Press release: New measures announced to make sure government supply chains are free from modern slavery

Cabinet Office

September 18
12:02 2019

  • Cabinet Office announces new guidance, a digital tool and training package to tackle modern slavery
  • Actions taken by departments will inform governments first modern slavery statement to be published later this year
  • Minister for the Cabinet Office says modern slavery is one of the most pressing human rights issues of our time

Ministers have today announced new steps to ensure government supply chains are free from modern slavery, an umbrella term that encompasses the offences of slavery, servitude, forced and compulsory labour and human trafficking.

UK central Government spends around 52 billion per year buying goods and services, and the wider public sector represents an additional 203 billion annual spend. As such it is right for government to use its buying power to prevent modern slavery occurring in public sector supply chains, especially in high risk sectors.

The new measures, developed to ensure government is able to tackle any risks of modern slavery in supply chains without placing undue burdens on businesses or officials, include:

New modern slavery guidance for government commercial practitioners at all levels to help identify and manage modern slavery risks in both existing contracts and new procurement activity.

An innovative assessment tool for departments to use with their suppliers to identify modern slavery risks.

A partnership with the Chartered Institute of Procurement & Supply to offer online training to commercial officials across government on how to identify and report modern slavery.

Oliver Dowden, Minister for the Cabinet Office, said:

As one of the most pressing human rights issues of our time, tackling modern slavery is a top priority, including in government supply chains. Transparency is key, and these new measures will be vital in ensuring that departments have the training, know-how and tools to identify and report modern slavery effectively in what can often be complex supply chains.

Victoria Atkins, Minister for Crime, Safeguarding and Vulnerability, said:

Modern slavery is a truly horrific crime and the government is committed to stopping it wherever and however it occurs. Its dreadful to think that the products and services we use could, however indirectly, have involved exploitation in their supply chains. This guidance will help public sector bodies to mitigate that risk so that public money is not used to enable exploitation.

Gareth Rhys Williams, Government Chief Commercial Officer, Cabinet Office said:

I am delighted to see the launch of this modern slavery policy and guide. It will help the public sector commercial teams identify and work towards eliminating modern slavery in our supply chains. It has been developed in consultation with experts from inside and outside government, so I hope that the tools in it will also be useful for the private sector. Tackling modern slavery is a shared endeavour, and one we must work on urgently.

The Modern Slavery Act 2015 consolidates and clarifies modern slavery offences; toughening penalties and prosecution; and introduces greater support and protection for victims. Section 54 of the Modern Slavery Act (the transparency in supply chains provision) imposes a legal requirement for certain commercial organisations with operations in the UK, with an annual turnover in excess of 36 million, to publish an annual modern slavery statement.

The UK is the first country in the world to require businesses to be transparent about the action they are taking to address modern slavery risks in their organisation and supply chains. The government has committed to voluntarily publishing a Modern Slavery Statement in December 2019, to mirror the requirements on businesses to publish statements under Section 54 of the Modern Slavery Act. The Government statement will set out the actions taken, and plans in place, to identify, tackle and prevent modern slavery in central government supply chains.

Furthermore, from 2021 onwards, individual Ministerial departments will publish their own individual annual statements. The Home Office is consulting on measures to strengthen transparency in supply chains legislation, including extending the transparency requi

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