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Bicentenary of the Abolition of the Slave Trade

Volume 458: debated on Thursday 22 March 2007

This year is the bicentenary of a remarkable piece of legislation—the 1807 Abolition of the Slave Trade Act. This Act outlawed slave carrying by British ships in the former British Empire.

Although slavery itself was not abolished until 1833, with the Emancipation Act, 1807 marked the beginning of the end for the transatlantic slave trade which had seen more than 12 million men, women and children bought and sold into slavery and over 2 million die.

The anniversary of this Act is a chance to look into the past, to remember a period of dreadful inhumanity and pay tribute to the campaigners who fought this injustice and of those who enforced the new law, including the Royal Navy. But it is also an opportunity to look forward, and to recognise the tremendous contribution of Black African and Caribbean communities not only to the success of this country, but also the vibrancy of our culture and heritage.

It is also an important opportunity to recognise the fact that slavery did not die out with the end of the transatlantic trade. There are an estimated 12.3 million enslaved people in the world today. In the 21st century, slavery persists in the form of human trafficking, bonded labour and the forced recruitment of child soldiers.

The Government want to ensure we gain the best possible legacy from the bicentenary. So as part of our work to commemorate this anniversary and to focus attention on tackling contemporary or legacy issues that arise out of the slave trade I am pleased to announce that the Government are today publishing a commemorative magazine to mark the bicentenary.

This magazine aims to inform members of the public about the slave trade, those who fought for its abolition, the subsequent emancipation process as well as work taking place to tackle discrimination in Britain and forms of slavery still present in the world today. Copies will be distributed to museums, libraries and local community organisations across the country over the next few days. Copies will also be sent to all MPs and Peers.

In the meantime further information about the bicentenary including details of events taking place all around the country to mark the anniversary can be found at www.direct.gov.uk/slavery.

Copies of the magazine will also be placed in the Library for the reference of Members and will be available in the Vote Office.