Question by Lord Alton of Liverpool
To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the Written Answer by Baroness Williams of Trafford on 14 October (HL8617), what prosecutions for breaches of the Modern Slavery Act 2015, in connection with Uighur slave labour, are either under way or being prepared; what assessment they have made of the United States’ Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act; and what plans, if any, they have to introduce similar rules as contained in that Act on imports from China. (HL9168)
Tabled on: 14 October 2020
Baroness Williams of Trafford:
Section 54 of the Modern Slavery Act 2015 requires certain businesses with a turnover of £36m or more, equating to approximately 16,000 businesses, to report annually on the steps they have taken to prevent modern slavery in their operations and supply chains.
The prevalence of modern slavery and complexity of global supply chains means that it is highly unlikely that any company is immune from the risks of modern slavery. Section 54 therefore does not require organisations to certify that their global supply chains are ‘slavery free’ or that the Government verifies the content of modern slavery statements.
The Government continues to strengthen its approach and following an Independent Review of the Modern Slavery Act, the Home Office ran a public consultation on a range of proposals to strengthen Section 54. On 22 September 2020, the Government published its response to this consultation and announced plans to strengthen the Act and develop options for civil penalties for non-compliance in line with the ongoing development of the Single Enforcement Body for employment rights. The Government has committed to implementing these changes when parliamentary time allows.
The Government has serious concerns about the situation in Xinjiang, with credible reports of the use of forced labour. It has always been the case that, where we have concerns, we raise them, as we did on this issue at the UN Third Committee on 6 October.
We advise businesses with supply chain links in Xinjiang to conduct appropriate due diligence to satisfy themselves that their activities do not support, or risk being seen to be supporting, any human rights violations or abuses.
We do not currently have plans to ban imports from Xinjiang.
Date and time of answer: 28 Oct 2020 at 14:45.