HC Deb 25 June 1997 vol 296 c833
8. Mrs. Heal

To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what steps she is taking to support fair trade products. [3862]

Clare Short

I believe that the growth of ethical movements among consumers, investors and producers is a beneficial force for change. My Department is working with the ethical movements with a view to agreeing international codes for ethical trading. It is clear that ethical business is good business in every sense

Mrs. Heal

There is growing concern among consumers in developed countries about the conditions of workers who produce agricultural and manufactured goods for export. Research by Christian Aid has shown some of the difficulties that many agricultural workers in developing countries face, including low pay, pesticide abuse, violence and the lack of trade union rights. What steps is my right hon. Friend taking to introduce and monitor a code of conduct for workers in developing countries?

Clare Short

I share my hon. Friend's concern and support for the valuable work that Christian Aid has done. The response throughout the country has been magnificent. People were asked to tell their supermarkets that they wanted them to purchase ethically. All the major supermarkets are in talks about how to do so. That could make an enormous difference to the standards of employment for workers and to the prevalence of the abuse of pesticides, which damages our food and the health of the workers. My Department strongly supports all those movements. We are in favour of the monitoring of codes of conduct, and we want them picked up and entrenched internationally.

Mr. Blunt

Will the Secretary of State confirm that she understands that fair trade is often code for protectionism and that the fastest way to ensure that the poorest parts of the world have access to the wealth that the rest of the developed world enjoys is free trade? Does she under

Clare Short

What a sad comment. I am afraid that the hon. Gentleman knows nothing of the fair trade movement that is influencing the citizens of this country, if not his party—which might explain the Conservatives' current position. Fair trade is about people wanting to consume goods that have been ethically produced in a free trading system. It is about consumers using their purchasing power to get goods that have been produced under fair employment conditions and without pesticides being used. Those movements are growing and strengthening throughout Britain. The hon. Gentleman is out of tune with the mood of the country.