Skip to main content

Human Trafficking

Volume 481: debated on Monday 27 October 2008

1. What assessment she has made of the steps necessary to be taken prior to ratification and implementation of the Council of Europe convention on action against trafficking in human beings; and what estimate she has made of the cost of such steps. (229769)

Although we are largely compliant with the convention, some changes to legislation and procedures were required before ratification and, following a cross-government effort, the necessary legislation is now in place. The total additional economic costs to the UK of implementing the convention are estimated at approximately £16 million over three years. How that is calculated is outlined in our recently published impact assessment.

Given that only 10 of the 27 European Union countries have ratified the convention, when the Home Secretary ratifies it for us later this year, will she ensure that her approach is compassionate, thoughtful and caring towards the victims of trafficking? They have endured terrible problems and suffered tremendous trauma, and they need help in the form of psychological assistance, accommodation and a thoughtful country that understands the plight that they have been through. Many of them feel that this country wants to throw them out as quickly as it possibly can.

The hon. Gentleman has done some fine work in raising this issue, and he rightly says that victims must be at the centre of our response, as is the case in our action plan. That is why we have announced the 45-day reflection period and the one-year temporary residence permit for victims—both measures exceed the minimum standard outlined in the convention. It is precisely why an important role of Pentameter 2—the enforcement programme—is to identify the best process for dealing with victims, and it is also why we have made additional support available to those who work with victims.

When my right hon. Friend considers the steps necessary to implement the convention, will she consider action against child trafficking? Will she reflect on the fact that, in many instances, children who are trafficked into this country disappear from social services’ care within 48 hours? It appears that problems associated with internal data sharing in health and education bodies and social services are leading to a lack of protection for our children. Will she urgently look at this nationally and internationally?

My hon. Friend raises an important point. We are very concerned that some children whom we suspect have been trafficked go missing from local authority care. That is why we welcomed the additional support of the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, which, with our support and that of Comic Relief, is running a 24-hour advice line for practitioners. It is also why, last year, we published multi-agency guidance to all front-line staff on how trafficked children can be identified and safeguarded, and why we need to build on the work of the “Young Runaways Action Plan” published on 16 June. I assure her that we will continue to raise these issues across Europe and internationally when we have the opportunity to do so.

Newsquest took the lead in removing sex industry adverts from its local newspapers, recognising that such adverts support a lot of this human trafficking. What can be done to encourage other news organisations to encourage their local newspapers to follow such a good example, particularly when advertising revenue is falling? Newsquest really took the lead on this issue.

The hon. Gentleman raises an important point. My hon. Friend the police Minister and my right hon. and learned Friend the Minister for Women and Equality met the Newspaper Society precisely to try to encourage newspapers not to carry the sorts of adverts that promote and expect a demand for women who have been trafficked into this country. Such a demand is abhorrent, and should not be advertised.

Will the Secretary of State have a publicity campaign to encourage people who came to the United Kingdom as children and were used in this country as slaves—modern-day Cinderellas—in their adolescence and childhood to be aware that when, or if, they are able to escape bondage, there is a special place to which they can report that will help to detect those who perpetrated these things against them and who continue to do such things today?

My hon. Friend raises an important point. One of the reasons for setting up and funding the UK Human Trafficking Centre, which has already run some important publicity campaigns and provided fundamental support to police and others for whom this should be mainstream business, was to examine how we can help victims to be confident about coming forward and to recognise that when they do so, they will receive support from the police and others, not only for themselves, but in order to identify and bring to justice the perpetrators.

It is estimated that 43 per cent. of those people who are trafficked end up being sexually exploited. What guidance has the Secretary of State given the police to ensure that such people are properly protected? What more can be done to bring to justice those heinous thugs who are responsible for this modern, 21st century enslavement of people in this country?

The Pentameter 2 enforcement campaign was important because it enabled the police and those supporting victims not only to rescue them, as is very important—167 people were rescued as part of that campaign—but to identify how we could provide support for them. I agree that we need to bring people to justice, and that is why I am pleased that we have so far achieved 90 convictions for trafficking under the legislation that we introduced. I hope that we will see more convictions in the future.