// MP Layla Moran says government should consider “a total ban” on products linked to human rights abuses
// MP Sir Edward Leigh called on Foreign Office to “summon in” fashion bosses to ensure Uighur slave labour was not used to pick cotton
// A think tank report found at least half a million Uighurs have been forced to pick cotton amid anti-Muslim crackdown from Beijing
The government should ban UK fashion brands and retailers from importing from China if they cannot prove their products are not manufactured using Uighur slave labour, an MP has said.
Conservative MP Sir Edward Leigh called on Foreign Office minister Nigel Adams to “summon in” fashion bosses to ensure that slave labour was not used to pick cotton used in the production of high street items.
Meanwhile, Liberal Democrat MP Layla Moran asked the government to consider “a total ban” on any products linked to human rights abuses.
- Boohoo, Nike and H&M deny Uighur forced labour in supply chains
- Alibaba’s facial recognition tech could be being used to identify Uighurs
Speaking during an urgent Parliament question on the matter, Moran said: “To help consumers make wise choices now, will the government create a publicly available watch list of companies of concern and further will the minister consider a total ban on any products linked in any way to human rights abuses full stop?”
Adams responded: “Our officials are meeting with businesses and industry regularly to make them aware of the scale of the forced labour issue.
“I would just ask (her) to have a bit of patience into the new year where we’ll be able to… bring to this House the next stage of action via the Modern Slavery Act.”
Shadow foreign secretary Lisa Nandy said: “When the BBC asked British companies to confirm cotton from Xinjiang wasn’t used in their supply chains, only four were able to do so. If this doesn’t fire our sense of urgency, what on Earth will?”
SNP MP Carol Monaghan called for it to be compulsory for fashion labels and retailers to say where any cotton in products was sourced.
“Concentration camps, forced labour, medical sterilisations – disturbingly we’ve seen all of this before,” she said.
“So until garment retailers and Xinjiang officials act, will (Adams) legislate for UK garment retailers to show on the labelling if cotton is sourced from forced Uighur labour in Xinjiang so consumers can decide for themselves which brands they wish to support?”
Adams replied: “We constantly have serious concerns about the gross violations about the human rights which she refers to and we raised this deeply concerning latest new evidence directly with the Chinese Embassy yesterday.
“I would also just urge her to have a little patience in terms of the new measures which the Government is going to be bringing forward in terms of supply chains.”
The exchange between MPs came shortly after a report from US-based think tank Center for Global Policy found at least half a million Uighur people have been forced to pick cotton by hand amid an ongoing anti-Muslim crackdown by Beijing that has seen people detained and put into alleged re-education camps.
Campaigners have said that retailers’ existing policies do not do enough to ensure that cotton from Xinjiang does not end up in the supply chain, nor ensure raw materials from the region are not the product of forced labour.
China’s Xinjiang region produces around 85 per cent of the country’s cotton. On a global basis, it produces 20 per cent of world cotton supply.
with PA Wires