• November 27, 2010

The Celtic League has challenged the UK government over its plans to introduce legislation which would force unemployed people to do unpaid manual work.

Work and Pensions Minister, Iain Duncan Smith MP, has been reminded that the UK is a signatory to International Labour Law which bans forced labour.

The League says that if the legislation is introduced in any of the Celtic countries which are part of the UK it will consider a complaint to the
International Labour Organisation (see below)

“The Right Honourable Iain Duncan Smith MP
Secretary of State for Work and Pensions
Department for Work and Pensions
Caxton House
Tothill Street

Dear Minister,

I write with reference to the proposals to be outlined by your Departments `Welfare Reform White Paper’ which will seek to introduce compulsory full-time manual labour for certain categories of unemployed persons.

I believe that the United Kingdom is a signatory to International Labour Organisation Convention No 29 (Forced Labour Convention) 1930.

Article 2 of the Conventions says:

“1. For the purposes of this Convention the term forced or compulsory labour shall mean all work or service which is exacted from any person under the menace of any penalty and for which the said person has not offered himself voluntarily.

2. Nevertheless, for the purposes of this Convention, the term forced or compulsory labour shall not include–

(a) any work or service exacted in virtue of compulsory military service laws for work of a purely military character;

(b) any work or service which forms part of the normal civic obligations of the citizens of a fully self-governing country;

(c) any work or service exacted from any person as a consequence of a conviction in a court of law, provided that the said work or service is carried out under the supervision and control of a public authority and that the said person is not hired to or placed at the disposal of private individuals, companies or associations;

(d) any work or service exacted in cases of emergency, that is to say, in the event of war or of a calamity or threatened calamity, such as fire, flood,famine, earthquake, violent epidemic or epizootic diseases, invasion by animal, insect or vegetable pests, and in general any circumstance that would endanger the existence or the well-being of the whole or part of the population;

(e) minor communal services of a kind which, being performed by the members of the community in the direct interest of the said community, can therefore be considered as normal civic obligations incumbent upon the members of the community, provided that the members of the community or their direct representatives shall have the right to be consulted in regard to the need for such services.”

On the basis of what has been publicised about your proposals to date we believe that the United Kingdom government would struggle to comply with the provisions of the Forced Labour Convention and should these proposals be enacted in Scotland, N. Ireland, Wales or Cornwall the Celtic League will consider a formal complaint to the ILO about a Convention breach.

Yours sincerely,

J B Moffatt
Director of Information”

Related links:


J B Moffatt (Mr)
Director of Information
Celtic League


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