A vote that took place recently in the European Parliament about the trade in conflict minerals.
A draft EU regulation to prevent the minerals trade from funding conflict and human rights violations was approved by MEPs. This “conflict minerals” law will oblige all but the smallest EU importers of tin, tungsten, tantalum and gold to do "due diligence" checks on their suppliers, and big manufacturers will also have to disclose how they plan to monitor their sources to comply with the rules.
MEPs persuaded EU ministers, that due diligence checks, in accordance with the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development guidelines, should be mandatory for importers of tin, tungsten, tantalum and gold and their ores from conflict and high-risk areas. The Commission and Council had initially proposed only voluntary checks.
Labour MEPs knew a voluntary system would not have been effective and pushed hard for a mandatory approach and a broader coverage of the whole supply chain, this is an important decision. We can now demonstrate to our trading partners that the EU continues to be at the forefront of global efforts to create more transparent, responsible and sustainable business practices.
The vote represented a significant step forward in ensuring responsibly-sourced products on our shelves. When we buy jewellery or electronic products we should not be unwittingly financing conflicts in some of the world’s poorest, most unstable countries.
EU citizens have the right to know that the products they buy do not indirectly finance dictatorships abroad. It was unacceptable that the EU, through trade in minerals, was indirectly fuelling conflicts and human rights abuses in countries such as the Democratic Republic of the Congo. I think that it would be unforgivable if the UK regressed to trading unethically after we have left the European Union and I am sure that you will also be watching developments in this regard with great care.
I am very pleased that the vote was overwhelming in Parliament, despite UKIP MEPS either abstaining or not being present for the vote. I do not think that we can turn a blind eye to the harm we cause in other parts of the world. These rules have laid the groundwork for an effective tool to break the link between conflicts, human rights abuses and our consumption of everyday goods.