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Modern Slavery Act

Volume 606: debated on Monday 22 February 2016

The Modern Slavery Act received Royal Assent on 26 March 2015. It is too early to make a full assessment of the effectiveness of the Act, but I am pleased that key provisions are already having an impact. The ports have already been using the slavery and trafficking prevention orders to stop offences occurring, and some businesses have already published statements setting out what steps they have taken to prevent modern slavery in their global supply chains.

In the “Strategic Plan 2015-2017”, the independent anti-slavery commissioner writes:

“The role that the private sector can play in the fight against slavery should not be underestimated.”

What assessment has the Home Secretary made of the effectiveness of the Act’s transparency and supply chain provisions for companies with turnovers of £36 million or more?

First, the independent anti-slavery commissioner is absolutely right, because this is not just about law enforcement and Government taking action in this area; it is also about working with the private sector and businesses. I am pleased that, although the first set of declarations in relation to supply chains will be compulsory from 31 March, a number of companies have already made those declarations. In a month or so, I will hold an event with companies to share good practice among them so that we can ensure that we are getting the best information out there, and then consumers can make their decisions.

Despite some of the good measures in the Act, child trafficking is still taking place across the European Union, hidden within the scandal that is the migration crisis, which is engulfing the entire continent. What work is the Home Secretary doing with her colleagues across the European Union to make sure that the issue is adequately tackled across all 28 member states?

I am encouraging other member states to take the step that we took with the Modern Slavery Act and introduce new legislation. We and other member states are working on organised immigration crime and human trafficking. We have put resources into that and are working with a number of countries to identify the traffickers and to ensure that proper action is taken. The independent anti-slavery commissioner has made his expertise available to a number of countries across the European Union. That is of enormous benefit, because he is expert in this area.

23. Further to the question asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Stafford (Jeremy Lefroy), will my right hon. Friend set out in more detail the importance of the transparency in supply chains provision in the Modern Slavery Act, and how it will be monitored? (903682)

The measure has two important impacts. First, it makes companies think about whether there is slavery in their supply chains. Secondly, their declarations of the action they have taken—or of the fact that they have taken no action—will be available to consumers, who will be able to make choices about which companies to do business with as a result. We are looking at a number of options for ensuring that that information is publicly available in one place.

May I make the right hon. Lady aware of the excellent work of the Palm Cove Society in Headingley, in my constituency? I was shocked to hear about the extent of modern slavery in this country. Does she think that people are sufficiently aware of that, and what more can she do to highlight it?

We are aware of the work that the Palm Cove Society does. The hon. Gentleman is right; I think that most people are shocked to know that slavery takes place in this country, and they would be even more shocked to see the degree and extent of it. It is up to everybody in this House, not just the Government, to make people aware of that and aware of the action that they can take to stop it.