Thank you to those constituents who have contacted me about garment factories. I can assure you that I share the UK’s ambition to improve labour conditions in those factories located in foreign countries that supply clothing to UK stores.
In line with its commitment to the objective of full and productive employment and decent work for all, as enshrined by the UN's Sustainable Development Goal 8, I know the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) engages on workers rights through a variety of methods.
I understand that HM Government is involved with a social dialogue programme that works in 77 factories in Bangladesh, bringing together companies, suppliers and local trade unions, to improve conditions for more than 169,000 workers. The UK is also a signatory of the Bangladesh ‘Sustainability Compact’. This Compact commits the Governments of Bangladesh, US, Canada, EU and the International Labour Organisation (ILO) to improve labour rights, health and safety, building safety and responsible business conduct.
Additionally, through the UK's multi-year Work in Freedom programme with the ILO, the FCDO works with local unions to promote workers' rights in South Asia and the Middle East.
I understand that the pandemic had a significant impact on both UK businesses and workers within their global supply chains. HMG has encouraged major fashion retailers to adhere to the ILO’s Call to Action on Garments, launched in 2020, to promote respect for ILO core labour standards. In addition, HMG urged UK clothing companies to honour existing orders; prioritising the labour portion of the cost of goods to protect the incomes of workers.
The FCDO also established the Vulnerable Supply Chains Facility in August 2020, which operates in the garments and agriculture sectors. It is a testament to the UK's decisive action that, in less than one year following the Facility's launch, 206,000 workers had received critical cash transfers, health services, PPE, Covid-19 prevention and training to build resilience and rights awareness.
More broadly, in 2015, the UK became the first country in the world to require businesses to report on their progress to identify and address modern slavery risks in their operations and supply chains. Building on this, HMG has committed to an ambitious package of measures to strengthen and future-proof the Modern Slavery Act’s transparency legislation.
Some of these measures are global firsts and are examples of the UK’s world-leading approach. I will continue to monitor this issue on behalf of constituents.
Thank you again for taking the time to contact me.