Modern Slavery

15th November 2018

Philip Dunne MP is calling for regulation of hand car washes, following discovery of widespread rule breaking during an enquiry by the Environmental Audit Committee (EAC).

Mr Dunne suggested the Committee investigate hand car washes after being handed disturbing evidence of environmental damage and workforce exploitation earlier this year.

The Environmental Audit Committee has been holding an enquiry and today published a report into Hand Car Washes, calling on the government to trial a licensing scheme for Hand Car Washes, given wide-ranging compliance issues facing the sector. This includes human trafficking, health and safety violations, tax evasion, and environmental damage. 

Hand Car Washes now make up 80% of the UK car wash sector. The EAC were told that Hand Car Washes was the largest sector reported to the Modern Slavery Helpline last year, accounting for 27% of all calls.

Mr Dunne said:

“Today’s EAC report has shone a spotlight on a part of the economy which for too long has operated in the shadows, despite being in plain view to us all. Many shoppers at supermarkets and other car parks might assume that Hand Car Washes operating there had been suitably vetted, and are therefore compliant with employment and environmental regulations. But this has all too often not been the case.

We were told a ‘spectrum of exploitation’ is taking place at Hand Car Washes, including workers receiving little or no pay, having ID documents taken away, abuse and violence, tax evasion, and not being given personal protective equipment to handle toxic chemicals. This is modern slavery in plain sight on our streets.

Given our environmental focus, the Committee was particularly concerned to learn toxic chemicals can often flow from Hand Car Washes directly into storm drains, damaging water quality and impacting on wildlife and plants in rivers and streams.

We have called on the government to pilot a licensing scheme, so the public can have confidence that abuse of workers and the environment is not taking place on our streets.”

Mr Dunne added:

“I commend the work of the Church of England and Catholic Church on this issue, who through the Clewer Initiative have developed the Safe Car Wash app. This allows members of the public to report concerns about modern slavery at hand car washes.”

The key recommendations from the EAC report into Hand Car Washes are that;

•Government should trial a licensing scheme for hand car washes that brings together all of the major compliance requirements, including on environmental pollution, into a single, more easily enforceable, legal requirement.

•Government should review whether the Modern Slavery Act 2015 could be updated to cover businesses as small as hand car washes.

•The Environment Agency should work with immigration, tax recovery and GLAA enforcement to ensure that unannounced inspection of hand car washes are comprehensively investigated for a full range of potential regulatory breaches.

The full report can be viewed online at https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201719/cmselect/cmenvaud/981/98102.htm

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