Labour Party conference: Yvette Cooper promises to crack down on sweatshops

Announces measures to stop exploitation of migrant labour

Click to follow

A crackdown on unscrupulous employers subjecting staff to sweatshop conditions has been promised by Labour.

Yvette Cooper, the shadow Home Secretary, spoke of a case of eastern Europeans who were forced to sleep six to a room on bug-infested mattresses, whose wages were stolen and who had dogs set on them if they protested.

Police officers had said no offence had been committed because the men were in Britain legally and had consented to work.

“People treated like animals, used to undercut local wages and jobs,” Ms Cooper told the conference.

“No crime? This is not the economy we want, or the Britain we believe in, so the next Labour government will make this exploitation a crime.”

She also said Labour would stop companies using slave labour abroad for products sold in Britain.

“We need to do more to stop the criminals trading in humanity here and across the world. To stop clothing woven with the sweat of slaves reaching our fashion rails, seafood stained with the blood of slaves reaching our supermarket shelves.”

Speaking 24 hours after Ed Miliband failed to mention immigration in his keynote speech, Ms Cooper pledged tougher border controls on low-skilled workers, but fresh efforts to attract overseas students to British universities.

She called for “radical reform” of European Union migration rules to achieve “fair movement” rather than free movement of EU nationals.

The shadow Home Secretary said Labour would legislate to make it easier to deport EU citizens who are jailed.

She admitted the last Labour government made mistakes on immigration, but added that David Cameron’s promise to reduce net annual migration to tens of thousands was “in tatters”.

She said Labour would halt Home Office plans to shed another 1,100 police posts, finding the cash to save the jobs by scrapping the system of Police and Crime Commissioners. It would also establish a national refuge fund to help the victims of domestic violence.