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Human Trafficking

Volume 458: debated on Thursday 22 March 2007

After consideration, we do not believe that the creation of the office of commissioner on human trafficking is necessary or appropriate at this time. The inter-ministerial group, of which I am a member, effectively leads and monitors cross-Government work on human trafficking, which includes the soon-to-be-launched action plan and implementation of the Council of Europe convention.

Naturally, I am disappointed by the Minister’s reply. The only country in Europe that has such a commissioner is the Netherlands. I am always keen to learn from good things in Europe, and as a result of the Netherlands experiment and the commissioner there, we have learned much more about human trafficking and the evils going on in that country. If we only had such a commissioner in this country, we could start to tackle the problem.

I pay tribute to the hon. Gentleman and many other hon. Members on both sides of the House for their interest in and concern about the issue. I am sure that he, like me, wants effective action. Of course, we Labour Members are always happy to learn from our European partners about what measures are working, but it is important to consider what progress we can make in this country. The inter-ministerial group that looks into such issues has been in place for some time. It enables us to bring together the work being done in many Departments across Government. There is now a United Kingdom Human Trafficking Centre, which is the first centre of its kind in Europe, and we are bringing together all the work on the issue. We continue to make progress, but we will of course continue to look at what works elsewhere.

My hon. Friend will be aware that earlier this week there was an excellent debate on the commemoration of the 200th anniversary of the abolition of slavery. She attended the entire debate, and will have heard the comparisons that were drawn between modern-day slavery—human trafficking—and slavery 200 years ago. In the light of that, will she let us know what progress has been made in ratifying the Council of Europe treaty to which she referred earlier?

My hon. Friend says that we had an extremely interesting debate, and indeed we did; it was possibly the most interesting and informative debate that I have attended in this House. He rightly draws a parallel, and I am pleased to say that the Council of Europe convention will be signed tomorrow. We will set out the action that we will take to move towards ratification. The Government take signing such conventions seriously, and have not wanted to do so until we were in a position to make rapid progress towards ratifying it. The UK human trafficking action plan will be published at the same time, and that will give hon. Members a great deal more detail on the subject.