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Retail Trade: Clothing

Question for Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy

UIN 175965, tabled on 25 March 2021

To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, what steps he is taking to tackle abusive purchasing practices by UK garment retailers.

Answered on

13 April 2021

The Government expects businesses to be open and transparent in responding to consumers’ interest in where and how the products they source have been manufactured, including the use of raw materials. Since the introduction of the Modern Slavery Act, we have seen more businesses open up about their supply chains, identify high-risk areas and introduce tailored steps to support vulnerable workers.

UK listed companies are required to report on social and environmental impacts material to their business, including information about supply chains, where this is necessary for an understanding of the business as part of annual reports.

The Government response to the Transparency in Supply Chains consultation, published on 22 September 2020, committed to taking forwards an ambitious package of changes to strengthen and future-proof the Modern Slavery Act’s transparency legislation, including:

  • Extending the reporting requirement to public bodies with a budget of £36 million or more.
  • Mandating the specific reporting topics statements must cover.
  • Requiring organisations to publish their statement on the new Government digital reporting service.
  • Setting a single reporting deadline by which all modern slavery statements must be published.
  • Considering enforcement options in line with the ongoing development of the Single Enforcement Body for Employment rights.

Under section 54 of the Modern Slavery Act 2015, the UK became the first country in the world to require businesses to report on how they prevent modern slavery in their operations. Following consultation, the Home Office has announced a series of measures to strengthen the Modern Slavery Act. Organisations will be required to include information about their organisation’s structure and supply chains in their modern slavery statement or to explicitly state that their statement omits this information. These new measures will be introduced once parliamentary time allows.

The Government has been engaging with the British Retail Consortium on their proposals for a licensing scheme, and with Traidcraft on the Garment Trade Adjudicator to understand the impact that further regulation would have.

BEIS and the Home Office are also working in partnership with the industry through the Apparel and General Merchandise Public and Private Protocol, a partnership between enforcement bodies and industry partners, including, the British Retail Consortium, UK Fashion and the Textile Association. This is aimed at tackling all forms of labour exploitation in the garment industry.

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