Modern slavery is every bit as abhorrent as the historical slavery we read about in history books. We might feel today that such things are behind us as a society but sadly they are not. I spoke yesterday in the debate on modern slavery. Much has been done by this Government and others, but the problem is yet to be solved and I added my voice to those calling for further action.
In response, the Minister concluded that:
We all agree that modern slavery is a heinous crime, and protecting victims of modern slavery is a responsibility that the Government take extremely seriously. Colleagues have been kind enough to describe the Modern Slavery Act 2015 as a landmark piece of legislation—it is—but we do not rest on our laurels, and we are always looking to improve on it. I hope colleagues understand that a host of measures support the implementation of the Act. As proof, if it is needed, colleagues can take our decision earlier this year to commission an independent review of the Act. The final interim report was published last week. The reports have been extremely interesting and useful [...]
I am keen to mention the Prime Minister’s call for action at the United Nations. She challenged the rest of the world to pay the same attention to modern slavery as we do, and to join us in our efforts to tackle it. She has set the ambitious target of ridding the world of modern slavery by 2030.
Bill Grant MP
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Betts. I thank my right hon. Friend the Member for Chingford and Woodford Green (Mr Duncan Smith) for securing the debate.
Modem slavery is no less abhorrent than the appalling inhumanity of earlier centuries. In that era, Robert Burns described, “Man’s inhumanity to man”, which still exists to this day. As has been mentioned, William Wilberforce’s name is synonymous with the anti-slavery movement, having devoted much, if not all, of his life to the cause. In 1807, he finally convinced Parliament to prohibit the slave trade, although it was not until 1883 that there was what we believed to be a total abolition of slavery. It is unforgiveable that parts of our society have regressed to such an extent that that outlawed practice appears to have been resurrected.
Today’s victims have their personal identity documents seized by traffickers to entrap them, and they are intimidated with threatened violence should they seek freedom from what I describe as the blight of bondage. That prevents victims from reaching out for the help that should be there for them. It is unacceptable that human trafficking involving men, woman and children happens at all, that it is rife throughout many parts of our country, the United Kingdom, and that those from both within and outwith the UK are subject to it.
In 2017, there was a 38% rise in the number of trafficking referrals to Police Scotland, which I applaud for having a dedicated human trafficking unit. The force has issued advice to landlords and letting agencies to raise awareness that trafficked people often live in or are forced to work in rented properties. However, we must be alert to the potential for human trafficking on our doorstep, as has been said, and we must ensure that we as members of the public are proactive in reporting any suspicions to our respective police forces. The police cannot do it alone—they need our help to gather intelligence.
It is to be welcomed that the Scottish Government have issued “Slavery and human trafficking: guidance for businesses” and are providing funding to Migrant Help and TARA—the Trafficking Awareness Raising Alliance—which are two organisations that provide welcome support to victims of trafficking. In 2017, the Prime Minister launched a call to action to eliminate modern slavery and human trafficking. I am pleased that the call was endorsed by more than 75 other countries, which have pledged to act to eradicate such repulsive practices. Pressure must be applied on other countries and nations to end modern slavery.
I trust that all Governments will continue to play their part in tackling predatory traffickers, including by ensuring that they are swiftly brought to justice and receive sentences proportionate to their crimes, and that they will ensure that the victims receive appropriate support to recover from what I can only imagine must be a horrific set of circumstances to experience and live in. I reinforce that by specifically asking the Minister to work with others to bring an end to the scourge that is modern slavery and to introduce legislation to assist in achieving that worthwhile and important goal.