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Human Trafficking: EU Directive

Volume 726: debated on Thursday 24 March 2011


Asked By

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what representations they have received asking them to help stop human trafficking by opting in to the European Union Directive.

My Lords, the Government received a range of representations, including from parliamentarians, members of the public and non-governmental organisations. We said, referring to the opt-in, that we would make a decision about the finalised text at the end of the process, rather than at the beginning of the drafting. This is what we have now done. The Minister for Immigration has written to the parliamentary scrutiny committees in both Houses, seeking their views on our intention to apply to opt in.

My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for that Answer. I pay tribute to the Government, who are doing the right thing, although I regret that it has taken too long. I also pay tribute to the Anti-Slavery International petition, women’s groups and other campaigners, who have clearly brought to bear a great influence on the Government. The National Working Group for Sexually Exploited Young People has found that there are only 38 areas in the UK with a specialist service in place. What are the Government doing to ensure that there is effective intervention and consistent local delivery of these services around the country; and how will these nationally important functions be managed under the Government’s proposed politicised policing framework, as set out in the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Bill?

I can hardly accept the last point made by the noble Baroness. As regards the quality of the services that the Government wish to see in place, there are certainly some excellent boroughs that can act as best practice models, including such places as Hillingdon. The Government’s aim, obviously, is to ensure that all boroughs and local authorities operate at the level of best practice. There is constant consultation between the Government, local authorities and the NGOs involved to achieve that result.

My Lords, I am very pleased that the Prime Minister has now done a U-turn and stated that human trafficking is a terrible crime. Will the Minister ask the Prime Minister whether he will put the issue on to the G8 and G20 agenda for November? As she knows, human trafficking is a now global issue and it should be on these international agendas. That is the only way in which we will see the end of it in our lifetime.

I do not think that the Prime Minister has made any kind of U-turn—he has made a very clear statement of the Government’s position on the evils of human trafficking. I will take back the point about the desirability of having this on the G20 agenda.

My Lords, will my noble friend also consider the extreme importance of effective police co-operation in dealing with this vile practice? I cite in particular the very constructive relationship that has been formed between the Metropolitan Police and the authorities in Romania. It is very important that people should understand that this is a matter not just of one or two criminals but of very organised gangs who are quite prepared to clean out the young people in a particular district in an exporting country and to disseminate them round the richer countries of the world, under their orders and making profits for their vile trade.

My noble friend is quite right: human trafficking is a concern for all constabularies. It is also a concern for the Serious and Organised Crime Agency, which operates internationally. He is right to say that this is a global issue. It is also a matter in which the police take a lead in our ports of immigration, most particularly in places such as Heathrow and St Pancras, ensuring that when there is suspicion that a child has been trafficked, the suspicion is picked up immediately and the arrangements to handle the case are put in place.

My Lords, what discussions are ongoing between the Government and the organisations concerned with the trafficking of women and children into this country? How will the identification of the number of people trafficked, which is very vague, be improved? How will the Government tackle situations involving employment and housing, rather than just prosecuting people?

I think that the noble Baroness is referring to the desirability, with which the Government agree, of having, in effect, an end-to-end process in which one is able, through contacts abroad, to understand the systems for trafficking; to pick up the children being trafficked as and when they arrive in this country; and then to be able, with the local authority, to ensure that proper care is taken of them. That, in fact, is the Government’s aim, and we are trying to bring together a system that ensures that that happens. We are in very close consultation with those NGOs that take a strong and constructive interest.

My Lords, I am sure that the Minister will agree that the end-to-end process must include healthcare. Many of the people who have been trafficked will have been very damaged by the process. What are the Government doing to support good healthcare for them?

The local authorities have overall responsibility if a child has been taken into care, and the local health authorities are involved in the process that they put in place.

My Lords, I am sure that the noble Baroness will be aware of the sterling work which has been undertaken by my friend the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of York in consistently pressing Her Majesty’s Government to achieve a united front across Europe for tackling this evil of human trafficking. But is she also aware of the Tearfund report, Silent No More, which was launched this Monday at Lambeth Palace with the support of both Archbishops, and which highlights the largely untapped potential of the church in preventing and reducing the impact of sexual violence, and the associated task of improving attitudes to women in many parts of the world? Will she join me in welcoming and commending this important report?

I pay tribute to the very notable work done by the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of York. It gives me great pleasure to be able to welcome this church initiative.