Select Committee on Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Written Evidence

Memorandum submitted by Marks and Spencer plc (V16)

  1.  Marks & Spencer takes great care in choosing the companies who supply us directly with goods and services and with whom we aim to build long-term partnerships. From the start we require each supplier to implement our Global Sourcing Principles (GSP) which establish a minimum acceptable entry standard. As our business relationship develops, we expect the supplier steadily to raise standards and improve working conditions, taking account of internationally recognised standards.

  Suppliers must not only apply these principles at all times, but must also be able to show they are doing so. We will take action against suppliers, who do not comply, which may involve cancelling our orders and ceasing to trade. More detail on our Global Sourcing Principles in Annex1.

  2.  To further strengthen our position in 1999, we joined the Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI). The ETI is a Government led initiative made up of companies, non-Government organisations, (NGO's) and trade unions committed to working together to identify and promote good practice in the implementation of codes of conduct in the workplace. Our membership commits us to:

    —  Ensuring our GSP are being complied with.

    —  Striving to comply with the ETI Base Code across our supply base.

    —  Having a demonstrable programme of continuous improvement in place through the supply chain.

  Clearly, we can only achieve this by working together with our supply base.

  3.  Marks and Spencer are very concerned about problems associated with the employment practices of agencies, (Gangmasters), that provide temporary labour to packers, producers and manufactures in the UK food and Agricultural industry. We have become increasingly aware of the difficulties for our suppliers, in employing legal labour. In 2001 we introduced Guidelines on the employment of labour and required all suppliers to confirm that the Agencies they used were reputable and had good practices in place. A copy of the guidelines is in Annex 2.

  4.  To increase understanding of this issue we encouraged the ETI and helped facilitate two regional public seminars in April and May 2002, on seasonal and foreign labour in the UK food Industry. One of the main outcomes of the seminars was the formation of a representative cross industry group including Retailers, Producer Groups and Suppliers, Agencies, Trade Unions and Government Departments to look at ways of tackling this issue. The ETI Working Party has submitted written Evidence to the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs select committee on our activities to date. The working party is focussed on the following tasks:

    —  Draft, trial and disseminate a code of practice for Gangmasters.

    —  Define a system of implementation of the Code of Practice including independent verification of the observance of the Code of Practice by Gangmasters.

    —  Draft a good practice "tool kit" for Gangmasters.

    —  Identify Gangmasters willing to trial the code and explore the merits of a Gangmaster professional association.

  5.  During 2002 Marks and Spencer, and one of our suppliers in Kent, were asked by Kent Organised Crime squad, (Detective Constable David Ecuyer), to help with their investigation, of the directors of a recruitment agency and their accomplices, who had been providing hundreds of illegal workers to large agricultural suppliers or producers. Marks and Spencer, our supplier and the Ethical Trading Initiative have submitted statements and the trial is due to start this summer. Through the Kent police Marks and Spencer and the Ethical Initiative became further aware of the scale of the problem and the importance of the ETI working parties activities and the need for legislation to be passed to enable the statutory registration of providers of temporary labour.

Marks and Spencer

30 May 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