UK not turning its back on garment
The UK government would not support the call for nabbing import of readymade garments from Bangladesh, UK minister for International Development Alan Duncan said yesterday.
"It will be a 100 percent no. It will bring total disaster for the country, development and poor people," he said, adding that banning Bangladesh was a "crazy and irresponsible statement".
The minister was referring to the call by the labour activists in the UK after the Rana Plaza collapse in Savar on April 24.
Duncan, who is now in Dhaka on a three-day visit, was addressing a press conference at British High Commission Staff Amenities Centre in Baridhara.
During the briefing, he announced new funding to help tackle the challenges highlighted by the Rana Plaza disaster.
The minister said the UK would provide £ 18 million to support a programme for training 100,000 low-skilled garment and construction workers in Bangladesh to improve overall productivity and help produce higher-value products.
Duncan yesterday also visited the Centre for the Rehabilitation of the Paralysed in Savar, which receives funding from the UK aid, to meet the victims of the Rana Plaza tragedy.
On the visit, he said, "I have been incredibly moved by the courage of the people I have met today [Wednesday], many of whom lay trapped for days and sustained appalling injuries."
He said safety and standards must be made to catch up with the rapid growth in the garment sector, which was a massive success story and must not be allowed to go sour.
"The industry has been built from nothing in the past 30 years and now needs to be turned into a long-term development success, which means that urgent action is needed across the sector," added Duncan.
He also called on British clothe retailers to assume responsibility for their products, from the store to right back to the sewing machine.
Duncan said the Rana Plaza factory collapse had been devastating in its scale and this, along with factory fires, must be taken as a wake-up call.
He announced that the UK government was ready to commit funding towards initiatives that saw buyers, manufacturers, workers, NGOs and the government of Bangladesh work together to agree a set of common compliance standards.
He said the existing UK aid would be spent on the enforcement of building standards and making factories fit for their purpose. Britain would also provide a team of experts to review the country's building inspection system.
Duncan also expected responsible leadership from Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) to improve the situation in the apparel industry.
British High Commissioner to Dhaka Robert Gibson also spoke at the press conference.