A cross-party group of peers has proposed a new law aimed at containing the dependency on Chinese imports in the British public bodies’ supply chain.
It comes after the government quietly dropped “Project Defend,” a cross-department project put together during the early days of the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus pandemic to assess the UK’s supply chain resilience for strategic projects.
Conservative peer Baroness Philippa Stroud put forward an amendment to the government’s Procurement Bill, giving ministers the power to bolster British public bodies against economic coercion by countries such as China and Russia by reducing goods and services imported from these countries.
The two countries are not explicitly named in the amendment, which targets countries defined as “either a systemic competitor or a threat” in the “latest Integrated Review of Security, Defence, Development, and Foreign Policy.”
But the latest Integrated Review, published in March last year, named Russia as the top acute security threat and China as a long-term “systemic competitor.”
The peers also sought to eradicate goods and services tainted by slavery and human trafficking from the UK’s public procurement contracts in the amendment.
The amendment, published on the Parliament website (pdf) on Tuesday, is also sponsored by Liberal Democrat peers Lord Alton of Liverpool and Baroness Smith of Newnham, and Labour peer Lord Vernon Coaker.
It comes after a Foreign Office minister last month referred to its “Project Defend” in the past tense in a letter written in response to questions about what the project had achieved.
In the letter, seen by The Epoch Times, Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon said: “Project DEFEND was a cross-government project created at the start of the pandemic. It successfully analysed the supply chains that were critical to the United Kingdom, raising our visibility and understanding of supply chain vulnerabilities. It supported critical winter planning in 2021 and supported government departments and industry to identify options for building more resilient supply chains, including identifying and diversifying the sources of supply and establishing international partnerships with like-minded nations to deliver for the British people.”
Ahmad added that the government “continues to work to strengthen supply chains critical to Britain’s national and economic security.”
The letter went on to call China “an important economic trading partner for the world, including the United Kingdom,” but said the government is “clear-eyed” in this relationship; has “led international efforts to hold China to account for its violations of rights and responsibilities in Xinjiang at the U.N.,” as well as imposing sanctions and announcing “measures to ensure no British organisations are complicit in these violations through their supply chains;” and will “continue to work with our allies to raise the cost to China of its actions.”
A report published last month by British think tank Civitas showed that more than 17 percent of the imported health supplies on the UK’s “disaster relief list” came from China, tripling the percentage before the CCP virus pandemic.