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Human Trafficking

Volume 464: debated on Thursday 11 October 2007

21. What discussions she has had with ministerial colleagues on informing girls and women about the dangers of human trafficking. (156861)

I sit on the ministerial group that overseas the United Kingdom’s action plan on human trafficking. That includes measures to inform women and girls about the dangers of this modern form of slavery. The messages contained in those measures have recently been reinforced by the public awareness campaign for Pentameter 2. As the problem also requires an international response, I raised it last week at a ministerial meeting with my European counterparts, and we will continue to support information projects in both source and transit countries.

I am pleased that the Minister agrees that this is a form of modern-day slave trade, which often forces women into prostitution. Does she have any plans to reform the prostitution laws by placing the burden of criminality on the demand side of this vile trade?

It is necessary for us to look at the demand side. Our prostitution strategy challenges the attitude that this trade in human bodies is inevitable and here to stay. The growth in human trafficking is fuelling this market, so we must look at the demand side of the problem. Ministers—including Home Office Ministers—are committed to doing what we can to ensure that the law is right in this respect and to considering how to make further progress on whether, and how, to criminalise such exploitation of vulnerable people.

I welcome what the Minister said in her opening remarks, but does she agree that a more practical measure to stop this vile slavery would be to have better immigration controls for young women and children coming in from the European Union?

I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on the valuable work that he and his group do in this area, and I would welcome the chance to meet it to discuss the matter further. Identification is vital at this point, and we are working on that as part of the steps towards our ratification of the Council of Europe convention.

Will the Minister convene discussions before the Criminal Justice and Immigration Bill completes its passage through the House to examine whether changes to it are necessary to tackle the extent to which prostitution is rife and is using trafficked women?

Although I understand what my hon. Friend is saying, we need to have a bit more debate and discussion. My right hon. and learned Friend the Minister and I held a round-table discussion on human trafficking this month, where we discussed with stakeholders the problems that they are facing. After we have had the debate and discussion, we can look at amendments, but we cannot do so at this stage.