News / 15th November 2018

New Government Report on Hand Car Washes

A new report by the House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee has been published today which calls for Hand Car Washes to be licensed to prevent ‘modern slavery in plain sight on Britain's streets’, among other recommendations.

Unseen welcomes the fact that the Environmental Audit Committee has widened its investigation into Hand Car Washes to look at the human as well as the environmental impacts, and we applaud the focus on labour exploitation and, more extremely, modern slavery, in the report.

Regarding the recommendations of the report, expanding the Modern Slavery Act to include small businesses seems flawed logic when many hand car washes are not currently registered as businesses, and when the significant majority even of the companies with a turnover over £36million are yet to submit a modern slavery statement. It would seem more effective to focus efforts on supporting the Responsible Car Wash Scheme (which was developed by the Downstream Fuel Association alongside the GLAA, major supermarkets, Unseen, law enforcement and others) with a view to using its findings and experience to input into the development of a licensing scheme.

We would indeed encourage the Environment Agency to work with immigration, tax recovery and GLAA on unannounced inspection of hand car washes – although we would suggest that there are other agencies such as police that should be involved also, and that there needs to be clearer allocation of resources for following up on breaches of legislative, regulatory and human rights abuses, in order for these to be effective.