Don’t stock food produced using slave labour, MP tells supermarkets

Ipswich MP Sandy Martin. Picture: GREGG BROWN

Ipswich MP Sandy Martin. Picture: GREGG BROWN - Credit: Gregg Brown

Supermarkets in the UK should not import food produced unethically by workers subjected to slave-like conditions, Ipswich’s MP has said during a parliamentary debate.

Labour’s Sandy Martin told a House of Commons debate about ending exploitation in supermarket supply chains: “We need to ensure that food producers, wherever they are in the world, cannot profit financially from slavery.”

The debate was started after fellow opposition MP Kerry McCarthy tabled a motion against the “practice of modern slavery and the exploitation of labour in the supply chains of supermarkets in the UK”.

In his speech, Mr Martin said that although there are “high standards imposed on our food creators in this country”, there are “less stringent regimes to undercut those high standards” which some supermarkets import food from.

Some are being forced to work for virtually no pay and for employers who have little regard for laws, he said.

He argued: “If we are to protect people working in this country from exploitation...the government must do far more to enforce the minimum wage by not just advising employers that they are breaking the law, but prosecuting and punishing them.

“Far more resources need to be put into investigating suspected offenders.

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“I want our standards in this country to be something of which we can be proud, but if that is to happen, we need to ensure that we are not exporting slavery and exploitation to the third world by importing cheap goods produced under slavery conditions.

“If food is being produced through the use of indentured labour — labour provided under duress by prisoners, child labour or even outright slavery — we have no business importing it and therefore giving financial support to the gangsters who are using those methods.

He said there was “no excuse” for the major supermarkets in the UK to ignore the issue, adding that they “have ample resources with which to check the provenance of the food that they sell”.

“It is time that the supermarkets realised that these things are important to their customers, and carried out thorough due diligence on all the products that they sell,” Mr Martin said.