The Office for Criminal Justice Reform in the Ministry of Justice and the Home Office are currently in the process of tendering for an experienced third sector partner to deliver supported accommodation and advocacy to adult victims who have been trafficked for sexual exploitation and/or domestic servitude.
As the Home Office is closing down the country’s largest dedicated police unit dealing with human trafficking, there is a real fear that the Government will ratify the Council of Europe convention on action against trafficking in human beings to the minimum standards. Will the Minister therefore involve the third sector, which has experience of the subject and gives extremely good value for money—I am thinking of organisations such as ECPAT, the Helen Bamber Foundation, Anti-Slavery and the POPPY project—to ensure that victims, and victims alone, are at the centre of the process of implementing the convention?
The hon. Gentleman is wrong to say that any such project is being closed down. He might be referring to the Metropolitan police trafficking team, to which pump-priming was provided, including £700,000 in the current financial year out of a total grant of £1.678 million. That is pump-priming money, and the Met have not yet made a final decision on it. I can confirm that the Home Secretary indicated in January that we will ratify the Council of Europe convention by the end of the year, and I make it clear that we are on track to do so.
Of course we will welcome ratification when it comes. As the Minister may know, the Select Committee on Home Affairs is inquiring into human trafficking. One of our concerns is the lack of co-ordination on a policy basis between voluntary projects in this country and in other countries, such as the origin, transition and destination countries. Will he ensure better co-ordination between the third sector organisations in countries affected by human trafficking?
My right hon. Friend makes a very important point. Obviously, what third sector organisations can do in this country about trafficking is important, but it is also important to be able to deal with the problem at source. I look forward to seeing the outcome of his Committee’s report.
Would the Minister like to think again about the answer that he gave my hon. Friend the Member for Totnes (Mr. Steen), because the Metropolitan police are closing that human trafficking unit? Will the Minister get in touch with his colleagues and get up to speed?
My understanding is that the Met are reviewing the most efficient and effective way of using their resources to ensure that their future operational response has the right resources in the right place to investigate criminals at all levels of operation and to bring them to justice. As I say, it is not a case of cutting anything; the funding that has gone into that particular unit has always been pump-priming.
Many trafficked young women become pregnant as a direct result of enforced prostitution. Does my hon. Friend agree that compulsory and comprehensive sexual health education is vital to help all young women to protect themselves, especially those who are most vulnerable?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right, which is why I welcome the recent announcement made by the Department for Children, Schools and Families. Teenage pregnancy and social exclusion are big problems for young women in particular communities, and the key to tackling them is to build aspiration and have early interventions, such as the family nurse partnerships and family intervention projects, which have been pioneered in the Cabinet Office.