"Everybody knew" about Leicester sweatshops before they were uncovered - Leicester MP

12 July 2020, 12:17

Andrew Bridgen on Leicester sweatshop scandal

By Seán Hickey

A Conservative MP for Leicester revealed that Leicester sweatshops were an "open secret" in the city that politicians never acted on.

Andrew Bridgen is the Conservative MP for North West Leicestershire and he has been working extensively to expose the appalling conditions revealed last week that there are thousands of people in Leicester working in modern slavery conditions.

Mr Bridgen told Iain that "there are probably 10,000 modern slaves in Leicester" in about 250 of these "sweatshops" and he said that they have gone under the radar for such a long time because "the city council don't inspect them."

"Locally it was an open secret in Leicester, everybody knew about it.

"I would point out that all the factories are in the constituency of Leicester East which is the hotspot of where the virus has flared up in Leicester and anyone saying there's not a link between those conditions, the poverty wages and the fact that Leicester's in a lockdown, it just doesn't add up."

He told Iain that the bosses of these warehouses "put pressure on their workers to work through the Covid lockdown" and thus there is no surprise that Leicester has had a second uptick in coronavirus cases. He revealed that the Health and Home Secretaries have known about the issue for weeks, if not months.

"I told Matt Hancock and Priti Patel when the figures for Leicester came out, I said you will not sort out the virus flare up in Leicester until we close these slave sweatshops."

Government Secretaries have known about Leicester sweatshops for months according to the Leicester MP
Government Secretaries have known about Leicester sweatshops for months according to the Leicester MP. Picture: PA

Iain was taken aback by the revelations and asked Mr Bridgen "who did you approach then and why has nothing happened since."

The Tory MP told Iain that he has been raising the situation in Parliament, with councillors and with fellow Leicester MPs for too long. He said that while telling cabinet officials and councillors "it was clear that nothing was happening."

"There's nothing good about any of this, it's an absolutely appalling situation."

After Home Secretary Priti Patel vowed to be across the scandal, Mr Bridgen insisted that he's "going to hold her to that" adding that the slave trade is "keeping Leicester down and in poverty."

Mr Bridgen felt as though Labour were as much at fault for the scandal as the government was, pointing out that "the Labour party own that city" and "this is not something you can sweep under the carpet" so all parties should take action.

The Tory MP produced a harrowing stat at the end of his conversation with Iain. "One in eight of the people walking the streets in Leicester East" according to Mr Bridgen "is a slave."

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