Abolition of the Slave Trade

Oral Answers to Questions — International Development – in the House of Commons at 11:30 am on 28th March 2007.

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Photo of Anthony D Wright Anthony D Wright Labour, Great Yarmouth 11:30 am, 28th March 2007

How his Department is marking the 200th anniversary of the abolition of the slave trade.

Photo of Gareth Thomas Gareth Thomas The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for International Development, Party Chair, Co-operative Party

Last month, we published the booklet "Breaking the Chains", which highlights the ongoing need to fight slavery and the clear link between modern slaves and global poverty. In October, in partnership with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the International Labour Organisation and Anti-Slavery International, we will hold a conference to explore what further action we can take.

Photo of Anthony D Wright Anthony D Wright Labour, Great Yarmouth

I thank my hon. Friend for that response and commend the book to everyone. It is a sad reflection of society that it was just 200 years ago that we had to abolish slavery. However, it is also an indictment of today's society that slavery still exists in all forms, whether that is child slavery or human trafficking. In India, with the Dalit system, individuals are paid just 80p a day and have to try to survive on that pittance. Does my hon. Friend agree that we will need to do an awful lot more before we can say that slavery has truly been abolished?

Photo of Gareth Thomas Gareth Thomas The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for International Development, Party Chair, Co-operative Party

I agree that we have an awful lot more to do as an international community before we can start to say that modern slavery is coming to an end. My hon. Friend is right to highlight the specific circumstances of the Dalits in India. I hope that he will be reassured by our commitment to helping those Dalits to improve their circumstances through our efforts on primary education in India. My right hon. Friend the Chancellor committed a further £200 million of aid to invest in primary education, which is designed to help all Indian citizens, including Dalits, to access the education that they need.

Photo of Peter Bone Peter Bone Conservative, Wellingborough

Does the Minister agree that the practical step that the Government could take to mark the 200-year anniversary of the abolition of the slave trade would be to create in this country a human traffic commissioner who would be independent of the Government, as has been done in the Netherlands, to deal with the equivalent of today's slave trade: human trafficking?

Photo of Gareth Thomas Gareth Thomas The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for International Development, Party Chair, Co-operative Party

There is a series of practical steps that the Government can take, and are taking, to address modern slavery. One of the most obvious things that we can do is to continue to address poverty in Africa and the Caribbean, as we are doing. It is one of the reasons why Labour Members have spent so much time and effort trying to secure a debt relief deal. One of the benefits of such a deal is that debt relief in Nigeria will help to pay for an extra 120,000 teachers so that we can get another 3.5 million children in school. Such initiatives are probably the surest way to help to tackle modern slavery.