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People Trafficking

Volume 747: debated on Thursday 14 March 2024

4. What steps the Crown Prosecution Service is taking to prosecute people for the trafficking of vulnerable adults and children into the UK. (901970)

The CPS has specially trained prosecutors who work closely with law enforcement agencies to bring to justice those who commit the heinous crimes to which the hon. Lady refers. The CPS has, for example, recently obtained convictions in the first prosecution for trafficking people for organ harvesting. That presented many complex and difficult challenges, and I commend the teams in the CPS for their work on that.

Last year, the number of potential UK victims of modern slavery reached a record level, with referrals for women and children both at all-time highs. In 2022, the average wait for a first decision in modern slavery cases was six days. In 2023, it was 23 days. Modern slavery is getting worse, not better, and now the UK Government are actively making progress on seeking to strip people of modern slavery protections. When will the Government accept that this is a crisis, and take the urgent action needed?

The hon. Lady is quite right to draw attention to the seriousness of this crime, but the Government accept the urgency, which is why, for example, we have the CPS available to provide early advice to law enforcement in exactly the cases that she refers to. We have specialist prosecutors providing that advice, so that we have the right advice and the right charges against the right people at the right time.

Even in freezing conditions at the start of the year, thousands more men, women and children crossed the channel in small boats. For all the talk that the threat of deportation to Rwanda will act as a deterrent, there is no evidence whatsoever of that deterrent working. Perhaps that is why the Government have changed tack and plan a £3,000 incentive for refugees to get on planes to Rwanda. Does the Solicitor General now accept that the only way to stop the boats is to crush the trafficking gangs and prosecute the criminals?

The hon. Gentleman is quite right that the country faces a major challenge from the cruel people-smuggling gangs who are exploiting people financially and emotionally. We have to put an end to that. The Safety of Rwanda (Asylum and Immigration) Bill has passed through this House, but there will be further opportunities for debate on its return here. What he has underlined is how important it is that we take action: I agree, and that is what we are doing.

Last week, the Prime Minister’s flagship Rwanda Bill was defeated 10 times in the House of Lords, with calls for the UK Government to protect victims of modern slavery and human trafficking from being removed to Rwanda without their consent until a decision, based on conclusive grounds, about their safety and not being placed at risk of being re-trafficked has been completed. Does the Solicitor General not understand that modern slavery protections for vulnerable children and adults appear to be expendable under his Government?

The Bill will be coming back to the Commons next week, when there will be an opportunity to debate those issues further. However, I point out that the treaty between the Government of Rwanda and the UK includes specific provisions that address the need for protection and support for victims of trafficking.