Select Committee on Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Written Evidence

Memorandum submitted by Asda Stores Ltd (V15)

  What checks ASDA carry out to ensure that temporary labour used by our suppliers is provided by those operating within the law?

  1.  ASDA Stores Ltd is a wholly owned subsidiary of Wal-Mart Stores Inc. Asda operates 260 supermarkets throughout GB and 19 depots. We employ over 120,000 colleagues.

  2.  In line with all other elements of our business, ASDA strives constantly to improve and refine its systems in line with our purpose: "to make goods and services more affordable to everyone". Our relationship with our agriculture and horticulture suppliers, as with all suppliers, is based on intimate knowledge, openness and, as a result, trust. We manage this by conducting written audits, with responses being risk assessed by independent inspection companies and, as a result, a programme of visits is then drawn up. We last conducted a full survey of our horticulture suppliers, in November 2002; the one prior to that had been conducted in 2000.

  3.  As we discussed on the telephone, I enclose in confidence, for the committee's eyes only, a copy of the latest questionnaire that ASDA asked its horticulture suppliers and all pack sites (some two dozen in total in the UK) to complete last November. The returns were risk assessed by independent inspection companies, paid by ASDA. On the basis of this assessment, a revised programme of visits to supplying businesses was drawn up, with highest priority given to those businesses needing most support, according to the nature, size and type of business.

  4.  ASDA does not itself conduct physical checks of the agencies (gangmasters) retained by our suppliers. Our expectation is that suppliers use reputable agencies.

  5.  ASDA suppliers co-operate fully with inspections by Government agencies. From anecdote, this is at an approximate frequency for a business of one per annum by Inland Revenue; one per annum by Customs and Excise; one spot check every two years by Immigration and three per annum by local Agriculture Compliance Teams of DSS. If it appears that foreign labour is used, form SAL2 is faxed to the Immigration Office for them to cross-check status, which settles the matter. We believe the Government inspection system generally works well, although it's not clear to us what level of information exchange takes place between them if one agency finds an irregularity with a particular gangmaster, for example.

  6.  ASDA fosters open relationships with its suppliers and encourages problems to be flagged so they can be resolved quickly and effectively. As a result, we believe that any supplier discovering that one of its agencies had used temporary labour operating in any way outside the law would redress the matter at once and tell us of the steps they had taken.

Asda Stores Ltd

4 June 2003

previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2003
Prepared 18 September 2003