All 1 Christopher Chope contributions to the Company Transparency (Carbon in Supply Chains) Bill 2019-21

Fri 16th Oct 2020
Company Transparency (Carbon in Supply Chains) Bill
Commons Chamber

2nd reading & 2nd reading: House of Commons & 2nd reading

Company Transparency (Carbon in Supply Chains) Bill

Christopher Chope Excerpts
2nd reading & 2nd reading: House of Commons
Friday 16th October 2020

(1 year, 3 months ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Full debate Company Transparency (Carbon in Supply Chains) Bill 2019-21 - Private Members' Bill (under the Ten Minute Rule) Page Read Hansard Text
Karen Bradley Portrait Karen Bradley (Staffordshire Moorlands) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

This takes me back to my days of being a Whip on the Treasury Bench. It is a great honour to speak to this Bill, which I introduced back in March. It was the very last thing that I was able to speak on before we went into a new normal, which we are still continuing to get used to, with covid. At the time of the debate, I recall the Minister for Business, Energy and Clean Growth saying to me that we need to have more debates about such matters—Westminster Hall debates, Adjournment debates and so on. I had genuinely hoped that before I got to the point of speaking on Second Reading, we might have had more opportunities to speak about the Bill, but sadly events precluded that. I believe that the Bill is a simple measure that would provide transparency to the public about what companies are doing to tackle carbon in supply chains. It very much mirrors a measure that I introduced as the Minister responsible for tackling modern slavery and organised crime in the Modern Slavery Bill—now the Modern Slavery Act 2015—supported by my right hon. Friend the Member for Maidenhead (Mrs May), who was then Home Secretary, to make sure that companies took seriously the issue of human trafficking and modern slavery in supply chains.

We did that, because it is far too easy for people to hide behind the regulatory requirements to report on the measures that they are taking within their own businesses. Supply chains are different. What goes on in a long, complex supply chain can amount to abuse and include things that keep the costs low for the business in the UK and, ultimately, UK consumers but would not be tolerated if they were happening in the UK. Section 54 of the Modern Slavery Act was incredibly important, and my right hon. Friend will know that we went to considerable effort as Ministers to secure Government sign-off.

The Government are not keen on new regulation. I am not in any way naive about that, but this is a unique type of regulation, because it does not say to business, “This is what you must do. This is how you must behave.” Instead, it says, “Tell us what you have done.” If the business has not done anything, it should say so. If, as a business, it does not want to find out whether there is human trafficking and modern slavery in its supply chain, it should tell us, by putting up a statement on its website, signed off at board level, saying that it has not taken any action. Consumers will be able to read that. People who might want to work in the business will be able to read it too, and can make an informed decision about whether they want to be involved or associated with it, or whether they want to be employed by it. If a business has not taken any steps whatsoever or any action, why would anyone want to have anything to do with that business?

This is about giving power to the consumer and the employee. It is about giving power to people who would not normally have that power to make a decision about whether they want to transact with that company. As I have said, the measure is important; it has to be signed off at board level. We all know from dealing with business that if decisions are made below board level, often the board does not know about them. The board needs to know about this, and it needs to take the right steps.

Christopher Chope Portrait Sir Christopher Chope (Christchurch) (Con)
- Hansard - -

Can my right hon. Friend tell the House the effect of the measure on dealing with people trafficking and modern slavery registration? Has it resulted in less of that illegal activity or has it not made any difference at all?

Karen Bradley Portrait Karen Bradley
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I think it has begun to make a difference, but the measure was only introduced in 2015. It applies only to large companies with a turnover of over £36 million, and we have only just begun to see it being used. I know from friends I used to work with when I was employed as a chartered accountant that they are taking this matter seriously. In fact, my right hon. Friend the Member for Maidenhead and I were on a panel only yesterday—this Sunday is Anti-slavery Day—discussing exactly that point and the measures that businesses are taking to identify slavery in their supply chains. It is making a difference. More can be done, and I am pleased that the Home Office has taken more steps in that direction, but it is making a difference.