Select Committee on Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Written Evidence

Memorandum submitted by Tesco plc (V17)

  As the UK's largest supermarket, Tesco is the biggest customer of UK agriculture, working with a large number of suppliers in the UK and overseas. We place great emphasis on working in partnership with suppliers to meet our customers' expectations.

  Part of that approach is to ensure that all Tesco suppliers extend fair and honest practices to their employees and to all with whom they do business. We believe firmly in an open dialogue with all our suppliers and hold regular Producer Club meetings, attended by Tesco buyers and suppliers, which provide a Forum to discuss a whole range of issues. We also follow the DTI Code of Conduct regulating trading relationships between supermarkets and their suppliers.

  We have been aware of the specific issues around `gangmasters' for some time and have been actively involved in addressing them, in a number of ways:

    —  We insist that our suppliers directly check the legitimacy of the labour they use, rather than merely relying on checks made by the agencies they employ.

    —  We have held a supplier conference on labour issues, which also addressed the specific issue of "gangmasters" labour.

    —  We are currently rolling out a training course for all our buyers called "Supply with your eyes open" which covers all the key ethical issues, going into considerable detail on "gangmaster" issues.

    —  Tesco technologists raise the issue of labour on all technical visits to suppliers.

    —  Although formal audits do not currently cover this issue, we plan to roll out ethical auditing across the entire Tesco supplier base.

    —  We are working closely with the Department of Work and Pensions' Agricultural Investigation Unit, to help them with their raids, and to increase the effectiveness of their visits on the supplier base.

    —  We are also members of the Ethical Trading Initiative working party looking at the possibility of introducing "Gangmaster registration", which may be a way forward.

  I hope this is useful. Please do not hesitate to contact me if you need any further information, or would like to discuss any of the points I have raised above.

4 June 2003

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