“ensure that police forces are mandated to tackle human trafficking.”

Dealing with trafficking is not stated as a priority in the Home Office’s strategic policing requirement. Will the Minister make it a priority? As a hidden crime, it is less likely to cause local pressure and although we should celebrate those local groups that are building up the campaign, such as Croydon Community Against Trafficking and the groups in Bedfordshire and elsewhere, there is not the same public concern as there is about street crime or burglary, so we need national leadership. Only 11 convictions were recorded last year and that is why we need more than tougher punishment—we need better protection, detection and investigation.

I am glad, too, that the Government propose to take action to confiscate the proceeds of trafficking. I hope that today the Minister can confirm that funds obtained from those criminals will be used to compensate victims and perhaps to compensate police forces that have undertaken expensive investigations, too. After William Wilberforce succeeded in ending the transatlantic slave trade more than two centuries ago, the slave owners were compensated. Let us make this a truly modern Bill and compensate instead the victims of trafficking, sexual exploitation and modern-day slavery.

2.10 pm

Sir John Randall (Uxbridge and South Ruislip) (Con): I think this is the first time I have had the opportunity to welcome you to the Chair, Madam Deputy Speaker. It is a privilege to take part in a Back-Bench debate—one that has not been afforded to me for some time, so I am grateful to be able to speak.

I am particularly privileged to be able to speak on this subject as I have taken an increasingly active interest in it. Back in 2010, when I was on the Opposition Benches, I sat behind the then Member for Totnes,

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Anthony Steen, as he tried one Friday to get through a private Member’s Bill to establish an anti-slavery day. I wanted to ensure that he did not talk out his own Bill—anybody who knows Anthony will know that was a strong possibility—and as I listened to his compelling speech I found myself more and more interested in the subject. I have taken an increasing interest ever since.

Anthony Steen must be congratulated not just on that Bill and on establishing that day but, as the hon. Member for Slough (Fiona Mactaggart), whom I am privileged to follow in this debate, said, on establishing the first all-party group back in 2006. It now has one of the largest memberships of all-party groups in the House and, as the hon. Lady said, he provided excellent chairmanship, as did my hon. Friend the Member for Wellingborough (Mr Bone). The group is now in the capable hands of the hon. Lady.

We have to get this subject up the political agenda—it is becoming increasingly important. I look forward to the day when Back-Bench debates on human trafficking and modern-day slavery are even better attended. I know the problems on a Thursday afternoon, particularly after an important statement, but this issue affects every Member in every constituency and is one we should raise.

The hon. Member for Slough mentioned the Human Trafficking Foundation, which is now successfully chaired by Anthony Steen and has as its trustees the right hon. Clare Short and David Heathcoat-Amory, who were distinguished Members of this House. It has been doing incredible work and I also want to pay tribute to an eminent Member of the other place, Baroness Elizabeth Butler-Sloss, who is nobody to mix with—I think that is the best way of saying it. As a former judge in the family division, she gets right to the heart of every issue.

Britain has not been a leader in securing the conviction of traffickers. These people are gangsters and are often involved not just in human trafficking but in lots of other crime, and Britain has allowed them—although not on purpose—not to go to prison and has failed to catch them and their assets. I agree wholeheartedly with the sentiment that the proceeds of these terrible, awful crimes must be taken and ring-fenced, primarily for the victims. I also have a great deal of sympathy with allowing police forces and other agencies to get some of that money to increase their resources and to try to get more convictions. We have heard already that there were only 11 convictions last year, and the year before there were eight. Finland, which has only a tiny population compared with ours, has had more than 100 as have Italy, Spain and Romania.

When I heard that a modern slavery Bill was a priority of the Home Secretary and the Prime Minister, I was delighted. I have been privileged enough to be behind the scenes to see how legislation goes through various Committees and so on, and it is not always an easy task to find a slot, but I was reassured to learn that that is a governmental priority.

I was also delighted to hear that the Home Secretary recently set up a modern day slavery unit in the Home Office. That is a positive thing. She was also wise to appoint as her special envoy combating modern-day slavery the same Anthony Steen whom I lauded earlier.

In my relatively recent active role in this work, I have found that a huge number of brilliant non-governmental organisations are working in this field. They are diverse,

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because modern-day slavery and human trafficking are incredibly diverse. I have learned one thing. When “trafficking” was first mentioned to me, like many people, including my constituents, I had a vision of people in the back of vans coming into the country. We talk about modern-day slavery and people talk about manacles. Possibly the most recent publicised incident in south London fits in more with people’s idea of modern-day slavery but, as far as I can see, that is a rather extreme case. Modern-day slavery is probably in all our streets and our constituencies. It is certainly not just people who are coming in from abroad; there is domestic slavery. We have heard about one victim, a British lady who was trafficked to Italy and France and made to work as a prostitute. There are cases of forced labour and, Madam Deputy Speaker, if my hon. Friend the Member for South West Bedfordshire (Andrew Selous) catches your eye he will speak about a particularly nasty incident that was well publicised.

I am certain that most—although not all—constituencies will have cannabis farms. I remember visiting one a considerable time ago. The neighbours had complained about it and the police had become involved. I never knew that most of these cannabis farms are managed by children, often from Vietnam, who are brought in as forced labour—as slaves.

That takes me to the point that the hon. Member for Slough made about victims. We have to be careful about these people, who have been made to do something criminal—there will be exceptions and they might have committed crimes that were not the result of forced labour, but most of their crimes will have been—and we must think strongly about whether to prosecute. I believe that the Lord Chief Justice recently delivered a judgment on cannabis farms in which he said exactly that. I understand that young Vietnamese children are still being criminalised when we should be helping them and ensuring that they are viewed as the victims.

Andrew Selous (South West Bedfordshire) (Con): I was told by my local police that in some instances the children running cannabis farms, often in attics, had been bricked up and left in the roof space with tinned food. That is just an example of how terribly badly those children are treated.

Sir John Randall: I agree entirely with my hon. Friend, who has been involved in the campaign longer than I have and has extensive knowledge.

The sort of things that my hon. Friend is describing give us a sense of the wide variety of horrible, ghastly things that are happening. The hon. Member for Slough mentioned prostitution and brothels; a lot of people think that is it, but there is much more—but that too is awful. The lives of the victims of all these crimes are miserable and appalling, and it is scarcely credible that this could be happening, in this country and in nearly every other country in the world. Most countries in Europe may think that they are a transit country; they may think that they have some connection, but they do not realise that everything is interconnected. It is truly a hideous crime.

We have heard about the Government’s draft Bill. I was honoured to be asked to sit on a draft Bill evidence panel with the right hon. Member for Birkenhead (Mr Field), Baroness Butler-Sloss and some people not

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involved in Parliament. It has been an eye-opener. I have been privileged to hear and speak to the NGOs, which hold diverse views on what should be done. We share the same goal, but sometimes they differ slightly.

I would say to the Minister that I agree with the hon. Member for Slough that the domestic worker visa should be re-examined. I can understand entirely why it was brought in, and if we did not know about the abuses that might result from it—the unforeseen consequences—we might have said it was a very good thing. However, there is compelling evidence to support the view that it must be looked at again, because far from discouraging slavery it could well be helping the people enslaving domestic workers.

The hon. Lady and the hon. Member for Linlithgow and East Falkirk (Michael Connarty) spoke of introducing some private Members’ Bills. I became a bit of an expert on private Members’ Bills on Fridays—I brought one in myself many years ago—and I understand the difficulties of introducing private Members’ legislation. The problem of supply chains is a live issue. We must use the Bill to try to sell the idea of scrutinising supply chains. Instead of saying, “this is extra red tape and bureaucracy,” we should point out that this is a way of protecting companies from having in their supply chains things that they do not want, and would be appalled to find.

This country has a wonderful opportunity, once again, to take a lead in this area. In California there is a law, although I believe it is more of a voluntary code. The issue is sensitive, and because of the late stage in the electoral cycle we cannot be too ambitious—we must get the Bill through. We got Anthony Steen’s private Member’s Bill enacted on almost the last day of the Parliament in 2010, so we have to make concessions here and there. I am a pragmatist, although I am becoming a bit more evangelical about some of these issues. We have to be pragmatic sometimes. We shall deliver our report on the day that, I believe, the Government are presenting their own draft Bill. We must all get together and try to see what we can do.

Education is also important. By that I mean the education of everyone—not just parliamentarians but, equally important, our constituents. It may be invidious to single out one group, but I want to pay tribute to a group called Just Enough. The charismatic young man in charge, Phil Knight, goes into schools to educate them about modern-day slavery. It was with him that I suddenly realised the blindingly obvious—that modern-day slavery appears in folk tales. Cinderella—what better example could there be of latter-day slavery, as opposed to the mental images of the terrible ships going backwards and forwards across the Atlantic? Another example, quite relevant today, would be “Oliver Twist”—the boys who were entrapped and made to do criminal action.

Michael Connarty (Linlithgow and East Falkirk) (Lab): I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman is aware that that is a true story. “Oliver Twist” is not fiction. The court reports of that time show that Italian men would go to the south of Italy and promise families to take the young boys to the north of Italy and train them to be, perhaps, a watchmaker, but instead they brought them to London and taught them to be pickpockets.

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There was never a Fagin—that was a piece of anti-Semitism in the writing of the novel—but it was a true story. It was repeated here with the Roma children pickpocketing on south-east trains four or five years ago. They were rounded up—more than 150 young people from Roma families.

Sir John Randall: I am grateful for that intervention. I am aware that most of Dickens, although sometimes slightly over-caricatured, is based on the times. As the hon. Gentleman rightly says, that is why I say that “Oliver Twist” is such a good example for today, because such practices are going on today. Although we should not frighten kids with some of the more horrific things, if in school they are gradually made aware of modern-day slavery from an early age, they might be able to spot what is going on. Then, with their friends, they might notice something untoward. There are some incredibly good initiatives out there, a bit like Childline, but providing a point of contact if it is thought that someone is being trafficked or held against their will; but first we must educate people.

A few years ago, a neighbour in suburban Uxbridge told me that the lady down the road was a bit concerned; she thought there was something going on in one of the houses. I went to see her. She was a youngish mother. She was concerned that the lady next door had too many male visitors. We have Brunel university there; I thought perhaps she was being a little bit unkind because some young lady was entertaining, but I did my duty: I went to the police and asked if they would check it out. They came back to me at the end of the day and said, “You are absolutely right, Mr Randall—there is a brothel there.” That is in my own road, which I have lived in nearly all my life. They were moved on; I am not sure they were trafficked. But I am saying that it is so hidden, as the hon. Member for Slough said. This is a hidden crime. It is actually a hidden abomination, and we must do something about it.

I pay tribute to my own London borough of Hillingdon, which on this issue, as on many others, is very active—in modernspeak, I would say a beacon, but it is just a very good example. We have refuges. Of course, we have Heathrow airport in our constituency, but that is not the only reason. The borough takes trafficking and modern-day slavery very seriously.

Police forces are under lots of pressures. We have an incredibly good set of police officers around the country—in the Met, I have come across, in particular, Kevin Hyland, but there are many others. Your ordinary policeman has so many things to consider. That is why I think the Bill will be very important, to put all the legislation together so that they can understand the crimes and give them higher priority.

The hon. Member for Slough was absolutely right. For most of my constituents, human trafficking would not even appear on a list of priorities, because few people know it exists in their area. They would think it was some high falutin’ thing that was being put around by well meaning but misguided people. My constituents are more concerned about street crime, burglary, car crime and so on. We must get that message across.

I know for a fact that the Prime Minister has taken a keen interest in the issue. I want to see my Government, this Parliament and this country taking the moral lead. We know and we will repeat that Wilberforce did that

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200 years ago, but this is a modern abomination in our world. I hope that we can lead efforts to do something about it.

I conclude with what has moved me more than anything else. I briefly mentioned that I could almost become evangelical on this, which most people who know me would say does not fit in my normal idiom. Just speak to some victims. Listen to them. See the people and what has happened to them—the hideous nature of it—and what has happened to them afterwards. The hon. Member for Slough is right. Is 45 days enough? It might be in some cases, but mostly probably not. Where do the victims go afterwards? They are let out of a refuge and they are on the street. Who are the first people to contact them? The traffickers. The victims do not know where to go for safety and security. We have had evidence that some want to go back to their country, but some do not. In some cases they are frightened because the traffickers know where their families are. They know who they are and they will find them again. The traffickers are very evil people.

Once again, I am delighted to take part in the debate. I am delighted that the Government are going to take action. Some of us would hold their feet up to the fire on this, although we would probably let them go just before they burn. We must get rid of trafficking. We must make the public aware that slavery is alive and kicking in our day-to-day surroundings.

2.32 pm

Mr Frank Field (Birkenhead) (Lab): Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker. I, too, express pleasure at speaking for the first time with you in the Chair, that being my fault rather than any reflection on you.

I am immensely pleased to follow the two speakers who opened our debate, underscoring its importance. Like the right hon. Member for Uxbridge and South Ruislip (Sir John Randall), I come to this debate because of one person, Anthony Steen, and how he catches people. He wished to have someone on his board. He promised that they would have to turn up only once a year and sign a few papers, and that nothing else would be required of them. Like the right hon. Gentleman, thanks to the endless tutorials that Anthony Steen gives us, I have a sense of evangelical zeal as well.

My hon. Friend the Member for Slough (Fiona Mactaggart) who opened the debate said that she did not expect me to be here. Indeed, I have been excused from some meetings so that I could be here, but if I do not attend to the very end of the debate, it is not because I am not keen on the topic—I am—but because I need to take up other duties elsewhere.

The right hon. Member for Uxbridge and South Ruislip referred to the opportunity that the Government offered me to chair the review sessions with an eye to how a modern anti-slavery Bill should look. Thanks to the former hon. Member for Totnes, we began our hearings by speaking with victims of this terrible evil deed. We ended our evidence sessions today, also with victims. I join my hon. Friend the Member for Slough in what she said about the importance of the Bill. Because we are being so proper to the victims, we push up the prosecution rate. Even if that were not the consequence, I would make a plea that we behave differently towards the victims because of the nature of the evil that has been perpetrated against them.

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I have been knocked sideways by the evidence that we have received from the victims. I have been shocked and horrified, finding it almost unbelievable not just that such evil could occur in the world, but that it could occur here, in our own constituencies. As we have heard, the shackles are different today. There are no manacles; the slaves are not in irons. They are controlled even more effectively. The job that the Government have is different from Wilberforce’s. In a country where slaves were all too apparent, Wilberforce’s role was to change public opinion and persuade it to condemn such evil acts. Now, the chains take a different form, and people do not believe that such evil takes place. The control mechanisms of fear, violence and the knowledge of what will happen to brothers and sisters or parents back in the victim’s home town are chilling beyond belief.

That is why the Government’s Bill is so important. I think it is marvellous that the Government have moved from thinking that no Bill was necessary to wanting a Bill. I applaud them, as other Members will no doubt do in the debate and as the country will do, for making that move. I want to make a plea to the Government not just to settle on a Bill, but to use the opportunity to make it a world leader of a Bill, not because we want credit for our country—though that is a noble objective to wish for—but because the evil is so great and so widespread that we want whatever we can craft in this Chamber as the Government’s Bill to be one that others pick up and wish to see mirrored in their own societies. It is important also that we learn from that.

We have touched on the two respects in which the Government can make this a special Bill—a different Bill, a great agent for change not just in this country, but worldwide. We have already mentioned domestic workers. That shows how far the debate has moved in the space of a few years. When the issue first arose, it was an immigration issue. There seemed to be no doubt about the potential abuse that could occur from allowing the status quo to continue, and the Government changed it.

We now all realise that we live in a more complicated world. Although it may in some sense be an immigration issue, it is also an issue of whether we as a Parliament wish to be party to rules that further strengthen the hand of the slave owners and make it easier for them to carry out their evil deeds, and whether the Government will make a further jump on the topic of immigration. As the Minister knows, there are few people in the House tougher than I about immigration restrictions, but we need to act with honesty and fairness and see the consequences of our actions. I join the right hon. Member for Uxbridge and South Ruislip in appealing to the Government to pause and reflect on the fact that we have all moved on and that this is no longer a simple immigration issue. It is a question of whether we use our immigration rules to strengthen still further the hands of those who operate by tyranny.

The other issue relates to supply chains. Whatever the number of slaves imprisoned in our country, most of the slaves who serve us live in far-away countries, in supply chains. We must therefore consider not only whether the Bill will be brilliant for this country, which I hope it will be, but whether it will set an international standard for fighting slavery worldwide and ensure that we do not benefit from the gains of slavery.

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The Prime Minister is probably more knowledgeable than any other western leader on the extent of slavery, thanks in part to the former Member of this House who set up the Human Trafficking Foundation. I am conscious that any Prime Minister must weigh up whether to increase the amount of red tape for businesses—I believe that economic revival will come and more constituents will have jobs if businesses can thrive—with another duty, which is that if the supply chains of some of the businesses that are proud to operate from this country are infected with slavery, they, and their boards in particular, are clearly liable to be participating in the most serious criminal offences. We must therefore weigh up the worries about red tape in this instance against the proper concern about businesses putting themselves in that situation.

Like other Members, I look forward to the Government bringing forward their Bill, which I understand will be in the middle of December, and to the report that we will present to the Home Secretary, the Minister and the Prime Minister on what we would like to see in it. I hope that the journey that the Government have been on, which they have encouraged other people to join, in rethinking their position on how we can most effectively counter modern slavery will continue right up until the Bill receives Royal Assent. Of course, any Bill that they introduce will make things better than what we have now. It will help to rescue some of the people who have been subjected to the evil of slavery.

We have an extraordinary and historic opportunity, which the Government have made, not only to do ourselves proud, but to do the world proud. Those who gave evidence to us, as the right hon. Member for Uxbridge and South Ruislip explained, talked about what had happened to them, and we do not possess the words to convey the sheer horror of what they went through, and what many continue to go through. We could make a difference for a large number of them if we get the Bill right.

2.42 pm

Andrew Selous (South West Bedfordshire) (Con): It is a great honour and privilege to speak in this important debate. It is significant that it is entitled “Modern-day slavery”. A few years ago it might have been entitled “Human trafficking”, but of course modern-day slavery encompasses human trafficking but goes wider, because one of the many terrible truths about the issue is that there are British slaves who are moved from one part of our country to another, or indeed overseas, to be forced to work in slavery.

It is worth putting the whole issue in context. The United Nations estimates that some 27 million people are today living in modern-day slavery around the world, which is more than there were in Wilberforce’s day. When I was young I learned my history and was taught, as most of us were, that Wilberforce and many others had abolished slavery, so it is a real indictment of us, in 2013, to see the extent of slavery around the world and, indeed, in our own country.

The issue is both global, because there are international criminal business networks, and intensely local. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Uxbridge and South

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Ruislip (Sir John Randall) explained, it could be happening on our own streets or yards away from our constituency offices, and of course it is very difficult to spot. The awful truth is that huge amounts of money are being made by the slave owners and traffickers. If their labour costs are virtually nil, they can make a great deal of money from their business. Sheer greed and the evil of one human being wanting to exploit another for financial gain are at the heart of what we are talking about today.

I was made aware of the issue a couple of years ago while on a church holiday with my family. We heard a presentation from the A21 Campaign, one of the many excellent groups fighting modern-day slavery. I was convinced then that it was an issue I should study, devote time to and work on, with colleagues on both sides of the House and many influential people outside, to try to do something about it.

I had already set that course when, back in the late summer of 2011, I received a phone call from Bedfordshire police to tell me that there would be a major police operation in my constituency on Sunday morning. They could not give me more details, because it had to be secret, but I was told that I would be briefed later that morning. That morning, some 200 police officers from both Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire police moved on to a Traveller site in a small—I might even say sleepy—village in south Bedfordshire. There they discovered 23 modern-day slaves, some of whom had been on the site for up to 15 years. They were mainly British citizens.

Those modern-day slaves had been picked up in the most appalling circumstances, generally at one of the lowest points in their lives. Some of them were picked up from homeless hostels. One gentleman had even been on a bridge and about to commit suicide. They had been picked up under the most terrible false pretences. They had been told that they would be paid £80 a day, given board and lodging, looked after and included in the general family in the place they had been taken to. If a person is down and out and life is not particularly good, I guess that seems quite a good offer.

The reality was horrifyingly and shockingly different. They were taken to the Traveller site. On arrival, their heads were shaved, as happened to the victims in the concentration camps, for hygiene purposes. Many of them were forced to live in horse boxes. They had no washing facilities, although they were taken to the local leisure centre on a Friday evening, purely because on Saturdays they were shown to potential clients to try to get more business. Their owners did not want them to smell on Saturday mornings, but it did not really matter if they smelled the rest of the week.

They had to clean the immaculate homes of the people who were exploiting them, but they were not given any toilet facilities themselves. They had to watch wonderful food being prepared for the people they worked for, but they were given meagre portions of a sloppy stew to eat. They were often woken at 5 o’clock in the morning and taken in a van, often for miles around, and occasionally overseas to various countries, and forced to do hard manual labour all day. They were brought back late at night and the same thing happened again and again. On some occasions they did not even know when it was Christmas day. That was the reality of their lives for, as I said, up to 15 years. Like my right hon. Friend the Member for Uxbridge and South Ruislip, I have met some of the people on the site.

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What was even more terrible for me, as the local Member of Parliament, was that I had previously been round that Traveller site with Bedfordshire police looking for children who had been truanting from school. I was on the site, I looked with my own eyes, and I missed what was going on because, as my right hon. Friend said, slaves today are not like they were in the past. They are not visible, they do not have a ball and chain, and they are not paraded around, obvious to see—they can look like you and me.

That was my experience of what happened in my own constituency. The general point I would make to all Members is that whether they represent a metropolitan constituency or one like mine made up of market towns and villages, if this sort of thing can happen in a sleepy south Bedfordshire village, it can happen anywhere in the country.

Lorely Burt (Solihull) (LD): My hon. Friend is relating a truly shocking story that invites one to speculate on how many other places this could be happening in. Is he aware of other circumstances; and what can we do, as MPs, to ensure that the same thing does not happen in our own constituencies?

Andrew Selous: I am extremely grateful for the hon. Lady’s intervention. The awful truth is that what happened in that village in my constituency was not an isolated incident. There have been, to my knowledge, at least two almost identical incidents elsewhere in the country—one in Gloucestershire and one in south Wales not so long ago—and I do not think that is the end of it. It was not isolated; it is ongoing, and it takes many forms.

The hon. Lady asked, very practically, what we can do. There is no point in our just coming here and describing terrible things: we have to be purposeful. Let me describe a very practical solution from Bedfordshire that has already been mentioned a couple of times. For me, the key issue about what happened in my constituency was that these slaves had, in the main, been doing block paving work on people’s drives and so would have been highly visible to many of my constituents and many people elsewhere for miles around, yet the shocking thing is that no customer—no one at home looking out at the workmen and women on their drive—thought, “Something might not be quite right here.”

When I went on the “Today” programme to talk about the incident, my main message, therefore, was that this an issue of public awareness. We have talked about the role of the police and we will no doubt talk about local authorities as well. The police and local authorities need the public on their side to be their eyes and ears and to pass on intelligence. Rather than do nothing, it is a thousand times better to ring 999 or Crimestoppers to say, “About the workmen on my drive—I might be imagining it but I think they looked a bit under duress and something wasn’t quite right. This is the name of the company I used—could you check it out, please?”

We have gone a step further in Bedfordshire, where Councillor Kristy Adams of Bedford borough council has produced a set of little cards. I know we are not supposed to use props in the Chamber, Madam Deputy Speaker, but perhaps on this occasion, and for this cause, you might excuse me. They are very simple little cards. I have been giving them out for months to anyone

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who will listen. I have given some to the Minister, to Anthony Steen and to others. I am glad to be able to talk about them now, even though I cannot show them too widely. The card says:

“Is the person you are with a victim of Modern Slavery?”

It gives a few pointers to look for:

“Doesn’t know home/work address?...Expression of fear, distrust, anxiety?...As an individual or group movements are restricted by others?...Limited contact with family and/or friends?...Money deducted from salary for food and/or accommodation?...Passports/documents held by someone else?”

It then says:

“Recognise any of the above? Please call 999 or Crimestoppers 0800 555 1111.”

On the back, there is a bit of a description of modern slavery and reference to a number of charities—Hope for Justice, the Salvation Army, and Stop the Traffick—and to local safeguarding teams.

I have been wanting the Home Office to produce cards like this. I do not know whether this card gives perfect information, but we decided in Bedfordshire to get on and do something about the issue, which I have been raising with Ministers for about two years. I would love the Government to produce something like this that they are completely happy with and put it up on a website so that people all over the country could print it out. I have got a pocketful of these cards to give out. We could help in all our constituencies if every community group, faith group and local authority had similar cards that people could put on the fridge, their desk or wherever, just to get them thinking about this and being the eyes and ears of the police.

Lorely Burt: In my constituency we got taxi drivers to put a note up in their vehicles explaining what could be happening and asked them to be vigilant about the people they are carrying.

Andrew Selous: I think that is an excellent initiative and we could all encourage precisely that sort of thing in our own constituencies.

The next issue I want to address is the assets of the slave owners. As I said at the start of my speech, unsurprisingly a lot of them are extremely wealthy. They have very big assets as a result of their evil activities. We need help to move that money a lot more quickly towards compensating the police and others who take action to deal with it. Mounting an operation with 200 officers is not a cheap business. It takes months of intelligence, senior officer time, a dedicated operations room and a lot of overtime pay.

Italy has been much more successful than us in confiscating the assets of slave owners and getting them to the authorities that deal with the issue or to the victims as compensation. The key difference is that Italy freezes the assets of traffickers within 48 hours of an arrest. Will the Minister take note of that and consider including it in the modern slavery Bill?

Sir John Randall: I reinforce that point very strongly, because as soon as action is taken—for example, an arrest is made—the traffickers move that money very quickly, by all sorts of means, out of the country. If we wait for charges, it is gone.

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Andrew Selous: I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for that intervention. I happen to know that Bedfordshire police have not seen any money from the operation they properly and rightly mounted back in September 2011. As we all know, police budgets are under pressure, and—this is important—I think we would see more police activity if there was a good prospect of their getting back the money they spend on these operations. It is also important that those ill-gotten gains of the slave owners go towards compensating the victims—the modern slaves themselves—for what they have been through and so they can set themselves up and not be subject to trafficking again.

That brings me on to my next point. I am concerned that, after the very good efforts of some police forces and some local authorities, and after the care given to victims of trafficking—or modern slaves, as we should call them—by the Salvation Army, which has the contract to look after them for 45 days, some go through that process of being rescued and cared for only to then disappear, without our knowing what happens to them, and end up being re-trafficked and going through the whole process again.

This country has systems to monitor cattle—in fact, that is one thing that the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs does extremely well—because of various diseases and so on. We can track, in enormous detail, the movement of an animal from one part of the United Kingdom to another. There are probably papers in triplicate showing exactly where an animal is. Can we not just do a little bit better with people who have been through the most terrible ordeal so that we know what happens to them and do not waste all the time, money and effort spent by the police in trying to free them in the first place?

I also want the Department for International Development to seriously consider using some of its increased budget to resettle those victims of modern slavery from overseas who are found in our country safely back in their home countries, and well away from the slave owners who moved them in the first place, so that they can restart their lives in a safe manner. My last request to the Minister is to have conversations with his ministerial colleagues at DFID to see whether they could use some of their budget to do that.

2.59 pm

Ann Coffey (Stockport) (Lab): I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Slough (Fiona Mactaggart) on securing this important debate. I know that she is absolutely passionate about helping the victims of trafficking, and I totally agree with her that the Bill offers us the opportunity to do so. It is also a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for South West Bedfordshire (Andrew Selous), who has had such shocking personal experience of slavery in his constituency. I totally agree with him that getting the public involved, making them more aware and encouraging them to mind other people’s business as well as their own is a very good way forward.

I want to focus my remarks on how trafficked children are responded to and, in most cases, let down by our care system. I am the chair of the all-party group on runaway and missing children and adults. Last year, we carried out a joint parliamentary inquiry, with the support of the Children’s Society, into children who go

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missing from care. It highlighted the vulnerability and specific needs of trafficked children, and we found that trafficked children are particularly let down by the care system and that their needs are being ignored. Part of the problem is that the authorities view child trafficking as an immigration control issue.

Debbie Abrahams (Oldham East and Saddleworth) (Lab): My hon. Friend is making a powerful speech. What are her views on the particular issue of assessing the age of children? I totally agree that the fact that these are vulnerable trafficked children is not often a priority when considering their immigration status.

Ann Coffey: My hon. Friend makes a good point. I will come on to the identification and assessment of children later, and I think that she will probably agree with me.

Hundreds of trafficked children disappear from care every year, many within 48 hours. Some run away shortly after arriving in the country, while on their way to children’s homes. According to figures given to our inquiry, it is estimated that about 60% of those who make it into local authority care go missing, and that almost two thirds of those who go missing are never found. Our inquiry, which made a number of key recommendations, found that existing child protection safeguards are not triggered for trafficked children.

Let us consider how a trafficked child might enter the UK. Many are smuggled through ports in the backs of lorries, but many others arrive at a UK airport accompanied by an adult trafficker. The adult abandons the child in the airport with no identification, instructing them to claim asylum, while the adult leaves the country as a transit passenger. When picked up by the airport authorities, the child is put into the care of children’s services and taken to a home or hostel. Typically, a phone number has been sewn inside their clothing, and when it is safe to do so, they contact a handler and then disappear. Traffickers also get to know where the children’s homes are situated.

One of the reasons why many non-British trafficked children go missing from care is that they are groomed so effectively by their traffickers: they are so terrified of what might happen to them or their families if they break their bond or tell the authorities that they run back to their traffickers. Being exploited for labour is the most common form of exploitation of trafficked children, followed by sexual exploitation, cannabis cultivation, domestic servitude, benefit fraud, street crime and forced marriage. Many of the victims are subject to multiple forms of exploitation.

Sue Berelowitz, the deputy Children’s Commissioner, told our inquiry how trafficked children are placed in inappropriate accommodation, which leaves them desperately vulnerable to further exploitation. In 2009, the Home Affairs Committee report on human trafficking expressed alarm that

“traffickers may be using the care home system for vulnerable children as holding pens for their victims until they are ready to pick them up.”

Such a situation is partly the result of a lack of awareness about the indicators that a child might have been trafficked, as well as a lack of knowledge about the steps to take to prevent trafficked children from going missing, such as placing them away from their trafficker’s local area.

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Budget constraints in local authorities and a culture that prioritises immigration control and criminal prosecution over child protection, combined with a lack of specialist accommodation or foster care, also contribute to the inadequate support received by these young people.

Already this year, the national referral mechanism has identified 1,500 child and adult victims of trafficking, according to the UK Human Trafficking Centre. However, the data on children are patchy and incomplete. That is why the all-party group recommended a comprehensive and independent national system of data collection for trafficked children who go missing. Under the recent reforms to the data collection system for local authorities, it does not include data on trafficked children, nationality or immigration status.

Many professionals agree that the best solution to help trafficked children break contact with their traffickers is to use specialist foster carers who are trained to identify and respond to the specific issues and needs of trafficked children, and who know how to keep them safe. We recommended that the pilot scheme that was run by the Department for Education and Barnardo’s to train more foster parents to support trafficked children and/or sexually exploited children should be rolled out nationally.

The provision of specialist accommodation for child victims of trafficking is very limited. Many such children are being accommodated in bed and breakfasts, hostels and supported lodgings, which do not provide the level of supervision and specialist support that is needed to prevent them from going missing or being targeted for further exploitation. That is despite the guidance that was issued by the DFE and the Home Office in 2012, which states that trafficked children should be placed in foster care or residential care and that the local authority should assess the child’s vulnerability to the continuing control of their traffickers and take into account the risk that they will go missing.

A recent “Newsnight” investigation revealed that 15,728 children aged 16 and 17 had asked local authorities with help for homelessness. Of the local authorities that responded to a freedom of information request, 148 had housed children unlawfully in Band B accommodation in 2012, despite statutory guidance stating that such accommodation is not suitable for children. That is a problem for trafficked children because most of them will be in that age group.

As I have said, trafficked children often go missing before their level of vulnerability has been assessed by children’s services and before identification has taken place. That is why I support the recommendation of the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre and the Association of Chief Police Officers that photos of the children should be taken and recorded along with their passport number, nationality, fingerprints and DNA. That would mean that if a child turned up later in a cannabis factory, or was a victim of sexual exploitation or had been charged with an offence in a different part of the country, they could be identified as a trafficked child and the right level of intervention could be used to safeguard them.

To re-emphasise what my hon. Friend the Member for Slough said, it is important to understand that children do not volunteer the information that they have been trafficked. If we want to break the bond with

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the trafficker, the child must be given an advocate, guardian or social worker at the point of entry to the country to support them and encourage the formation of a trusting relationship, so that they have someone to turn to other than the trafficker. In recent debates in this House, we have talked about the importance of communicating with children and giving them a voice. That is all the more important when a child arrives in the country unable to speak the language, with no understanding of our laws or customs, and fearful of what might happen if they divulge anything to the authorities.

Only five of the 64 local authorities that responded to the all-party group’s call for evidence last year collect data on the nationality of children in care. Only two authorities, Hillingdon and Portsmouth, collect data on whether children have been trafficked. Witnesses told our inquiry that professionals often had a negative attitude towards trafficked children and that that had implications for the way in which such children were treated. We recommended that the DFE should lead a programme of work to support local authorities to meet the needs of trafficked children through existing child protection frameworks. Local authorities could also reflect on the needs of trafficked children in their annual sufficiency surveys, which show how they will provide care to meet the needs of looked-after children in their areas.

A major factor in the failure to protect trafficked children is the lack of knowledge among professionals of the indicators that a child might have been trafficked. Children and Families Across Borders, which trains local authorities, reported to the all-party group that 98% of social workers have not heard of the national referral mechanism and have no clear understanding of the issues involved in identifying or protecting trafficked children. The inquiry heard from practitioners and the police that effective multi-agency working would improve information sharing and strategic responses. We heard evidence of consistent failure in intelligence-sharing between the UK Border Agency, the police, and statutory and local authorities about organised criminal networks and trafficking trends.

Pat Geenty, the ACPO lead on missing persons, told the inquiry how the issue of missing persons needs to be recognised, and he referred to a multi-agency environment. He said:

“For me the Holy Grail is MASH, the multi-agency safeguarding hub, in every police force in the country, if we can get those in place and we can bring our local authorities and our different agencies together in one room, all referrals going into case management, we would have an opportunity of sharing information, sharing data much more effectively”.

I am aware that progress is being made on that, and that many multi-agency safeguarding hubs are being set up, but it is patchy across the country. If the statistics on missing persons that are shared do not properly identify children at risk of being trafficked because there is no efficient data collection system, those children will continue to fall through the net.

Hillingdon borough council has shown what can be done and reduced the number of unaccompanied children who have gone missing. My concern is that other authorities that do not have those levels of expertise may not identify as having been trafficked children who may have been transported many miles from their original

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point of entry. We therefore need better data collection, and better understanding in agencies with responsibility for protecting children of indicators that a child may have been trafficked. We also need safe places for children to try and break the relationship between trafficker and child, improved identification of children at an early stage, better information sharing between agencies, and a trusted person for the child to relate to as soon as they are assessed as being likely to have been trafficked.

In other words, those children must be included in the existing child protection system so that, for example, actions taken to safeguard any trafficked children in an area are included in the annual reports of the local safeguarding children boards. We will not stop the evil of trafficking children for exploitation until the people who do it believe that they are taking more risk than the profit they are offered merits. One way of doing that is to ensure that their victims do not become invisible and lost in our country.

Irrespective of the immigration status of these children, they are still children and entitled to the same protection as other children in the country. I welcome the Government’s progress in introducing a modern slavery Bill, but I hope it will include practical measures that will better protect those children. I also hope it will disrupt the activities of the evil men and women who see all children as commodities for profit, because when their exploitation of one child is disrupted, that protects other children who might otherwise have become their victims.

3.12 pm

Fiona Bruce (Congleton) (Con): I thank the Backbench Business Committee for scheduling this important debate, and I congratulate the Government on proposing a modern day slavery Bill. I will focus many of my comments on young girls who are enslaved for sexual exploitation, both in the UK and globally, and emphasise that, as many Members have said, this is a global trend, just as slavery was in Wilberforce’s day.

Young girls are brought to the UK from other countries, often under duplicitous arrangements and in the belief that they are coming to be a hairdresser or a beautician. They are then imprisoned in rooms and suffer terrible atrocities, brutally abused by several men until they are basically broken down. Often they are abused for many years. In addition, there are people, mainly men, who travel from this country for so-called sex tourism—a terrible phrase. Who would go on holiday specifically to abuse and rape a child? Indeed, many of the victims are children; according to UNICEF, 20% of the victims of sex tourism are children who effectively are not consenting at all.

About 2 million children a year are exploited in the global sex trade. As we have heard, a drug can be sold only once, but a woman can be sold many times and a child even more. There are the most appalling stories—I will refer in a little more detail to the child sex trade in Mumbai—even of babies being sold. One baby was rescued just as she was about to be sold into the Mumbai prostitute area for £150. She is now in safekeeping.

Shamefully, while many sex tourists are from the UK, and despite the fact that we already have legislation in place to investigate and prosecute British nationals

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committing sexual offences against children abroad, including extraterritorial legislation, we are—according to the International Justice Mission’s most recent campaign—yet to see meaningful prosecutions. That should serve as a real lesson, because it is critical that any new modern slavery Bill is not just passed into law but has the capacity to be enforced afterwards. Without that capacity, the Bill will be meaningless.

Andrew Selous: I support what my hon. Friend says. The House has done the right thing in passing the relevant legislation, but we have not seen the follow-up prosecutions. Many of us are aware of British citizens, sometimes in Asia, running horrendous establishments where children are regularly mistreated. I strongly support her point and join her in asking the Minister for more action in this area.

Fiona Bruce: I thank my hon. Friend for that intervention, and I commend him for his excellent speech and his work in this area.

Just as we have realised in this country that we need to have more joined-up thinking between different authorities—the border forces, the police, local authorities, social services and education services—to combat this terrible trade, we also need considerably more joined-up work internationally if we are to combat it effectively. We need to work with law enforcement agencies, other Governments, the private sector, the voluntary sector, front-line professionals and members of the public if we are to support victims and see a diminution in what is an increasing trade, not a decreasing trade. We need to expand prevention efforts in source countries to alert victims and disrupt the work of the traffickers. We need to work with foreign Governments to strengthen their knowledge and understanding of this issue.

Debbie Abrahams: Was the hon. Lady as concerned as I was to learn that after the 2004 tsunami a number of children and young girls were trafficked into slavery and the concern is that the same may happen to children orphaned as a result of the typhoon in the Philippines? I agree with her that an international effort is needed.

Fiona Bruce: The hon. Lady makes an excellent point and I hope that the Department for International Development will take note of it.

Tragically, behind the global sexualisation of young children lies increasing demand. One of the reasons for this is online pornography. A brothel owner in South Africa explained how men visiting from across the globe increasingly demand younger girls. The men want to re-enact fantasies developed by watching online pornography and are making ever more violent and sadistic requests of girls. I ask the Minister to encourage the National Crime Agency to be vigilant and do what it can to stop this illegal pornographic content. I realise how difficult that is, but we need to be aware of it as a root cause of some of the increasing sex tourism and abuse of young children globally.

Another possible answer is to look at the mainstream media’s attitude to prostitution. On the surface many, if not most, people would say that a man visiting a prostitute is socially unacceptable, but under the surface films

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such as “Pretty Woman” and television programmes suggest an inexplicable social acceptability of such actions. Society’s attitude needs to shift on this issue.

Grooming can lead to terrible abuse and for those at risk education is key. Education is also important for the general public both here and abroad, as my hon. Friend the Member for South West Bedfordshire (Andrew Selous) said. If people travel abroad and are aware of abuse, they have as much a duty to report it to the authorities there as they do here. If people, particularly UK nationals, are guilty of this offence here, they are equally guilty abroad.

Bob Stewart (Beckenham) (Con): People should report such matters in this country, as well as to the authorities abroad.

Fiona Bruce: I thank my hon. Friend for making that excellent point—I fully agree.

I commend the work of Sandbach high school in my constituency, where a group of young students, led by an inspirational teacher, have for several years been encouraged to educate their peers in school about the dangers of grooming and what it can lead to. They have conducted a national campaign, which has been recognised by the Red Cross, to raise awareness of the terrible plight of trafficked and abused young women in enforced prostitution. I encourage Ministers to look at a Nordic model that seeks to educate young people through schools, and by other means, to understand better this terrible trade, and to understand that in paying for sex they may be paying to rape a victim of human trafficking who is enslaved.

Our police forces need more education, too. I was pleased to receive a reply to an inquiry I made a short time ago to the Cheshire constabulary, stating that it now has a specifically appointed member responsible for human trafficking. However, I understand that he has had no formal training. That again means that we have no teeth to enforce legislation in our county. As hon. Members have said, this trade can happen anywhere, anytime and in any part of our country. It is therefore vital that the Home Secretary, as part of the modern slavery Bill, ensures that training is given to our police forces, so they are fully aware of the new provisions and powers. It is no good having legislation if there is not the capacity to enforce it.

It is important that, within DFID funding programmes to educate girls in the countries that we support through our funding, there is an awareness of the dangers of trafficking. We have gone to enormous lengths in this country to promote the education of young girls. It is accepted that if we can give girls an education, we can transform a community. We need to ensure that this issue is part of that education programme. A few months ago, as a member of the Select Committee on International Development, I visited Ethiopia. We inspected excellent work to reduce child marriage. Traditionally, hundreds of thousands of young girls in many communities have been married at a very early age, often as young as six or a little older. Their families think that this will secure their future. In fact, it does the opposite, because they lose their education, often suffer terrible internal injuries through early sex, die in childbirth and so forth.

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The Government have done an amazing amount of work to reduce the prevalence of child marriage in Ethiopia, but when we went into one school in Ethiopia and asked the head teacher, “What are your problems with child marriage?”, she said, “We have almost none, but we have a major problem with our young girls simply disappearing. We believe they are being taken to adjoining countries.” We must address that through our aid provision.

Bob Stewart: I am bound to speak because my wife saw such children being dragged across South Sudan when she was a member of the International Committee of the Red Cross. They were slave trains of people taking mainly Africans across towards the middle east. She told me it was quite dreadful.

Fiona Bruce: Again, I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that example.

Sex tourism is also prevalent in Mumbai. I alert hon. Members to an excellent e-book campaign that, as vice-chair of the all-party group on human trafficking and modern day slavery, I had the privilege to launch. The campaign is called “Taken: Exposing Sex Trafficking and Slavery in India”. It is organised by a remarkable woman called Hazel Thompson, who spent 11 years in the red-light district of Mumbai. This e-book can be purchased for the price of a glass of wine through the website, takenebook.com. I commend it to hon. Members. Hazel tells of a girl who was 11 when she was trafficked from a poor village in India. Her trafficker was her mother’s friend, and she promised Guddi—the girl’s name—well-paid domestic service in Mumbai that would help feed her struggling family, but when Guddi arrived she was taken to a brothel and raped. The madam of the brothel and her daughter held her down by her arms and legs to restrain her. If Guddi and her family had known about domestic trafficking and where she was really going, her life today would be very different.

The book highlights the extensive prostitution in Mumbai, where women are kept enslaved in a tiny red-light district: 20,000 women and girls are believed to be forced to work as prostitutes in just one small network of streets, and many of them, when they first arrive, are kept in small cages, where they can barely stand up, to break them. Some of them are kept there for months. Many of these women, brought in when they are young women or girls, live there and have no hope of escape. There could be as many as 26 minders from the cage to the outside of this red-light community that they would have to get through before they could possibly escape. It is virtually impossible.

International hotels have a key role to play in addressing this terrible issue of sex tourism. Some hotels actually house brothels. They will say, “We have nothing to do with it”, but they will subcontract part of their buildings, which will then be classed perhaps as gyms or health clubs, but which will in fact be brothels. It is essential that we ensure that international hotels have nothing to do with this. I commend Hilton Worldwide for taking action, operating training programmes at both leadership and in-house levels, to teach hotel employees to identify illicit activities and better understand the issues surrounding child sex trafficking. Hotels, particularly the large international ones, must take a lead in demonstrating that they will take no part in this.

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Before closing, I commend the work of some airlines. The “It’s a Penalty” campaign aims to educate tourists about international legislation while they are on British Airways flights to Brazil. There is a film with the Brazilian ambassador, with Gary Lineker and with other prominent footballers. We need to see more of this kind of constructive, innovative campaigning so that we can alert people both in this country and abroad to the fact that this is an international trade and that we must play our part in stamping it out.

3.29 pm

Graham Jones (Hyndburn) (Lab): I want to make some brief comments this afternoon on the issue of child slavery, and particularly on prostitution in India, which follows on neatly from the comments of the hon. Member for Congleton (Fiona Bruce). I endorse what she said and I hope to add to it.

In many ways, the term “child prostitution” is a euphemism: it fails to describe the shocking details of this vile trade; it is nothing short of slavery and the rape of young children. My attention was drawn to the scale of the problem when, like the hon. Member for Congleton, I visited India in 2012 with a UK Trade & Investment delegation. I then realised the realities of life in Indian society and in Indian cities.

In India, children are sold or trafficked into a life of abuse—a life that for too many child prostitutes leads to an early death. As the hon. Lady said, they do not usually live beyond their mid-teens as a result of abuse, infections and lack of care. AIDS and other infectious sexually transmitted diseases take their toll on such young bodies. Slavery appears endemic in India, and according to the global slavery index of 2013, an estimated 14 million people are in slavery there—more than in any other country, accounting for nearly 50% of the world’s slaves. Nearly 90% of this is in domestic slavery.

The delegation visited a refuge in Hyderabad, which was like the one in Mumbai. It was set up for rescued children who had been forced into enslaved prostitution. It was a harrowing experience—one that will not leave me for many years, if at all. It really brought to light just how tough life can be on this planet, even 12 years after the signing of the millennium development goals. The cross-party delegation witnessed the very depths of inhumanity. These were children that in many cases were seized from rural areas and trafficked across India to work in large cities such as Hyderabad and Mumbai. Poverty had in some cases led to children being sold into slavery by their parents, while in many other cases, the poorest families were simply conned by the traffickers by a promise of a better life for their children in the cities. Which parent would not want a better life for their children? The parents do not know where their children have been taken, and the children are too young to know where home is. The refuge we visited explained that, in most cases, there was no way of tracing a rescued child back to their parents. It was harrowing.

Two hundred thousand children a year are sold into slavery by their parents, many, according to the US Department of State, for as little as $l7. Modern-day slavery in India should unsettle many people, and anyone who believes that slavery ended with Wilberforce or Lincoln should perhaps visit India to see the scale of

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the problem. For those who have seen the film “Slumdog Millionaire”, the poverty in India is truly sickening. Recent sex abuse cases have highlighted the problems to be found there.

What the delegation heard was truly shocking—young children visited by between 30 and 60 men a day for as little as 15p per visit, with the youngest child in the refuge in Hyderabad being aged just three—[Interruption.] —yes, three. The average age of child prostitutes has fallen to about eight, and these girls were readily available. As I say, some were as young as three; we could hardly believe what we were seeing. UNICEF estimates that there are around 500,000 child prostitutes in India alone, showing the scale of problem, while there are about 200,000 in Thailand. At every minute of the day, a woman or a child is sold into slavery; more than a million children globally have had their childhoods stolen.

I was incredibly proud to see that, in Orissa, one of the poorest parts of India from where children are trafficked, UK aid money was keeping vulnerable rural children in education and with their families. That aid money had helped set up co-operatives of poor farmers, cutting out the greedy middle men and raising the incomes of poor families, thereby significantly protecting the children of those families from the hands of traffickers.

There are many who are driven not by a compassionate desire to improve the lives of the world’s poorest but by an unpleasant desire for the United Kingdom to turn its back on foreigners, without giving any thought to what that actually means. The Indian state, and Pakistan, may be failing poor people, and we should always question Government policy, but we should also always seek to help the poor and to protect young children, and we should vigorously challenge the people in the UK who are so desperate to cut aid for those people. The vast majority of Britons are proud of our charitable culture, and the UK’s charitable appeals bring in millions of pounds. Organisations such Comic Relief, Christian Aid, Save the Children and Tearfund are well respected and well supported, both here and internationally.

Crucially, we should remember that those whom we are helping are often the victims of their Governments’ actions. Our answer should be not to punish nations for the failings of their Governments, but to focus on the misery of poverty and how the UK can help those in need. Britain is a great nation, and I hope not only that today’s debate will strengthen our resolve to help those in poverty who are forced into modern-day slavery, but that we can tackle the worst form of modern-day slavery, child prostitution. I urge the Minister to consider the horror of that issue, particularly in India, and to reflect on it both in dealing with trafficking and in the context of UK aid to India.

3.36 pm

Pauline Latham (Mid Derbyshire) (Con): I, too, welcome you to the Chair, Madam Deputy Speaker. This is the first occasion on which you have occupied the Chair while I have been in the Chamber, and I congratulate you on your election.

Slavery takes a huge number of forms. I am pleased to note that, apart from the first speaker in the debate, no one has decided to make party political points, because this should not be a party political issue. It should be cross-party, and I think that everyone else has taken that route.

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Fiona Mactaggart: I do not think that I did make party political points. I welcomed the cross-party consensus on the issue, and praised the Government for their Bill. I did ask the Minister to go a bit further here and there, but I did that in common with Labour Members, and I do not think it fair to suggest that I made a party political speech.

Pauline Latham: Perhaps the hon. Lady feels that she did not do so, but I disagree with her on that.

As I have said, slavery takes a huge number of forms. I do not want to focus on international trafficking, although, having recently returned from Burma, I know that the Burmese fear that, following the opening of their borders, an increasing number of young girls will be taken to Thailand for trafficking. We should bear it in mind that they may end up in this country as well, and I think that the police and border agencies should look out for young girls coming here from Burma. Over the last few years, I have been made aware of slavery, trafficking, and the fact that people are groomed.

My hon. Friend the Member for East Worthing and Shoreham (Tim Loughton), a former Minister, spoke at an event that I organised recently in my constituency, along with Sheila Taylor, an old friend of mine from Derbyshire who set up and used to work for Safe and Sound Derby but is now a member of a committee that advises the Government, and members of CROP —Collective Response of Parents to Child Sexual Exploitation—who work with victims. I also invited the parents of children attending two secondary schools, both of which have between 1,300 and 1,500 pupils. The parents were very white and middle-class; the area that I am talking about is very much a leafy suburb. What shocked me was the small number who turned up to hear those very impressive speakers. Allowing for the fact that each of them might have had two children at one or other of the two schools, I think that there was probably a potential for 1,500 to turn up, but fewer than 20 did so. One or two teachers came along.

I think there is an attitude of, “It doesn’t happen here, does it? It happens in inner cities, it happens abroad, it happens anywhere but in leafy suburbs.” I set up this event because I had spoken to a constituent whose husband had been trafficking some children, particularly her daughter’s best friend. He had been working with these children, grooming them. He has been to prison, but is now out and is still trying to see these children. So this happens all over the world, including on our own back doorstep. I was interested to hear my right hon. Friend the Member for Uxbridge and South Ruislip (Sir John Randall) talking about a brothel on the street where he had lived more or less all his life and my hon. Friend the Member for South West Bedfordshire (Andrew Selous) talking about the terrible problems he had had in his constituency.

Derby was one of the first areas to deal with this issue and it had Operation Retriever. A lot of men were grooming women and taking them off to Birmingham and other places, but these men have all been prosecuted and some have gone to prison. The men were from the inner city, but the children they were trafficking were not—again, they were often from very respectable backgrounds. There is a big problem with parents thinking, as they do about grooming and the internet, that their children are not going to be caught up in this. There is

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an obligation on every one of us in this House to try to make people aware of what might be happening on their back doorstep.

Mr David Burrowes (Enfield, Southgate) (Con): My hon. Friend made the point that this is all around us and she talked about the internet. If we turn to the adverts section in the back pages of our local paper, we will find sex for sale adverts. Should we not heed the words of Detective Inspector Hyland, who says that we should all take action in our local communities to challenge editors of local papers when sex for sale adverts advertise brothels, which are very much linked to trafficking? We can all take steps to try to rid those papers of such adverts.

Pauline Latham: That was an interesting contribution and I will now look much more carefully at the Derby Telegraph, as I was not aware of it having adverts for sex. I will look very carefully when I go home this weekend to see whether my local newspaper is part of this selling of sex. If it is, we should be challenging our local editors and saying that they should not be perpetuating this industry.

I do not know how many people are aware that Barnardo’s is working hard to come up with specialist foster placements for children who have been trafficked. It is important that we use as many agencies as we can to help these children, who are mainly, but not exclusively, girls, and give them a proper life after they have come out of this terrible situation. I commend Barnardo’s for the work it is doing. We could probably engage with and help to fund other organisations to help with that work.

I am pleased that the Government are making the effort to introduce this modern slavery Bill, because every day we see things in the national newspapers, and on national and local television, about different situations where girls, in particular, have been trafficked. It is often large groups of men who are grooming these children and moving them along to other cities. I know that the children in Derby were taken to Leeds and Birmingham—they were taken all over the country. They did not know where they were, because they did not know the geography of the country, and they could not escape because they were terrified.

I feel strongly that the Government are working hard to put in place measures to stop this happening, and I look forward to getting the Bill before the House. Every one of us has a duty to speak out about this. I am pleased that we have heard from quite a lot of speakers, but of course it is difficult to get many speakers to participate on a Thursday afternoon. I am sorry about that, because this is such an important subject. I congratulate the Minister on the work he is doing. I am pleased to hear that the Prime Minister is behind this, as is the Home Secretary, and that everyone is working together to rid this country of this evil.

3.44 pm

Michael Connarty (Linlithgow and East Falkirk) (Lab): It is a great honour to speak for the first time with you in the Chair, Madam Deputy Speaker. Scottish Members in particular will miss your wonderful interventions in Scottish business, which reflected your part-Scottish background and your knowledge. It was such a pleasure to see you upset the Scottish nationalists so often in Scotland questions; we will miss that greatly.

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Let me turn now to the terrible topic of modern-day slavery, and the fact that the Government have announced a Bill. I underline the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Slough (Fiona Mactaggart) that this is not a party political matter; it never has been. We have always urged the Government, regardless of who they are, to do more and to do better. After studying this topic and spending time at the Serious Organised Crime Agency, when I was part of the police service parliamentary scheme, I found that as we change our attack on the business—it is a worldwide business and a seriously organised crime network—the perpetrators change their business model. Women used to be forced into slavery and brought here by force. Now, they are being offered a new life. They are often EU citizens who have a right to come here. They are promised good jobs and a career and then find themselves entrapped in slavery and sexual exploitation. As we change our attack, we will find that the perpetrators change. It is a matter that every Government will have to deal with.

The decade of work commenced when Anthony Steen, who has been mentioned often, took an interest in the trafficking of Roma children, who were trained to thieve on South-east trains and on the underground. There were large numbers of them, and they were clearly organised. They were all swept up by police and the social services and returned to their country of origin. Very few went into any form of support system in the UK. From that episode came Anthony’s interest, which infected all of us, and many of us became involved in the pre-2010 activities.

I was also struck by a book by Baroness Cox called “This Immoral Trade”. It is a study of what happened in Burma and Sudan where people were trafficked in the old way. They were put into slave gangs and taken to slavers in the north of Africa where they were sold. They are now being bought back from those very slavers by their communities. It is a replication of what used to happen when people were taken to the colonies of the European countries. That practice is still going on. I spoke at the re-launch of the second edition of Baroness Cox’s book in the House of Lords last month. It was said that between 11 million and 17 million people are enslaved in the world at the moment. A number of types of slavery are used. My hon. Friend the Member for Hyndburn (Graham Jones) mentioned the horrific practice whereby infants between the ages of three and eight are trafficked within their own country for sexual exploitation. It is a massive problem, but it is also a business and organised crime and we must treat it as such.

The European dimension has been driven strongly by the Parliamentarians against Human Trafficking project, which is organised through ECPAT UK—End Child Prostitution, Child Pornography and the Trafficking of Children for Sexual Purposes—and the Human Trafficking Foundation. We have travelled from country to country—and I have travelled as the lead Labour member without a political hat on—and spoken to people who have been working on the matter, to try to understand the dimensions and the methodology of the crime.

A monitoring office in Bucharest looks at many of the countries around the Balkans, and it provided me with reports which I took back to the Human Trafficking

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Foundation. There are also people in Moldova, who are not yet in the EU but who are closely connected with Romania. The Portuguese have developed an amazing mapping and monitoring process. Using a mapping system used for the movement of traffic—the movement of lorries—they can map the movement of people and are becoming adept at watching the movement of people from Brazil into Portugal for the summer trade on the beaches. Then, in the winter, the traffickers move them into the cities, into indoor brothels. The Portuguese can cut that movement off and deal with the process there.

The Netherlands has a good example of an ombudsperson who is responsible not just for human trafficking but for human trafficking and child exploitation. That is a dual role in a powerful, well-resourced independent organisation working with a lot of the NGOs and care organisations. The work is often spontaneous, as one incident leads to involvement in further exploration and the bringing of information into the system.

Whatever the Government do, it is key for us to keep very close to a network of NGOs. Unfortunately, at the moment the NGOs—all the numerous organisations that were written to—do not trust the system we have. I have been at a foundation NGO day with 50 different NGOs, and only half a dozen have ever replied when a Government organisation has asked them for information because they feel that they have a responsibility to protect the victims they have helped release and who they are looking after. They worry that if those victims get into the system, they will immediately be treated as criminals, either for immigration reasons or for some other form of criminal activity they were exploited and trafficked for, and that they will therefore be sent home and treated as criminals.

The right hon. Member for Uxbridge and South Ruislip (Sir John Randall) talked about people in cannabis farms. There was a cannabis farm in a big house next door to me just a year ago. The house had first been used by people from Lithuania who would go around and steal all the charity bags that had been put out for charitable organisations, but they were driven out and it was taken over by a mysterious organisation. We reported it to the police, but they did not act quickly enough and in the middle of the night a large lorry turned up, took all the lamps and all the cannabis and unfortunately the woman—I could not quite get her age—who was trapped in the house and brought food by a gentleman every couple of nights.

That was a trafficked person who was taken on and will no doubt be trafficked somewhere else, but what if she had been caught? In the Scottish young offenders institution in my constituency, Polmont, one can sadly find four Vietnamese young men who are there because they were found guilty of the crime of cannabis farming. They were all trafficked and they were all victims, but the standard procedure is to treat them as criminals. I have no doubt that when they come out they will be sent back to Vietnam.

One of the television channels I was watching—CBS, I think—is running a campaign against human trafficking, focusing on Cambodia, next to Vietnam. That channel is talking about making programmes—I think one will be on next week—about the trafficking in Cambodia. I think that trafficking from Cambodia to Thailand was what was being talked about, but Cambodia is just like Vietnam. It is an open-access country where young

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people who want to get out of their country might pay a lot of money to be trafficked before ending up in criminality or some form of exploitation.

As we go around the EU, we try to get the best practice. I do not know how it is going, but I hope that the Human Trafficking Foundation will be successful in winning further support from the EU to take on the next stage of the process by getting every country that has theoretically signed up to the directive on human trafficking to implement it properly. In a lot of countries, it has not even been implemented as well as it is here, and I have some criticisms of how we have carried out the duties of implementing it in this country. I hope that that situation will be improved by the Bill.

We have heard about trafficking into the UK, trafficking across the UK and trafficking out of the UK. The hon. Member for South West Bedfordshire (Andrew Selous) talked about the problem in his constituency of men being trafficked to Sweden out of the UK to be used as unpaid slaves in the construction industry in that country.

We have also heard about domestic slavery, and I join those who have criticised the Government. I do not see that as party political, but as speaking against a silly thing that was done—that is, the abolition of the one thing that gave domestic servants, or slaves, even if they were brought in as a family as they sometimes are, the chance to have a domestic servants visa. That meant that they could leave a bad family and, usually through Kalayaan and the police, find another employer as long as their visa allowed them to stay.

I understand that the Government said that every year maybe 40 or 50 people out of the thousands involved used that concession to stay behind and disappear, but it protected those young women—it is mainly young women—from being beaten, treated “worse than the dogs”, fed the scraps off the table of the families they lived with, and sleeping in cupboards. They could leave that behind and find a better employer while they had a domestic servant visa. That does not exist any more—it is now a six-month visa. But most people do not come in with visas; they come in as members of families. They are then kept with the family and treated in the most appalling way, so I hope that the Government will find a way of reinstating the protection of domestic workers in the UK.

It is quite clear that sexual exploitation is still a target for traffickers. That is true of young women and young men. Across Europe, we find young men in particular countries being trafficked in for sexual exploitation—rent boys, I think they call them in London. But they are even younger than that; they are children, because some men particularly like young boys. They are exploited in many ways. They are exploited for begging. They are exploited by fake families for benefit fraud; quite a lot of that goes on. They are trafficked also for thieving—they are trained to pickpocket in the cities of the UK and in Europe.

We have to look at how we can keep the criminalisation of the victim away from the care of the victim. It is unfortunate that it became mixed up in the debate about immigration. We have to look at immigration. We heard my right hon. Friend the Member for Birkenhead (Mr Field) say that there is nobody in the House as tough as he is when it comes to the idea of restricting immigration. He is part of the balanced immigration group in Parliament, along with senior Conservative Members, but he does not want to see this mixed up

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with the immigration problem; it is a different matter. These people are brought in, maybe with promises, with delusions that they would be coming to a better life, and then abused. We should tackle that. We found when we talked to NGOs that the excessive focus on immigration substantially impacts on the confidence of victims in speaking to the UK Border Agency, and in speaking to the police authorities who, if the Bill is correct, will be their best saviour rather than their biggest threat.

I want to say a word or two about the Scottish situation, because I am the only Scottish Member speaking in the debate. There is a parallel debate going on in Scotland. We had a strange comment by the Justice Minister after the launch of the inquiry into human trafficking in Scotland, which I went to. It was chaired by Helena Kennedy, Baroness Kennedy of The Shaws. When I said to him that many things in the inquiry could be taken forward into a Bill, the Justice Minister, who is known for being a bit sharp, and whom I have known for a long time, said, “The trouble with us is the UK Border Agency, Michael. If we could do something about them, we could do something about human trafficking.” He felt very strongly indeed that because it was a UK matter, it was the UK Border Agency that distorted Scottish Ministers’ wish to do something about it.

I want to mention three elements very quickly. First, in 2011 a document called “Scotland: A safe place for child traffickers?” by Tam Baillie, the children’s commissioner, shocked Scotland. It was not, “Scotland: A safe place for trafficked children?” but “Scotland: A safe place for child traffickers?” He could identify 200 children trafficked into Scotland over a period of 18 months.

There was then an inquiry by the Equality and Human Rights Commission into human trafficking. Its report came out in October 2011. It was very far-reaching—I think much more visionary than anything we had had in responding at a UK level to the human trafficking directive. It talked about some elements which I shall mention in a minute.

Finally, there is now a draft Bill on human trafficking and modern-day slavery headed up by Jenny Marra, MSP for Dundee. The Scottish Parliament is considering the matter with a Bill before them that they can look at—a fully laid out Bill, rather than what we have at the moment, which is some rumours and some whispers and some wishes about what our Bill will contain. The process that we follow may produce a much more comprehensive Bill, but I was very impressed with the Bill proposed by Jenny Marra for Scotland.

Sir John Randall: Interestingly, Jenny Marra gave evidence before our panel, so we have seen and read the draft Bill.

Michael Connarty: That is excellent, because I said to my hon. Friend the Member for Slough that it would be a good idea to have Jenny Marra down to the all-party group to discuss with her the thinking behind her Bill. I spoke at a conference with her in Glasgow about the fact that if the Bill became law, it would need to contain a framework to deal with events such as the Olympics, or the Commonwealth games in Glasgow, which represent a truly attractive opportunity for human traffickers to profit and prosper.

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I understand that there is a proposal—the Minister may correct me—that the UK anti-slavery Bill will contain a better definition of the crime. We currently use anti-sex trade Acts that are years, if not decades, out of date. It would be good to know what the crime is and for it to be defined as widely as possible. There should be a clear prosecution policy and a sentencing policy that makes it clear to people that if they are caught, it will result not in a small fine or a few years in jail, but in a long period in jail—up to life imprisonment, I hope, for anyone caught running a major criminal operation in human trafficking and slavery.

During the inquiry in Scotland, we heard the idea that other crimes could be made more severe by being defined as aggravated by human trafficking. At present, many traffickers go to prison for other small crimes, not for the crime of human trafficking. I understand from the Serious Organised Crime Agency that that change would make the tariff high enough to provide access to the criminals’ money. As SOCA said, to follow the crime, follow the money. That is important. At the launch of the Scottish inquiry, the Advocate-General spoke in favour of such a change.

There should be a commissioner-ombudsman, independent and well resourced, and a clear focus on asset reclamation. Since the activity is aimed at making money from the exploitation of humans, selling them cheaply or abusing their rights, if the authorities can get their hands on the money or the assets, that will hurt. It has been proposed that any money recovered should be used for anti-slavery purposes, rather than taken back into the Treasury like fines for speeding and so on. I suggest that we consider giving some of assets recovered to the Human Trafficking Foundation to make that a well-resourced organisation that does not just rely on charity, but is funded by the effectiveness of the campaign that it generates.

I am told that efforts will be made to cover the question of extra-territoriality, as has been done, for example, in the case of sex tourism, whereby people caught in another country are deemed guilty in this country, as we saw in a recent case involving a pop star.

We must respond to the reality of labour exploitation in UK supply chains. This is a plea, a hope and a wish. The Minister may make me happy or unhappy when he speaks. There are many organisations such as Walk Free set up by the owner of Fortescue from Australia, who now has 5 million people signed up as members. Walk Free, exposes human trafficking and exploitation for sex and for cheap labour across the world. Every day members of the Walk Free network get e-mails asking them to send petitions and write to companies to try to stop that behaviour. There is also the organisation set up by the then world president of Manpower, which has tackled human trafficking through all its networks. The 2.5 million companies that Manpower deals with all have training and training manuals on how to look for human trafficking and how to get rid of it.

I spoke to various organisations while preparing my Bill. The case that was exposed which everyone heard about in this country involved eggs and chickens for the Olympics. A special programme was carried out by the Gangmasters Licensing Authority, which it would not

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normally do. The authority focused specifically on supplies to that event. It found that the chickens had been rounded up by Lithuanian men—40 of them kept in a big house and hounded from place to place by rottweilers. They were driven round the country, working 17 hours a day. By the time they had paid their so-called fare to get there and their digs money—their rent—they ended up with very little at all, and they were badly fed. The gangmaster was taken to court.

The supply chain showed that those who delivered the eggs and the chickens to McDonald’s and to Sainsbury’s did not know that the people hired as gangmasters, who were licensed gangmasters, then hired Lithuanians, who were not gangmasters, to run the show for them. We have to think seriously about that. When I spoke to representatives of McDonald’s, they brought me a wonderful brochure about all the standards that those who sign up to supply the company should observe. It stated that workers should not be locked in or guarded, and that they should not be indebted to a recruitment agency. It is fabulous, but the company did not realise that it meant nothing. People signed bits of paper and put them in the bin or in a file.

Between 12,000 and 18,000 companies in Britain have signed up to that ethical trading initiative, but none of them actually looks after the auditing or reporting to see whether it happens. I received a letter from the chief executive of Sainsbury’s telling me that he thought we should fight for more resources for the Gangmasters Licensing Authority, which he told me was being downgraded. It had been “downgraded” by being taken into the Serious Organised Crime Agency to focus on serious crime, not the day-to-day abuses, as he would describe them. He thought that it was its job to audit his supply chain.

We must have something in the Bill that tells companies, “We expect you to audit your supply chain and report to your shareholders, in writing and at your annual general meeting, on what you find. If you find something, eradicate it.” If we do not have that, we will continue to see cases such as the collapsed building in Dhaka, or women being burnt to death in garment factories because they had been locked in, or even chained in, and could not get out.

It is no good saying, “Let the customer drive this.” When I talk with ordinary people—with Asda Mumdex, for example—they say, “Look, when we buy our kids clothes for the summer holiday, we go to the cheapest place”, because they cannot afford to shop somewhere that is ethically wonderful. I think that it is important that we drive the companies to improve their supply chains.

Young people came to me when I was preparing my private Member’s Bill and suggested that we use stickers like the ones we used to have against apartheid, with a skull and crossbones, saying, “Contaminated by human trafficking.” They said that they would go around sticking them on clothes from Gap or Next, one of the companies that was found guilty, to let people know that they had been contaminated by human trafficking. But that is not the generality of it. People will either buy fashion garments because they are in vogue, or they will buy other garments from cheaper places because that is what they can afford. It is up to us, as a Parliament, to carry on this fight to the point where we make all those organisations responsible. By all pitching in, we will create a better world.

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4.6 pm

Stephen Barclay (North East Cambridgeshire) (Con): The hon. Member for Linlithgow and East Falkirk (Michael Connarty) is absolutely right to focus on the acute risks in the supply chain, because subcontractors are often responsible for the worst abuses, particularly in relation to payslips and wage legislation. Like my hon. Friends the Members for Mid Derbyshire (Pauline Latham) and for South West Bedfordshire (Andrew Selous), I think that the problem is particularly acute in rural communities. In recent years there has been a perception that it is largely confined to cities, so powerful speeches, such as the one my hon. Friend the Member for South West Bedfordshire made, are helpful in highlighting the full extent of the problem right across the UK.

I very much welcome the opportunity to have this debate before the draft legislation is published. There are three specific concerns relating to legislation that I do not think have been particularly well aired in the debate so far and that I therefore want to draw to the House’s attention. The first is the importance of wages being paid electronically. In parts of my constituency, such as the middle of the fenland farming community, the tradition is for gangmasters to make payments in cash. That lends itself to abuse, both of tax and in the form of deductions at source. As soon as the wage is paid in cash, deductions are often made for transport, food, counterfeit goods supplied and the debts that are part of the mis-selling that got people over to the UK in the first place, often on the false promise of jobs.

The Home Office could learn some interesting lessons from the recent legislation banning cash payments in the scrap metal trade. I hope that my hon. Friend the Minister, who has a reputation for his commitment to detail and who has the great confidence of Government Members as the Minister introducing this legislation, will look at electronic payment, in particular, because that is a key enabler that could allow law enforcement agencies to track where abuse has taken place.

It is wrong, particularly as regards the subcontracting that the hon. Member for Linlithgow and East Falkirk identified, that we allow so much cash payment to take place given its links to criminality and the abuse of people who are often not in a position to complain. Requiring payments in electronic form would also deal with another common abuse whereby migrants, including those who come to my constituency, are misinformed by gangmasters that they are not allowed to have a bank account.

My second point, which not been much aired, although the hon. Member for Slough (Fiona Mactaggart) touched on it, is about the importance of having civil fines rather than requiring enforcement authorities always to pursue a criminal route, which is more resource-intensive and time-consuming and requires a higher standard of proof. The Gangmasters Licensing Authority possesses draconian criminal sanctions, but they are very rarely used. In the past two years, it issued 300 warning notices but undertook just 11 criminal prosecutions. The sorts of penalties imposed in those prosecutions are very ineffective. In two cases in Northern Ireland, the fine was just £500. I do not think anyone would imagine that the profits made did not exceed that sum.

The fact that 300 warning notices were issued gives us an idea of the gap between enforcement and the scale of the problem. There is sympathy within the Department

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for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs for the idea of further empowering bodies such as the GLA. Guidance issued in 2012 by the Minister of State, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, my right hon. Friend the Member for Sevenoaks (Michael Fallon), in relation to the Regulatory Enforcement and Sanctions Act 2008 curtails the ability to issue civil penalties against firms with fewer than 250 people. My right hon. Friend has a well-deserved reputation as a champion of tackling red tape, and I fully support him in that, but I do not think for a minute that it would ever be his intention to protect those guilty of criminality. I hope that my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary will consider dealing with that issue in the Bill so as to make it less resource-intensive for enforcement bodies to take action against those abusing the vulnerable within our communities.

The third issue that I want to bring to my hon. Friend’s attention is the definition of an HMO—a house in multiple occupation. In recent months, we have seen excellent progress in North East Cambridgeshire in taking action to restore confidence within the community. Last month, we had Operation Endeavour, with 300 officers conducting dawn raids and making 10 arrests. The problem is that most of the houses raided were not HMOs even though they had 20-plus people living in them, because an HMO is defined as a house with three storeys. Indeed, there is some contradiction between that definition and part of the local authority definition. That takes us on to a further point about clarity as regards what enforcement action should be taking place ahead of the legislation. To what extent should letting agencies be putting in place tenancy agreements? Is there a requirement for tenancy agreements?

I mentioned the abuse of wage slips. When I tabled a parliamentary question last week, I found that there had not been a single prosecution for the abuse of wage slips, so we have existing legislation that is not being enforced. The same is happening with the abuse of planning legislation. My local council has issued many a letter warning rogue landlords to change their behaviour, but to date it has not enforced it. I welcome the work of the Under-Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, my hon. Friend the Member for Keighley (Kris Hopkins), on pilot funding to tackle rogue landlords. Fenland district council has made a bid for such funding. I spoke to him about that earlier this week, and I look forward to the announcement on it. Before we legislate again, it is crucial that we enforce existing legislation and clarify why the issue of 20-plus people living in a house, which leads to many antisocial problems, including street drinking, urination on streets and community tension, is not being tackled by local authorities through prosecution.

I make a plea to the Minister about resource allocation. This House has a tendency to legislate and then to assume that the job is done, but legislation is effective only if it is enforced. This is a problem in the fens, which is hidden and where the crime is often unreported because people’s backgrounds mean they are too afraid to report it to the authorities or because they have language difficulties and are isolated and vulnerable. They have been misled into coming to the UK in the first place, have got into debt and have then been abused. Women in particular are led into debt much more quickly and then pressured into sham marriages, abuse and prostitution as a consequence.

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It is important to look at the resource allocation. The Home Secretary’s recent launch of the National Crime Agency is particularly welcome, because it is ideally placed to take a leadership role on the issue. Where I am in the fens—on the border of three counties—people often work one minute in Lincolnshire, the next in Norfolk and then in Cambridgeshire, so the issue is not always applicable to a county police force. The NCA has a role in tasking regional organised crime units and in looking at the resource allocation and where the issue sits in its priorities. What will the budget allocation be? Rather than advising on arrests, as the NCA did very helpfully on Operation Endeavour, to what extent will it take investigations through to prosecution? Will it also be able to address the second and third waves, given that each enforcement activity tends to be finite in terms of the number of crime gangs that can be investigated at any one time? The issue of resource allocation needs to sit alongside any announcement about legislation. I hope the Minister will provide clarity on that.

The NCA also has a role to play with regard to the source country. As a number of Members have said, this is an international issue. In the case of the fens, people from Latvia and Lithuania—dare I say that this will also be true of people from Bulgaria and Romania in the months ahead?—are being misled and told that they can have a job and accommodation, only to find that the situation is different when they get here. Such a case was raised with me just last week. Someone was brought into my constituency on that basis and told that his job was to drive. When he pointed out that he could not drive, he was told that either he drove—which would have obvious, various risks to other motorists—or he would be out on his ear without a job. The important role that the NCA should play in the source country has a resource implication and that needs to sit with the legislation.

The leadership shown on this issue by the Prime Minister and the Home Secretary sends a remarkably powerful signal of the Government’s commitment—there is also cross-party commitment—to tackling this horrific issue in our communities. I welcome the proposed legislation, which will make it easier for us to act and build on the wonderful work done in the previous Parliament. I wish the Minister well in addressing any further areas where we can tighten up the rules.

4.18 pm

Meg Hillier (Hackney South and Shoreditch) (Lab/Co-op): It is a great pleasure to speak on this very important topic and I congratulate hon. Members on securing the debate. I pay particular tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Slough (Fiona Mactaggart), whom I want to defend, because her opening speech was not party political, as the hon. Member for Mid Derbyshire (Pauline Latham) claimed. My hon. Friend’s work over many years, including leading the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants, and the way in which she has challenged Governments of any colour belie that claim.

The Minister is a good Minister and I do not think he is afraid to be challenged by Opposition or Government Members on this issue. I know that he welcomes challenges to improve legislation and that he genuinely listens and

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will take on board our points. My hon. Friend’s comments were made in that respect. It is unfair to bring party politics into an issue on which we all agree that something needs to and must be done.

It also gives me great pleasure to follow the hon. Member for North East Cambridgeshire (Stephen Barclay), who made some typically thoughtful comments. I want to pick up his point about bank accounts, which is a big issue for the Minister and it is at the heart of not only this but other questions. Over the years, I have employed people to look after my children. One young woman was unable to get a bank account. It did not mean the end of her employment—it ended eventually—but she repeatedly could not get one. That is often a convenient excuse, because it means that people can dodge being in the system.

The issue is important in relation to people who are trafficked and become victims, because they are told that they cannot get a bank account, and those trying to hide below the radar. There is a genuine issue about the ability of banks to provide people with basic bank accounts. The number of hoops people now have to go through in providing identification can make it genuinely challenging, and it is sometimes seen as very difficult. In that respect, the Minister may want to challenge the banks, through his ministerial contacts, to address the point made by the hon. Member for North East Cambridgeshire.

I have had a long interest in modern-day slavery and other issues that I want to raise. I first came across unaccompanied asylum-seeking children in the mid-1990s, when I was chair of neighbourhood services on Islington council. Young children would be found wandering up and down Holloway road with no papers and very vague stories about where they had come from, and they ended up being put into the care of social services. Many of them had been trafficked, but identification was very difficult. The borough of the right hon. Member for Uxbridge and South Ruislip (Sir John Randall), Hillingdon, was also greatly affected. Two of the hot spots were Hillingdon—perhaps obviously, because of the airport—and Islington.

That demonstrates that trafficking takes many forms. We have heard a lot about the workplace, and I will touch less on that than on other matters. As hon. Members have said, not all victims are locked up: freedoms can be restricted in many ways.

I recently visited Nigeria with the all-party group on Nigeria, which I chair. We went to look at human rights, but we were very shocked to discover some of the issues concerning children’s rights and child trafficking in particular. Nigeria is the main source country for people trafficked into this country, so it is vital that great thought is given to whether a British Bill can help to tackle the issue in the countries of origin. We need to prevent and tackle trafficking at source, not just carry out enforcement, although I agree with other hon. Members that enforcement is also important.

Benin City in Nigeria is the capital of human trafficking. As we have heard, people who have been trafficked become traffickers in turn, and there is a sort of career progression in Benin. The Nigerian authorities are aware of and keen to tackle that real hot spot. The all-party group met those at the national agency dealing with child trafficking, which is working hard to identify, tackle and prosecute people, as well as to prevent trafficking

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from happening in the first place, but they are few in number and resources are limited, while Nigeria is a huge and populous country.

From a British perspective, there are also deeply ingrained and worrying cultural attitudes, but I know from speaking to many Nigerians in this country and Nigeria that they share such concerns. The domestic servitude of children is widely accepted, and the all-party group was shocked to hear it defended very often when we raised it in talking to people in various circles.

Child traffickers are aided by the poverty, and by profits that can be made along the line. Those profits, as someone is trafficked through the hands of perhaps 12 traffickers, are immense. Until we look at the supply chain involving trafficked people and work out how to tackle each of its stages, we will not solve the source problem of people being brought into the UK, although enforcement should continue.

Mrs Caroline Spelman (Meriden) (Con): The hon. Lady is speaking with a good, deep understanding of the problem. Along with Hillingdon and her constituency, Solihull has also been a dispersal area for asylum-seeking children. Her point about it being very hard for certain local authorities with many trafficked children to have the necessary expertise at local government level to reach into foreign, and sometimes very chaotic, countries of origin makes the case for a multi-agency, multi-departmental approach, particularly to assist local authorities that are severely affected.

Meg Hillier: The hon. Lady makes a good point. For the record, I should make it clear that I was talking about my time in Islington in the mid-1990s, but there are issues in Hackney in my constituency, and I will touch on them.

In Nigeria, the all-party group saw some good practice. I would particularly highlight the yellow card for children’s rights that Lagos provides to as many agencies as possible to tell people what children’s rights are, which the hon. Member for South West Bedfordshire (Andrew Selous) described. There is strong legislation in Nigeria to support children’s rights, but the desire to tackle such problems is not as widespread as it could be and they are often excused. We heard of terrible situations in which very young girls are raped and the rapist then buys off the family for less than the price of a parking ticket in the UK because of the shame. The girl will find it very hard to get married if she has the stain of rape on her and it brings shame on the family. Sometimes that is just a criminal matter, but sometimes it is to do with trafficking.

I commend the report of the all-party group to the Minister. It is worth reading because it highlights the challenges in Nigeria and the need to highlight human rights across that country. That is a wider issue than the subject of this debate, but the report makes interesting points about trafficking and its impact on children.

I want to make a couple of points to the Minister while he is forming the modern slavery Bill. I reiterate what colleagues have said about domestic worker visas. Many families in Nigeria see domestic servitude as the norm. People excuse it and say, “The girl from the village is getting educated. What’s the problem?” However, the girl from the village does not have the freedom to move. Sometimes, families bring such individuals to the UK. Domestic worker visas did provide some protection.

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The Minister will know that no immigration system is perfect and that people will exploit bits around the edges whatever system is in place. However, things have gone too far the other way and the Minister needs to ensure that domestic workers are supported. If he does so, it might stem the flow of such workers into the country and act as a preventive measure.

The Minister for Immigration mentioned in a recent sitting of the Immigration Public Bill Committee that Operation Paladin is still in operation. I would be keen to hear more details from the Minister, if not in this debate then at another time, on how it is working across different airports. The operation was introduced in Gatwick. Trained professionals watched the people who were coming into the airport to see whether the children were related to them. They could recognise whether a child was trafficked and intervene. That does not prevent trafficking, but it does stop it at the border. Given the announcement about further cuts to the Home Office budget, I would be interested to hear whether there is a threat to Operation Paladin or whether there are plans to extend it. At the very least, it should be continued. As the hon. Member for North East Cambridgeshire said, if we are serious about a human trafficking Bill, we should be enforcing the law as it stands and keeping the mechanisms that work.

Identifying the victims is obviously a big issue. I have had experience of that in my constituency. The national referral mechanism is important, but it should not be an alternative to well briefed local agencies, whether they be social services or schools. There is an opportunity, perhaps not in legislation but certainly in practice, to ensure that schools can recognise and understand trafficked children. Churches and community groups can also have a role. Often, vicars in my constituency meet trafficked people and are able to have a more honest conversation with them than others can. I have met trafficked people, but it has usually been long after they have been trafficked.

Schools in Hackney praise the forced marriage unit for its swift action. If they report a suspected forced marriage, the team is down there straight away. Usually that is the day before the school holidays or very close to them. We need something similar to happen if there is a suspicion of trafficking while the child is in a safe place. Schools and other agencies need to have somewhere they can go. That goes back to what the hon. Member for North East Cambridgeshire and the right hon. Member for Meriden (Mrs Spelman) said about the need for a national approach.

We know that the most trafficked group of people is children. In 2012, 500 children were identified, but we know that the number of trafficked children is likely to be higher. That is one reason why having a commissioner would be a good idea. It would help us to get proper data, which would allow us to see what progress is being made and to highlight the scale of the problem for the public. In reality, a lot of trafficked people live below the radar for many years. That makes it very difficult to track down the perpetrators.

There is a delicate balance to be struck, because if anyone who said that they had been trafficked 10 years ago got to stay in the country, it would provide traffickers with an incentive. I am aware that the Minister has to tread that line. We must not incentivise people to use children as a way to get different treatment in the

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immigration system. It is important to acknowledge that issue, but that does not mean that we should not take robust action or support trafficked children as much as we can.

My big concern is people who are trafficked and appear many years later. I regularly meet young people in my surgery. Usually they appear at the point when they might want to go to university and therefore need status in this country. On questioning they are vague about what happened—an aunt or friend of the family brought them in, but they have lost touch with that adult. That child is not at fault, but the people who trafficked them have gone—although sometimes we cannot be sure—and they have great difficulty getting through the system.

Sometimes people are not enslaved, as such, although it is difficult to be sure. I spoke to one woman at my surgery, and we eventually got to a point in the conversation where I said, “You have two children, who is the father?”—I was asking about the father’s citizenship. I said, “Did you want to sleep with the father of the children?” and she shrugged and said, “He gave me somewhere to stay.” In some ways she did not consider herself a victim because she had been downtrodden to the point where she needed a roof over her head, and in return the man got what he wanted. There are real challenges in identifying victims who have been under the radar for so long that there is no likely prospect of finding their trafficker. That is a two-pronged issue for the Minister: tackling the perpetrators, but also supporting the victims.

The national reporting mechanism includes a reflection period of 45 days to decide what to do with a potential victim of trafficking, but that does not capture people who have some freedoms but no paperwork or the ability to do what they want, even if they can come and go out of the house and are not locked away. The system also does not cover the needs of those who will be slow to tell their story, often for reasons of fear—I will touch on some issues with African abuse in a moment.

Victims must be eligible for legal aid. I know that is not the Minister’s Department, but we must not throw the baby out with the bathwater. I have criticised much of the Government’s attitude to legal aid, but I recognise that that is where we are. For the purposes of this debate, however, I say to the Minister that I—and Members across the House, I am sure—will be behind him if we can ensure that people have the right advice once they have been identified as a potential victim of trafficking. That is important because it helps the system work better. In the long term it will save the Home Office money, as well as ensuring that that person has the best support possible to get their case across and be relocated home, if appropriate, or supported in the UK.

At the beginning of my remarks I said that prevention was the most important thing. The Home Office is promising to work with source countries, but we need resources for that to happen. We hear that often a law passed in this Parliament helps Nigerians to tackle corruption and so on, and similarly, if we get this issue right we may help tackle it in Nigeria. I think we need a review of our national reporting mechanism.

I said I would touch on issues concerning child abuse in Africa, although adults are trafficked too. Traffickers often use witchcraft and juju as a means of control. Juju priests are held in high esteem and command a great

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deal of respect which, when combined with a fear of witchcraft, means that many people are very vulnerable. People are afraid of what will happen to them if they declare they have been trafficked. That fear is hard to understand from the perspective of many Members in the Chamber today, but it is very real. People are much controlled and will not escape even if given the chance—it is as much of a ball and chain as a physical one would be. Trafficking victims in the UK often display signs that are identifiable with juju and witchcraft, and the torso of Adam, found floating in the Thames, first highlighted that very spectacularly to the UK.

The key issue is identifying victims, as too often that is a barrier. I hope that an anti-slavery commissioner can be genuinely empowered with investigation arms and good links to the National Crime Agency and other police as appropriate, and I will be watching the Government on that issue. The modern slavery unit should not be a passing fad in the Home Office, but something real that will engage people. I commend my colleagues for initiating this debate, and look forward to hearing the Minister’s response.

4.34 pm

Diana Johnson (Kingston upon Hull North) (Lab): I congratulate the hon. Members who secured this debate. My hon. Friend the Member for Slough (Fiona Mactaggart), the excellent chair of the all-party group on human trafficking and modern day slavery, made a powerful and well-informed speech. She did so in an inclusive way, and paid tribute to her predecessor, the hon. Member for Wellingborough (Mr Bone), after what was obviously a hard-fought election for the position of chair. My right hon. Friend the Member for Birkenhead (Mr Field) also talked about the need to put victims at the heart of the Bill and for us to lead the world with a modern slavery Bill. I also pay tribute to Anthony Steen, who did so much to raise this issue in the last Parliament, and to Baroness Butler-Sloss, who takes a keen interest in this matter in the other place.

Given that we are debating slavery, it gives me special pride to speak from the Front Bench as a Hull MP. We have heard many mentions this afternoon of William Wilberforce, who was also a Hull MP and one of the leaders of a 20-year campaign to bring about the abolition of the slave trade. In a Back-Bench debate, it is important to note that he did that entirely from the Back Benches. The full horror of the slave trade is remembered at the excellent William Wilberforce museum in Hull, which I would encourage all hon. Members to visit when they visit our city as the city of culture in 2017 or before. We are also fortunate to have the Wilberforce institute for the study of slavery and emancipation, which is attached to the university of Hull and provides great information. I am sure that it will also offer support to hon. Members looking at the draft Bill.

It is worth reminding the House that when the slave trade was abolished, through William Wilberforce’s Bill becoming an Act of Parliament, it was felt appropriate to compensate the slave owners, not the victims. It is shocking now, but the family of the Liberal Prime Minister William Gladstone received £93,526 in compensation for losing their 2,039 slaves after abolition. Several hon. Members have made the point that we hope that any proceeds that are available will go to the victims of this dreadful crime, and perhaps also to the police and the Human Trafficking Foundation.

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I pay tribute to all those who have contributed to this excellent debate. My hon. Friend the Member for Stockport (Ann Coffey) spoke knowledgeably, as ever, about the needs of trafficked children, and about the need for multi-agency safeguarding hubs to be extended to every area. My hon. Friend the Member for Hyndburn (Graham Jones) talked in some harrowing detail about child abuse and slavery in India, and shocked all hon. Members when he talked about children as young as three being used as prostitutes. My hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow and East Falkirk (Michael Connarty) talked knowledgeably about the EU dimension as well as the Scottish experience, and the need for the auditing of supply chains.

The right hon. Member for Uxbridge and South Ruislip (Sir John Randall) paid tribute to the NGOs—very important—and also raised the issue of supply chains. The hon. Member for South West Bedfordshire (Andrew Selous) talked harrowingly about his constituency experience of 23 British slaves who had been slaves for up to 15 years, and about the vital work that needs to be done to raise public awareness of the issue. The hon. Member for Congleton (Fiona Bruce) talked about the global sex trade and the hon. Member for Mid Derbyshire (Pauline Latham) talked about the need to make sure that people understand it happens anywhere—down our own streets and roads. The hon. Member for North East Cambridgeshire (Stephen Barclay) talked about the particular issues of electronic payments and civil penalties that could be used. He made some very interesting points and I hope that the Minister will be able to respond to them.

I also pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Hackney South and Shoreditch (Meg Hillier). As a former Home Office Minister and chair of the all-party group on Nigeria, she spoke knowledgeably on issues related to her experience in those roles.

We know, and we have heard again today, that modern-day slavery exists. We think that there are around 27 million people enslaved around the world. The UK Human Trafficking Centre estimates that at least 2,200 human beings were trafficked into the UK in 2012. In 2009, the Home Affairs Committee held an investigation into human trafficking and it estimated that the number is likely to be nearer 5,000. Just two weeks ago in Lambeth we saw three women escape from what appears to have been 30 years of enslavement. Few people can understand how that could happen on an ordinary street in south London, but although that is an extreme case, it is far from isolated.

Modern-day slavery is on the rise. Human beings, mainly women and children, are being trafficked into and within the UK to work as labourers, domestic servants, prostitutes, cannabis farmers, forced beggars and to do a whole range of other jobs. We have had a number of excellent suggestions this afternoon on what can be done to tackle this practice, and I know that the Minister will have been listening carefully.

I put it on record that the Opposition support the principle of such an important Bill on modern-day slavery. We will work constructively with the Government to ensure the Bill passes within the limited parliamentary time available, and we will press for a Bill that does all that is needed to address this horrendous practice. I stress that the Opposition will be looking for a Bill that puts victims at its centre and the first step is to recognise who the victims are. The situations into which people

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are trafficked either from outside or within the UK are disparate and we need a system that recognises that. It is not just neighbours, such as those in the Lambeth case, who fail to recognise victims in their midst. Too many cases are missed by the police, social workers, health workers and immigration staff.

We need front-line professionals across a range of sectors to be trained to recognise trafficking in all its forms. There has to be an understanding that enslavement does not have to mean chains or cellars. Once we have identified victims, we need to give them protection and support, and that is where we think the current system is left wanting. There is a national referral mechanism to collate information on victims, but it is currently not fit for purpose. As I mentioned, the UK Human Trafficking Centre, in collaboration with the Serious Organised Crime Agency, identified 2,255 human trafficking victims, whereas the NRM identified 1,186. The failure is equally pronounced for children: the UK Human Trafficking Centre identified 549 child victims in 2012, while the NRM identified 349. We think the true figure is probably much higher. Given that there are 23 bodies authorised to refer to the NRM, the Government need to address urgently the multiple deficiencies in the system that are stopping referrals. One measure the Opposition support fully is the introduction of a commissioner to oversee the proper collection and use of information.

Once we have identified victims, we have to ensure that the support is there to look after them. The support required will depend on the circumstances in which people have been trafficked. We must not criminalise human trafficking victims. We have to move away from a situation where the first instinct of the authorities is to treat people as an immigration problem rather than as victims. If we are to get more prosecutions, the first stage has to be to identify and protect the victims. They will then be more willing to come forward as witnesses.

We know that support for child victims is a particular weakness. As my hon. Friend the Member for Stockport said, a horrifying 60% of child victims taken into care go missing. One local authority admitted to losing 90% of children. This happens because the strength of the bond between child victim and trafficker is not diminished when the child is taken into care. Factors that made the child vulnerable in the first place remain and often the trafficker will retain a psychological hold. Without special provision, the child will often return to the trafficker. This is especially true if the child is repatriated. I welcome the vital cross-border work being done to minimise the risks to children when they are returned home.

Trafficked children in the UK require specialist care that is tailored to their individual circumstances. That kind of tailored care will only be provided if trafficked children are given specialist and independent guardians. That system has worked elsewhere in Europe, and, as the Minister will know, was set out in the EU directive on human trafficking. The Government have so far decided not to introduce a system of guardians, but I hope they will look at that again. The Government’s own review “Still at Risk”, which was commissioned by the Home Office, was unequivocal about the need for guardians.

Domestic workers were mentioned, as was the need for a review of the changes introduced to the domestic workers visa. Statistics presented by hon. Members make the case for a reconsideration their unintended consequences.

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On prosecutions, the Opposition will certainly support the Government in increasing the penalties for convictions for offences relating to human trafficking, but will look to the Government to introduce aggravated offences for such cases as well. We would also support the inclusion of the specific offence of child trafficking and exploitation, which currently does not exist. I pay tribute to ECPAT for highlighting that particular issue.

In conclusion, I commend the Government for their commitment to introducing a modern slavery Bill, but I urge them not to waste the opportunity before us. There would be many more prosecutions if we could identify more victims and give them the support and protection they need to become witnesses and then help them to rebuild their lives. Unless the Bill recognises that, we will waste a great opportunity. I want to finish by quoting William Wilberforce’s words to the House of Commons on 12 May 1789, which I think sum up the position today:

“The nature and all the circumstances of this trade are now laid open to us; we can no longer plead ignorance, we cannot evade it”.—[Official Report, 12 May 1789; Vol. 28, c. 63.]

4.45 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (James Brokenshire): It is clear from all that we have heard in this debate that modern slavery is a brutal crime that knows no boundaries and does not discriminate on grounds of creed, culture or race. Traffickers and slave masters exploit whatever means they have at their disposal to coerce, deceive and force individuals into a life of abuse, servitude and inhumane treatment.

That is why I congratulate the Backbench Business Committee and, in particular, the hon. Member for Slough (Fiona Mactaggart) on securing this timely debate, when the Government are finalising their draft Bill on modern slavery. The hon. Lady made a passionate speech. I recognise that for many years she has felt strongly about and campaigned on this important policy matter, which affects so many of our communities. We will reflect on many of the comments made this afternoon, even if the limited time available does not allow me to comment in detail now. I recognise the important contribution from my hon. Friend the Member for Wellingborough (Mr Bone) and his role supporting the work of the all-party group on human trafficking and modern day slavery when he chaired it, and the many other people who have sought to ensure that this House properly considers this important issue and is better informed about it.

I was struck by several of the comments made and descriptions given by right hon. and hon. Members this afternoon as they sought to describe modern slavery and trafficking. The right hon. Member for Birkenhead (Mr Field) described it as “evil”, my right hon. Friend the Member for Uxbridge and South Ruislip (Sir John Randall) as an “abomination”. In describing the impact of child slavery, the hon. Member for Stockport (Ann Coffey) talked about children being “commodities for profit”. What an appalling description, but a sad reality.

We also got a sense of the lack of visibility. I have spoken about the need to shine a light on this appalling issue, and my hon. Friend the Member for Mid Derbyshire (Pauline Latham) talked about the comment: “It doesn’t

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happen here, does it?” Well, we know that it does. My hon. Friend the Member for South West Bedfordshire (Andrew Selous), who has seen that starkly in his constituency, summed up how in many ways this crime can be in plain view and yet somehow not seen. That underlines the need for further training, which is one practical element towards ensuring that front-line professionals, as well as the public, have greater knowledge and awareness. The contribution of the hon. Member for Hyndburn (Graham Jones) underlined the appalling and sick nature of this problem when he highlighted the age of some of the children involved, which brings the issue home.

Yesterday I had the privilege to visit ECPAT to speak to some child victims of trafficking. I heard their testimony directly and found out about the impact of this problem on them. I discussed what more we could do to support victims by identifying them and ensuring that the practical services are in place to provide support.

This afternoon’s contributions were encouraging in that they have shown a clear and strong desire across the House to work closely together to rid the UK of this evil.

Andrew Selous: Will the Minister have time in the course of his remarks to respond on the issue of the awareness cards and whether the Home Office could look at distributing them across the UK?

James Brokenshire: Awareness is a key issue. It will be a question of seeing what will work in different areas. Before attending this debate, I was at a conference on how social media can be a very good way to help promote debate about child trafficking. I also went to the launch of something called the cube network, which involved passing around wooden cubes to identify problems and raise awareness. There are a number of ways of achieving this, but it is quite clear that we need to ensure greater awareness at each level.

We do not know the full extent and nature of the criminality involved, hence the work of the hon. Member for Slough and the all-party group to seek to identify information more clearly. That was clear, too, from the contribution of the hon. Member for Stockport. We have seen figures coming through the national referral mechanism relating to the provision of support to victims, and information from the UK Human Trafficking Centre is also relevant. I am clear, however, that that understates the position, and I expect the numbers to rise over the coming years. I see it as a good thing, not a bad thing, if we are better able to identify those in need of support. We will be strengthening our enforcement response by bringing to justice those responsible for these heinous crimes.

The Government are absolutely committed to combating human trafficking and to supporting and protecting the victims of these appalling crimes. We have announced plans to introduce a modern slavery Bill, which will strengthen our response to human trafficking and underpin the work of law enforcement agencies in prosecuting the perpetrators. In so doing, we shall be able to identify more victims and ensure that these crimes are prevented.

The Bill will consolidate existing trafficking offences to make it simpler to prosecute human traffickers. It is important to assist law enforcement to achieve that. It is intended to increase the maximum sentence for trafficking offences to life imprisonment, so that modern-day slave-drivers

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will face the full force of the law. The Bill will introduce an anti-slavery commissioner to oversee efforts to tackle modern slavery and help to facilitate more prosecutions and convictions of human traffickers.

The Bill is also about the here and now. I want the draft Bill to make a difference. It is that crucial first building block. I think it was the right hon. Member for Birkenhead who said that we were on a journey, and I see this as part of a continuing journey because this important Bill will lead to further action that could be taken by successive Governments over the years ahead as well.

How to support activity without legislation—the practical issues—is another key point, and it is important that the Home Secretary has made tackling human trafficking a priority for the new National Crime Agency, which will provide strong national leadership to drive forward prosecutions and bring traffickers to justice. My hon. Friend the Member for North East Cambridgeshire (Stephen Barclay), along with my hon. Friend the Member for Congleton (Fiona Bruce) and others, highlighted the need for greater enforcement. Victim care is also fundamental to our comprehensive approach to combating trafficking, and we have guaranteed up to £4 million a year to fund specialist support for adult victims of human trafficking.

The hon. Member for Hackney South and Shoreditch (Meg Hillier) spoke about the national referral mechanism. I can tell her that the Home Secretary has committed herself to a review of the national referral mechanism to establish how it is working and what further improvements can be made. I am conscious that this is about the here and now, and about what useful steps can be taken.

I have referred to the flagship Bill that we intend to introduce. In order to ensure that it will have the right impact, the Home Secretary has asked the right hon. Member for Birkenhead, in his role as vice-chair of the Human Trafficking Foundation and as a member of the Centre for Social Justice advisory council, to lead an urgent public debate about practical and effective ways of ending modern slavery in the United Kingdom. It will take the form of a series of evidence sessions hosted by the Centre for Social Justice. The Human Trafficking Foundation has facilitated the participation of key witnesses from abroad to help us to draw on best practice.

I am grateful to the right hon. Member for Birkenhead, to my right hon. Friend the Member for Uxbridge and South Ruislip, and to Baroness Butler-Sloss for taking evidence for the Centre for Social Justice. I also want to recognise the contribution of Anthony Steen, who has been appointed special envoy to the Home Secretary. He will consider what needs to be done to improve our response, focusing particularly on what happens overseas and on how we can ensure that an end-to-end approach is taken.