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Modern Slavery

Volume 639: debated on Monday 16 April 2018

The Government remain committed to stamping out the abhorrent crime of modern slavery, both at home and overseas. We have strengthened the operational law enforcement response and introduced new requirements for victims to report on slavery in their supply chains, and we are now transforming the support that we provide to victims. Internationally, we continue to work with partners to build capacity and consensus to prevent modern slavery, wherever it occurs.

I welcome the Minister’s answer and the extensive work that she and the Government are doing to tackle this horror in our society. Will she expand on what steps the Government are taking to provide ongoing support to victims of modern slavery?

The Government’s comprehensive reforms of the national referral mechanism will significantly improve support for victims of modern slavery. Move-on support for confirmed victims will be trebled to 45 days, giving a minimum of 90 days of support. During that period, victims can access accommodation, financial assistance, counselling, health services and signposting to legal support. In addition, confirmed victims will be entitled to a further six months of post-NRM support.

My hon. Friend will know that section 54 of the Modern Slavery Act 2015 stipulates that companies and organisations with a turnover greater than £36 million must monitor their supply chains. What progress has been made in the implementation of section 54 across the public sector?

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that interesting question. Section 54 of the Act does not cover the public sector, but the Government are committed to taking action against modern slavery in our supply chains. The Home Office and other Departments are piloting a new detailed questionnaire to get more information about modern slavery risks in our supply chains. In addition, we are learning from the leading large businesses that make up our Business Against Slavery forum, so that we can apply the best business practice to our own supply chains.

I talk to many people from the police who do not think they have sufficient resources to tackle the evil gangs in most of our towns and cities that exploit people—women, normally, although not just women—whether from this country or brought in, and force them into prostitution. This is happening in every one of our towns and cities. When are we going to get more action?

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for that question. Local police forces work with the National Crime Agency so that we have a nationwide response to modern slavery. Let us be clear that trafficking, particularly if it involves women and victims of sexual trafficking, is completely unacceptable. I encourage local police forces to work with the NCA to investigate and prosecute those offences when they can.

22. Last year, in a meeting of the all-party group on the hair industry, I praised the charity Unseen for its work on tackling modern slavery, particularly given the number of victims being exploited within the lifestyle, hair and beauty sectors. With that in mind, will the Secretary of State, or her Ministers, agree to meet me and the chief executive officer of the Hair Council to discuss what actions the hair and beauty industry can take to help end this exploitation? (904762)

I would be delighted to meet the hon. Gentleman. Nail bars can be a particular source of exploitation, which is why they are the focus of the anti-slavery commissioner and of the director of labour market exploitation. I would be very happy to meet the hon. Gentleman to discuss the matter further.

What steps has the Minister taken to report on slaves being retraded in the UK and recorded in the national referral mechanism more than once?

One reason why we are improving the national referral mechanism is precisely to build resilience during that vital period. We are trebling the period once a person has been found to be a victim of modern slavery in order to build resilience in respect of those people, so that they are not prone to becoming victims of modern slavery or trafficking again.

The independent chief inspector of borders and immigration recently found no evidence that the Home Office is actively monitoring the link between the use of right to rent and victims of modern slavery, despite concerns that the scheme makes it difficult for victims of modern slavery to come forward. The inspector also found that the Home Office is failing to measure the scheme effectively, and yet it has refused to fully implement the inspector’s recommendations for a proper evaluation. Will the Minister do so now?

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his question. We have looked at the national referral mechanism because we are conscious that criminal gangs, as they find out what law enforcement and others are up to and as crime develops, change their modus operandi. If there are particular issues that he wishes to raise with me, I will be happy to meet him to discuss them further.

Does the Minister agree that modern slavery is not simply a national problem, but an international problem with international gangs? When we leave the European Union, will we continue to work very closely with our European colleagues and co-operate with them to deal with this evil trade?

Very much so. Public safety will always be part of the Government’s priorities both in the EU negotiations and beyond. We already work very closely with our EU partners and with other partners because, sadly, victims are brought from all over the world. It is a programme that has the personal commitment of the Prime Minister and I know that that will continue to be the case.

At the weekend, I attended an event in Edinburgh organised by the Faculty of Advocates’ Tumbling Lassie Committee to commemorate the Scottish judiciary’s rejection of slavery in the 17th century and, more importantly, to raise funds for charities working in Scotland at the moment, such as Community Safety Glasgow’s TARA service—the trafficking awareness raising alliance—which provides a wonderful service for trafficked women who have been sexually exploited. Does the Minister agree that Governments should do everything they can to support the victims of modern slavery and human trafficking?

I agree. Indeed, when the Prime Minister was Home Secretary, she undertook the massive piece of work that became the Modern Slavery Act 2015, which is universally recognised. When I have the opportunity to discuss this with our international partners, I find that the Act is universally recognised as being world-leading. The issue will very much continue to be a priority for the Government and we will continue to give victims the support they need.

The problem with the Modern Slavery Act is that it does not actually place a duty on the UK Government—unlike the Human Trafficking and Exploitation (Scotland) Act 2015, passed by the Scottish Parliament, which places a specific duty on Scottish Ministers to provide the sort of support and assistance that we are talking about. I am aware that there is a private Member’s Bill going forward in the other place at the moment, but can the Minister tell us whether her Government have any plans to amend the Modern Slavery Act to bring it up to the standard of the Scottish Government’s Act?

The hon. and learned Lady is referring to section 50 of the Act, which provides for regulations. Those regulations are being reviewed at the moment—indeed, we have been in contact with the noble Lord who brought that private Member’s Bill before the other place. The regulations are very much under review. We are conscious that, as crime and criminal gangs change, we must keep up to date with our response, too.