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Human Trafficking

Volume 546: debated on Monday 18 June 2012

Human trafficking is an outrage. William Wilberforce spoke of

“this bloody traffic, of which our posterity, looking back…will scarce believe that it has been suffered to exist so long a disgrace and dishonour to this country.”

We must be in our age as determined as he was in his to end the pain of this wicked trade in human lives.

The Minister and the Prime Minister have shown their commitment to fighting human trafficking, but the dreadful case that was recently reported of internal trafficking within the United Kingdom shows the necessity of our schools highlighting this evil crime. Will the Minister meet me, other members of the all-party group on human trafficking and Anthony Steen to discuss how we can take the matter forward?

Yes, of course I will. My hon. Friend is absolutely right that schools have a vital role to play, which was why we issued new guidelines to that end. He will also know that since he last asked me about this matter—he is a doughty champion of the victims of this dreadful trade—I have, as he asked, written to charities to engage them in the process.

In line with the recommendations in today’s report on children who go missing from care, will the Minister please discuss with his colleagues in the Home Office the importance of keeping on the police national database the details of all trafficked children who go missing, so that they are not forgotten and so that if, for example, they turn up in a cannabis factory, they can be treated immediately as victims rather than criminals?

The right hon. Gentleman is quite right to draw attention to that excellent report, which I was able to read this morning. He is right that co-ordinated action by local authorities, the Home Office and the Department for Education is vital, and we will indeed go about that business in the fashion and spirit that he describes.

On the subject of raising awareness of crime in schools, some primary-age girls are at particular risk of being taken abroad in the long summer holidays to suffer female genital mutilation. Will the Minister take this opportunity to emphasise the safeguarding responsibilities of schools in that regard?

Yes, indeed. I had a meeting with my officials and discussed just that matter. It is, as my hon. Friend will know—because she has also been a champion of these matters—something that happens across the year in different volumes. There are peak periods for this, and we need to take action to take account of that and to use all agencies to offer the right kind of advice in those areas that are most vulnerable and to those young people who are most vulnerable.

In the response to today’s report on children in care, Ministers made no mention of the 60% of trafficked children who routinely go missing. Will he respond to widespread concerns surrounding the move of the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre into the National Crime Agency, described by CEOP’s former head as about saving face, not saving children, and ensure that child safeguarding is made an explicit strategic priority for the NCA so that the focus on these children is not lost?

The Secretary of State and the Under-Secretary of State for Education, the hon. Member for East Worthing and Shoreham (Tim Loughton), who has responsibility for children, are having a meeting this afternoon on just those matters, to ensure that our response is co-ordinated in the way the hon. Lady describes. It is fair to say that there is an issue about the different claims about the number of children who go missing and the need for a more consistent approach to how those records are maintained. I hear what she says and it will no doubt help to inform the discussions that will take place this afternoon—because we do not hesitate on these matters—between the Secretary of State and the Under-Secretary.