Yvette Cooper: My hon. Friend makes an important point, which goes wider than devolution. Wherever across the United Kingdom trafficking victims are identified, we must make sure that they are properly supported as

8 July 2014 : Column 182

victims of trafficking throughout the system, and that they are not simply identified by one agency as needing support as victims because they have been abused and enslaved, but end up being treated by another agency as criminals or illegal migrants, with the abuse effectively being multiplied because their vulnerability and experiences are simply not identified within the system. Such a purpose is vital. The Home Secretary is right that this is not simply about legislation, but about the way in which organisations operate, the training given to staff and how staff respond. My hon. Friend’s point is therefore extremely important.

That is particularly important for children, about whom many hon. Members intervened on the Home Secretary to raise concerns. Trafficking is an evil trade, but it can exploit weak systems of child protection. Of the 2,000 potential victims of human trafficking identified in 2012, 550 were children, but that is likely to be the tip of the iceberg. Some 65% of those cases were not recorded on the national system, which would have increased the protection of those children. Too often, they are treated as immigration cases, not as trafficking victims. Several of my hon. Friends made important points about the way in which such children can, in practice, be abused, including by being told what to say by their traffickers.

Most appalling of all is the figure that shows that almost two thirds of rescued children go missing again. They have been found, rescued by the authorities, put into care and they simply disappear again, presumably picked up by the same or other trafficking gangs. Already abused, they are let down by a system that is supposed to keep them safe.

Lisa Nandy: As my right hon. Friend knows, many trafficked children also believe that the trafficker is their friend, their uncle or their boyfriend. It is not just that they have been frightened into saying that; they genuinely believe it. I therefore hope that she will press the Home Secretary on her call, which I support, for a statutory system of guardians, because somebody has to be able to instruct the lawyer in a case where a child believes that they have not been exploited to ensure that the relevant person is brought to justice.

Yvette Cooper: I will do that and I agree with my hon. Friend. We would like the law and the Bill to be strengthened on child guardians and child offences. Let me make a few points about that.

My hon. Friend is right that the situation for children can be complex, and often the adult who is abusing them is the only adult they know: the only adult with whom they have contact and who speaks their language, if they have been trafficked across borders.

Charities describe finding children who do not even know which country they are in. Some are sexually exploited in brothels or tend cannabis factories, like Deng, who was trafficked from Vietnam to work as a gardener in a cannabis factory. When police raided the house, Deng was arrested and spent almost a year in prison. On release, he fell back into the hands of traffickers, who regularly beat him so badly that he was hospitalised. Passed from local authority to local authority, his case was eventually assessed and an independent age assessment concluded that he was only 16 or 17. He had already experienced years of abuse, including a year of

8 July 2014 : Column 183

imprisonment at the hands of the British authorities. Children like Deng have their childhood taken by the traffickers. By 17, they have often been held by the traffickers for several years, moved through several countries and forced to grow up very fast, but they are still children in desperate need of care.

If those children know no other life and nothing of the UK, they can often return voluntarily to their traffickers because they feel that they have no choice. There is a real problem with the idea that a child could ever consent to their exploitation. That is why we believe that we should pursue a separate offence of child exploitation. I listened carefully to the Home Secretary’s points and, clearly, we do not want to make it more difficult to prosecute. I think that we have the same objectives, but I did not find her answers very convincing or clear on why creating such an offence would make it harder to prosecute. Of course, there will be cases where the age may be difficult to identify at the margins, but surely it is possible to draw up the law in a way that allows the prosecutor to decide whether the case is clear cut and can be prosecuted as a child offence or whether it is not clear cut and therefore should be prosecuted under the wider legislation on the basis that somebody is vulnerable.

If the Home Secretary has any overwhelming objections to that, she needs to explain them much more clearly. The Opposition simply cannot see why we should not pursue the Joint Committee’s proposals for a separate offence of child exploitation and why that would not help us all in our objective of tackling slavery, particularly the awful and extreme abuse of children.

We would also like a system of independent guardians to be introduced. They are a requirement of the EU directive that the Government eventually signed up to, and the system has been implemented elsewhere in Europe and shown to work well. After three years of campaigning, we welcome the Government’s pilots for child advocates and the enabling provisions, but we do not believe that they go far enough. The position is unclear, but the advocates do not appear to be the same as the child guardians for which a huge coalition of charities, including Barnardo’s, UNICEF and the Children’s Society, have called. During the Bill’s passage, we will seek to strengthen the powers given to child advocates, thereby establishing guardians who can act independently of local authorities and in the best interests of the child.

I raised those who are in domestic work conditions and are particularly at risk in an intervention on the Home Secretary. I urge her to look again at the domestic worker visa and the risks to those forced into domestic slavery, unable to escape. Earlier, I cited the evidence from the charity Kalayaan. The Home Secretary knows that when the tied visa was introduced, many, including Kalayaan, warned her that it would increase the risk of servitude and domestic abuse.

In addition to the figures that I cited earlier, Kalayaan also found that 92% of those on the new visa were unable to leave the House unaccompanied. That is slavery. The Home Secretary seemed to suggest that that was just a small number of people, but that is not the point. One of the examples that Kalayaan gave was the case of Rupa, who arrived in the UK with her

8 July 2014 : Column 184

employers. She had worked for them in India and had little choice about coming to the UK. Once here, she worked long hours and got no proper breaks. Looking after a baby, she was on call all the time. Like 85% of those interviewed by Kalayaan, Rupa did not have her own room, so she slept on the floor, next to the cot. For all that, she was paid just £26 a week and had her passport confiscated. Eventually, Rupa ran away and a stranger helped her find her way to Kalayaan.

However, because of the changes that the Home Secretary introduced to the visas, Kalayaan could do nothing. Under the old system, the charity would have contacted the police, had Rupa’s passport returned to her and helped her find other work. Now Rupa’s options were limited: to return to her employer or be deported. With a sick family to support in India, Rupa decided to return to her employer and a life of servitude. That is slavery. It is what the Bill should abolish. The Opposition will table amendments on the matter, but I hope that, if the Home Secretary has an alternative remedy, she will come forward with it during the Bill’s passage. We cannot have a situation whereby all the work that the House is trying to do to tackle modern slavery is undermined by visa changes elsewhere in the system.

We also need more action in the world of work. The Home Secretary talked about the importance of tackling the supply chain, and we agree, but again, we would like to go further. The Bill provides a great opportunity to build on the work of the Gangmasters Licensing Authority. We would like to consider how that can be extended to cover exploitation in hospitality, care and construction, and also how the law on exploitation in the workplace can be strengthened.

Slavery in the UK is only a small part of the problem. The Joint Committee was clear in its recommendations for stronger action on supply chains. Other countries are legislating on that, and there is a growing consensus that legislation that requires large companies to report on their actions to eradicate slavery in their supply chains will make a difference.

In the past few months, all hon. Members will have been shocked by, for example, the details of the investigation by The Guardian into the fishing industry. There were stories of men trafficked from Burma and Cambodia, forced to work 20 hours a day for no pay fishing for prawns for shops in the US and Europe, and also for British supermarkets. One rescued worker, Vuthy, a former Cambodian monk, said:

“I thought I was going to die. They kept me chained up, they didn’t care about me or give me any food… They sold us like animals, but we are not animals—we are human beings.”

Another said that he had seen as many as 20 fellow slaves killed in front of him, one of whom was tied limb by limb to the bows of four boats and pulled apart at sea. All Members will be horrified by such stories, but it is even more horrifying if that slavery, abuse and murder could be linked in any way with the goods that end up on shelves in our supermarkets. That is why we believe that the Bill should go further.

According to polls, 82% of the UK public want legislation on the matter. The charity sector is equally clear and the Joint Committee supported action. So, too, did the businesses that gave evidence to the Committee. Marks and Spencer said that legislation could play an important role. Amazon, IKEA, Primark, Tesco and

8 July 2014 : Column 185

Sainsbury all gave evidence and said that they could support legislation. Many businesses have said that they do not want to be undercut by unscrupulous employers.

That is why the idea of a voluntary agreement simply does not go far enough. The Ethical Trading Initiative and its 80 corporate members that are campaigning for legislative measures in the Bill are right to do so. Perhaps the Home Secretary will let the Prime Minister know that the Opposition will table amendments on that. I hope she can persuade him that the House should be able to support that action, which so many businesses support. It will allow them and all of us to be ethical, and to recognise how far the problem stretches—it stretches not just across this country, but across the world.

Stephen Barclay (North East Cambridgeshire) (Con): There will be support from Government Members for the supply chain proposal. Those of us who defend a free market do not want the competitive distortion of those who are undercutting legitimate businesses through the abuse of their employees.

Yvette Cooper: The hon. Gentleman is exactly right on that. That is why so many businesses and major retailers are supporting that proposal. They recognise not only that it is morally right, but that it is very hard for them to identify abuse among their competitors, and to identify when they are being undercut by something that is so immoral and criminal throughout the world.

I believe we can build a consensus in the country and in Parliament. We have rarely seen a Bill that has such overwhelming support from Members on both sides of the House. Let us be clear that we will work with the Government to ensure that the Bill passes within the limited parliamentary time available, but we will also push for it to go further, so that we can make a real difference in wiping out the horrendous practice of trafficking and enslaving men, women and children in this country.

Almost 230 years ago, a milkmaid from Bristol, Ann Yearsley, had her poem on slavery published. It tells of the anguish and woe of a woman taken away from her home country and sold into slavery. It talks of debasement and degradation. Parliament was slow to respond, and it was another 45 years after Ann’s poem was published before Parliament introduced the Slavery Abolition Act 1833. The Home Secretary rightly spoke of the rare moment of consensus. We need to seize that. We have legislation before us, and we need to build on it. We need to seize the moment with the legislation and make it go as far as we possibly can. Let us push to get those further improvements and safeguards, because we know that, in the end, it is about stopping evil people committing terrible crimes; ending the enslavement, abuse and degradation of modern-day slavery; and giving everybody the liberty and freedom that they should have a right to.

1.52 pm

Pauline Latham (Mid Derbyshire) (Con): I am pleased to take part in this important debate on the Modern Slavery Bill, particularly as it has such cross-party support. The House will lead the way in Europe. I hope that many other countries follow our legislation.

Last Friday, I attended the launch of Derby’s United Nations bid to end human trafficking, which the Right Reverend the Lord Bishop of Derby, Dr Redfern, very

8 July 2014 : Column 186

kindly hosted. On the previous Monday, he hosted a summit at which 80 mainly local organisations were in attendance. He explained that human trafficking was the second most profitable crime in the world. The crime of modern-day slavery is growing, and there is therefore a need to legislate against it. People are being treated as objects and commodities, and there is a need to respond.

In fact, Derby will be only the second UK city to be part of the United Nations global cities compact, if we decide to go down that route. I was not surprised to hear that large-scale human trafficking operations and widespread sexual and economic exploitation were taking place in Derby and Derbyshire. One of the most shocking examples of sexual slavery given at the talk were the findings of Operation Retriever, which happened some time ago. The operation unearthed a network of 13 men in Derby who would cruise the city streets in the hope of picking up, grooming and raping teenage girls, who were often vulnerable. Some of the girls were even imprisoned in the flats of their abusers, and subjected to acts of gang rape that were on occasion filmed. Although it is undeniable that the Derbyshire constabulary did a fantastic job in unearthing that terrible conspiracy, more should be done to assist care givers and Government agency staff in spotting the signs of sexual exploitation.

In Operation Retriever, the victims were internally trafficked. However, the later Operation Kern discovered that young women were being brought over from Latvia to work as prostitutes in Ripley. I welcome the preventive measures that the Bill will introduce, namely the police’s ability to stop and search aeroplanes, trucks and other vehicles they believe to be involved with trafficking, but there remains a huge disincentive—the risk of deportation —for trafficked foreign nationals to contact the police to alert them to their situation. In line with that, one thing that the Bishop of Derby has called for is a 24-hour hotline not run by the police that victims can call if they are being exploited. Although I am aware that such schemes exist, I believe that the Government should provide the organisations running them with more revenue to advertise their services, to prevent prolonged abuse at the hands of traffickers.

Although 79% of human trafficking involves some form of sexual exploitation, it can take many forms. In 2013, seven people were arrested for human trafficking offences and money laundering in Derby as part of Operation Atwood. Eleven Slovakian men were detained in several homes across the city in deplorable conditions, and had their identities used for fraudulent claims by their captors. Once again, the failure to recognise the signs of human trafficking led to the abuse of those vulnerable adults. It is shocking that no one identified it sooner.

The bar to fighting human trafficking and modern slavery is the identification of victims. Derbyshire constabulary has told me that one of its biggest problems is that the majority of trafficking victims it deals with are foreign nationals, many of whom do not trust the police in their own countries. The constabulary has trained its officers to gear their approach towards compassionate victim support, meaning that those vulnerable individuals will not feel intimidated to speak out for fear of reprisals or deportation. Many victims of modern slavery could be forced to commit crimes by their captors and are frightened to come forward for

8 July 2014 : Column 187

that reason. I believe that the Bill’s creation of modern slavery as a defence in such cases will encourage many more exploited people to tell the authorities about the abuse that they have faced without the fear of criminal prosecution.

An associated issue that Derbyshire constabulary has raised is that many victims cannot identify that they are being exploited, owing to the disparity between conditions here and conditions in their home nations. I was very pleased to hear that, in order to remedy that, the Derbyshire constabulary has started to produce leaflets in a variety of languages advising potential victims of their rights. I am also very pleased that the Derbyshire force has taken steps to work with partner agencies, and has started a poster campaign to notify them of the appropriate contacts should they suspect that an individual is the subject of some form of exploitation.

I am hopeful that the reforms to the law in the Bill will positively affect the lives of many thousands of particularly vulnerable people in this country. The new civil penalties against those convicted of modern slavery will ensure that their victims can survive financially after their ordeal, and the defence of modern slavery will encourage those vulnerable people to come forward without fear of reprisals.

The Bill does a great deal to help exploited people, but it must be supported by good policing and community engagement, as has been exemplified in Derbyshire constabulary’s excellent work in that regard. That is why I believe that the Home Office should do all it can to encourage in the form of media campaigns awareness of the signs of exploitation, and to encourage the appropriate training of the police force to incentivise victims to come forward.

Finally, I offer my appreciation to the Lord Bishop of Derby, Dr Redfern, for his thoughtful and thorough work in Derbyshire and the other place on modern slavery and trafficking, and for bringing this important issue to the attention of the wider community in Derbyshire.

1.59 pm

Fiona Mactaggart (Slough) (Lab): Getting elected as co-chair of the all-party parliamentary group on human trafficking and modern slavery last July, with 332 votes to my opponent’s 196 votes, was a proud moment. I stood because I care passionately about this issue. Freedom from slavery is a fundamental human right protected by article 4 of the European convention on human rights. Up until that time, I had been excluded from contributing effectively to the main parliamentary vehicle for pursuing change to protect victims of a crime which, only a few years ago, we did not even believe was still being committed.

The founder of the all-party group was Anthony Steen. He deserves our praise for that work and for continuing his work, since leaving Parliament, through the Human Trafficking Foundation. It is thanks to its work and the efforts of many voluntary community organisations—not just the Centre for Social Justice, which the Home Secretary referred to—and campaigning groups, such as Croydon Community Against Human Trafficking and Justice for Domestic Workers, shelters run by the Medaille Trust and the Poppy Project, and research bodies such as the Joseph Rowntree Foundation

8 July 2014 : Column 188

and the UK Anti-Trafficking Monitoring Group, that people are becoming aware that we did not abolish slavery when we outlawed the transatlantic slave trade two centuries ago. The difference, as the Home Secretary said, is that instead of being in the public eye, slavery is now hidden.

The Bill should help to change that ignorance. I commend the Home Secretary for inviting a study of the issue, chaired by my right hon. Friend the Member for Birkenhead (Mr Field), and allowing robust pre-legislative scrutiny of the Bill. I was glad to join that scrutiny. I am, however, disappointed that not enough notice has been taken of our unanimous recommendations. There is an international commitment to tackle modern slavery through three Ps: prevention, prosecution and protection. The Bill has mistaken those Ps and instead focused on another P—punishment—and felt that that will deliver the other three. Let me explain why it will not.

Part 1 of the Bill describes the offences. I recommend that Members read it. The language is intensely jargonish, which can and does confuse. How do I know that? These offences are exactly the same as offences currently on the statute book. Admittedly, they are in a number of different Acts at present—the Sexual Offences Act 2003, the Asylum and Immigration (Treatment of Clients, etc.) Act 2004, the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012 and the Coroners and Justice Act 2009—but, frankly, just bringing these offences together in one law and adding harbouring and receiving to transporting in the trafficking offence will not achieve the end we all want: to expand the number of cases covered. Everything else in the Bill is already explicitly in legislation or in case law.

My hon. Friend the Member for Islington South and Finsbury (Emily Thornberry) asked, on 24 June, how many successful prosecutions for trafficking offences there have been. The figures are rather disappointing. In 2008, 61 offenders were proceeded against, with 24 found guilty. The following year the figures were 47 and 25. In every year since, fewer have been found guilty: in 2010, only 16; in 2011, eight; in 2012, 12; and in 2013, 19. Were other laws being used? An additional offence was added in the Coroners and Justice Act, which came into force in 2010. That offence is translated in part 1, clause 1 of this Bill. That has not resulted in many prosecutions either. According to a question in the other place on 25 June, there were 15 prosecutions in 2011, 20 in 2012 and 18 last year.

In 2010, I secured a clause in the Police and Crime Act 2009, which criminalised men who pay for sexual service where the person they pay is subject to exploitative conduct. In the first year, only 49 people were proceeded against. I consoled myself with the fact that it was a new offence and only a part year, but in the next year only 17 people were proceeded against. In the next year, the figure was only nine. Police told me that they wanted to pursue the exploiters, but the other figures I quoted show that they are failing to failing to do that.

The Home Secretary has said that the reason she is pursuing the Bill is to lead the world. That can happen only if the architecture of the Bill works so that any police officer knows what these offences are. The plain fact is that they do not, and that is one reason why there have been so few prosecutions. However much we trumpet the Bill, it is unlikely to deliver more prosecutions.

8 July 2014 : Column 189

Although it claims to consolidate legislation, it actually just jams existing and often poorly drafted laws into one place. The Government claim that there are more prosecutions, but on the whole they are for rape and kidnapping, not slavery or trafficking. There is a reason for that, and it is not just the length of the sentences that the different offences attract: it is that every police officer knows what those offences look like.

The problem with the Bill is that the offences are not well constructed and that will make them relatively hard to prosecute. It is not because there are few such crimes. The tiny number of prosecutions happened at a time when 1,355 people were identified as trafficking victims by first responders and referred to the national referral mechanism, and 444 were confirmed as such by the NRM. We know that the NRM underestimates—that is one of the reasons why the Home Secretary has announced a welcome review. It concludes that 76% of UK nationals, 29% of EU nationals and only 12% of non-EU nationals referred to it are trafficked: just one hint that the system is more obsessed with immigration control than justice.

My biggest fear is that the failure to outline in simple language what slavery and trafficking is, will mean we still fail to prosecute a huge majority of cases. The Bill introduces a maximum life sentence akin to murder, but in Britain 80% of murderers are prosecuted. We should expect the same proportion for this heinous crime, but that will not happen unless we change the Bill.

In addition to the failure to describe the offences in a simple and straightforward way, one other reason why the Bill will not live up to the high hopes of the pre-legislative scrutiny Committee to increase the number of successful prosecutions is that it fails to protect victims sufficiently. This is not rocket science. The annual report of the US Secretary of State into human trafficking around the world made a series of recommendations for the UK:

“Ensure that law enforcement priorities to combat organized crime are effectively balanced with a victim-centered response to protect trafficking victims; ensure that a greater number of victims of trafficking are identified and provided access to necessary services, regardless of their immigration status; consider introducing a ‘pre-reasonable grounds’ decision period in which potential victims can access services before having to engage with police and immigration officers; ensure that appropriate government officials interview all incoming domestic workers in private so they are familiar with their rights and protections in the UK;”—

that theoretically happens at the moment, but in practice it does not—

“develop secure and safe accommodations for child victims and establish a system of guardianship for unaccompanied foreign children; effectively engage with multiple agencies to ensure child victims’ needs are assessed and met; ensure child age assessments are completed”.

We have to read two thirds of the recommendations to get to measures that are in the Bill.

Good quality victim services are necessary so that witnesses to this horrible crime, who are overwhelmingly its victims, are available to help prosecutions. Present arrangements, which give them 45 days housing and then too often forget and abandon them, usually with no access to counselling or other support, means that many victims run away rather than give evidence. They do not trust the police and they are frightened that their exploiter will wreak revenge on their families.

We need to do more to improve the protection of victims. The Bill includes a welcome statutory defence for people forced to commit criminal acts while they are

8 July 2014 : Column 190

enslaved, but that has been Government and Crown Prosecution Service policy for a long time. That has had to be put into legislation only because the policy was not being put into practice. The Equality and Human Rights Commission concludes that

“As currently drafted, the effect of the Bill is that a victim’s failure to object to their exploitation by means of threat, force, coercion etc would be relevant to any decision as to whether they had been trafficked. This would erode the protection for victims seeking redress by opening debate about the nature and degree of the threats, force, coercion etc. to which they were subjected. It is not clear whether this omission is an oversight or intention”.

Protection for victims is what is most urgently needed. They need security, knowing that they will not be turfed out of a shelter on to the street where, under new regulations, they face quizzing from landlords about their immigration status and, if they are EU nationals, they will not have access to housing benefit. They need help to find employment other than prostitution or whatever other degrading acts they have been forced into. They need psychological help to deal with the trauma they have experienced and, above all, children need a guardian who can be there for them, protect them and ensure that we stop losing them. The Home Affairs Committee concluded that nearly two thirds of trafficked children go missing from care and that almost two thirds of those children are never found. Why? Because their trafficker is the person they know and have been groomed by. The Government are not yet providing a tough enough alternative in the Bill.

The United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child has been explicit about the responsibilities that Governments have to provide guardians for unaccompanied and separated migrant children. This approach to guardianship is reflected in a number of European countries, most notably Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands and Sweden. They have led us; we are not leading them. Children who have been protected and nurtured are more likely to give evidence. They will not be terrorised out of it through threats to their families. The failure to protect victims will add to the poor design of the offences and mean that more traffickers get away with it.

If the Home Office had followed the advice of the pre-legislative scrutiny Committee, there would have been clear offences based on the concept of exploitation; there would be strong advocates with the power of guardianship for children; there would be a separate child offence, because children cannot consent to their own exploitation; and the Anti-Slavery Commissioner would have a duty towards victims. These are areas where the weakness of the Bill will mean that, in future, we fail to catch and convict some of the perpetrators of this crime.

As well as protecting victims and prosecuting offenders, there is a responsibility to prevent the crime. Opportunities to do that have been lost too. The orders in this Bill are one strategy, but they will not have a broad effect. We know—and recommended in the pre legislative scrutiny Committee—measures that will have a broad effect. One is effective protection for migrant domestic workers. When they had a fair visa, which allowed them to change employers if they were exploited, most were at least paid. Now, Kalayaan, the wonderful organisation that assists them, reports that nearly two thirds do not get any pay. They have their passports taken away, they sleep on the floor and they cannot leave the house.

8 July 2014 : Column 191

In the tragic case referred to by my right hon. Friend the shadow Home Secretary, someone returned to a situation of domestic servitude because, under the present immigration rules, she had no escape.

Other forms of enslavement at work could also have been prevented by widening the scope of the Gangmasters Licensing Authority, and by requiring companies to ensure that their supply chain is free of exploitation. I moved a ten-minute rule Bill on this subject in 2012, and it is great to see the approach winning all-party support. But the Home Office needs to know that a measure that is supported by M&S, Sainsbury's and Tesco, because they do not want to have slavery in their supply chain and because they do not want to compete with companies that drive down prices by using slave labour, is a pro-business move. That is why California took action and why we should now.

The USA report sets out quite simply what we need to do in the UK. It also reminds us that the victims of slavery across the world are, overwhelmingly, women and children. They are more vulnerable and also easier to be turned into commodities, which is the essence of this crime. So whether it is children forced to cultivate cannabis or to beg, or women forced to have sex with men, it is about the exploitation of one human being by another.

I am glad that we have a Bill, but sad that after all of the thoughtful and non-partisan study of it, the Home Office has rejected so much of the advice it received and left us with a Bill that is too weak.

2.14 pm

Mel Stride (Central Devon) (Con): I rise strongly in support of the Bill. At the outset, I congratulate my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary. There is much of her, it appears to me, in this Bill in terms of her determination to see that this Parliament and our country is at the vanguard of tackling this iniquitous series of crimes.

I also congratulate the right hon. Member for Birkenhead (Mr Field) on chairing the cross-party Committee and on the very thoughtful report that it produced. I also recognise some of those outside of this House—some of whom have been referred to—not least Anthony Steen. He is one of my forebears in the sense that he was the MP for Totnes and part of my seat encompasses part of what was his seat then. He has acted with great determination, veracity and integrity in the pursuit of this very important matter. The Centre for Social Justice has been mentioned and it is worth thanking also Philippa Stroud for her contribution to the issue.

Modern slavery is a very complex and difficult issue, in that it has many different forms. I welcome the fact that we have the term “modern slavery” and that we have got away from focusing simply on human trafficking, the term used prior to the Bill. We see that in so many guises, and across different international boundaries. We see everything from boys from Thailand in forced labour tending cannabis plants on farms, to Nigerian women forced into involuntary domestic servitude, to eastern European women forced into prostitution. We see a wide variety of forms of this dreadful series of crimes. If we turn the clock back more than 200 years and look at what William Wilberforce had to face, we

8 July 2014 : Column 192

see that he had, as has been said already, a much easier target. The injustice that he was addressing was at that time legal and very visible. One of the great challenges with modern slavery is its invisibility, which is why it is important to provide the kind of transparency about which many MPs have spoken.

Another worrying aspect of modern slavery is not just its amorphous form but its sheer scope. The United Nations has made clear that, depending on how the figures are calculated, modern slavery as an international global business is valued either second or third behind the illicit drugs trade or the illicit arms trade. We know from the EU figures that there are perhaps as many as 880,000 people within the EU involved in and caught up by modern slavery.

There is one aspect of the Bill on which I would like to focus briefly, which is addressing modern slavery within the business supply chain. This has been raised by a number of Members already. I speak as someone who is a dyed-in-the-wool pro-business Conservative. I have set up businesses both here and in the United States and I am the first person to stand up and rail against unnecessary red tape and those actions of Government that get in the way of entrepreneurship, wealth creation and all the good things that follow from that. However, the essential tension between having a statutorily underpinned approach, requiring businesses to tackle the issue, or relying solely on a voluntary code is between the red tape on the one hand and how effective the measures will be on the other.

As was argued cogently within the Committee report, there is one compelling argument that dictates that we should seriously look at statutory underpinning. If we have a voluntary code and a number of businesses within a particular marketplace, there is a huge disincentive for any one of them to put their head above the parapet and to start looking seriously at this problem. The disincentive is obvious, as one of the first movers in that situation might quickly end up damaging their reputation, allowing others in the marketplace to capitalise.

Any statutory underpinning must, however, be proportionate. The hon. Member for Slough mentioned the 2010 Californian legislation, which we should look at closely, because it contains the element of proportionality. There could be a grace period of perhaps a couple of years, as suggested with cross-party support, before any such measures were brought into effect. The California Act applies only to very large businesses with turnovers in excess of $100. [Interruption.] I meant $100 million, and I am grateful for the correction. I would not want to get down into micro-businesses; only those at a higher level. The requirements within the California Act are not too onerous: it envisages the appointment of an individual to a board of a very large company, which is therefore required to have a focus on the issue; and it requires that the company’s efforts to track down and deal with modern slavery be made transparent and public, for instance on its website. Much in the Act could be looked at in detail with a view to its providing the basis for some action.

Will the Minister clarify the extent to which the Government are considering such action? What are the Government’s initial thoughts, and to what extent are they considering, outside the legislative forum, co-operation with the Commonwealth, for example, and other countries, leveraging our relationships to ensure that we maximise our efforts to deal with the problems of modern slavery?

8 July 2014 : Column 193

We—the House, the Government and the Opposition—have an opportunity to put this Parliament and this country firmly in the vanguard of dealing with the iniquity of modern slavery. I wish the Bill every speed in getting on to the statute book.

2.22 pm

Mark Durkan (Foyle) (SDLP): In common with the hon. Member for Central Devon (Mel Stride), I welcome the debate and commend the Government for allowing the draft Bill to be tested through pre-legislative scrutiny. Evidence was received from many groups who have direct experience of, and insight into, issues of modern slavery, not just through being witnesses to the crimes and their effects, but through providing protection and support for victims.

I commend the right hon. Member for Birkenhead (Mr Field) and all who were involved in the Joint Committee for their work in proofing the Bill at its pre-legislative stage. I wish, however, that their efforts had received a more positive reflection from the Government than is suggested by the Bill before us today. The Joint Committee did very good work, highlighting the need for greater clarity about the offences. It provided a good service, helping to tidy up and improve the complicated, sometimes turgid language of the Bill, drawing from the existing legislation that it seeks to consolidate, by providing a clearer suite of offences. Each specific offence must be clear and the different facets of the overall crime and evil with which we are trying to deal should be made clearer. That would lead to more competent and more cogent legislation in respect of the message it communicates and the problems it seeks to recognise and address.

I am not convinced by the Government’s arguments that it is only necessary to have a consolidation of existing legislation with a few minor add-ons, as identified by the hon. Member for Slough (Fiona Mactaggart), rather than a more cogent programme as suggested by the Joint Committee. We also need to ask on Second Reading whether the Bill does enough to address the causes of the problem, or enough to protect the victims? Does it really justify the claim, which has been made, of its being world-leading legislation? We have heard from some hon. Members that in some major respects the Bill simply catches up with what is happening elsewhere, while in other respects it falls far short of that. It does not match the true working standards of legislation in other countries or indeed the structures and systems in place in other countries for achieving the role envisaged in the Bill for the anti-slavery commissioner.

Jim Shannon (Strangford) (DUP): The hon. Gentleman will, like me, be aware of other legislation pursued and brought forward in the Northern Ireland Assembly. I believe a Second Reading has taken place and that a Bill is before the Assembly for ratification. Does the hon. Gentleman feel that the Government should also take note of the Northern Ireland legislation, which covers trafficking and the sale of women for sex? Does he feel that that should be part of what the Government are considering today?

Mark Durkan: I think that that Bill has been subject to a number of different viewpoints in the Assembly, particularly in respect of the workability of its detail. Indeed, many of the campaigning organisations that

8 July 2014 : Column 194

have highlighted the shortcomings of the Modern Slavery Bill have also indicated their reservations about some of the language in the Assembly Bill, which they want to see improved, modified or qualified. Now that there are moves to legislate in a number of these areas, we want to make sure that the legislation is as competent and effective as possible.

Some of the provisions of this Bill are clearly UK-wide—for example, both the slavery and trafficking prevention orders and the slavery and trafficking risk orders are UK-wide, yet many other functions apply to England and Wales, making it an England and Wales Bill. The orders are rightly UK-wide and they can even have international or extra-territorial effects.

There is a case for saying that we need more joined-up legislation in this area, and I know that the Department of Justice in Northern Ireland, for instance, has already engaged in a consultation exercise and seems ready to take forward legislation that has a similar remit to this Bill. I imagine, however, that if a Bill in this form went before the Northern Ireland Assembly, it might be subject to amendments and could be successfully amended in some of the respects raised by hon. Members here that the Government are resisting. We could reach the odd situation whereby subsequent legislation in Northern Ireland that appears to mirror this Bill could be more than just a karaoke Bill, along the lines that we are used to in the Assembly whereby a Bill is simply replicated. The Assembly Bill could go further and embrace some of the suggested amendments that the Government have resisted here.

Sammy Wilson (East Antrim) (DUP): Does the hon. Gentleman accept that one important element that needs to be UK-wide is the ability to seize assets of criminal gangs to recompense the victims of the crime? Does he agree that that should apply regardless of which part of the United Kingdom the gangs operate from and regardless of which part of the United Kingdom their assets are held in? Their assets must be subject to seizure and then redistributed among the victims.

Mark Durkan: Yes, I do believe and recognise that. In case the hon. Gentleman is thinking that there is some kind of blur into issues surrounding the National Crime Agency, we have always been of the opinion that whatever arrangements are in place in respect of the pursuit and recovery of assets and ill-gotten gains should apply UK-wide. We want no weakening in that regard. The burden of our concern about difficulties involving the NCA did not arise from that, and does not centre on it, as I think both Home Office Ministers and the NCA itself are aware.

I accept that, in focusing on some of the Bill’s shortcomings, we may not be doing justice to some of the strengths that other Members have rightly welcomed, but I think that at this stage in its passage we need to urge the Government to think further and think better, given some of the answers that they have provided in respect of not just the offences issue, but the role of the anti-slavery commissioner. I am not persuaded by the Home Secretary’s presentation. I am not convinced that the commissioner, as described in the Bill, will be as robust and independent, in terms of drive and impact, as she has implied. Again, I think that we should look

8 July 2014 : Column 195

to arrangements that exist elsewhere, not least in Finland. We should be demanding an anti-slavery commissioner with similar scope, status and standing.

I appreciate that, as a Government Member observed earlier, we cannot create a body, or post, that is so independent that no Department or Secretary of State relates to it, in the context of, for instance, pursuing legislative proposals or being a channel for budget bids. Those of us who are calling for something more independent do not want a commissioner who would be so detached, and such a political and governmental orphan, that he would not have the necessary standing and leverage. We want that standing and leverage, in budgetary and legislative terms. However, we also want people to know that that status is entirely within the commissioner’s own independent right, is based on the authority of the role, and is not qualified by sensibilities or sensitivities on the part of a certain Minister in a certain Department. In particular, we do not want the suspicion to arise that those sensitivities are actually on behalf of a Minister in another Department or agency.

We should consider some of the grounds for qualification. In my experience, the issue of national security has been used to cover a very wide and loose variety of concerns. We do not want the work and the role of the commissioner—not just in terms of reports—to be limited or curtailed to that degree, and we hope that, as the Bill progresses, the upgrading of that work and role will go a great deal further.

Other Members have raised the issue of guardianship. I think that that is one of the issues that go to the heart of the question of whether the Bill does enough in regard to protection, although it is not the only such issue that is still outstanding. The right hon. Member for Birkenhead and the other members of the Joint Committee clearly identified the gap that continues to exist when they were considering the draft Bill. While it purported to do more in respect of prosecution and seemed to be trying do more in respect of prevention, it did not offer much in respect of protection and support. I think that the Bill in its present form is still short in that respect, and one of the most notable ways in which it is short relates to the glaring issue of child guardianships.

If child guardianships are not included in the Bill and we allow it to be passed without them, we, as a House, we will be saying “We think it will be all right on the night. We think it will somehow be okay.” When it comes to the treatment of children, we have been confronted by many derelictions, false assurances and false assumptions. It is claimed that children are being protected and their interests are being properly safeguarded, but we know that, in this respect, they are not. Other Members, including the shadow Home Secretary, have already referred to statistics showing how many children have gone missing for this reason, and have been brought back into the woodwork of exploitation, abuse and manipulated rights. If we are serious about the way in which the Bill regards children, we must ensure that guardianship is at the forefront and central to its provisions.

I ask Ministers to consider again the very logical arguments that have been advanced about the question of surer definitions relating to children. I do not think that there should be an either/or when it comes to whether we have a general defence or a particular

8 July 2014 : Column 196

offence. We know that, in plenty of other contexts, we can have both. If we are to entrust various other matters and means to the judgment, recommendation and guidance of the commissioner—and to law officers and others who are engaged with such matters—I do not see why we cannot trust people to cope with particular offences relating to someone’s status as a child, as well as with a general offence.

Let me make one final point about children and protection. We need to be absolutely clear that defence clauses such as clause 39 can extend to non-prosecution. We need to be certain that people can have the protection of not being prosecuted in the first place, rather than becoming part of the feeding line for potential case law through having to activate and use a defence. I believe that the House would want to offer those people a greater protection: a guarantee that the relevant legal officers could choose the option of non-prosecution, in full recognition of the conditions and circumstances with which they were dealing.

2.36 pm

Tracey Crouch (Chatham and Aylesford) (Con): Over the weekend, I read the online comment that “only leftwing feministas care” about the Modern Slavery Bill. I can tell you, Madam Deputy Speaker, that it would be considered unparliamentary to repeat the first response that sprang to the mind of this right winger, but the second was that the person concerned clearly had no idea of the scale of the problem, what it involved, and the fact that it was fairly prevalent across the country and was probably happening within a mile of his own home—and I have no doubt that it was a he. I was pretty furious at that point, and the comment made me absolutely determined to try to speak in the debate.

The third point that sprang to mind, almost instantly, was this: what if Twitter, or some other form of social media, had existed when William Wilberforce, who was certainly not left wing or, I suspect, a feminist, was pushing for the abolition of the slave trade? I am sure that the opposition and abuse that he received from certain parts of society would be just the same today, albeit within the 140-character limit; but I also wonder, given the power of social media nowadays—quite often as a force for good— whether his Bill would have been passed far more quickly than it was.

Wilberforce is a hero of mine, and I think that he should be a hero for most politicians, not necessarily just because he abolished a heinous trade but because he did so in the face of opposition and sustained attack over the course of half a century. It is embarrassing and shameful that, more than 200 years on, we are here, forced to discuss yet again a trade, a crime and often an industry that exploits vulnerable people on our home soil. I welcome the Prime Minister’s commitment, and the Home Secretary’s determination, to introduce a Bill to tackle modern-day slavery. They have been extremely well served by many Members on both sides of the House, and by the former Member of Parliament Anthony Steen, who has campaigned on the issue in the House and outside since 2006. His expertise is incredible, and I have no doubt that his hard work on the issue across the world has helped to produce the Bill.

I think it right for us to keep the Bill as simple as possible. While I sympathise with some of the points that have been made about supply chain transparency,

8 July 2014 : Column 197

I am not yet convinced that the Bill is the right vehicle for decisions about that. For a start, it currently covers only England and Wales, and tackling slavery across the world via corporate statements might distract people from the problems that we face here at this very moment. If separate legislation were introduced—if, indeed, legislation were required at all—I would consider supporting it. However, I am not yet sure whether putting such measures into the Bill would slow its passage through Parliament—a point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Central Devon (Mel Stride).

The Bill needs to deal with the real problem we have in the UK. No one knows the exact number of people who are forced into slavery—it remains unseen and undetected. What we do know is that 50% of the victims found in the UK are in the south-east.

I have discussed the issue with Kent police, who, working in partnership with local authorities across the county, have made some good progress in tackling trafficking and other forms of exploitation, which they calculate as being second only to the drugs trade as income generation for criminals. However, it is welcome that the Bill strengthens their enforcement capability. Kent police made the point to me in a briefing note about some of their recent operations. They found men who worked at night catching chickens in large industrial sheds, doing 16-hour shifts and sleeping in mini-buses by day. The men had no access to health services and no safety equipment was made available. Current legislation made it difficult for the CPS to be completely satisfied that there was sufficient evidence to charge. Therefore, Kent police very much welcome the fact that the Bill will simplify that and that they might be able to press ahead with charges.

Sammy Wilson: The hon. Lady highlights the difficulty with prosecutions, but given the fact that the Bill merely includes the offences in the current legislation why is she convinced that it will be more successful than existing legislation?

Tracey Crouch: I am grateful for the hon. Gentleman’s intervention because I think that one thing the Bill will do is place a positive obligation on law enforcement agencies to carry out not only enforcement but preventive work. Bringing all the provisions together will simplify the position enormously. It has been welcomed by enforcement organisations such as Kent police, who deal with the issue regularly because the county is the gateway to the rest of the UK. That is hugely important.

I will come on to some other aspects of the Bill, but I want to mention a few more examples that Kent police have tackled in recent months. They build on the examples that Members have already mentioned. One operation found vulnerable Nigerian female children were being trafficked into the UK. They were subject to “juju rituals” that were carried out to control and instil terror into the three victims, one of whom was aged 14. The offender was caught and sentenced to 20 years’ imprisonment. It is clear that the sex industry is the reason people are being trafficked into the UK.

Kent police gave another example. They worked with an eastern European country on one operation. They found victims who were being forced to have “crystal meths” in order to allow them to be placed into prostitution and subjected to horrific sexual assaults. They managed

8 July 2014 : Column 198

to escape at the point of sale; they were to be sold to another crime gang, also based in Kent. What we are doing today will enable agencies such as Kent police to conduct their work: they have been doing that as much as they can already, but they will feel that they are being supported in the long term.

I want to say at the outset that I think this is a really good Bill, but I share the view that improving law enforcement and piracy legislation is not enough. I would like to make a few comments on strengthening the Bill to make it world class. I fear that the measures protecting victims are not enough. One of the reasons we do not know the scale of modern-day slavery is that victims are often too frightened to come forward. The measures in the Bill to provide protection for child victims are welcome, but almost every briefing paper that Members have received says that the provision of child advocates does not go far enough. Many call for a system of independent, legal guardianship that can support and protect children and is more in line with best practice elsewhere. I agree with those views. At the moment local authorities are ill equipped to support victims no matter how hard they try, and often victims will go missing from care. Although advocates will play an important role, the simple truth is that unless they have the right legal powers they will remain powerless truly to protect the child.

Child victims should be a priority but we must not forget the adult victims of slavery and exploitation. They also need protection, and I agree with the view that extending the period of reflection from 45 days to 90 might help with that. Furthermore, I agree with Anthony Steen that often the protection could be offered in their home country better than in the UK, which would not only help the victim, often non-English speaking, but be more cost-effective to the taxpayer. A financial bond could be offered, the cost of which would be significantly lower than the cost of providing housing, benefits, welfare, health care and, with some victims, police protection. I hope that that will be considered.

My other main concern about the Bill as it stands—it is the main concern of others, too—is in regard to the commissioner. The appointment of an anti-slavery commissioner is welcome but they should be independent of the Home Office and have a wider remit. At present the terms of the commissioner are significantly narrower than those of others in parts of Europe with much better practices. The autonomy of those in Holland and Finland should be considered best practice and converted into ensuring that the powers of the commissioner here include statutory powers to collect and request data, monitor trends and assess the impact, and then report directly to Parliament. More important, the commissioner should not be limited to looking at law enforcement; the role should also include monitoring and supporting victims and the prevention of slavery. Again, I hope that the Minister is taking these points not as a criticism of the Bill but as ways of strengthening it.

With that in mind, I want to mention the issue of freezing assets. The measures on freezing assets are fantastic in principle but I worry that they might not work in practice. At present, the time between arrest and issuing an order to freeze assets is too long and could therefore be too late. The UK should look at Italian practices where assets are frozen within 24 hours, meaning that suspected criminal organisations cannot

8 July 2014 : Column 199

move or protect their assets; they are frozen immediately, with compensation available if they are released without charge. We should look at that, too.

My final point is not a criticism but merely a query that requires clarification. It is probably born from my misreading of the Bill. It relates to the clauses on the prevention and risk orders on prohibiting foreign travel. We know that many of the nationals who are involved in trafficking, either as perpetrators or victims, are from eastern European countries. Therefore, will the Minister clarify whether these measures comply with wider free movement principles of the European Union? I approve entirely of the principle behind the orders but it would be disastrous if they were unenforceable and not only hindered enforcement but put victims at risk.

This is a good Bill but it is not a world-class Bill. With Wilberforce’s legacy in mind, we as a nation should be taking the lead across Europe and the rest of the world. If the Bill is just about enforcement and piracy, we are making a small step forward, not the giant leap that we could. I hope that the Minister, who I know has worked extremely hard on this issue, will listen to those concerns, and see them not as a criticism of her endeavours but as a means of Parliament enabling her to strengthen the Bill. Outside the Chamber, we have the statues of Wilberforce, Pitt, Fox, Grenville and many others, who are honoured for the work they did over many years to abolish slavery. I urge the Minister to be bold and brave and to make the Bill to abolish modern-day slavery something the people whose statues are dotted around these hallowed corridors would be proud of.

2.49 pm

Lisa Nandy (Wigan) (Lab): I want to talk about what is not in the Bill, rather than what is in it, because what is in it is, on the whole, a real step forward. Hon. Members have rightly highlighted problems with the Bill, but we should not lose sight of the fact that it represents a huge step forward, and it is one that I did not think would be taken during the eight years that I worked with vulnerable children and young people, including many children who were caught up in trafficking and exploited horribly. We see a Home Secretary pushing forward measures that will help to protect and support those young people and to bring to justice the people who perpetrate these awful crimes against them; and we see a shadow Home Secretary urging her to go further. That is a good day for the House. I wanted to start by saying that, and I hope that the Minister takes my comments in the constructive way in which they are intended.

I do not think it will come as a surprise that I want to focus my remarks on children. I make no apology for doing so, because this is really about children; it is not about criminality, crime, trafficking or immigration. Too often what I have seen when working with children caught up in these systems is that every bit of their identity becomes taken over by something else, and we forget that in the middle of all this is a child who is alleging abuse. It would be inconceivable in any other situation that we would treat a child who is alleging abuse in the way that we treat many of these children when they come into contact with our systems.

8 July 2014 : Column 200

I want to explain why, as I raised with the Home Secretary earlier, it is essential that there is a separate offence of child trafficking. I took her point that a small number of people hold a different view, but a vast range of agencies and individuals with a wealth of experience in this area are pushing, pressing, begging and pleading with her and her Minister to listen to why such an offence matters.

Children are different. They are different because they cannot consent to their exploitation by virtue of their age and maturity. That is a principle that has been established internationally for decades, and we should not seek to water it down in a Bill that is supposed to protect them. They are different, too, because they cannot cope with the sorts of systems that they end up in at the moment.

A separate offence of child trafficking would send a strong signal that these children need to be treated as children first and foremost—that they are vulnerable because of their age. It would also set in train a process that would be different. In the years that I worked with child migrants, watching them giving interviews to the Home Office and going through all the processes such as the national referral mechanism, which was established just before I came into this place, I was struck by the fact that children often make unreliable witnesses. They often do not have the information about what happened to them so they cannot answer basic questions about how they got here, who sent them, what their father did for a living. These are all questions that are routinely thrown at children who are coming through the immigration, trafficking and child protection systems, and they genuinely do not know the answers to them. They often also do not tell stories in chronological order, which can be extremely confusing for people interviewing them, and that is often then used by the Home Office to undermine their credibility—I have seen that on countless occasions. They tell stories as they remember them rather than in chronological order, as adults would do. They are coached by traffickers to say certain things as well, and they are deliberately targeted by traffickers because their age makes them vulnerable. They also have a tendency to say what they think is expected of them and what the adult wants to hear.

All these things mean that the process children go through has to be different. We have to make sure that we treat these children who are alleging abuses in the way that we would treat any other child. That is why a separate offence with a lower threshold for child trafficking, recognising the very particular circumstances around children, is essential.

This Bill refers to taking someone’s vulnerability into account, and it states:

“For example, regard may be had to any of the person’s personal circumstances (such as their age, family relationships, and any mental or physical illness) which may make the person more vulnerable than other persons.”

That is so weak as to be almost ineffective before it has even been passed into law. It says regard “may” be had, but regard must be had to those things, and it says age “may” make a person more vulnerable, but age always does. A child cannot consent to their exploitation and that is not at all clear in the Bill. If anything, this Bill makes the situation worse because it makes it incredibly confusing. Without this being changed, we are not

8 July 2014 : Column 201

going to get the truth from these children and we are not going to get the prosecutions that I am sure the Home Secretary genuinely wants.

With regard to a point made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Birkenhead (Mr Field), this measure needs to go alongside a definition of what constitutes a child, because the Bill contains references to age in clause 1 and to being young in clause 3, so it is inconsistent and confusing. We have always been clear that for the purposes of the law, unless there are exceptions—and there are some exceptions—a child is somebody who is under the age of 18, and I do not see any reason why we would not make that clear in the Bill. It is confusing otherwise.

I take on board the Home Secretary’s point about the difficult issue of age assessments. That has been troubling Home Secretaries and Home Office Ministers and children’s Ministers since I was born. Certainly I know that there were debates in 1983—some Members might even remember them, but I will not name them—about whether it was appropriate or possible to determine children’s ages by X-ray, which is one of those awful debates that seems to resurface with alarming regularity every decade before it is rightly killed off because it is immoral and inaccurate.

There are two ways to solve the problem of age assessments. One is to have the presumption that unless there is good evidence to the contrary, that young person is a child, and I strongly welcome the measure that seeks to do that and congratulate Ministers on introducing it. The second way to do that is to do something the Immigration Law Practitioners Association spent several years working on in its report, “When is a child not a child?”, and that is to set up a series of regional age assessment centres that are capable of determining the age of the child, taking it out of the hands of immigration officers and local authorities—both of whom have an interest in the outcome because if the person turns out to be a child, local authorities have to support them, and if they turn out to be an adult, the Home Office has to support them—and putting it into the hands of children’s experts. That is the way to do it and I am very sorry that progress on that seems to have completely stalled. The Government would do well to look at it again if they really want to get the measures right for children.

There is no way of separating out what is happening to children who have been trafficked, and the trafficking systems and child protection systems that have been put in place, from what is happening in the immigration system. Not all of these children come through the immigration system, but, by God, an astonishing number of them do. When I worked for the Children’s Society with refugee and migrant children, we looked at the children in our projects who had been trafficked. We found that on average they had been in contact with eight or nine separate agencies or organisations before they came to us and we discovered that they had been trafficked. I say that not to claim that we were better than those other agencies, but because it made me wonder how many young people we were letting through the net—how many were going on to other agencies before this fact was discovered, and how many were never discovered to have been trafficked.

The immigration service is one of the key institutions that such children come into contact with, and the way they are treated in it has an enormous bearing on

8 July 2014 : Column 202

whether we ever end up identifying them as trafficked in the first place. My experience of children going through that process is that it is dehumanising, challenging and adversarial, and it works against people who are genuinely in fear of their lives, who have suffered exploitation and who have been trafficked.

Many years ago I did some training for the UK Border Agency and its staff in what to look for in terms of child protection and how to support vulnerable children who were coming into its systems. My findings surprised me. We had been pushing for a long time for better protection in law for those children. What quite often happens is that these children are seen as immigrants first and children second, and are therefore not treated properly and their concerns are not acted on. We managed to persuade the Government to extend measures in the Children Act 2004 to that group of children—and congratulations to them for doing that—so that the UK Border Agency also had a duty to promote and safeguard the welfare of children. That was a big step forward for those children. What I found when I went to do this training for the UK Border Agency was that there were staff there who were desperate to do more to keep children safe. They knew they were not getting it right. They knew that they did not have the tools, the skills and the knowledge at their disposal to be able to do that. I do not know how much that has changed, but I certainly saw it start to change before I came into this place. However, for as long as there are really tough immigration tipping-point targets that are used to refuse people entry to and to remove them from this country, and for as long as these children are part of those targets and statistics, I am not sure that those staff will ever have the space, time and confidence they need to offer a challenge when they see a child being treated badly.

This issue is relevant to this debate, because if we identify a child as having been trafficked and accept not just that they have been horribly abused, exploited and mistreated, but that they would probably be so again on their return, the right thing to do is of course to grant them status and leave to remain in this country, so that they do not have to go back and face the same situation all over again, which too many children do. That has an impact on the immigration statistics, and we are not going to solve this problem unless we take this group of children out of those statistics and targets altogether.

Having watched children go through the entire immigration process, I know that an adversarial process is not at all appropriate for those who are alleging abuse, yet that is what children who are claiming asylum and who have been trafficked are having to experience. It is absolutely horrendous to have everything about you—your background, your identity, your credibility—threatened, challenged and undermined, and it is simply not appropriate. The process is handled much better in other countries. Instead of an adversarial system, there is an inquisitorial system through which the claims the child makes are looked into, and supporting evidence is gathered and a decision is reached.

The national referral mechanism is a really important part of the process. However, I do not think that it works. I have to say that I have not worked closely with the NRM for three or four years, or had any such cases in my constituency, but I have had regular contact with those who do. There are real problems with the way in

8 July 2014 : Column 203

which children of particular nationalities are treated. I welcome the interim review, but I am concerned by the answer the Home Secretary gave to a question from my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield Central (Paul Blomfield). She said that the review would come before the conclusion of the Committee stage. It is really important that the Committee have the opportunity to consider and debate the outcome of the review, because I suspect that it will highlight that there are problems with putting children through an adversarial system that is located in the Home Office and is immigration-focused, rather than child-focused.

As I have said before, it would be absolutely inconceivable to try to construct a system for children who are alleging abuse in which they can be challenged on every single aspect of their identity, and have to fight to prove their claims against people who have an interest in not granting them the help and support they need. That is one reason why the emphasis on guardians is so important. I welcome the progress that has been made in that regard. The Bill includes something on guardians, and Ministers, the shadow Home Secretary and the shadow Minister, my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull North (Diana Johnson), should be congratulated on pushing for this.

However, if guardians are to have any influence whatsoever, they must have a statutory basis. The Government have commissioned a pilot, which will determine whether guardianship should be rolled out, without granting statutory powers to those involved in the pilot. I worked closely for many years with the excellent Refugee Council’s children’s panel, and I saw how difficult and frustrating it was to be unable to make people do the things they ought to be doing for children because it had no statutory remit. The panel did amazing things through persuasion and persistence, but the welfare of children should not rely on the persuasion and persistence of a handful of committed but underfunded individuals in one charity. We need a proper system that works for those children, and such people should be appointed at the point at which any concerns have been raised. The truth is that it is not possible to get through the NRM without that support, which is needed from the moment somebody has raised a concern; that is when the guardian must be appointed.

I want to press the Minister on an important point that I have raised many times with her colleagues and my own party when we were in government. At the moment, children who are recognised, first, as children and secondly, as potential trafficking victims, go into the care of the local authority, but nobody has parental responsibility for them. As a result, there is nobody to instruct their lawyer. Let me give the Minister a personal example. While working in this field, I came across the case of an eight-year-old child who had been brought to the UK for, we think, organ harvesting. He thought that his trafficker was his daddy. That is what he said and what he believed, and he would not be told otherwise by anybody.

My hon. Friend the Member for Slough (Fiona Mactaggart) talked compellingly about the many reasons why such situations occur. As she is aware, sometimes such children cannot acknowledge to themselves that they have been trafficked and exploited in that way

8 July 2014 : Column 204

because it is simply too earth-shattering to even begin to comprehend. Therefore, once they get it into their head that this person is their boyfriend, uncle, daddy or auntie, it can be incredibly difficult to get them to think otherwise. That eight-year-old child had a lawyer. He told the lawyer that the trafficker was his daddy and was looking after him, so the lawyer made that case in court because they were duty-bound to act on the child’s instructions. That cannot be allowed to carry on. That is why guardians have to have a statutory basis, so that there is someone with the expertise, knowledge and skills to act in the best interests of the child when they are incapable of acting in their own best interests, which, because of their age and vulnerability, they often are.

I have listened to the arguments made concerning the commissioner, and it is important that they are seen to be independent of the Home Office. The commissioner has to command the confidence of children who are going through this process and are struggling to come to terms with the fact that somebody has done this to them, and that they have perhaps gone along with this willingly and feel complicit in their own abuse. Such situations are harrowing, awful, and hard. These children are in a strange country, often do not speak the language and do not know whom they can trust. They need to look to the commissioner as a figure they can trust, and who is separate from the Home Office, which holds the balance of power over their lives. In many ways, it holds the keys to their future, because it can determine whether they are allowed to remain here with support until they have come to terms with their situation and can make a decision for themselves, or whether they will be sent back into the awful situation they faced before. If the commissioner does not have that independence, their role will be undermined from the outset.

Let me give the Minister an example of a lesson learned. The last Government established a series of children’s commissioners for the separate nations of the United Kingdom. The Children’s Commissioner for England was established as part of the Department for Education and Skills, as it then was. All the staff who worked for the children’s commissioner were originally based in Sanctuary Buildings and had DFES e-mail addresses. That immediately undermined their credibility and standing with the children, and the people who work for, advocate for and support them. Lessons were quickly learned from that. The then Children’s Commissioner, Al Aynsley-Green, was a good champion of that process, saying that we needed to be out of that building, have different e-mail addresses and be seen to be independent.

Hywel Williams (Arfon) (PC): The hon. Lady is making a very good point. The contrast between the situation of the Children’s Commissioner for Wales and the Children’s Commissioner for England was very instructive. In fact, at the time, consideration was given to not allowing the Office of the Children’s Commissioner for England to join the European circle of children’s commissioners, specifically because of that lack of perceived independence.

Lisa Nandy: Absolutely. I do not want to labour the point, but we did learn the lessons from that approach, and it would be a tragedy if we did not apply them to this most important of areas.

8 July 2014 : Column 205

I absolutely support the Home Secretary in what she is trying to do, but these children are invisible—that is a feature of how this crime works, but it is also a feature of many of the systems they are put through when they come to this country. Children who are going through the immigration process are often not seen as children first, but as immigrants, trafficking victims, criminals or perpetrators. I have come across many children who were picked up in cannabis factories, one of whom was then prosecuted for the most unbelievable offence of circumventing electricity—I did not even know that was a crime. That tells us how far we have to go; it was recognised that this young man was a child, yet he was still going through a court process when I and Chris Beddoe, a fantastic champion for children, who was at ECPAT UK at that time, came across him. Children are so invisible through this process and I say to the Minister that this Bill compounds that, not on purpose, but by accident, for all the reasons I have outlined.

As someone who has worked in this field for such a long time, I know that there have been many missed opportunities to get this right for children. I am concerned that there are children who have not yet been trafficked but who will be, because this is the sort of crime that continues day after day, year after year. There are children somewhere in the world to whom this is about to happen. If we get this Bill right, these perpetrators will be brought to justice, but if we get it wrong perhaps they never will be. Everyone in this House needs to think about that when we scrutinise the Bill. When I say to the Minister that a series of things are fundamentally wrong with the Bill, I say it in that spirit: we have a golden opportunity now to get it right for some of those brave, brave children who are going through this at the moment or who will go through this in the future. I know they will survive it and come out of it, because I have seen so many of them come through it, fight it and change their lives and those of so many others because of their bravery. But if we do not get this right for children, what an opportunity we will have missed.

3.11 pm

Stephen Barclay (North East Cambridgeshire) (Con): The hon. Member for Wigan (Lisa Nandy) speaks with both experience and passion, and highlights a number of harrowing cases involving children. I welcome this Bill because it consolidates the legislation, addressing a number of the cases she mentions. But it does more than that: it sends a powerful signal from the Home Secretary and the Prime Minister of the importance of this issue to the Government, and today’s debate shows the importance that Parliament attaches to it on a cross -party basis. May I take the opportunity to join other Members in paying tribute to the work of the right hon. Member for Birkenhead (Mr Field), who chaired the Joint Committee, and of others on that Committee? They produced a good report, and I hope that the passage of the Bill will provide an opportunity for some of its recommendations, particularly those relating to the supply chain, to be given further consideration.

I wish to pick up on a point highlighted by my hon. Friend the Member for Chatham and Aylesford (Tracey Crouch) about the remit of the anti-slavery commissioner. The appointment will be a welcome one, and one understands the logic behind the narrow focus given to

8 July 2014 : Column 206

the post. I believe the Minister said that the Government were hoping that the appointment would put a rocket up the role of the law enforcement agencies. In part 3 of the Bill, clauses 35 and 36, the remit of the anti-slavery commissioner is defined quite narrowly when it comes to working with law enforcement agencies and I wish to highlight a number of practical areas where that remit might impose restrictions that I doubt would be the will of the House.

Housing legislation often requires private prosecutions to be brought against a landlord. It is well known that those who are trafficked are often trafficked into squalid accommodation—often houses in multiple occupation. It is beyond reason to expect the victims of trafficking, who often do not speak English, do not have financial means and do not understand the English court process, to initiate private prosecutions against their landlord. Instead, we need to have a vehicle whereby referrals can be made by the police to a statutory body in order to take forward those prosecutions on behalf of the victims. It strikes me that the commissioner would be well placed to be the repository for such referrals, so that if you become aware of victims in squalid housing in your constituency, Madam Deputy Speaker, the anti-slavery commissioner has a remit to take up those cases, which would often currently fall outside the express powers of law enforcement agencies.

There is a second area where there are gaps in the existing powers of law enforcement agencies and where the commissioner would be working with them. Although a new commissioner will redefine the role—I am sure that if the commissioner were someone of the calibre of Baroness Butler-Sloss, they would redefine it more broadly —we must remember that bodies such as the Gangmasters Licensing Authority are resource restrained and do not have many of the powers they should have. In Westminster Hall debates in June 2012 and 2013, I highlighted the fact that the GLA has no powers to issue civil fines—civil penalties. I was particularly pleased that the Migration Advisory Committee report earlier this year stated that there are insufficient resources devoted to key regulatory bodies such as the GLA. So this issue has been around for some time and it remains unclear, within the narrow definition in clauses 35 and 36, the extent to which the commissioner will proactively be able to champion the addressing of some of those deficiencies, which have been known to Ministers for some time but have still not been fixed.

Clause 37 allows the commissioner to

“request a specified public authority to co-operate”.

That is a very welcome addition to the Bill, but it is silent on the interaction between the commissioner and companies. Let me give just a few examples. I am reliably informed that in my constituency there are agencies where multiple payments to workers are paid into the same bank account. That would be a relatively easy issue for a bank to address, as it could easily conduct checks that would pick up such payments, but at the moment no such pilots are doing so. I would expect the commissioner to be proactive in that space, working with the banks.

Likewise, letting agencies will often let multiple properties to the same individual. The commissioner should be collecting data on that from letting agencies and should have the power to compel letting agencies to collect such data. Yet letting agencies are clearly not public

8 July 2014 : Column 207

authorities and so public authorities will not have those data, which should alert law enforcement agencies to where the HMOs are and where the high-risk houses are. We also know that many vulnerable people are paid in cash, and so existing minimum wage legislation is not being complied with because automatic deductions are made at source. Again, the commissioner’s role in ensuring that, across government, other Departments are enforcing legislation extends beyond the narrow remit set out in clauses 35 and 36.

All that speaks to a wider point. Although I am sure it is the Government’s intention for the commissioner to have a wider remit in terms of other Departments, at the moment there is a gap in knowledge. Let me give an example from my local schools. When a child is absent from school and the school becomes aware of difficulties, its natural first response is to go to social services, and that puts pressure on the parents. The first response of schools is not to think that the parents have been trafficked and need support, or that that those children are in a HMO. They do not think about the need to address the trafficking as opposed to addressing the fact that the parents are failing. Likewise general practitioners have access to information that should be alerting the law enforcement authorities, but many GPs are not trained to recognise the warning signs they should be picking up when it comes to getting those data and sharing them with the police.

Let me provide an example from my constituency. Cambridgeshire police had great difficulty getting any information on people with injuries as a result of violence from accident and emergency in King’s Lynn. Such information could have alerted them to problems in areas such as Wisbech, but issues of data protection and patient confidentiality were quoted at them. It became difficult for them to act on behalf of victims because of the silos in which the Government were operating. The commissioner’s role in looking at that data and at working with the Department for Education and the Department of Health is extremely important.

We should also extend our consideration to the practice in our courts. A number of Members have focused on how we support victims once they have been identified. At the moment a gap exists from the end of the 40 days in which people are protected through the national referral mechanism and the date of the trial. During that gap period people often find that they face intimidation, which puts the trials at risk. They are also subject to the risk of further exploitation. I am keen to hear what we can do, in conjunction with the Ministry of Justice, to fast-track the trials so that we reduce the risk of the trial being prejudiced. There will be those who will naturally be fearful of giving evidence, fearful of the language difficulties and fearful of the different court system. We must consider how we speed up the process to reduce the risk of the prosecution being thwarted.

Finally, the international remit of the ombudsman is flagged up in the very good report from the Joint Committee. Let me explain why that international remit matters. People come to the Cambridgeshire fens to work in the agricultural sector and they are often promised jobs that simply do not exist. We can go on the internet and see adverts for jobs with recruitment agencies that have already been closed down. The Gangmasters Licensing

8 July 2014 : Column 208

Authority closed down those recruitment agencies and removed their licences, but jobs with those firms are still being advertised in countries such as Latvia. That is creating a pipeline of victims who are being brought into the country on false promises of a job that does not exist and of good accommodation that turns out to be squalid. They then quickly get into debt, which triggers the exploitation. The international remit of the commissioner is particularly important in addressing these fake adverts, which is why I hope that that recommendation will be taken forward.

This is an excellent Bill. It shows the Government’s commitment to tackling the problems of the most vulnerable in our society. I hope that, with the help of the right hon. Member for Birkenhead, some of the recommendations from the report will be taken on board as the Bill progresses through the House.

3.23 pm

Paul Blomfield (Sheffield Central) (Lab): Like other Members, I commend both the Home Secretary on prioritising and championing this legislation, and the Government on providing the House with the opportunity to grapple with a problem that transcends any single Department. I share the comments made by the hon. Member for North East Cambridgeshire (Stephen Barclay) about the need for joined-up action across Government.

The question before us today is how best to legislate in order to achieve the outcome that we all want to see. We need to look honestly at the Bill and address its weaknesses. Without such action, we will fail to meet the challenge set by the hon. Member for Central Devon (Mel Stride) when he said that he wanted this legislation to put us in the vanguard of fighting modern slavery.

Many hon. Members have said that victims must be at the centre of our response to modern slavery, and that is clearly right because they are at the centre of the crime. But experts in the field are clear that any effective response must address what my hon. Friend the Member for Slough (Fiona Mactaggart) called the three Ps—to prevent such action being exacted against another human being, to protect victims and provide remedy and restitution to those who have been harmed, and to prosecute those who have committed such acts. We need to be clear that without all three, any attempt to solve the problem will fall short. The weakness of the legislation is that the Home Secretary has apparently thought long and hard about the third pillar, which is prosecution, but has given insufficient attention to the first and second pillars, prevention and protection, on which this Bill has too little to say.

A number of Members, including my hon. Friend the Member for Slough, have talked strongly and passionately about the protections and assistance that victims require, and that is right, but I want to focus my remarks on the first of the three fronts on which modern day slavery must be fought, and that is prevention.

Prevention is included in this Bill only where a crime has already been committed, or a person is suspected of having committed a crime of slavery or human trafficking. The proposed slavery and trafficking prevention orders and slavery and trafficking risk orders in clauses 15 and 23 will enable the courts to place restrictions on the activities of those who have been convicted, or those who have been involved in an offence, but not convicted.

8 July 2014 : Column 209

I acknowledge that those are positive measures, but surely they are too late to count as true prevention because, by definition, prevention stops an act from happening at all.

It is widely recognised that prevention requires a strong labour inspection system as a first line of defence against exploitation in the employment market. Experts in this area, including Focus on Labour Exploitation, of which I am a board member, are clear that effective monitoring and enforcement of labour standards is key to preventing acts of trafficking for labour exploitation. Indeed, many cases of labour exploitation have been uncovered in high-risk sectors such as agriculture and food processing by the Gangmasters Licensing Authority. For example, in the case of DJ Houghton Ltd, 29 Lithuanian men were found to have been treated like slaves. They were used to catch free range chickens for one of the UK’s largest processers of eggs and chickens. I am talking not about small players, but major companies.

Following its UK country visit in September 2012, the Council of Europe group of experts on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings advised the UK Government to

“step up their efforts to discourage demand for the services of trafficked persons...through strengthening the role of labour inspections.”

I welcome the fact that just last month, the UK Government voted in favour of a new protocol and recommendation to the Forced Labour Convention at the International Labour Congress that called for improved labour inspections. The Government themselves were acknowledging that that was an essential prerequisite. They also called for an enforcement of labour law as a key prevention measure. This is the elephant in the room with regard to the Government’s approach to modern slavery, because the same Government who are seeking to tackle this issue have launched a comprehensive attack on labour inspectorates; limited labour inspections; and, in their eagerness to slash red tape, removed vital protections for workers.

In a report published only today, the Government’s own Migration Advisory Committee has highlighted this issue as a major problem. It has said that, because of the resources that are available to pursue this essential work, employers can expect a minimum wage compliance visit once every 250 years, and, at the current rate, face prosecution once every million years. That is the Government’s own committee.

The Health and Safety Executive has had its funding reduced by 35% and has reduced its proactive inspections by one third since 2011. Cases opened by the national minimum wage inspectorate have fallen from a peak of 4,773 in 2007-08 to 1,615 in 2012-13 and, as we know, there are very few criminal prosecutions for failure to pay the minimum wage—only one in 2010-11 and one in 2012-13.

Mr Frank Field: Does what my hon. Friend said earlier about the actual prosecution rate not give a new meaning to “a millennium goal”?

Paul Blomfield: I could not have put it better myself, and I thank my right hon. Friend for his timely intervention and for all his work on this issue, for which he has won respect from those on both sides of the House.

8 July 2014 : Column 210

It is all well and good for the Government to announce increases in fines for non-payment of the national wage, but without enforcement those increased fines exist only on paper. Instead of reforming the employment agency standards inspectorate, the Government effectively disbanded it in all but name in July 2013.

Modern-day slavery thrives in the UK, feeding off victims’ vulnerability, dependency and marginalisation. Victims are coerced through physical means, including violence, and more commonly through psychological means, including the abuse of power, deception and threats, as many Members have highlighted. Exploiters use vague employment relationships and arrangements as well as hidden costs, fees and debts owed by workers to trap people in precarious situations, preying on the vulnerability that pervades high-risk employment sectors.

Let me give another example. As we know, increasing numbers of construction workers in this country face the problem of false self-employment. Although the number of the construction work force has been falling, the Union of Construction, Allied Trades and Technicians reports that the number of self-employed workers in construction rose by 37,000 between 2009-10 and 2011-12. It estimates that about half of those are falsely self-employed. That precarious employment status leaves construction workers extremely vulnerable to abuse, as employers are absolved of responsibility for their employment rights and entitlements. Despite recognising that false self-employment is a problem, the Government have reduced safety protections for two thirds of all self-employed workers.

I urge the Home Secretary to consider extending the remit of the Gangmasters Licensing Authority into industries such as construction. Hospitality, care and cleaning are vital sectors, as they are industries where there is a high risk of forced labour and exploitation that particularly affects women.

As I said earlier, the Home Secretary deserves credit for pushing the issue of modern-day slavery to the front of the political agenda, but political decisions taken elsewhere in Government will determine whether she is successful. However well meaning her intentions, the good work in the Bill risks being undermined by the Government’s consistent attack on employee rights and protections. It is disingenuous of the Government to say that they are combating modern slavery with one hand while the other hand is actively promoting the conditions under which that slavery can take root.

Worker protections have been sacrificed through measures introduced by the Government such as reduced health and safety reporting requirements, limits on health and safety protections for self-employed workers and the introduction of fees for employment tribunals. The enforcement of GLA licence violations has been undermined by the light sentences awarded in many labour exploitation cases. Offenders receive only small fines, convictions without punishment or suspended sentences and too often victims receive no remedies.

The prevention of modern-day slavery means ensuring that the cracks in our labour protection framework that permit widespread abuse against global workers are closed. To do that, we need an effective labour inspectorate that engages with workers to gather vital intelligence about those who exploit their vulnerabilities. We need a strengthened and adequately resourced GLA, acting as an intelligence gathering and enforcement agency with a remit extended to high-risk sectors such as construction,

8 July 2014 : Column 211

hospitality, care and cleaning. We need a GLA that can enforce unpaid wages and other payments due to workers to ensure employment law is effective in practice. Finally, we need a GLA that sits within the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, not the Home Office, with employment law enforcement rather than border control as its key priority.

I hope that the Home Secretary will work with Members on both sides of the House and organisations external to the House that want to strengthen the Bill in that regard. However, the debate in which the Home Secretary needs to engage most pertinently is not the one taking place in this Chamber but the one with her Cabinet colleagues whose agenda on labour market reform and red-tape cutting has directly undermined her attempts to address modern slavery with this Bill.

3.35 pm

Mr David Burrowes (Enfield, Southgate) (Con): It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Sheffield Central (Paul Blomfield), particularly given his early remarks about the preventive work that needs to take place not just through this Bill but beyond it. Once reporting mechanisms are in place, perhaps we will have an opportunity to return to the issue in the House. Once we have taken the golden opportunity we have now to get the law right and make it effective, we should ensure that we continue the drive to eradicate modern slavery in this country and across all shores.

Like the whole House, I welcome this landmark Bill. As has been said, it follows in the footsteps of William Wilberforce, Thomas Clarkson, Thomas Buxton, Hannah More and others. It is a pleasure to be part of a Government who are leading the way in this and I commend the Prime Minister and the Home Secretary for that.

It is also pertinent to recognise that this landmark Bill follows cases that have taken place over the years, not least one that occurred in my constituency. On 20 May 2011, four victims of trafficking won a landmark human rights case when the judge ruled that the Metropolitan Police Service had breached human rights by failing to investigate their claims that they had been subjected to domestic slavery. The girls were aged 15 and under and were illegally trafficked to Britain from Nigeria. The traffickers had brought the girls into the country between 1997 and 2002 and told their parents that they would simply be helping them with their studies. When they came to the United Kingdom, they were put to work looking after children of African families in north London and my constituency. Some of them were forbidden to say anything about what they were doing and were prevented from leaving their home, whereas others were spied on by their so-called guardians. They were physically and emotionally abused.

From 2004 onwards, those girls tried unsuccessfully to get support from Enfield social services and from police officers. One said:

“It took all the courage I had to walk into Southgate police station and Enfield Social Services to ask for help in 2004 but they sent me back to my abusers and...blamed me.”

The case finally received court attention and the landmark ruling on the failure to investigate led to their receiving £20,000 in compensation. That is also something that we need to address seriously.

8 July 2014 : Column 212

In September 2007—this issue has been picked up by others, showing the wide-reaching concern in this regard—Judge Herbert considered the initial immigration decision to deport those children, against which a successful appeal was granted, and found breaches of articles 2, 3, 4 and 8 of the European convention. Even though that is an historical case, it is relevant as we need to ensure that, in enacting this Bill, we learn the lessons from the past. His judgment said:

“At present we deport far more victims of trafficking and abuse than we prosecute traffickers. In this climate victims will simply not come forward.”

It also said:

“The cycle of deception and abuse will continue and we as a society will fail those children and undermine our immigration system as a whole.”

He went on to say:

“There would appear to be many children that remain in slavery in London, and in abusive conditions who are simply unaccounted for by any agency voluntary or otherwise.”

That was in December 2007 and there was no investigation by the time of the final landmark judgment in December 2008. We need to hear those words clearly and ensure that we are not letting down those children. We must not fail them. Such cases continue in Enfield, in London and more widely in our constituencies. We need to provide for accountability, enforcement and protection of victims.

I recognise that progress has been made. Since 2009 there has been the national referral mechanism, which has gone a long way towards identifying and protecting victims. In that regard I particularly welcome clause 44, which contains the important duty to notify the National Crime Agency about suspected victims of slavery and human trafficking. We should look carefully at the interim reports to see what further progress is needed to ensure that what happened in Southgate in north London, and in other constituencies, cannot happen again.

Sadly, we do not need to rely on historical cases to appreciate the scale and depth of modern slavery, and the scale and depth of depravity. Last week, in the case to which the Home Secretary referred, Vishal Chaudhary was sentenced to 31 years for trafficking more than 100 women to Britain. The victims came from Hungary and had answered job advertisements online for administrative, cleaning and babysitting work. Women were picked up from Stansted airport and delivered to brothels in north London, including in the borough of Enfield in my constituency. They were forced to have sex with up to 20 men a day and were raped repeatedly for profit. There was a call centre operating from Hendon. Women were treated as no more than a commodity. They were used, abused, punished and discarded. The business generated hundreds of thousands of pounds and a luxury lifestyle which led, thankfully, to rightful conviction—31 years in prison for the perpetrator—and a compensation order.

People such as the perpetrator in that case are vermin and we must bear down on them. They live a life of luxury, whether in this country or abroad, and we need to hunt them down wherever they are. We can do that through financial and other means. That is why I particularly welcome the provision in the Bill to ensure that we do that and that the proceeds of crime go directly to the victims. That reparation needs to be real and long

8 July 2014 : Column 213

lasting in order to recognise the physical and psychological impact of such abuse, particularly on women, although there are male victims as well.

The health impact is profound and enduring. Most trafficked women—eight out of 10—have been physically assaulted. Victims have been kicked while pregnant, burned with cigarettes, had their heads slammed against the floor or the walls, hit with bats or other objects, dragged across rooms by their hair, punched in the face, and more besides. In addition, they have suffered sexual violence and threats to themselves and their family. It is hardly surprising that 70% of women who have been trafficked in that way have mental health problems that go on and on, beyond the reach of statutory and voluntary services. They have multiple psychological issues that affect them probably for life. We must ensure that reparation goes to the heart of these concerns—to health impacts that continue year in, year out. I pay tribute to the many charities engaged in working with those victims across our constituencies.

Clearly, there are individual stories behind the statistics, but it should be recognised that the number of children in the UK identified as having been trafficked for sexual abuse has more than doubled in the past year. With children as young as three being trafficked into the United Kingdom for sexual exploitation, it is obvious that we need to do more to drive out the traffickers and support victims.

I commend the Bill and the work that has been done, and will continue to be done, beyond legislation by organisations such as the Salvation Army, Stop the Traffik and Hope for Justice, which yesterday reminded me of its work in partnership with the police. Such partnership work has improved over the years and helps to bring about successful prosecutions, such as the case I mentioned. A recent case in which Hope for Justice was involved was that of a gang that was forcing men and women into labour. They hung those people in front of a crowd, treating human beings like pieces of meat and telling them that if they escaped, they would be killed. The gang had no regard for human life. The victims worked 20 hours a day, seven days a week, they were beaten, their food was withheld, and they lived with 15 or so people crammed into a room. We must do all we can for such victims.

That is why it is right that a key aim of the Bill is to increase successful prosecutions. More needs to happen in relation to modern slavery, but crucially we as legislators can ensure that the law is effective. Hope for Justice said that successful prosecutions, of which there have not been enough, will make it clear that modern slavery is not tolerated in this country. Law enforcement is a crucial tool through which police investigations and prosecutions can effectively prevent modern slavery. There is no better place for prevention than in the courtroom. Ensuring that that happens effectively enforces the law and, crucially, gives protection for the most vulnerable in its reach.

There is clear evidence of that internationally. I commend International Justice Mission for its work across many countries. It cites the example of the Philippines, where the partnership work between the police, prosecution authorities, local law enforcement agencies and local organisations in strengthening victim aftercare and representation, ensuring cases are properly heard, has led to a dramatic reduction of 79% in trafficking.

8 July 2014 : Column 214

The United Kingdom can take a lead, as the Home Secretary said, in tackling modern slavery globally. That means cross-Government work involving the Department for International Development and building capacity in justice systems worldwide. When laws are enforced, it is clear across countries that trafficking is reduced. Increased commitment in the justice system leads to an increase in victim services, shelter, counselling and the wrap-around care that is needed. Effective prosecution must be part of that integrated plan to combat modern slavery.

As has been mentioned, preventive measures, the rescue of victims in which many charities are involved, the prosecution of perpetrators and the care of victims must all come together. The Bill does not seek to do that. It seeks to hold to account the perpetrators and to bring together the disparate laws to make prosecution effective. We will no doubt debate that in Committee.

I am not convinced of the need for a specific child trafficking offence. There is existing legislation that can be properly enforced. Although the Bill goes a stage further with revision, it recognises the relevance and the aggravating factor of age. We must ensure that there are no unintended consequences, as I know from my own experience—I declare an interest as a criminal defence solicitor. We need to avoid problems for both the defence and the prosecution. We should be razor sharp in ensuring that this is an effective piece of legislation.

We all talk about sending messages through the legislation that we pass. We must avoid the trap of this becoming a Christmas tree Bill that sends different messages to groups, non-governmental organisations and others. We must respect their lobbying and their concerns, but we must also be sure that the Bill gets the law effective and right, and that when cases come to court, the prosecutions can go through to protect the victims.

I welcome part 3 of the Bill on the anti-slavery commissioner and its focus on best practice in law enforcement, extending the remit to identification of victims and, crucially, co-operation and working closely with national and international partners. I shall wish to explore, perhaps in Committee, the value of greater independence and accountability. For example, ECPAT has said of the Finnish national rapporteur that

“Independence, autonomy and transparency are vital requirements for discharging the Rapporteur’s duties.”

Of the Dutch national rapporteur ECPAT again said:

“A precondition to the success of the role … has been its independence.”

Part 4 of the Bill is also very welcome. I congratulate the Joint Committee on its work, which has led to part 4. I welcome the introduction of child trafficking advocates and look forward to seeing the progress of the pilot led by Barnardo’s. I know that clause 41 is an enabling clause. I will be looking for a firmer commitment to the principle of child advocacy, which should not be contingent on the success of Barnardo’s. Members across the House wish to see that principle enshrined as a statutory principle. I will be looking at “may” becoming “shall” in clause 41. A guarantee of real, crucial independence of advocacy has been found to work well and to be best practice. We must break the cycle of repetitive victimisation, abuse and exploitation of children supposedly in the care of authorities.

I look forward to the enactment of the Bill next year —2015. It is an appropriate year, 800 years after the signing of the Magna Carta, as we celebrate the rule of

8 July 2014 : Column 215

law as a foundation of our democracy. We want to see the Bill ensure that the victims of modern slavery benefit from the rule of law. If the rule of law is effective, it protects citizens from being enslaved. That is a crucial principle at the heart of the Bill. Let us unite across the House in the remainder of the Parliament to ensure that the law is as effective as it possibly can be for victims. Let us also take heed of what is written in the Bible, which is what we want to follow—let us see the captive set free.

3.50 pm

Mr Frank Field (Birkenhead) (Lab): It has been a pleasure to sit here listening to the debate, not just for the quality of the speeches, though one would expect the hon. Member for Slough (Fiona Mactaggart) to give a commanding performance. The real pleasure for me has been looking at the Government Whip, who has had to take refuge, quite understandably. As the debate has gone on, the Government Whip has become greyer and greyer. I thought that, while we would put up a good fight in this House to amend and strengthen the Bill, the main changes would happen in the other place. After listening to the unprompted interventions and speeches, it has become clear that the Government will be hard pressed to hold the line they have drawn in the Bill that they have submitted for Second Reading. There will be a clear choice for the Home Secretary to make. Does she wish the Bill to remain her Bill, or will it become a Bill that the House begins to fashion in its own likeness? I will come back to that.

I see a Whip leaving the Chamber now. I hope that she is off to one of the places where this message needs to go—No. 10. It will be hard pressed to resist the changes the Home Secretary wants the House to make to the Bill before it leaves us and goes to the other place. I wish her well taking that message. I know that, in her own style, she will make the case we are making here.

Like others, I want to put on record the basis for my interest in this topic. It is the person who is sitting in the Box below the Gallery, Anthony Steen. I would not have been committed—

Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Lindsay Hoyle): Order. We should not mention people in the Box, as much as we are tempted, and as great as the man that he mentioned may be.

Mr Field: I accept that I cannot mention the great man in the Box, at whom we are now all looking. Convention prevents me from drawing attention to his presence there or even to the fact that elsewhere, outside the Box, he is known as Anthony Steen. For it is he who ignited my interest in this area. Several hon. Members, including the hon. Member for Central Devon (Mel Stride), made that point very effectively. In many ways, when he left this House he took out to the wider world the candle that he lit in this Chamber. To all intents and purposes, it is his Bill that we are debating today: no Anthony Steen, no Bill.

However, Anthony Steen is not the only person who ought to be thanked on the record. The hon. Member for Central Devon drew attention to how quickly the debate has progressed here. It has done so because of

8 July 2014 : Column 216

three women, the first of whom is Philippa Stroud. I can mention her because she is not in the Box, Mr Deputy Speaker. When she was at the Centre for Social Justice she decided that this topic ought to be investigated and initiated the inquiry that led to the report “It Happens Here”. She is a parent of the Bill. She convinced Fiona Cunningham, who was then the Home Secretary’s political adviser, that this was an important topic in its own right and one for which the Home Secretary ought to win time from her colleagues for a new Bill. Anybody who knows how Parliaments progress knows that, as a Parliament reaches its conclusion, parliamentary time becomes not easier but more difficult to command. We therefore naturally applaud the Home Secretary’s decision —for she is of course the third person. Philippa’s work, Fiona’s work, the work of the all-party group and the work of the person we cannot mention in this Chamber would have come to naught had the Home Secretary not made the crucial decision that there should be a Modern Slavery Bill. Although she has had to go to other meetings, she will take great heart from the fact that in two areas on which she has not been totally happy with the Bill as introduced—I think it is reasonable to say that—she will probably get her way.

Ian Paisley (North Antrim) (DUP): Will the right hon. Gentleman join me in saying a word of thanks and gratitude to all the volunteers, whether they be church groups, individuals or community associations across this great kingdom, who have supported and pushed the Bill, giving it unstoppable momentum?

Mr Field: Indeed. The Bill is extraordinary because, when I first came to the House, I would have thought that if anyone was going to push, mould and lead public opinion and galvanise the numbers who have come to lobby us, it would be the trade unions. I remember a day quite early in my parliamentary career when the Churches had their first lobby on overseas aid. I went down St Stephen’s steps with a new Conservative Member, and before us was a mass of people who not only filled the area in front of St Stephen’s entrance but went along the road, over Lambeth bridge and back towards the hospital. I saw that younger Conservative Member thinking, “Wow! If the Churches can turn out in these numbers, they are clearly able to fight and punch way beyond the weight of Sunday attendance.” I willingly pay tribute to the role the Churches have played in helping to push this issue up the political agenda.

There are two issues on which I thought we would have to wait for decisive action in the other place, but I now think that we might get that action in this House. I am sure the Whips have taken back the message that the membership of the Committee now has to be even more controlled than normal; otherwise, the Government will lose control of the Bill in Committee. We might be able to take action on Report, when the results of the Committee’s deliberations come back to the Floor of the House.

Two areas of concern have been expressed. On children, the hon. Member for Enfield, Southgate (Mr Burrowes) did not say it, but when push comes to shove it is clear where his vote will be on this golden opportunity we are being offered to make not a really good Bill but a world -leading Bill—his colleagues might be with him on that. Similarly, the hon. Members for Cambridge (Dr Huppert)

8 July 2014 : Column 217

and for Central Devon mentioned supply chains, which is the second issue. Of course we will be clever and not rub the Prime Minister’s nose in it. We want merely to make a small addition to the Companies Act 2006, under which companies have to report on human rights. Would it not clarify matters if we said that companies also have to report on modern slavery?

Indeed, as the Bill proceeds and more owners of industry in this country realise the risk to which they are exposed through their supply chains, they will be the ones who say to the Prime Minister, “We want the protection of the criminal law. We do not wish, by inaction on our part, to be indicted for this most heinous crime of not paying the attention we should have paid, so far as possible, to clearing our supply chains of human slavery. We want to be able to stand up in court and say that we have fulfilled, in both the letter and the spirit of the law, what the British Parliament has laid down as our responsibility. We stand bravely in the accuser’s box to make our plea.”

The main point I wish to make is that although progress has been made very quickly—the Centre for Social Justice published its report only last Easter and already we have a Bill that is well on its parliamentary way, and well on its way to being improved still further—the truth is that much of the heavy lifting will have to be accomplished later. I am talking about the victims. We have a victim-centred Bill, but none of us should underestimate how big the job will be to try to repair some of the damage that victims have suffered as a result of by being enslaved, either in this country or elsewhere.

The all-party group on hunger and food poverty heard evidence on Monday from Jack Monroe, and it was immensely moving. She has a huge talent for the English language, yet even she had difficulty telling us how broken she had felt when having to feed her child from a food bank. Even now when she hears an unexpected rap at the door, she fears that it is the bailiff or a man coming to cut off her electricity or evict her from her home, even though she is now in calmer territory. If that can happen to someone in this country as a result of being subjected to hunger, it will take more than 45 days to make amends to people who have been broken and humiliated by the experience of being enslaved.

Therefore, we should go joyfully to the task of strengthening the Home Secretary’s hand and fulfilling her wish that this should be a world-leading Bill. As has been said, this could be one of the greatest issues for the Commonwealth since the fight against apartheid, giving it real purpose and the opportunity to change the world. However, let us not kid ourselves. Once the Bill is through and the Home Secretary has got her way, we will face the huge task of not only rescuing enslaved people, as the hon. Member for Enfield, Southgate said, but trying to put them back together again after being so abused by the wicked slave owners who until now have operated all too freely in our country.

4.2 pm

Andrew Selous (South West Bedfordshire) (Con): It is a pleasure to follow the right hon. Member for Birkenhead (Mr Field), and indeed all the right hon. and hon. Members who have spoken so well in this important debate. It is truly shocking that more than 200 years

8 July 2014 : Column 218

after William Wilberforce abolished both the slave trade and slavery throughout the British empire, we are back in the House of Commons having to enact a Modern Slavery Bill, because not only has the job not been done, but slavery around the world is worse today than it has ever been. The issue is at one and the same time completely global and very local. We have heard my hon. Friend the Member for Enfield, Southgate (Mr Burrowes) talk about a shocking case in his constituency, and I will describe an example of modern slavery in my constituency later in my remarks.

When we consider how modern slavery is allowed to happen, we need to keep two words at the front of our minds: violence and fear. Wherever there is modern slavery, forced labour, domestic servitude or people caught in the sex trade, we find violence and fear. That is how the slave traders maintain their hold over their victims, often for many years and sometimes for many decades.

If we look at the global nature of this issue, we will see that, in the 400 years or so that the slave trade was in operation, some 11 million slaves were taken from Africa to be traded across the north Atlantic and elsewhere. Today there are a number of different estimates, but, given the nature of the issue, it is impossible to get accurate figures. In his book “The Locust Effect”, which was published this year, Gary Haugen, who heads up the International Justice Mission, estimates that some 27 million people are in slavery today around the world. That is well over twice the number of slaves taken out of Africa over a 400-year period. On the money made from this evil business, looking at forced labour alone, Mr Haugen estimates a profit of some £7 billion accruing to the slave traders.

We need to think about where slavery is most prevalent in our world, in order to get an idea of its scale not only in the United Kingdom, which is the focus of this Bill, but in a global context. “The Global Slavery Index 2013”, published by the Walk Free Foundation, which is well thought of by President Clinton and former Prime Minister Tony Blair, among others, estimates that there are 14 million slaves in India—by far the biggest figure—and 7 million in Pakistan, with 1 million in the brick factories of Pakistan alone. It names China and Nigeria in third and fourth positions respectively. Other countries are mentioned, including Mauritania, which is the country with the highest proportion of its population—about 4%—in slavery. That gives a bit of context.

Around the world—in India and elsewhere—very few investigations and prosecutions are taking place, which is what happens when a country does not have a properly functioning criminal justice and law enforcement system. We must never take such matters for granted in our country, and I do not think our own international development work will be successful unless we put more effort into helping those countries to which we are sending UK aid to develop their own criminal justice and law enforcement systems.

To return to the United Kingdom—as I know you want me to do, Mr Deputy Speaker—I welcome the Bill and commend the Home Secretary and the Minister for introducing it. The new prevention orders, the establishment of the anti-slavery commissioner and the protective measure of a statutory defence for victims of slavery or trafficking are all welcome, and the child trafficking advocates are also an important addition to our armoury.

8 July 2014 : Column 219

I know that the Government will reflect in a mature and sensible way on what is said in Committee. In their response to the pre-legislative scrutiny, the Government said on the issue of supply chains:

“We intend to build on the existing legislative framework, and work with business to establish what more can be done…and develop an evidence base on best practice.”

That is an open and excellent attitude to take.

In my own constituency early one September morning in 2011, 200 police officers from Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire turned up at a Traveller site just south of Leighton Buzzard and liberated 24 people who had been kept in slavery. Some of them had been there for 15 years or more. The youngest—one of my constituents—was only 17; I think that the oldest was 57. Of those 24, 18 were British citizens.

The victims had been picked up in the most appalling and callous ways imaginable. Many of them had been in homeless shelters or soup kitchens, and one had been about to commit suicide. They were promised friendship, work, accommodation and food, but of course none of those things materialised. The regime was very brutal. When they arrived, their heads were shaved, just as happened in the concentration camps. They were made to get up at 5 am every morning, and they worked all day on block paving and other manual and construction work. Indeed, some of them were trafficked from the United Kingdom to work in Scandinavia.

I commend Bedfordshire police for the effort they put in—they assembled 200 officers on a Sunday morning, which no police force does lightly—but the effort was more than justified, and what it managed to achieve was excellent.

Bob Stewart (Beckenham) (Con): After Bedfordshire police acted to take those people into safety, did they ensure that they had someone they could trust to look after them carefully, with their best interests in mind, because that is the real spirit of the Bill? Once we identify people in slavery, we have a real duty to look after them properly, care about them and put them back into society balanced and happy.

Andrew Selous: My hon. and gallant Friend is absolutely right. I can reassure him that the victims were placed in the very capable hands of the Salvation Army in Bedford, and they were very well looked after. I have since met several of the victims. Indeed, some of them came to this House and saw the exhibition in the Upper Waiting Hall organised by Anthony Steen and others. There are some good news stories, in that some of the victims are very well integrated back into society, and are free from the terrible experiences that they went through.

On the issue of reparation, which has been talked about today, I am pleased that the Government said in their response to the pre-legislative scrutiny report that they are committed to quicker and easier reparation. I want such reparations to go to the victims of crime, but I ask the Government to think about how we can get some of the money to the police forces that have undertaken major operations. It is not cheap to send in 200 police officers early on a Sunday morning, given the overtime costs involved. If we made sure that the police gained from slave traders’ illicit profits, that would encourage

8 July 2014 : Column 220

more chief constables and perhaps more police and crime commissioners to be more willing to commit significant numbers of officers to stamp out the appalling crime that we are all trying to get rid of.

Within Bedfordshire, we have Bedfordshire Against Modern Slavery, which was set up by an excellent councillor, Kristy Adams. I suggest that hon. Members try to encourage some form of grass-roots movement in their areas to combat modern slavery, working alongside the police, the courts, the local authority and central Government. We all have to be involved in this issue together, and the public need to be the eyes and ears of the police. For 15 years or so in my constituency, people worked openly in the community, block paving people’s drives. Did none of the customers of the block paving firm using these slaves think that something was wrong? I think that if people had been slightly more aware and had reported their suspicions to the police, we could have broken this evil slave ring much earlier. The public therefore have a role.

Businesses also have a role, and all decent businesses will of course want to make sure that their supply chains are free of any slave-traded products. The courts and the local authorities have a role to play. We have not heard much about police and crime commissioners, but they are key people up and down our country who have an important influence on how the police spend their time and what they prioritise. Perhaps the sad truth is that police and crime commissioners perceive that there may not be many votes in targeting resources at the issue. Perhaps organisations such as Bedfordshire Against Modern Slavery have a role in ensuring that police and crime commissioners know that the public, as well as Members of Parliament, care about the issue. We want the police to be fully involved.

I pay tribute to the many organisations outside the House that do amazing work to keep the subject on the agenda. The International Justice Mission does that amazing work around the world in mounting prosecutions in many countries where law enforcement is frankly not up to the mark. It has been responsible for liberating many people. Its UK chairman, Raj Parker, and Terry Tennens, its chief executive, deserve credit. Members of Hope for Justice were in the Palace of Westminster only last night, briefing MPs. They estimate that we have 10,000 victims of modern slavery here in the UK. Of course, it is incredibly difficult to get accurate figures—we simply do not know—but that is a shockingly large number, even though it is much smaller than in other countries. Finally, there is the Human Trafficking Foundation and Anthony Steen, who has been mentioned. To me, he is a modern, mini Wilberforce. Many of us are grateful to him for his continued efforts in this campaign, in which we are all united.

4.16 pm

Kerry McCarthy (Bristol East) (Lab): It is the done thing when one rises to speak to say that the previous speakers have been excellent. However, that is true of today’s debate. It is always difficult to single people out, but I worked with my hon. Friend the Member for Wigan (Lisa Nandy) in the previous Session. She had worked for the Children’s Society and is obviously knowledgeable and passionate. During an event at the Labour party conference she introduced me to some children who were in a vulnerable position, and I know

8 July 2014 : Column 221

just how much she cares about the issue. The Home Office should listen to what she has to say from that front-line perspective of working with children who have been affected by such issues.

As the hon. Member for South West Bedfordshire (Andrew Selous) said, it is shocking that we are discussing this measure so many years after the House debated the abolition of the slave trade and then the abolition of slavery. I represent one of the seats in Bristol, which of course has a historical connection with the slave trade. I was recently at a memorial for Tony Benn in the John Wesley chapel, the oldest Methodist building in the world, in the city centre. We were told that when John Wesley preached in the pulpit against slavery, riots were instigated by congregations of the other churches, which had been built by the slave traders, and very much supported the slave trade. As I said in my maiden speech, the church of St Mary Redcliffe rang the bells when the first attempts in Parliament to abolish the slave trade failed because the congregation thought that it was a good thing for the city.

Although we are very aware of the legacy, many people in Bristol would be unaware of the extent to which slavery still exists in this country. There was a horrifying case in the Bristol papers last month, when we found that people had been victims of modern slavery on our doorstep. Avon and Somerset police secured the conviction of a woman, who was sentenced for only three years, which is probably on the lenient side, for human trafficking and forced labour. She had lured 11 known victims from Lithuania to work for a pittance in Bristol. We were not sure whether they were told that they would have to pay for their travel, but the cost was deducted from their wages, which were much lower than the minimum wage, and their rent was deducted. They were not quite kept captive, but they were locked in the building without keys and could come and go only through windows. Their job was to collect those charity bags that are often delivered through doors and people are asked to leave them out filled with clothes. They were definitely exploited. They were not paid at all. If they asked for the wages they had been promised, they were threatened with eviction. As I said, the woman responsible has just been given a soft sentence of just three years. Only last week, we heard that four men were arrested in Cardiff and Bristol as part of another long-running police investigation into forced labour.

The Lithuanian case came to light after social services contacted the police. I congratulate the local agencies on bringing that case and securing the conviction. Some of the victims are being helped by the Salvation Army, as the victims were in the case highlighted by the hon. Member for South West Bedfordshire. The local police and crime commissioner has told me that Avon and Somerset police are focusing on increasing their intelligence picture and training staff to improve the response to human trafficking. They are working with Unseen UK. Many Members who have taken an interest in the debate will be aware of that charity—it is a national charity but is Bristol-based. The founder visited an orphanage in Ukraine. When he asked what would happen to the children when they left the orphanage, he was shocked to hear that many would be trafficked into the sex trade—some would be trafficked into forced labour, but most were trafficked into the sex trade. Unseen has done an incredibly good job, particularly in working with the victims of sex trafficking in Bristol and elsewhere.

8 July 2014 : Column 222

The local police now form part of a multi-agency response through the greater Bristol anti-trafficking partnership, and are improving their early response for victims by training 100 first-response officers. As my hon. Friends the Members for Slough (Fiona Mactaggart) and for Wigan and others have mentioned, one obstacle is the time limit on funding for intensive support under the national referral mechanism. Many victims require much longer support than the 45-day recovery and reflection period. The Salvation Army does a wonderful job, but we cannot continue to rely on such organisations stepping in on a voluntary level. We need to ensure that those mechanisms exist. It should not depend on whether the places where the victims are freed from slavery happen to have an effective Salvation Army operation.

Bob Stewart: Some charities suggest that everyone who is rescued should have a guardian to ensure that they are properly looked after. Does the hon. Lady agree that it should not just be the Salvation Army, but a state-run system?

Kerry McCarthy: That is a valid point. The problem with leaving things to the voluntary sector is that provision can be piecemeal and ad hoc. In some cases, voluntary organisations will provide a brilliant service, which is exactly what is needed, but unless we put things on another footing, we can never be sure that people are not slipping through the net, particularly children—a point that my hon. Friend the Member for Wigan made strongly in her speech.

We must also look overseas to see the other end of the chain. In my capacity as a shadow Foreign Office Minister, I recently met the Pacific Links Foundation, a charity that works to combat trafficking in Vietnam and helps victims with reintegration services if they return there. The foundation gave harrowing accounts of boys trafficked to the UK to work in cannabis farms. Girls were trafficked for forced marriages or to work in brothels or illegal nail bars—sometimes, the illegal nail bars were also brothels. Protecting such vulnerable children requires international co-operation. We must also consider the poverty, and lack of education and opportunity, that leaves people vulnerable to trafficking in the first place. They can also leave people vulnerable to having their children trafficked—people can end up working with traffickers and allowing their children to be taken abroad. Pacific Links highlighted to me why it is so important accurately to identify trafficking victims as vulnerable people in need of support. Children returned to Vietnam without any support systems risk being trafficked again. They or their families could be liable for a perceived debt to the traffickers, or they could be rejected by their communities if they are known to have worked in the sex trade.

In the light of the information that Pacific Links gave me, I encourage the Home Secretary to respond constructively to the criticism that the Bill does not go far enough on specific protections for children, as my hon. Friends the Members for Wigan, for Foyle (Mark Durkan) and for Slough, and others, have mentioned. It is not a matter of having a specific provision relating to trafficked children in the Bill. We should also guarantee independent legal guardians, and ensure that children are not liable for prosecution so that they do not have to invoke a statutory defence.

8 July 2014 : Column 223

While I welcome the general thrust of the Bill, the omission of any provisions to legislate against slavery in supply chains is noticeable. There has been a groundswell of support for robust action and increasing recognition that voluntary agreements are insufficient. I was contacted by many constituents, both in the run-up to this debate and before the Queen’s Speech, supporting the campaign to legislate against slavery in the supply chain. They point out that many businesses back the Joint Committee’s recommendation for such legislation.

Since then, The Guardian has published its six-month investigation into the Thai fishing industry, which has been mentioned, with evidence that slaves have been forced to work for no pay and under threat of extreme violence, to produce goods sold in UK, US and European supermarkets. In 2012, the EU imported more than $1 billion-worth of seafood from Thailand. The paper reports that the workers were bought and sold like animals and held against their will on fishing boats. They included migrant workers from Burma and Cambodia. Other reports, such as the Environmental Justice Foundation’s “Sold to the Sea” report, provide similar accounts. A report by Finnwatch into Thai factories made allegations of forced and child labour, illegally low wages, excessive working hours, abuse by managers and unsafe working hours. A British man, Andy Hall, is currently facing prosecution in Thailand for his efforts to expose those matters.

I raised with the Home Secretary earlier the fact that the Prime Minister’s spokesman, when asked about the need to legislate against slavery in the supply chain, said that it is up to consumers to make a decision. The Home Secretary responded to me by drawing an analogy with Fairtrade. I would say that that is completely wrong. I am a great believer in consumer power, whether supporting products that are not tested on animals or supporting Fairtrade products. The difference is that we do not say that products not produced by Fairtrade means are completely unethical and immoral. I would argue that Fairtrade is the better alternative, but there is nothing horrific or criminal about the way the other products are produced. With slavery in the supply chain, it is patently obvious that there is.

Consumers simply do not know whether something is produced by slave labour. Yes, we can have public campaigns where we say, “Don’t buy Thai seafood because it might be linked to slavery in the supply chain and we think north American seafood is more trustworthy”, but most consumers will not know unless we have logos saying that something is produced by slaves or not produced by slaves. That sends out a message that something being produced by slaves is somehow all right, like going for dolphin-friendly tuna, but that is an invidious message to send. Consumer power is important in lobbying MPs, but we should first legislate against slavery in the supply chain.