said: “Once it is clear what action major businesses are undertaking, we expect public pressure and competition between businesses will encourage others who have not taken decisive steps to do so.”

David Lonsdale, director of the Scottish Retail Consortium, said: “The SRC backs greater transparency and is supporting [the proposed clause in] the Modern Slavery Bill.”

Jyrki Raina, general secretary at IndustriALL global union federation, which has played a key role in creating a safety agreement in the wake of the Rana Plaza disaster, said: “We cannot overstate the importance of transparency in supply chains. This bill to be passed on Tuesday will require compulsory reporting and is a very positive development in the UK.”

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