Major fashion retailers including M&S, Next and John Lewis together with enforcement agencies have signed up to an anti-slavery charter.

River Island and Shop Direct also agreed to the accord, which is supported by agencies including the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority, the Department for Work and Pensions and HMRC.

The signatories have pledged to raise awareness to prevent worker exploitation, protect vulnerable and exploited workers and disrupt exploitative practices and help bring criminals to justice.

The charter follows the latest meeting of the Modern Slavery Taskforce, created by Prime Minister Theresa May. The taskforce attempts to bring industry and agencies together to better identify and eradicate forced labour.

May said: “Modern slavery is an abhorrent crime that denies its victims of liberty. I welcome the action being taken by businesses which are leading the way in being open and transparent about the modern slavery risks they face, and have pledged to raise awareness to prevent slavery, protect vulnerable workers and help bring more criminals to justice.

“But with modern slavery police operations at an all-time high, clearly there is more to do to stamp out this vile crime and prevent criminal groups from operating in the shadows of supply chains to exploit people for commercial gain.”