Top retailers to help fight ‘abhorrent’ modern slavery in clothing industry

Some of the biggest names in high street and online shopping have agreed to support moves to stop modern slavery in the textiles industry, Downing Street has announced.

John Lewis, Marks and Spencer, New Look, Next, River Island and Shop Direct have all signed up to work with organisations like the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority (GLAA) to “root out criminality and shine a light on hidden victims”.

It comes a month after the Home Office wrote to 17,000 chief executives telling them to “open up” about modern slavery in companies which supply them with goods and services, to mark Anti-Slavery Day.

Downing Street said that anti-slavery operations were at an “all-time high” with more than 920 live investigations being conducted by police in September, involving in excess of 2,000 victims.

Theresa May hosted a meeting of the Modern Slavery Taskforce on Monday, which brings together Cabinet ministers including Home Secretary Sajid Javid, the National Crime Agency and the Metropolitan Police, amongst others.

Announcing the new agreement after the meeting, the Prime Minister said: “Modern slavery is an abhorrent crime that denies its victims of liberty, and it is disturbing to think that some of the products we buy could have been produced by someone exploited into forced labour.

“As global leaders in the fight against modern slavery, I am clear that this will not be tolerated in the UK – and our consumers won’t stand for it either.

“I welcome the action being taken by businesses which are leading the way in being open and transparent about the modern slavery risks they face, and have pledged to raise awareness to prevent slavery, protect vulnerable workers and help bring more criminals to justice.

“But with modern slavery police operations at an all-time high, clearly there is more to do to stamp out this vile crime and prevent criminal groups from operating in the shadows of supply chains to exploit people for commercial gain.”

In October the Government warned thousands of businesses they face action if they fail to meet legal obligations.

Businesses with a turnover of more than £36 million have to publish annual statements setting out what they are doing to stop modern slavery, but fewer than two in three have complied and some were said to be of poor quality.