The chief executives of Asos and New Look have warned that working conditions in some Leicester textile factories represent a “ticking time bomb”.

Asos chief executive Nick Beighton and New Look chief executive Anders Kristiansen said the issues were preventing the return of manufacturing to the UK from overseas, the Sunday Telegraph reported.

The two retailers are keen to manufacture more in the UK but are reluctant because of unsafe and frequently illegal conditions.

Asos hopes to treble the amount of clothes it manufactures in Britain.

Beighton said: “Our goal is to bring customers the best fashion as quickly as possible, and there’s nothing faster than manufacturing in the UK.

“We would like to triple the amount of product we source from the UK over the next five years and based on our experience there are great factories in Leicester with the capacity to help us make that happen.”

Kristiansen said New Look could double its £35m orders from Leicester factories but was “afraid of using these units because what is going on is just so plainly wrong”.

‘Sweatshop pay’

He said: “It is a ticking time bomb. Many of these factories have unsafe conditions with fire escapes blocked up, workers exploited and paid far ­below minimum wage. What happens if there is another massive fire, what will it take for people to wake up?”

In October the retailers will meet Leicester’s mayor Peter Soulsby and represenatives from HM Revenue and Customs, the police and the fire brigade to call for stricter ­enforcement of existing laws.

The pair also warned in evidence to the Human Rights Select Committee that a renaissance of British textile manufacturing could be “fatally derailed” by dangerous working practices and “sweatshop” wages.

The Government has been considering extra powers for councils to close factories that break the law but the two retailers are concerned about lack of progress.

“If you enforce the laws, we will invest”

Anders Kristiansen

Kristiansen said: “Everyone knows what is going on but no one is listening, they are turning a blind eye to it.”

“We have worked so hard to improve manufacturing standards in Asia and there are these conditions happening at home. There are already laws that should be preventing this, they just need to be enforced. We are saying, if you enforce the laws, we will invest.”