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9.58 pm

Mr. Tony Colman (Putney): I asked the permission of my hon. Friend the Member for Gravesham (Mr. Pond), of yourself, Madam Deputy Speaker and of the Minister to participate in this debate.

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I congratulate my hon. Friend on securing this debate on slavery in chocolate production—an area in which I have been interested since it was first raised with me in 1997 by a constituent, Professor Kevin Bales, who was then and still is the professor of sociology at the University of Surrey Roehampton, which was formerly known as the Roehampton institute. He went on to write the seminal book on current-day slavery, "Disposable People", which was nominated for the Pulitzer prize in 2000. He is director of the United States NGO, Free the Slaves, and a trustee of Anti-Slavery International. He was very keen that I should be able to speak in this debate in support of the protocol, which he has had a hand in negotiating, to ensure that slavery in cocoa production ceases.

Professor Bales e-mailed me today to say

It being Ten o'clock, the motion for the Adjournment of the House lapsed, without Question put.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—[Mr. Ainger.]

Mr. Colman: The e-mail continues:

The Minister may have early information, however.

The second step is that

Thirdly, an

As my hon. Friend said, the

Professor Bales believes that the way forward is exactly what is happening—a true partnership of industry, human rights organisations, other NGOs and Governments to bring all our different expertise to bear in working out lasting and, I hope, permanent solutions. As my hon. Friend said, this situation is a stain on chocolate eating in this country and I am pleased to understand from my involvement with Professor Bales over the past five years that it is coming to an end.

I was privileged to be on the Inter-Parliamentary Union visit to Côte d'Ivoire last September and on the International Development Committee visit to Ghana

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in March. On each occasion, the matter was discussed extensively with parliamentarians, NGOs and cocoa farmers.

When the Select Committee visited Ghana, we became aware of a report on child trafficking in that country produced by Tengey and Oguaah on behalf of the Danish International Development Agency, published in February 2002. The conference took place in March while we were there. Interestingly, the work being done by trafficked children includes fishing, selling, home helps, truck pushing and farming, but the latter accounts for only 3 per cent. of the total work carried out by those children.

I hope that the report truly reflects the results of the research—it is a stain on humankind that such trafficking ever happened—and that child trafficking has now ceased in Côte d'Ivoire and Ghana in the field of cocoa production.

10.3 pm

Ms Claire Ward (Watford): First, I draw the House's attention to a declaration in the Register of Members' Interests and inform Members that I am the chair of the all-party group on the chocolate and confectionary industry. That may seem to many people to be a strange and perhaps indulgent group to be involved with, but I assure the House that the group was established not to allow Members purely to debate the interesting and tasty products that we have in this country, but to consider the range of issues that affect the chocolate and confectionary industry. This issue is one of the most important at present.

Indeed, not long ago the group held a meeting in which it was interesting to hear industry representatives who had come to talk about their work on developing the protocol, as well as representatives of Anti-Slavery International, who explained their work on highlighting issues in Côte d'Ivoire and other west African countries. What was important about that meeting was not only the interest showed by Members, but the fact that we had in our midst the great-grandson of Lord Wilberforce. It is strange that centuries later we are here discussing slavery despite Lord Wilberforce's ancestor having put so much time, effort and dedication into abolishing it.

I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Gravesham (Mr. Pond) on securing the debate, which is important not only for the industry in the United Kingdom in terms of the economy and the jobs that rest on its work, but for the livelihoods of producers and workers on cocoa farms, especially those who are exploited. In the past 18 months, the industry has worked across the world with non-governmental organisations and the Government to develop the protocol. That is a significant step forward both in recognising some of the problems that affect the industry and in seeking ways in which they can be dealt with.

My hon. Friend the Member for Gravesham mentioned the development of the protocol and the introduction of independent surveys of child labour practices in west Africa. I hope that the results of those surveys will lead to objective and positive steps forward in the work that is being done on the protocol.

Ms Oona King (Bethnal Green and Bow): Although it is obviously fantastic that the industry has recognised the problem, it goes far beyond what the industry can do.

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Given the volatility of cocoa prices in particular and commodity prices in general, we need to consider how to eliminate the double standards that plague our trading systems around the world.

Ms Ward: My hon. Friend is right to identify that one of the industry's problems is the fluctuating cost of cocoa, which naturally increases the pressures on cocoa farms. That is a matter that the whole industry needs to consider. Its work with NGOs and the Government to secure the protocol and to agree what else it can do to encourage co-operatives and to provide additional assistance in cocoa production is a positive step that we should welcome.

My hon. Friend the Member for Gravesham talked about direct action. I hope that consumers do not take direct action at this point, because that would not be helpful. It is important to recognise the work that has taken place so far.

I thank my hon. Friend for providing this opportunity to debate an important subject that has brought many hon. Members into the Chamber. All sorts of frivolous comments may be made about the fact that we have such an all-party group and that we are discussing chocolate and cocoa production. Most importantly, however, we are discussing the rights of human beings in this world and the action that we can take to support those who are involved in the industry to ensure that we abolish slavery for good. We should promote what is in my view, as a significant consumer of its product, an important industry and deal with this important issue which it faces.

10.9 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Denis MacShane): It is unusual for an Adjournment debate late at night to be so well attended. Perhaps the spirit of Sir William, later Lord Wilberforce, who made many of the same points about slavery 170 to 200 years ago, can be felt through the ages. It is good that so many Labour Members have attended the debate, and it is interesting that the Opposition Benches are empty. I hope that the great William—part Whig, part Tory—will look down from wherever it is that hon. Members go, and see that at least one party in our country is committed to the principles by which he made Britain great.

Hon. Members made several different points, and I am grateful to my hon. Friend and fellow London marathon runner, the Member for Gravesham (Mr. Pond), for choosing the debate. I agree with the points made by my hon. Friends the Members for Putney (Mr. Colman) and for Watford (Ms Ward), and I commend their temperate comments, and the fact that they did not urge action that could damage the people whom we are trying to help. It would satisfy all of us who enjoy our chocolate to know that we can eat it without the taint of the accusation that it was made using slavery, child labour, or forced or abducted labour.

I used to work in Switzerland, and am partial to the chocolates of Lindt, Nestlé and Suchard. Those of us who are familiar with Belgium know the great chocolates of Neuhaus and Côte d'Or. Since I was three years old and ate my first Crunchie bar, I have had a weakness for that

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unique British product. It would be good to know that all the chocolates that we enjoy eating were made in fair conditions.

My hon. Friends have referred to fair trade, to which the Government are committed. A few years ago I took my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for International Development to Tesco in my constituency at Christmas, and we filled our shopping basket with fair trade goods to try to set a modest example of, "Do as I do, not as I say." In my office, my hon. Friends are served with fairly traded tea and coffee.

However, I insist on sensitivity. In the United States the steel lobby insists that its protectionism operates in the interests of fair trade. The powerful agriculture lobby that got Congress to pass measures that will further deny the agricultural products of Africa and Latin America access to the American market claims that it is acting in the interests of fair trade. We must be careful to ensure that one person's fair trade is not another's excuse for protectionism. Hon. Members who have taken part in the debate do not intend that.

We must place our discussion in the context of the wider Government policy, to which the Foreign and Commonwealth Office is committed, of opening up trade in the richer markets in Europe to the agricultural products of the developing world. That is at the core of what the Prime Minister has been preaching—if I may use that verb—around the world. I heard the Prime Minister convey that message in Latin America last year and I heard him again in Madrid at the European, Latin American and Caribbean summit. He will take the message to Johannesburg and the world summit on sustainable development.

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