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Hand car washes are ‘slavery in plain sight’ MPs warn

Hand car washes are ‘slavery in plain sight’ and should be licensed, MPs warn

  • Thousands of car washes have sprung up on unused land, some charge just £5
  • Some are linked to trafficking for cheap labour, says damning report
  • One study found that of 450 people trafficked, 40 were working in car washes 

Hand car washes are centres of ‘modern slavery’ and should be licensed, MPs have warned.

A report by the Commons environmental audit committee said thousands of car washes – charging as little as £5 per vehicle – have sprung up on unused land around the country in the past 15 years.

A report by the Commons environmental audit committee said thousands of car washes – charging as little as £5 per vehicle – have sprung up on unused land around the country in the past 15 years


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Some are linked to trafficking for cheap labour, said the report, adding: ‘This is modern slavery in plain sight on Britain’s streets.’ One study found that of 450 people trafficked into the UK, 40 were working in hand car washes.

Many of the washes allow cleaning chemicals to run down drains, and from there into rivers and streams, poisoning waterways. MPs called for a licensing scheme to protect workers and the environment.

Committee chairman Mary Creagh said: ‘Hand car washes hide the widespread exploitation of workers through illegally low pay, poor working conditions and, in some cases, forced labour. The Government must target the sector and prosecute exploitative employers.’

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