Gov considers garment trade adjudicator to address labour exploitation

The UK government could introduce a garment trade adjudicator to tackle the exploitation of vulnerable workers and drive up standards.

Last month, the Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) wrote a letter to secretary of state for business, energy and industrial strategy calling for the introduction of an adjudicator for the clothing sector, following evidence of ongoing labour abuses in the domestic and international supply chains supplying UK fashion retailers.

Business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said that the groceries code adjudicator had been “successful” in ensuring large grocery retailers treat their direct suppliers lawfully and fairly, through its effective enforcement of the groceries supply code of practice.

But he said that there were “significant differences between the groceries sector and the fashion industry” in terms of scale and distribution of market share, adding that the government still needs to understand whether this model would be as effective in driving compliance in garment manufacturing.

Kwarteng’s officials have met with fair trade organisation Traidcraft’s Fiona Gooch to further discuss the proposal.

Philip Dunne, chair of the EAC, also put forward proposals for a licensing scheme.

“On the proposal for a licensing scheme, I understand the desire of retailers for more assurance of compliance in their UK supply chains,” Kwarteng responded. “It is also important to consider the impact that licensing would have on the manufacturing sector and the role that brands themselves have to play in preventing abuses.”

The MP’s officials, along with Home Office colleagues and the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority, have been engaging with the British Retail Consortium (BRC) to better understand how this proposal might work.

Paul Scully, under secretary of state for business, has also met with the BRC and Dr Lisa Cameron, chair of the Textiles and Fashion APPG, to discuss this proposal.

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