MPs have accused the Government of turning a blind eye to exploitation of workers in the hand car wash sector, amid concerns about modern slavery within the industry’s workforce.

The remarks following a recent report by the House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee which made a number of recommendations with regard to both pollution prevention and labour exploitation in the hand car wash industry.

In terms of the Government response, the Environment Agency has agreed to write to major supermarkets to remind them that hand car washes operating in their car parks must have appropriate drainage to tackle pollution, as recommended in the Environmental Audit Committee’s report.

However, the Government has rejected a call by the Committee for a trial licensing scheme to tackle labour exploitation in hand car washes.

According to recent figures, in 2017 around 27% of cases recorded by the Modern Slavery Helpline about labour exploitation concerned car wash workers.

Commenting on the issue, Mary Creagh MP, Chair of the Environmental Audit Committee, said, “Our highly critical report into hand car washes found widespread and alarming breaches of planning, employment and environmental laws.

“We are pleased the Government has accepted two of our recommendations, by asking the Environment Agency to write to supermarkets and promising to update the pollution prevention guidance. These are positive steps towards ending the discharge of dirty water into rivers.

“There is more to do on tackling labour exploitation. This should have been addressed by adopting our recommendation of a trial licensing scheme. It is disappointing that ministers have opted for a pilot approach that is voluntary.

“With so few minimum wage prosecutions despite the exploitation of workers being commonplace, the Government must send a strong message to car wash operators that such practices are illegal and that it will not turn a blind eye.”

For more detailed information see your Modern Slavery topic.

Last reviewed 8 February 2019