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Human Trafficking

Volume 571: debated on Monday 2 December 2013

14. What steps she is taking to ensure that all appropriate powers are available to seize the UK and overseas assets of people engaged in human trafficking. (901346)

The Government are committed to tackling human trafficking and are determined to build on the UK’s strong record in supporting victims. The proposed modern slavery Bill, the first of its kind in Europe, will strengthen our response by increasing the number of successful prosecutions and convictions. The new serious and organised crime strategy makes it clear that attacking criminal finances is at the heart of our efforts to pursue all organised criminals. We are committed to strengthening legislation and ensuring that existing powers are effectively deployed both here and overseas.

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that answer. Given the challenges of seizing traffickers’ assets, will he ensure that greater urgency is given to getting hold of them and making sure they go to compensate the victims of these horrendous crimes?

I think that it is important to underline to my hon. and learned Friend the steps that are being taken. Last year, about £1 million was taken off human trafficking offenders by way of enforcement of confiscation orders. Equally, I am absolutely clear on the need for more action. That is why the new National Crime Agency has been tasked with making the tackling of modern slavery one of its priorities, and why we are introducing the modern slavery Bill to up prosecutions and up such enforcement action. Indeed, the Bill will include provision for a new commissioner to get a stronger operational response on the recovery of assets and on other prosecutions.

One of the poisonous sidelines in the deplorable trade of human trafficking is of course the existence of rogue and criminal gangmasters. Are the Government minded to support Labour’s call to extend the gangmasters licensing regime to cover sectors to which this devastating trade has now spread, because it has gone beyond its traditional areas into construction, social care and other sectors where these rogues and criminals reside?

I can say to the hon. Gentleman that the National Crime Agency is working closely with the Gangmasters Licensing Authority and, indeed, has been involved in an important operation in Cambridgeshire in the past few weeks. Evidence is being taken by the Centre for Social Justice as part of our preparations for the modern slavery Bill. We are focusing on provisions that relate to enforcement by policing and law enforcement agencies, but we will clearly keep operational matters under review.

On the basis of figures about UK citizens receiving consular advice for alleged trafficking and the fact that very few seem to be brought to justice overseas, is the Minister giving proper attention and resources to ensuring that UK citizens who ply this evil trade abroad are properly brought to justice?

I absolutely agree with my hon. Friend on the need to look at this complex issue both domestically in the UK and overseas. That is why we are working with other Governments and our embassies to strengthen support services for victims and to prevent these appalling crimes from occurring. The National Crime Agency has a focus on looking internationally and co-ordinating its work with overseas law enforcement agencies, so ensuring that where there is evidence, those involved in these pernicious crimes will be brought to justice.