§ Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—[Mr. Ainger.]9.48 pm
§ Mr. Chris Pond (Gravesham)
When some colleagues heard that I planned to raise the issue of chocolate slavery in the House, they thought that I wanted to share my concerns about addiction to chocolate. As a nation, we are to some extent all slaves to chocolate. Each of us in Britain consumes 7 kg of chocolate every year, and we spend a cool £4 billion annually on the product. It takes about 6,000 cocoa beans to make up our individual annual consumption of chocolate.
My purpose in calling for this debate is to persuade us to pause between mouthfuls to think where those beans come from and at what cost, for consumers are not the only slaves to chocolate. In many countries of west Africa, as we now know, thousands of children and young people work as forced labour on the cocoa plantations.
The scandal was dragged into our consciousness last year when a vessel, the Etireno, was found to have 40 children and young people aboard, most of them aged under 15, who were being trafficked to work in Gabon. Shocking though that was, it was not an isolated incident. UNICEF tells us that between 10,000 and 15,000 children a year are trafficked into Côte D'Ivoire alone, the largest of the cocoa producing countries of west Africa.
We are told that a fit young man can be bought for the equivalent of £20 or less. He might then be forced to work for 80 to 100 hours a week, never be paid, rarely be fed and frequently be beaten. Anti-Slavery International, with which I have had the privilege to work over the years, has done much to keep the issue in the forefront of public attention. It relates the story of a child it names as "ID", who is now 15 years old but who was trafficked at the age of 13 to work on a coffee and yam plantation in Côte D'Ivoire:Our day began at 5 am. Carrying heavy tools on our head, we had to walk six kilometres through mud and stones in bare feet to reach the fields. By the time we reached them, we were soaked through and exhausted. Once we arrived, the overseer showed us an area we each had to plant before the day's end. We were afraid of what he would do to us if we could not finish the work. This threat and the threat of being denied food if we could not finish in time forced us to work quickly …If we were ill and couldn't work, we were afraid that we would be tortured to death. One day I witnessed two of my colleagues being tortured for trying to escape. They became seriously ill and died".Outrage that fellow humans can be subjected to such exploitation is a natural response, but outrage is not enough. Outrage alone will not help the people living in the poor countries of west Africa, many of whom depend for their very existence on the cocoa industry. In Côte D'Ivoire, which is responsible for almost half the world's cocoa production, more than 7 million people are estimated to be dependent on the cocoa industry. Their conditions are made worse by the fact that the world price of cocoa is unstable and has been falling sharply. Today, it is little different from the level at which it stood 30 years ago.
We have a responsibility to tackle exploitation, and, in particular, to make sure that the International Labour Organisation convention 182 on the worst forms of child labour is enforced. I am pleased that the UK Government 127 have been taking a lead by supporting the work of the ILO and non-governmental organisations such as Save the Children and Anti-Slavery International in a number of west African countries. But we also have a responsibility to do that in such a way that we work with those nations in a joint effort to protect and build a fair trade in their products, allowing them to eliminate child slavery without also eliminating the industries on which their economies depend.
That is why I also pay tribute to the Minister's predecessor at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office for bringing together almost exactly a year ago the largest cocoa producers, representatives of the Governments of Ghana and Côte D'Ivoire, the cocoa and chocolate industries, and non-governmental organisations to address the question of exploitative labour practices in west African cocoa production. The meeting resulted in the creation of a taskforce and a commitment to undertake research into the extent of exploitative labour practices in west African cocoa production. I hope that the Minister will be able to give us an indication tonight of the results of that research, or of when those results can be expected. I am sure that the House would also welcome a progress report on the work of the taskforce. Industry leaders have told me that they believe that the UK Government have an important role to play in promoting a continuing dialogue leading to action on this matter.
The chocolate industry has also reacted constructively to the adverse publicity surrounding revelations of chocolate slavery, and I am grateful to the industry association, the Biscuit, Cake, Chocolate and Confectionery Alliance, and to Cadbury Schweppes itself, for providing me with briefings on their attempts to improve cocoa working practices. It should be made clear that the industry comprises not only the makers of chocolate bars—themselves leading world brand names—but the major food manufacturers, which purchase cocoa for the production of biscuits, cakes, breakfast cereals and a range of other foodstuffs that find their way into our shopping trolleys.
The problem for the industry is that much of the cocoa is purchased on world markets, without any means of tracing its original source. The cocoa produced by the hundreds of thousands of smallholdings in countries such as Côte D'Ivoire is combined with that supplied from elsewhere. As a result, it is impossible for us to be sure that the products of slavery are not lurking in our kitchen cupboards and fridges.
I should emphasise that the exploitation is not confined to countries such as Côte D'Ivoire and Ghana, whose Governments have joined others in actively working to tackle the problem. This is a problem that taints all products using cocoa, other than fair trade and most organic products.
The industry's response has been constructive, as I have said. In September, it established a protocol for growing and processing cocoa beans in a manner that complies with ILO convention 182. The protocol sets out an action plan and defines a series of steps to eliminate the worst forms of child labour by 2005. It also establishes an advisory group and a joint foundation to act as a clearing house on best practice. The protocol provides for a series of independent surveys of child labour practices in west Africa. The industry is also seeking to help and encourage 128 farmers in the producer countries to form themselves into co-operatives so as to increase their bargaining power on the sale of their products.
I welcome those initiatives, and I know that hon. Members will welcome them. I hope that the Minister will be able to tell the House tonight that his Department is in regular contact with industry representatives to ensure that the protocol is being implemented effectively and vigorously. I hope that he will tell me that the Government are backing the fair trade movement as one way of ensuring that producers receive a fair price for their product. Does he support a demand for chocolate products to carry a "slavery free" label, so that consumers who wish to exercise their purchasing power to reject exploitation and reward corporate responsibility can do so?
There may be good reasons for not calling for immediate direct action by consumers. Perhaps we should wait to see whether the industry, working with Governments and NGOs, can meet its own target of 2005 for the elimination of illegal labour practices. However, the economy of Côte d'Ivoire is fragile enough, and many people depend on cocoa to earn a legitimate, albeit meagre, living.
The patience on our part must be dependent on making genuine progress; our patience must be strictly conditional if it is not simply to become an excuse for once again turning a blind eye to practices that had no place in the 18th century, let alone the 21st, and in the process turning our backs on people who need and deserve our protection.
The industry can only ensure that its products are slave-free in one of two ways. Either it must source its raw materials directly from individual producers whom it knows are not using exploitative labour practices, or it must work with Governments and NGOs to ensure that those practices are eliminated throughout cocoa production.
To do that we shall have to tackle the evil of child slavery at its root—and that root is poverty and debt. I applaud the work that this Government are doing to raise the standards of life for the poorest people in the poorest countries. This country has taken the lead in tackling the burden of debt that helps to trap people in a vicious spiral of poverty and indebtedness. I hope that the Minister can tell us what progress is being made in tackling the debt burden of countries such as Côte d'Ivoire and Ghana.
The extent of modern-day slavery in the production of cocoa and chocolate is not yet known, but that it exists is not in doubt. The production of chocolate may not be the only, or even the main, industry using child and adult slaves. Other products that we use in our everyday lives, such as coffee and cotton, also account for a significant number of the 8 million children who the ILO believes are the victims of extreme exploitation. However, chocolate, as a luxury product with brand names that we can all identify, presents us with the starkest contrast between the comforts enjoyed by those of us in the richer countries and the hardship and exploitation in the poorest countries of the world on which that comfort depends.
§ Mr. Tony Colman (Putney)
I asked the permission of my hon. Friend the Member for Gravesham (Mr. Pond), of yourself, Madam Deputy Speaker and of the Minister to participate in this debate.
129 I congratulate my hon. Friend on securing this debate on slavery in chocolate production—an area in which I have been interested since it was first raised with me in 1997 by a constituent, Professor Kevin Bales, who was then and still is the professor of sociology at the University of Surrey Roehampton, which was formerly known as the Roehampton institute. He went on to write the seminal book on current-day slavery, "Disposable People", which was nominated for the Pulitzer prize in 2000. He is director of the United States NGO, Free the Slaves, and a trustee of Anti-Slavery International. He was very keen that I should be able to speak in this debate in support of the protocol, which he has had a hand in negotiating, to ensure that slavery in cocoa production ceases.
Professor Bales e-mailed me today to saythe Protocol…is a very good thing. It is the first time that an industry has taken social, moral, and economic responsibility for their entire product chain. The Anti-Slavery movement has been seeking such an agreement for something like 160 years (since the cotton and sugar industries were so heavily dependent on slave labour).
It being Ten o'clock, the motion for the Adjournment of the House lapsed, without Question put.
Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—[Mr. Ainger.]
§ Mr. Colman
The e-mail continues:It is truly an historic agreement … The Protocol sets out three key steps, and a series of agreed dates for their achievement … The industry funds, but has no control over, fully independent research into the precise extent and location of abusive child and slave labour in the Ivory Coast. This research is now ended, the data are being analysed, and results will be available at the end of the month.The Minister may have early information, however.
The second step is thatan independent foundation will be established to fund the NGOs or other bodies that will do the liberation and rehabilitation work necessary to remove children and adults from abusive situations. Agreements have been reached on the shape of this foundation and its establishment is moving ahead on schedule. The industry will fund it.
Thirdly, anindependent system of inspection and verification will be established, again with industry financial support, but completely independent of them, to randomly inspect farms to root out any abusive practices.As my hon. Friend said, theprotocol is not restricted to the Ivory Coast, but all areas around the world where cocoa is grown. So far, the cocoa industry has been delivering on their side of the agreement on time and in full. It is possibly the best and biggest public-private initiative on human rights ever. It is a model for other industries … this is sorely needed since similar conditions obtain in coffee, sugar, cotton, and several other commodities.
Professor Bales believes that the way forward is exactly what is happening—a true partnership of industry, human rights organisations, other NGOs and Governments to bring all our different expertise to bear in working out lasting and, I hope, permanent solutions. As my hon. Friend said, this situation is a stain on chocolate eating in this country and I am pleased to understand from my involvement with Professor Bales over the past five years that it is coming to an end.
I was privileged to be on the Inter-Parliamentary Union visit to Côte d'Ivoire last September and on the International Development Committee visit to Ghana 130 in March. On each occasion, the matter was discussed extensively with parliamentarians, NGOs and cocoa farmers.
When the Select Committee visited Ghana, we became aware of a report on child trafficking in that country produced by Tengey and Oguaah on behalf of the Danish International Development Agency, published in February 2002. The conference took place in March while we were there. Interestingly, the work being done by trafficked children includes fishing, selling, home helps, truck pushing and farming, but the latter accounts for only 3 per cent. of the total work carried out by those children.
I hope that the report truly reflects the results of the research—it is a stain on humankind that such trafficking ever happened—and that child trafficking has now ceased in Côte d'Ivoire and Ghana in the field of cocoa production.
§ 10.3 pm
§ Ms Claire Ward (Watford)
First, I draw the House's attention to a declaration in the Register of Members' Interests and inform Members that I am the chair of the all-party group on the chocolate and confectionary industry. That may seem to many people to be a strange and perhaps indulgent group to be involved with, but I assure the House that the group was established not to allow Members purely to debate the interesting and tasty products that we have in this country, but to consider the range of issues that affect the chocolate and confectionary industry. This issue is one of the most important at present.
Indeed, not long ago the group held a meeting in which it was interesting to hear industry representatives who had come to talk about their work on developing the protocol, as well as representatives of Anti-Slavery International, who explained their work on highlighting issues in Côte d'Ivoire and other west African countries. What was important about that meeting was not only the interest showed by Members, but the fact that we had in our midst the great-grandson of Lord Wilberforce. It is strange that centuries later we are here discussing slavery despite Lord Wilberforce's ancestor having put so much time, effort and dedication into abolishing it.
I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Gravesham (Mr. Pond) on securing the debate, which is important not only for the industry in the United Kingdom in terms of the economy and the jobs that rest on its work, but for the livelihoods of producers and workers on cocoa farms, especially those who are exploited. In the past 18 months, the industry has worked across the world with non-governmental organisations and the Government to develop the protocol. That is a significant step forward both in recognising some of the problems that affect the industry and in seeking ways in which they can be dealt with.
My hon. Friend the Member for Gravesham mentioned the development of the protocol and the introduction of independent surveys of child labour practices in west Africa. I hope that the results of those surveys will lead to objective and positive steps forward in the work that is being done on the protocol.
§ Ms Oona King (Bethnal Green and Bow)
Although it is obviously fantastic that the industry has recognised the problem, it goes far beyond what the industry can do. 131 Given the volatility of cocoa prices in particular and commodity prices in general, we need to consider how to eliminate the double standards that plague our trading systems around the world.
§ Ms Ward
My hon. Friend is right to identify that one of the industry's problems is the fluctuating cost of cocoa, which naturally increases the pressures on cocoa farms. That is a matter that the whole industry needs to consider. Its work with NGOs and the Government to secure the protocol and to agree what else it can do to encourage co-operatives and to provide additional assistance in cocoa production is a positive step that we should welcome.
My hon. Friend the Member for Gravesham talked about direct action. I hope that consumers do not take direct action at this point, because that would not be helpful. It is important to recognise the work that has taken place so far.
I thank my hon. Friend for providing this opportunity to debate an important subject that has brought many hon. Members into the Chamber. All sorts of frivolous comments may be made about the fact that we have such an all-party group and that we are discussing chocolate and cocoa production. Most importantly, however, we are discussing the rights of human beings in this world and the action that we can take to support those who are involved in the industry to ensure that we abolish slavery for good. We should promote what is in my view, as a significant consumer of its product, an important industry and deal with this important issue which it faces.
§ 10.9 pm
§ The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Denis MacShane)
It is unusual for an Adjournment debate late at night to be so well attended. Perhaps the spirit of Sir William, later Lord Wilberforce, who made many of the same points about slavery 170 to 200 years ago, can be felt through the ages. It is good that so many Labour Members have attended the debate, and it is interesting that the Opposition Benches are empty. I hope that the great William—part Whig, part Tory—will look down from wherever it is that hon. Members go, and see that at least one party in our country is committed to the principles by which he made Britain great.
Hon. Members made several different points, and I am grateful to my hon. Friend and fellow London marathon runner, the Member for Gravesham (Mr. Pond), for choosing the debate. I agree with the points made by my hon. Friends the Members for Putney (Mr. Colman) and for Watford (Ms Ward), and I commend their temperate comments, and the fact that they did not urge action that could damage the people whom we are trying to help. It would satisfy all of us who enjoy our chocolate to know that we can eat it without the taint of the accusation that it was made using slavery, child labour, or forced or abducted labour.
I used to work in Switzerland, and am partial to the chocolates of Lindt, Nestlé and Suchard. Those of us who are familiar with Belgium know the great chocolates of Neuhaus and Côte d'Or. Since I was three years old and ate my first Crunchie bar, I have had a weakness for that 132 unique British product. It would be good to know that all the chocolates that we enjoy eating were made in fair conditions.
My hon. Friends have referred to fair trade, to which the Government are committed. A few years ago I took my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for International Development to Tesco in my constituency at Christmas, and we filled our shopping basket with fair trade goods to try to set a modest example of, "Do as I do, not as I say." In my office, my hon. Friends are served with fairly traded tea and coffee.
However, I insist on sensitivity. In the United States the steel lobby insists that its protectionism operates in the interests of fair trade. The powerful agriculture lobby that got Congress to pass measures that will further deny the agricultural products of Africa and Latin America access to the American market claims that it is acting in the interests of fair trade. We must be careful to ensure that one person's fair trade is not another's excuse for protectionism. Hon. Members who have taken part in the debate do not intend that.
We must place our discussion in the context of the wider Government policy, to which the Foreign and Commonwealth Office is committed, of opening up trade in the richer markets in Europe to the agricultural products of the developing world. That is at the core of what the Prime Minister has been preaching—if I may use that verb—around the world. I heard the Prime Minister convey that message in Latin America last year and I heard him again in Madrid at the European, Latin American and Caribbean summit. He will take the message to Johannesburg and the world summit on sustainable development.
§ Mr. MacShane
My hon. Friend is right. Her commitment and passion on this subject are well recognised by the House and the wider public. As hon. Members have said, the cocoa industry and chocolate producers in our country and the United States have risen to the challenge put to them by public opinion and by organisations such as Anti-Slavery International. In that sense, they may be ahead of international commodity production and manufacturing organisations in other nations. Again, the leadership from the United Kingdom and from American senators, American NGOs and American companies shows that although on some issues we have much to criticise about aspects of what the United States does, in this regard, the United States and the United Kingdom are ahead of the game compared with many other players in Europe and elsewhere.
§ Mr. Stephen Pound (Ealing, North)
I apologise for interrupting the Minister, but I wonder whether he could share some information about what specific action Her Majesty's Government are taking on the implementation of the protocol.
§ Mr. MacShane
I am coming to that very point.
133 The issue hit the headlines last year when there were reports of a ship off Benin, the Etireno, having a full cargo of slaves and being refused entry at different west African ports. Britain responded to the plight of the Etireno and sent HMS Glasgow to the bight of Benin to help to find out exactly what was going on.
We know that that particular incident has been somewhat exaggerated. The children on board were in a terrible condition, but there were not 200 of them, and there was little evidence of a link between the Etireno and the cocoa industry. However, the publicity and the action of diverting a Royal Navy vessel to the area helped to draw attention to the problems of child trafficking and child labour in west Africa.
Shortly after the Etireno incident, my predecessor at the Foreign Office, who is now the Minister for Industry and Energy, called a meeting of representatives of the cocoa trade, the Governments of Côte d'Ivoire and of Ghana, the chocolate industry here, and leading NGOs to discuss the issue. A follow-up workshop was held last summer, at which a taskforce was set up.
In parallel, there was a push in the United States by Senators Harkin and Engel to commit the cocoa industry to a global protocol. That protocol seeks to ensure active efforts by the industry to ensure that International Labour Organisation convention 182 on the prohibition and elimination of the worst forms of child labour is applied.
The United States chocolate industry signed up to the protocol on 19 September 2001. CAOBISCO, the association of the chocolate, biscuit and confectionery industries of the European Union, the European Cocoa Association and the International Cocoa Organisation, currently based in London but to relocate to Abidjan, all formally endorsed the global protocol. It has the support of the International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers Associations, and of the ILO. It has been welcomed by the NGOs campaigning in the sector. Anti-Slavery International says:Anti-Slavery welcomes the commitments made, particularly the acceptance of industry responsibility to protect all workers not just children".
Indeed, responding to the complaint that the protocol was focused exclusively on child labour and failed to address the possible problem of forced labour by adults, key industry and non-governmental actors agreed a joint statement extending their co-operation to include identifying and eliminating forced labour in line with ILO convention 29. That reinforces the role of the ILO and its vital tripartite negotiations on these grave social issues globally.
As for the points raised by hon. Members, the first step in implementing the protocol was the establishment of an advisory group—the broad consultative group—which was established on 1 December last year. Industry-financed surveys are in progress on the ground, because it is vital that we establish the facts. The attention that the media rightly draw to the problem is to be welcomed, but a headline report—even a very professional broadcasting report—does not obviate the need for proper investigation of the facts.
Three surveys are being conducted, under the auspices of the United States Agency for International Development, the International Institute for Tropical 134 Agriculture and the International Labour Organisation. The surveys—of farms and farmers, of communities, and of small-scale producers and workers on the farms—should provide the most authoritative assessment so far of the scale of the problem of exploitative labour in cocoa production. We expect the results to emerge shortly—before the end of the summer, we hope. The taskforce does not belong to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, but we expect members of it to reconvene to examine the outcome of the surveys, and to take their conclusions to a major conference review—planned by the Côte d'Ivoire—on the findings. Indeed, the ILO is fully involved in shaping a response to the survey.
As we know, the global protocol has set the ambitious target of establishing by July 2005 an industry-wide scheme to certify that cocoa beans and their derivative products have been grown and processed without using any of the worst forms of child labour. There is a long way to go before that is achieved, but I believe that the chocolate industry's response to international concern about the use of child labour in cocoa production provides a good example of what we now call corporate social responsibility.
None of us should be in any doubt about the difficulties involved in ensuring that there is absolutely no abuse of child labour in cocoa production. About 70 per cent. of the world's cocoa comes from west Africa. The four largest producers are Côte d'Ivoire, which produces 40 per cent., Ghana, which produces 15 per cent., Nigeria, which produces 7 per cent., and Cameroon, which produces 4 per cent. Cocoa is grown in some of the least accessible forest areas of west Africa. It is a very small-scale industry. As my hon. Friend the Member for Gravesham noted, there are well over 500,000 producers in Côte d'Ivoire alone.
Cocoa grows naturally in west Africa, so minimal inputs are needed. At harvest time, middlemen—many of whom are Lebanese—drive to the forest areas in trucks and purchase the cocoa from the producers. The cocoa beans are then dried in Abidjan before being sold on. Most are sold to large cocoa bean traders and pressers—such as Cargill, Barry Callebaut and Arch Daniels Midland—before being sold on again to the chocolate companies whose names we all know. So there is quite a long chain: from small farm production to the sale in shops of chocolate bars and boxes of chocolates. In this respect, cocoa differs from the tea or coffee industry, in which it is more common for multinational companies to own the farms directly.
Local ownership of cocoa farms has many advantages. For example, it gives local producers greater discretion to take their own decisions in the light of their own interests. However, the long chain between producer and consumer makes it more difficult to monitor production, and to ensure that there is no use of exploitative labour. Tomorrow, Cadbury's European works council will meet in Birmingham. Although some chocolate producers in Britain have trade union organisations, the chance of creating such organisations on the small farms of the Côte d'Ivoire is, alas, virtually nil. We must seek the means to address that problem.
There is one point of principle that the House should be aware of. Whatever the level of child labour in cocoa production—I hope that the surveys that I mentioned will 135 soon provide better information on that—there is no doubt that child trafficking in its broadest sense is a considerable problem in west Africa. Typically, children are lured from, or sold from, very poor countries—notably Mali and Burkina Faso—to other west African countries to work in domestic service, as beggars, or in other areas of the economy.
Britain has had a leading role in establishing the legal framework to prevent abusive child labour. We played a major part in ensuring agreement in 1999 on ILO convention 182 on the prohibition and elimination of the worst forms of child labour. That convention, on which the cocoa industry's global protocol is based, outlaws in particular all slavery, sale and trafficking, debt bondage, serfdom and forced or compulsory labour of children.
We have worked hard, and diplomats from the Foreign Office are asking Governments to work hard, to ensure that the convention is ratified. Senegal, Ghana, Mali and Niger ratified in 2000. I am pleased to report that the Gambia, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde and Benin ratified in 2001 and Cameroon ratified earlier this month. The Côte d'Ivoire Government tell us that ratification has completed its parliamentary procedures, and that deposit of their instrument of ratification is imminent.
Work on child labour is an important element of the Department for International Development's partnership framework with the ILO. The Department is also supporting the anti-slavery international project to develop the capacity of local NGOs to end the trafficking and abuse of child domestic workers in Benin, Burkina Faso, Gabon, Ghana, Niger and Togo.
As hon. Members have pointed out, it is the economic framework within which the abuses take place on which we need to concentrate much of the Foreign Office's policy. In some cases, labour by young family members on a farm is not necessarily bad. However, the root cause of child labour and child trafficking is poverty, and that is what we must tackle. That is why I am proud that the Government are leaders in the poverty reduction instrument known as the HIPC—heavily indebted poor countries—initiative.
136 Burkina Faso has gone through the HIPC process and reached completion point, thus receiving irrevocable debt reduction, and Ghana, Cameroon and Mali have reached decision point, so are receiving some interim relief on their debt servicing.
We must also try to develop fair trade systems for poor countries. At the moment, the combined subsidies for agriculture in the EU, North America and Japan amount to more than the combined GDP of sub-Saharan Africa. We give about $50 billion a year in aid worldwide, but we provide $360 billion dollars in subsidies to our farmers, thus crowding out the produce of the poorest of the world. We need to keep fighting to ensure that the terms of trade are fair, and that there is, for example, no tariff or subsidy escalation.
The combined pressure of my hon. Friends, NGOs, concerned individuals in the industry and, above all, consumers has achieved a great deal. The taskforce set up by the Foreign Office last year has helped to bring together producer countries, the industry and NGOs. The industry has been spurred into action and, to its credit, has accepted and started to shoulder its responsibility. Much has to be done. It is no use simply having meetings in London if on the ground local managers and representatives are not responding to the wishes and desires of the industry leaders in the taskforce.
Consumers can continue to play a role in demonstrating their preference for products that have been produced fairly. The fact that they are prepared to pay a little more sends an important message, but ultimately the goal must be to ensure that all production is fair. I am glad that my hon. Friends stressed the point that boycotts would only damage the most vulnerable growers, increasing the problem of poverty, and so increasing the likelihood of abuse of children.
There is no immediate or easy solution to the problem of exploitative labour practices in cocoa production, but I believe that a good start has been made to tackling it. That is a small but vital part of what the Foreign Office does on behalf of the people of Britain. I end, as I began, by thinking that William Wilberforce would heartily approve of the action we are taking, and I thank hon. Members for the contributions that they have made to the debate.
§ Question put and agreed to.
§ Adjourned accordingly at half-past Ten o'clock.