Businesses demand an end to exploiting developing world

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Indy Politics

Tony Blair was handed a detailed plan by business yesterday for using the Government's vast purchasing power to protect the environment and end the exploitation of third-world labour. Firms that bid for the billions of pounds worth of central or local government contracts say they want to be compelled to recycle more, contribute less to climate change, and avoid trading with suppliers who ignore basic human rights, as long as the same rules apply to their competitors.

But public officials say that first they have to be freed from the rules imposed during Margaret Thatcher's time in office which compel them to look for the cheapest way to get the job done.

That message was delivered to 10 Downing Street yesterday by the business-dominated Sustainable Procurement Task , which has spent 12 months compiling its report 'Procuring the Future'. It is backed up by a letter in today's Financial Times from the heads of 14 major businesses, calling for a Minister to be appointed with special responsibility for changing the way public contracts are awarded.

The Government-appointed Task Force, headed by Sir Neville Simms, former chairman of the construction giant, Carillion, was told that several of the big construction firms, who win the lion's share of government contracts, would like to construct or maintain more eco-friendly public buildings.

The Task Force also warned that public opinion has turned against the idea that the Government should save money by buying goods or services produced at the expense of the environment or basic human rights.

Community's General Secretary Michael Leahy said yesterday: "We are not opposed to trade with developing nations, but we are concerned that no government body should buy uniforms made by people who are denied basic rights."