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I do not know whether those figures are right; I am quoting the Daily Mirror citing the Home Office two years ago.

The rather ludicrous claim is advanced that because the number of prosecutions and convictions for trafficking has been low, and because the recorded number of foreign nationals detained following raids on brothels and massage parlours is low, there is not really a problem. That argument has been advanced not in this House but by a huge number of people commenting after the interview given by my right hon. and learned Friend the Leader of the House. It is like arguing that as the number of rape convictions is low, there are not many rapes in Britain.

The defenders of men’s right to have sex when they like, as often as they like, in any manner they like, with any teenage girl they like—those penetrating columnists with their defence of unlimited male penetration—need to examine the statistics with more care. The Council of Europe and many other international agencies—the UN, the International Labour Organisation, the International Organisation for Migration and the OSCE—as well as national Governments and non-governmental organisations, have tried to establish the true figures.

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The ILO, to which I am grateful for the material that it sent me yesterday, reckons that there are 2.45 million victims of trafficking. The US Government estimate that 80 per cent. of trafficking victims are female, and that 70 per cent. of them are trafficked for sexual exploitation, meaning that up to 1,658,000 women are trafficked each year for sexual purposes, of whom up to 225,000 are trafficked into industrial countries such as the UK. The Dutch reckon that there are about 3,500 victims of sex trafficking in their country, and the US Government believe that up to 17,500 women are trafficked into the USA each year for sex purposes, notably to provide internet porn for the world’s masturbators.

The ILO has estimated the profits per victim of sex slave trafficking at between $60,000 and $70,000 a year. An extra 40,000 prostitutes were said to have been imported into Germany just to service World cup fans in 2006; I am not sure whether English demand dried up after our boys’ heroic performance. There will not be a problem, of course, for English fans at the next World cup.

Those are some of the figures that we must consider. I put them on the record because I hope that they will balance the view that there is not really much of a problem and that the sex-slave industry is just a happy business of consenting adults exchanging money for services rendered. There may be some contented belles de jour or happy hookers, but every survey shows that most prostitutes and sex slaves would quit the industry if they were not obliged to service men to pay for a drugs habit or debts or, in the case of foreign women, if they were not kept in fear by brutal pimps. That is why a number of us on both sides of the Chamber have raised the issue of the demand side of the question of ever-increasing prostitution.

In signing and ratifying the convention the Government have done well, but as long as there is an incessant demand for paid-for sex, trafficking will increase to supply it. I know that calling for some control of demand brings down the wrath of the media establishment; I hope that the Opposition Member who winds up will address that point and say whether they support the hon. Member for Preseli Pembrokeshire and the Leader of the House. Ministers have been to Sweden to see the impact of putting the responsibility on men rather than women for criminal activity in the sex-slave industry, and the House will listen to their reports with interest.

A national debate has begun. I know that the position that I am defending is unpopular; it is attacked by much of the establishment media. Making men responsible and accountable for their actions is the best way to slow down and turn back the rising tide of sex slavery and trafficking. I welcome the ratification. I do not think that there is any need for the House to press the motion to a Division. I note the references in the Opposition motion to Europol and Eurojust, but as the hon. Member for Totnes said, Europol cannot agree even on common statistics. Frankly, we need more European co-operation on the matter. We need a European bureau of investigation to tackle trafficking. That would mean co-operating fully in Europe. I just point out to Conservative Members where their arguments may take them.

Several hon. Members rose

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Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. Before I call the next hon. Member to speak, I should just say to the House that although interventions gain extra time for the hon. Member addressing the House, they do of course have the unfortunate side effect of possibly squeezing other Members out of the debate.

5.59 pm

Mr. Mike Hancock (Portsmouth, South) (LD): I point out to the right hon. Member for Rotherham (Mr. MacShane), in case he missed it, that the England team have not yet failed to qualify for the World cup; they failed to qualify for the European cup. I ask him not to wish it on them.

The Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, the hon. Member for Gedling (Mr. Coaker), and everyone else who has spoken have shown a great commitment to the issue that we are discussing. I pay tribute to all who have contributed for the effort that they have put into it. I have been working on the issue for the past 15 years. For the last 10, I have been heavily involved in the work of the Council of Europe. I congratulate the British parliamentary delegation from all parties and both Houses. Over that time, it has played a significant part in forcing the subject on to the agenda. It was the driving force behind a new commitment to the issue of trafficking.

My hon. Friend the Member for Eastleigh (Chris Huhne), who led for the Liberal Democrats, mentioned some of the countries that had not yet signed the convention. Those countries, including France, Germany, Italy and Spain, have not wanted to get involved because of the repercussions internally. They would have to face up to the reality of prosecuting those from whom many of them seek to gain votes. In Italy, 50,000 young girls, under age, are employed in the sex industry and are probably having sex with five clients a night, five nights a week. There are millions and millions of illegal sex acts in Italy, but very few men have been prosecuted by the Italian authorities for having sex with under-age girls.

The right hon. Member for Rotherham was right in what he said about trying to do something about demand. It is too easy to criticise such countries as Romania, Moldova, Bulgaria and Ukraine and to say that they are driving the industry, but that is not the case; the issue is where the demand lies.

I had the misfortune to meet a man from Moldova who had had an operation in Turkey to have an organ removed. He was quite open about it. He was dying from the consequences of blood poisoning that he had contracted during the operation. He claimed that the organ was received by a British citizen who had gone to Turkey for the operation. It was done not in some back-street workshop but by sophisticated doctors and nurses who knew what they were doing. Presumably, the recipient of that kidney paid a fortune for the operation. The chap from Moldova got $1,000 and death. Many of the journeys of the trafficked start in desperation and, sadly, many, if not all, end in despair, and an increasing number end in death.

We must appreciate the size of the problem. It is not just a matter of knowing the figures. There is universal agreement in the House that we are talking about a very big issue. The Minister is to be congratulated on
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the robust way in which he put his case today, and on accepting that we must get to grips with the size of the problem. There has been a slow—sometimes painfully slow—recognition of trafficking right across the world, but particularly in Europe. It is a disgrace that all 47 countries of the Council of Europe have not, as a duty, signed and ratified the convention.

The issue of co-operation is fraught. The right hon. Member for Leicester, East (Keith Vaz) is no longer present, but he asked for people to give evidence to his Committee. When the Council of Europe committee on which I served wanted evidence, we did not have to go very far from the home of the legislation that we are discussing. Less than half a kilometre away in Strasbourg, there were hundreds of women plying their trade not in brothels or massage parlours, but on the streets. So when the group that was looking into the issue wanted information, we went out with a team and spoke to a group of girls.

We met girls from 18 countries in the course of three hours. Some of them gave graphic details and some of them, surprisingly, had the dates that the European Parliament met in Strasbourg because they said that those were good weeks for them. The home of human rights is one of the bastions supporting the demand for the trade. We had the misfortune to meet a young lady whose sister had been killed and her body dumped in the Rhine. Both sisters had been trafficked not once, but twice. Why twice? Because they were both returned from the United Kingdom. They were found and returned. Why were they trafficked again? It was because, as hon. Members have said, there would have been problems and consequences for their family if they had not co-operated. Those girls were forced—not physically, but by the mental pressure of the threat that there would have been to their family’s very existence and life in Moldova if they had not co-operated with the traffickers. Once again, they were back on the streets.

I turn now to the issue of the children. I understand why it is difficult for local authorities to hold on to them—the law does not allow us to lock them in; they are not kept in secure units. Why are those children kept so close to the very streets from which they have been brought? The traffickers and organisers know only too well where they are. I agreed with the Minister when he said that one of the problems of having safe havens all over the place is that the traffickers know and recognise them. They haunt those places and drive on the evil trade.

We have to find new approaches. I was delighted when the Minister said that he had an open mind and wanted people with ideas to come forward with them. One of the issues is that children should not be kept close to where they are found. There should be widespread co-operation to make that happen. Another issue relates to the disclosure of information between our police force and others; there is wholesale police corruption in many of the countries. Many allow the trade to continue and are significant beneficiaries of it. If we give information, it is disseminated within hours of being received and the traffickers know whom to go after and punish.

Why does that happen? It is because, as every Member who has spoken in this debate clearly recognises, drugs, guns and the trafficking of human beings are the big money earners in the underworld across the globe. That
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is why we have to find new approaches to the issue. I hope that they will be found faster in this country because of the unity in the Chamber tonight and the excellence of this debate.

6.6 pm

Ann McKechin (Glasgow, North) (Lab): This debate has understandably concentrated on the enforcement in the UK of the Council of Europe convention on action against trafficking in human beings. However, I should like to consider the underlying causes of human trafficking.

Human trafficking emerges from poverty, conflict and bad governance. The world is facing an unprecedented rise in population, and with that has come increased urbanisation of the poor and marginalised. Underpinning that is the problem of unemployment. Current figures estimate that about 185 million people are officially registered as unemployed. However, the International Labour Organisation estimates that if we also take into account the under-employed and working poor, the figure is about 1.5 billion people—that is, 30 per cent. of the working-age population of the world. Nearly half of them are under 24 years of age, although that age group represents only one quarter of the working-age population.

The 2007 edition of the World Bank’s world development report reveals that in the next decade the world will see the largest-ever proportion of youth population in its history. There are 1.5 billion people in the world aged between 12 and 24, and 1.3 billion live in developing countries. Countries with the highest incidence of poverty are almost all in eastern and western Africa. We have seen the human suffering and consequences of the desperate scenes conveyed to us by the media in the past few years. Such scenes have come from the coast of Tenerife, from Malta, which has been overrun at times by people coming across by sea, and from the gulf of Aden, where people go to reach Yemen and go onwards to the west. Against that backdrop, it is hardly surprising that the trafficking of humans has become the fastest-growing international crime, as has been mentioned today.

Human trafficking does not happen only within our own borders; it is a growing problem in developing countries. The International Development Committee, of which I am a member, visited Ethiopia last year. We visited a local organisation that carried out a good deal of work to protect young children from poor, rural areas who had been sent to towns and cities in the hope of a better life. However, those children had often ended up as mere chattels.

Child labour and bonded labour are prevalent in many parts of Africa and Asia. It is estimated that 20 million people are trapped in bonded labour, domestic slavery and trafficking, the vast majority of whom are women or children. We must address the rights of children and women in particular if we are to change the culture that offers tacit support for such forms of bonded labour and trafficking. It is interesting to note that last year there was a TV programme in China that highlighted people being snatched from their rural communities to be used as slave labour in neighbouring areas. That prompted a massive response in China, as it was the first time that there had been a public
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acknowledgement of the problem and its scale, and it resulted in thousands of people coming forward to state the extent of the abuse in their own communities.

For the world’s youth, we need to provide the opportunity to obtain decent work, either at home or through properly organised and legitimate migration. That will require increased co-operation and harmonisation of policies and programmes if we are to maximise its success. As has rightly been stated, we need co-operation right across Europe and outside Europe if we are to have a good alignment in our policies to curb trafficking here and in the developing world.

The World Bank report recommends that a framework of policies is required to give young people expanding opportunities and the ability to improve their personal capabilities, and thus their income levels, but we also need to provide opportunities for them to have an effective voice in their communities and in public life. The ILO has called for global action to tackle the decent work deficit. Decent work is productive and delivers a fair income, security in the workplace and social protection for families, as well as allowing people to express their concerns and to organise. If we had that throughout the world, we would not have the problem of human trafficking that we see on our streets today.

As levels of wealth in the world have increased enormously over the past 30 years, the share of that wealth that is represented as income has decreased consistently. We cannot shy away from the conclusion that the tragedy of human trafficking is at least in part a consequence of insufficient attention to creating more work through greater investment in job-intensive industries. While the service sector has produced many new jobs in recent years, the agricultural sector has been largely static. Yet the demand for food globally is increasing at a significant rate, and over the past five years demand has been higher than supply. Not only in our development assistance programmes but in global macro-economic policy, we need to do much more to foster greater investment in creating jobs. I hope that the UN summit in Vienna in the next few weeks will try to deal with some of those issues and give them greater priority.

The Minister referred to the TARA—trafficking awareness-raising alliance— project, which runs in Scotland and is based in Glasgow. I commend the successful collaboration that has been taking place, particularly through the good offices of Glasgow city council and Home Office departments based in Glasgow and working with the Scottish Executive. The police have pointed to the continued problem of getting women to speak to the authorities. It is not surprising that they feel damaged and mistrustful of authority, so an extension of the reflection period should be seriously considered.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Rotherham (Mr. MacShane) and the hon. Member for Preseli Pembrokeshire (Mr. Crabb), my colleagues on the International Development Committee, rightly stated the need to address the domestic sex industry, which is fuelling demand in sex trafficking. The Minister may be aware that new laws recently came into force in Scotland under the Prostitution (Public Places) (Scotland) Act 2007, which specifically criminalises kerb crawling. To date, 40 men have been charged with
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that offence. I welcome the public campaign that was launched this week in Scotland, but more needs to be done. I hope that today’s debate will lead to a further debate on prostitution-related issues throughout the United Kingdom.

6.14 pm

Mr. Peter Bone (Wellingborough) (Con): It is a great pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Glasgow, North (Ann McKechin), who made a powerful speech, particularly her point about the roots of human trafficking and the fact that the victims come from countries where there is grinding poverty. She also made a point about the need to increase the period of reflection for victims of human trafficking.

I congratulate the hon. Member for Ashford (Damian Green) on securing an Opposition day debate that has been so well attended and thoughtful, and in which there has been so much cross-party agreement. The great advantage of such a debate is that it highlights the problem of human trafficking. It is also very helpful to have the Minister here; he has fought very hard within the Government to deal with that problem. It is also good to see the Solicitor-General on the Front Bench; she has shown a great deal of interest in this subject. I would like to congratulate the hon. Member for Totnes (Mr. Steen), who is the chair of the all-party group on trafficking of women and children. As the treasurer of that group, I know how he has used his energy and expertise to publicise this matter. If it had not been for his efforts, we may not have had this debate, and the resulting media coverage.

The greatest problem that I had with this issue was believing that it was actually happening. I first got involved when an anonymous letter from a constituent was dropped through my letterbox. I shall quote a part of it:

and she then gave a mobile telephone number.

Patrick Hall (Bedford) (Lab): The hon. Gentleman has made the point extremely well about the surprise many of us have felt when first finding out about this issue. I would like to remind him about the well-attended meeting of the all-party group on 4 December, where the important message was struck home that human trafficking for the sex trade is not only a big city crime, but manifest in towns and villages throughout the land. There is still a great deal of ignorance about that, which the debate and the all-party group can help to address.

Mr. Bone: The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right, and I know of the interest that he has shown in this matter.

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