Taxpayers’ money could be used to fund child labour or slavery under new government proposals, campaign groups have warned.
In a joint submission to the Export Credits Guarantee Department’s public consultation, Amnesty International UK, Jubilee Debt Campaign, The Corner House and WWF UK criticised the proposals, which would water down the ECGD’s human rights and environmental standards (so-called ‘Business Principles’).
The ECGD is a government department which supports UK businesses exporting and wanting to invest in areas considered too risky to receive financial support from the private sector. It uses taxpayers’ money to guarantee payment in the event of a default.
The new proposals would mean the UK abandoning its own commitment to screen projects for their human rights and environmental impacts, and instead just follow weaker guidelines agreed by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).
One example of particular concern to campaigners is the weakening of the absolute prohibition on “harmful child labour” and forced labour. The proposed new rules mean that the ECGD could abandon screening for child and forced labour altogether, as it would be entirely discretionary.