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Human Trafficking

Volume 540: debated on Tuesday 7 February 2012

The Crown Prosecution Service is working with law enforcement agencies and others in the UK, as well as in source countries, to improve the investigation and prosecution of those involved in human trafficking. The CPS is also encouraging victims of human trafficking to support criminal proceedings.

To what extent are prosecutors and police alert to the fact that British citizens are being trafficked both within the UK, as was uncovered shockingly in my constituency last September, and from the UK, as we learned earlier this month?

We are very much aware that this is a problem, but part of the difficulty is that trafficking for forced labour is notoriously difficult to establish, and often the victims will not come forward. That said, as my hon. Friend will be aware, there is now a national referral mechanism that alerts the police at neighbourhood level, the UK Border Agency, social services and charitable organisations as to how they can pick up such information and feed it into the specialist units of the police, which can then bring in the Crown Prosecution Service to try to deal with those matters.

If the Government are serious about more prosecutions and, indeed, about preventing trafficking, should we not substantially increase the UK Border Agency’s strength, with many more properly based staff so that they can do the job?

As the hon. Gentleman will appreciate, with my hat on as superintendent of the Crown Prosecution Service, it would be easy for me to ask for extra resources in all directions outside my own Department, but if he thinks that there are specific instances in which the service may be in some way deficient he should, I suggest, bring them to my attention or to that of my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary. The evidence that I have from the Crown Prosecution Service is that it receives very good co-operation from the agencies with which it deals.

I thought that the Government were carrying out a review of human trafficking sentences, with a view to reporting to Parliament by now on the changes that would make conviction easier. When is that report going to be published?

I am not in a position to give my hon. Friend a precise date. What I suggest, as he will appreciate that the issue is outside my departmental area, is that I write to him when I have ascertained whether we have further detailed information on it.

Surely we are going to get many more convictions only if there is much more effective co-operation between prosecutors and police in this country and elsewhere. Given that many such gangs are elsewhere in the European Union, is not the European arrest warrant a vital part of the necessary armoury? Will the Attorney-General tell his Back Benchers that he is not going to step outside the European arrest warrant, even if they want to do so?

I have no doubt at all that mechanisms for co-operation throughout the European Union and, indeed, elsewhere can be very useful in the apprehension of criminals, particularly in this field. How that should best be carried out is, if I may say to the hon. Gentleman, ultimately I suppose a matter for this House, if it ever comes up for review.