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8 July 2008 : Column 376WH—continued

the reaction of Government officials was, “Suffer the little children to be put into my hands and I’ll boot them out of the country as fast as I can.” Frankly, that shames Britain. Far from a freedom chain to get those sex slaves to freedom, we maintain their exploitation by dumping them back in their countries as quickly as we can, in which case they simply turn round to their traffickers and say, “Get me back in to make some money.”

We need to consider the problem more broadly. The hon. Gentleman took an intervention about Sweden from my hon. Friend the Member for Slough (Fiona Mactaggart). Roger Matthews, professor of criminology at South Bank university, who has just published a very good book called “Prostitution, Politics and Policy”, says:

I would welcome a change in culture in Britain whereby the majority of teenage men—indeed, adult men—considered as illegitimate the purchase of sexual services, and until we have that change of culture, all our fine words and all our co-operation through the Parliaments of Europe will count for nothing.

We can contrast Sweden with the state of Nevada, where prostituted women operate legally. Fifty-seven per cent of the students surveyed at the university of Nevada thought that it was impossible to rape a prostituted woman because, once money had been offered or paid, the woman had to do whatever the man wanted. That illustrates the cultural gap between those who argue for the legalisation of prostitution as we see it in Nevada, where people believe that a prostituted woman cannot be raped, and Sweden, where the men are confronted with their responsibility and there has been a cultural change regarding the purchase of sexual services and a
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significant decrease in trafficking. There is not one country in the world where prostitution is tolerated, legalised or semi-legalised that has not seen an increase in trafficked women. The hon. Gentleman will have to face the fact that if he wants to cut supply, he will have to consider the demand side.

A number of us have raised this issue. My right hon. and learned Friend the Leader of the House did so, and my hon. Friend the Member for Slough—who might catch your eye in a few minutes, Mr. Martlew—proposed certain amendments. They fell because, as we know, the Criminal Justice and Immigration Bill was having its own difficulties in getting through all its stages in the two Houses of Parliament. I understand that, and my hon. Friend the Minister and my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary have agreed to consider the matter. There have been visits to Sweden and other countries.

We need to examine the issue because, until we name and shame the men, we will not do much, even if we do raid as many massage parlours and brothels as were raided under Operation Pentameter. When we raised the issue in the past and said that there were a large number of trafficked women in Britain, we were rubbished by the media. The hon. Gentleman was right to draw attention to the fact that the media tend to back away from the subject; they are nervous of it.

I took part in an interesting debate last week with David Davis, our former colleague, who is now standing in a by-election; Mr. Henry Porter, who writes for The Observer; and Mr. David Aaronovitch, who writes for The Times. Mr. Aaronovitch was on my side, and Mr. Porter was on Mr. Davis’s side. When these issues were raised by the Leader of the House, my hon. Friend the Member for Slough and others, Mr. Aaronivitch and Mr. Porter both argued powerfully that there should be no curb or limit on the right of men to buy whatever sex they wanted.

I mentioned some statistics a moment ago, as listed by the Ministry of Justice, but it is interesting to note that there is no statistic for the offence of having sex with someone under the age of 18 without consent. Consent is difficult to define, but my hon. Friend the Minister for Borders and Immigration said in the House in answer to me that to have paid-for sex with anyone under the age of 18 was rape. However, that statistic is not listed. As we know, the number of convictions for rape in Britain is pathetically and absurdly low, because we do not have people in the Crown Prosecution Service with specific responsibility for rape cases.

Mr. Steen: I mean no disrespect, but this is a debate about Pentameter 2, rather than prostitution. The debate is not only about sex; it also covers work trafficking and domestic slavery. Sex is one part of it. There is a bigger picture. Even if we were to do what the hon. Gentleman suggests on the demand side, we would still have trafficking for work and for domestic slavery, and it would still be in large numbers.

Mr. MacShane: I completely agree with the hon. Gentleman. I may claim some credit for initiating a campaign, by raising the matter two or three times in Prime Minister’s questions, about the Council of Europe’s convention on action against trafficking in human beings. I agree with the hon. Gentleman that it is about trafficking in general and not only the trafficking of women. I
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support stronger trade union rights, workplace inspections, rights for agency workers and others, but that is not quite where the Conservative party wants to be on protecting workers from any sort of exploitation.

I return to the question of statistics and finding hard information. When my hon. Friend the Member for Slough and others raised the issue, we were criticised for using figures that were said to be unrealistic. I cited the figure of 25,000 trafficked people, which was given in the Daily Mirrorand came from a Home Office estimate three or four years ago. Julia O’Connell Davidson, a professor—there is always a professor involved—from the university of Nottingham, wrote to The Guardian on 28 December criticising me and claiming that I had made a “startling assertion”. She said that that number was

Of Operation Pentameter in 2006, she said that

Again, I cite newspaper figures, but I understand that, as a result of Pentameter 2, the figure given everywhere is 18,000, and I am sure that the hon. Gentleman and my hon. Friend the Minister will confirm it.

It is worrying when we have top professors rubbishing the statistics and the facts. In 2005, the same professor wrote:

That is an extraordinary argument. The professor seems to be giving the green light to our tourist paedophiles.

Mr. Eric Martlew (in the Chair): Order. The hon. Gentleman is straying slightly from the subject.

Mr. MacShane: I am talking about trafficking, Mr. Martlew. I am referring to trafficked women. We have to get the facts and figures right. Since the majority of trafficked women come from the countries to which the good professor refers, I have to make the point. A reductio ad absurdum argument obtains in the mindset of those who argue not for a reduction of sex slave traffic, but for its regulation—indeed, its legalisation.

I am not sure whether the Home Office deals with the English Collective of Prostitutes. We know nothing of its figures or its financing, whom it represents or who controls it, but it argues on its website—I checked this morning—that Government feminists and Christian fundamentalists have joined forces in claiming that prostitution is violence.

Those 18,000 people, according to Pentameter 2, were trafficked into Britain for sexual purposes—they are the prostituted women at the heart of our debate. I therefore state that the use of prostituted women occurs in a context of violence. The Ipswich murders might have been a good example. None of those poor victims were trafficked from outside the UK. Perhaps, as the hon. Gentleman said, they were trafficked within the UK. Trafficking is about what happens inside the UK.
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It affects the most vulnerable of young girls, many of whom are in care, without parents and without a social framework or other support.

We need to tackle the demand side, as we did with kerb crawling. The original idea of naming and shaming kerb crawlers was rejected as being an interference with the men’s right to go up and down a street and, if they wanted, to pick up a woman and take her away in a car to have sex. Such actions were deemed to be acceptable, but councils and local communities nevertheless went out on the streets and named and shamed. Taking the same approach to brothels and massage parlours—and now internet sex and mobile telephone sex—will be an interference in the liberty of the individual, but I am all for it because, if we do not do so, the trade in sex slaves can only increase.

I join the hon. Gentleman in calling for the speedy ratification of the Council of Europe convention. The Government have signed it, but signature is not ratification, as the people of Ireland and the President of Poland know. We need a network of centres in every major conurbation to which these young women feel that they can go. However, they will have to be protected. They have such centres in Belgium, but the pimps patrol around the centres trying to lure the girls out.

We need investment. I agree with the hon. Gentleman about the problem of finding funds to allow local authorities to act—although, my goodness, we ask our local authorities to do far too much as it is. I remember when the first women’s refuge was opened in Chiswick by Erin Pizzey 40-odd years ago. That was the first in Britain, but thank goodness, there are now many more. In each conurbation, we need a safe refuge for trafficked girls and women.

I ask the Minister to give us some indication of when the Council of Europe convention will be ratified. I ask him also to increase the amount of statistical evidence. I shall not ask him to commit himself to acting on the demand side of sex slavery this morning, but the issue will not go away. I ask him to pay little attention to Professor Julia O’Connell Davidson, who is deeply negative and unhelpful on this issue. I hope that the Minister will confirm that she has not been consulted by the Home Office.

Finally, we need time in the House for a broader debate. This should not be a party issue. It would be a huge interference in the right of the British male to buy sex as he wishes on whatever terms he wishes without being responsible for the prostituted women with whom he has that sex. The men are not going to check whether the girls are 17, 18 or 19—or even 16—or whether they come from Lithuania, Thailand or Cameroon or whether they have been trafficked or are here legally. However, until we deal with the demand side, the supply of sex slaves will never dry up.

11.39 am

Mr. Peter Bone (Wellingborough) (Con): It is a pleasure to follow the right hon. Member for Rotherham (Mr. MacShane), who has made his case powerfully as usual. I will talk later about the problem of prosecutions. I pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Totnes (Mr. Steen) for securing another debate on human
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trafficking. His chairmanship of the all-party group has put human trafficking on the agenda in Westminster and hopefully the media will pick up on that. I welcome the Minister, who I know works extremely hard behind the scenes to achieve action against human trafficking. He is to be congratulated on that.

Slavery was abolished 200 years ago, but it still exists. The trafficking of women and children into this country to work as prostitutes is modern-day slavery. The severity of this harrowing crime is recognised by all. In its press release on Operation Pentameter 2, the Home Office stated that it is

Chief Constable Dr. Tim Brain, gold commander of Operation Pentameter 2, described people trafficking for sexual exploitation as

That is the view of a hardened police officer.

I will begin by highlighting the experiences of one 14-year-old child from Kenya who was trafficked into this country. She came into the country through one of the major airports with a middle-aged white man. She was a black girl from Kenya. She came in on a passport that did not have her name or photograph on it, but was allowed into the country. She was taken to Liverpool, locked in a house and forced to have sex with numerous men. Luckily, she escaped and is now being looked after by a major charity in this country. How many people who are trafficked into this country never escape and are locked into this modern-day slavery?

One of the problems is that this is a clandestine crime. Complete figures and statistics are hard to determine. Operation Pentameter 2 gathered increased intelligence and highlighted organised crime links across the UK and beyond. It is worth reinforcing the clear differences between Pentameter 1 and Pentameter 2. Under Pentameter 2, 167 victims were identified, compared with 88 under Pentameter 1. Pentameter 2 identified 528 criminals, compared with 232. Furthermore, under Pentameter 2, 822 premises were raided, 6,400 police intelligence reports gathered and more than £500,000 seized. That was in just six months. The clandestine nature of the crime can be seen from the fact that of the 822 premises that were raided, 582 were residential properties while only 157 were massage parlours or saunas.

The Dutch rapporteur on trafficking in human beings came to speak at the all-party group on trafficking of women and children last month. His main task is to report on the nature and extent of human trafficking in the Netherlands and on the effects of anti-trafficking policies. He also provides recommendations to the Government. In seven years, 66 recommendations were approved. The Dutch are far ahead of us on this issue and have much more detailed information, which has led to them having greater success in tackling human trafficking. For example, last year in the Netherlands about 700 victims were identified and there were 200 convictions. That is more than in the United Kingdom. Having a UK rapporteur—or commissioner because I do not like that foreign word—on trafficking in human beings would be a major step towards tackling this abhorrent issue. It would show that the Government are serious about eradicating it.


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I will touch on the issue of safe houses for identified victims of people trafficking. Safe houses are a vital tool in rehabilitating victims and improving their chances of living as normal a life as possible. Victims are very vulnerable and need to feel safe and protected. That can be provided by specialised safe houses. To ensure that all victims of human trafficking receive the treatment and care that they need, there must be a revolution in the safe housing that is provided. Non-governmental organisations do a valuable job but the majority of them are not specifically aimed at victims of trafficking and so cannot provide care of a high enough standard.

We should look abroad to find out how other people see us. The “Trafficking in Persons Report” for 2008 produced by the US State Department demonstrates why I feel we need urgent action on this issue. It states that in the UK:

That is how the US sees our position. Of the 888 adult women identified as victims of trafficking and referred for specialised care only 322 were given it, while 566 were passed on to other agencies to be cared for. Surely that is not right. If a victim is referred for specialised care, we should ensure that enough places are available to provide it.

When looking at providing safe housing for victims, one must not forget the needs of child victims of trafficking. In many ways, children are treated worse than adults under the system. I have met Christine Beddoe, the director of ECPAT UK, on many occasions to discuss this issue. There is great concern about the plight of child victims of trafficking once they have been identified. Child victims are put into social care. However, they often disappear from care, sometimes within days or even hours. One can only assume that such vulnerable children, who have been through the most horrific experiences, are recaptured by traffickers and put into slavery again. This problem must be confronted. I urge the Government to provide secure safe housing for child victims of trafficking to ensure that vulnerable, frightened and defenceless children are given a chance to recover from their ordeals.

The Dutch are piloting the idea of having secure accommodation and allowing children to go out with an adult. That means that they are not locked in, but that they are not vulnerable to being picked up by traffickers again. That is a positive move that the Government could look at.

Mr. Steen: But costly.

Mr. Bone: As the chairman of the all-party group reminds me, that move would be costly, but we are talking about the most horrendous crime. It would not be a bad idea to pilot the measure to see how successful it is. I think that there would be more chance of securing prosecutions against traffickers if reassurance could be
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given to vulnerable children like the 14-year-old girl who was trafficked from Kenya. Such a move might result in more people being put behind bars.

I know that time is getting on, Mr. Martlew. I will finish by 11.50.

Mr. Steen: May I ask one question before my hon. Friend finishes? Does he agree that we should give the Minister plenty of time to wind up because we have raised a number of points? He is giving an excellent speech, but I hope that other hon. Members who speak—

Mr. Eric Martlew (in the Chair): Order. If there were fewer interventions, the Minister would have more time.

Mr. Bone: I shall take that advice from my hon. Friend the chairman of the all-party group and throw my speech away.

The right hon. Member for Rotherham mentioned the problem of prosecution. I congratulate the police on using the Al Capone method of putting the traffickers behind bars. Because of the difficulties of the 2003 Act, the police have sought to prosecute people under different criminal legislation. People are being put away, but not necessarily for human trafficking, so the Government could look quite seriously at the wording of the 2003 Act, which was described by Chief Constable Dr. Tim Brain as “a bit lumpy”. Perhaps he was referring to section 57, which refers twice to “intent”. It is difficult to prove intent under English law, so the Government should look again at the measure. We might get more prosecutions if the law was easier to apply.

I know that the Government and the Minister are working hard, and that other parts of Government are pulling the other way. The Minister can be assured that Members of this House want to see action against modern-day slavery. Two hundred years since its abolition in this country, we must bring slavery to an end.


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