Committee launch inquiry into the use of forced labour in UK value chains
18 September 2020
The Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) Committee has today announced an evidence hearing, likely to take place in November, which will explore the extent to which businesses in the UK are exploiting the forced labour of Uyghur in the Xinjiang region of China.
Forced labour of Uyghur in China
The Committee will investigate the risks that UK based businesses face when engaging supply chains that originate in China and what more the Government can do to ensure that businesses and consumers in the UK do not perpetuate the forced labour of Uyghur.
Call for written submissions
In advance of the hearing the Committee is inviting written submissions. In particular, the Committee wishes to investigate the extent to which the products of forced labour in Xinjiang are reaching the supply chains of UK businesses and to examine how aware businesses are of the risk that their activities may support forced labour.
The Committee also welcomes views on whether existing legislative and audit requirements for businesses in the UK are sufficient to prevent them from contributing to the human rights abuses experienced by Uyghurs. The Committee is also keen to understand what action stakeholders believe the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy should take to eradicate forced labour from the supply chain of goods and services sold in the UK.
Nusrat Ghani MP (Conservative MP for Wealden and lead BEIS Committee member for the Forced labour in UK value chains inquiry) said, “I am pleased the Committee has agreed to my proposal to hold an evidence session on the vitally important topic of the use of forced labour in UK value chains.
“There has been a wave of stories of ethnic cleansing of Uighurs in Xinjiang and also of the use of restrictive and oppressive measures employed by the Chinese authorities against ethnic minorities in the province. The UK, by contrast, is a beacon of freedom and hope for many but if we are truly serious about human rights’ we need to look close to home too. There are concerning accounts that many products sold in the UK can be traced back to forced labour at camps in China. I hope this inquiry will help to get a clearer picture of the extent of this problem and explore issues around businesses and the transparency of their value-chains and also what steps the Government could take to ensure that businesses and consumers in the UK do not perpetuate the forced labour of Uyghur. I also hope our evidence-gathering about the role of British business will help inform the Foreign Affairs Committee’s wider work investigating the mass incarceration of Uyghurs in Xinjiang.”
The date of the public evidence session will be confirmed in due course.
Witness details will also be announced in due course but are likely to include representatives from the UK fashion industry and from Chinese businesses operating in the UK, and also from NGOs and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.
Key issues the Committee is likely to explore in this inquiry
The Committee is intending to hold a single public evidence session to explore the extent to which businesses based in the UK are making use of the forced Uyghur in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) of China.
The Committee welcomes evidence submissions - the closing date for submissions is Friday 23rd October. The key issues which this inquiry will examine includes:
- The connection between the treatment of predominantly Muslim minorities in XUAR and company value chains supplying the UK apparel industry;
- The extent to which UK value chains either in the form of public procurement and services, or the private sector, are intentionally, knowingly or negligently supporting forced labour and human rights abuses;
- The mechanisms in place, including company audit and monitoring, to ensure goods, materials and services are not imported to the UK which are the product of forced labour;
- The effectiveness of the audit system and its ability to identify the presence of businesses within value chains which make use of forced labour;
- The Government’s position regarding the risks of sourcing from XUAR and contracting with the companies with strong links to the region;
- The advice provided to British businesses by Government to help asses risk, ensure compliance, and avoid engaging value chains which rely on forced labour;
- The Government’s response to evidence which suggests that business operating in the UK have engaged value chains which make use of forced labour in XUAR;
- The extent to which Chinese companies operating in the UK are engaged in XUAR and complicit in the human rights abuses within the region.
Foreign Affairs Committee - inquiry into the Xinjiang detention camps
On 16 September, the Foreign Affairs Committee launched an inquiry into the Xinjiang detention camps. This inquiry will examine the ways in which the Government can prevent UK companies from benefiting from forced labour in Xinjiang, support members of the Uyghur diaspora community, and strengthen the Government’s, and particularly the FCDO’s, atrocity prevention mechanisms.