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Trafficked Women

Volume 459: debated on Thursday 3 May 2007

15. What discussions she has had with ministerial colleagues on the provision of identity documents to female victims of trafficking. (135444)

Cross-government action on human trafficking is co-ordinated through the inter-ministerial group, of which I am a member. The issue of the provision of identity documents to victims of trafficking is dealt with by the Home Office, which is also a member of the group.

In view of the fact that so few women who have been trafficked come forward to give evidence against their traffickers—only 30 traffickers have been convicted in the past four years in this country for the trafficking of women, because women are terrified of coming forward as they think they are going to be sent back to their country of origin immediately—and bearing in mind the fact that 4,000 women come into Britain and are trafficked every year, does the Minister agree that the Government should now implement the Council of Europe convention on action against trafficking in human beings, which the Prime Minister trumpeted in January as something that we were going to sign, and which we did sign in March? However, it has not been implemented, and what needs to be implemented is that part of the convention that provides renewable residence permits to women who are trafficked. That allows them to stay here and feel secure, and thus allows them to come forward and give evidence against—

Order. I know that this is a quiet day in the House, but the hon. Gentleman cannot go on too long.

The hon. Gentleman will be aware that alongside the signing of the Council of Europe convention against human trafficking we produced the UK action plan on tackling human trafficking, which sets out in significant detail the way in which we will tackle precisely the issues that he mentioned, not just the specific issue of identity documents, but new guidance about how to work with victims, which will ensure both that front-line staff from a range of services can recognise the problem and provide support to victims and, crucially, that every police force deals with the issue as a mainstream issue, and not something that is separate. I suggest that the hon. Gentleman look in detail at the UK action plan, and we would be very happy to have further discussions with him.

I, too, welcome the signing of the convention and what the Minister said in response to my hon. Friend the Member for Totnes (Mr. Steen). However, does she not agree that the measure goes very wide indeed in dealing with vulnerable people, giving them reassurance and access to services such as health and education? Will she particularly bear in mind in discussions with her colleagues the need to ensure that the full range of services are available to people who need them, and that public officials, whatever their department, are adequately trained to handle the sensitivities of the individual concerned?

I can give the hon. Gentleman that reassurance, as that precise approach is what we want, so that the issue is not just dealt with by a few people and a much wider range of front-line services understand the issues. He will know that last October we launched the UK human trafficking centre, which brings together a whole range of services that deal with trafficking in a way that has not been done by any other European country. We believe that that approach will enable us not only to develop our services but to learn better how to continue to improve them.