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Retailers demand action on slavery

Marks & Spencer, Clarks and Tesco have joined the Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner in calling for government to take stronger action to eliminate slavery in the supply chain.

The commissioner today published a joint statement signed by 35 companies, non-governmental and worker organisations urging government to establish a central registry of corporate modern slavery statements.

The British Retail Consortium, the Ethical Trading Initiative, Anti-Slavery International and worker organisation the Trades Union Congress were also signatories.

The Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner Kevin Hyland said: “A central registry would support better scrutiny both by government and others and it would make it unavoidably clear that the modern slavery action is not optional.”

Section 54 of the Modern Slavery Act 2015 included a requirement for businesses with a turnover of more than £36m to publish an annual statement detailing their internal actions for tackling modern slavery for financial years ending 31 March 2016 onwards. However, the commissioner said “compliance with the law has been disappointing so far”.

Of the 25 million people estimated to be working in forced labour worldwide, 16 million are thought to be involved in the private sector.

Hyland said he hoped that a central registry, similar to that endorsed by the Australian government last week, will “ensure the Modern Slavery Act delivers global leadership through transparency of businesses and their supply chains in the fight against slavery”.

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