Modern Slavery

Oral Answers to Questions — Home Department – in the House of Commons at 2:30 pm on 6th July 2015.

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Photo of Tania Mathias Tania Mathias Conservative, Twickenham 2:30 pm, 6th July 2015

What further steps her Department plans to take to eliminate modern slavery.

Photo of Theresa May Theresa May The Secretary of State for the Home Department

The Government are committed to stamping out the abhorrent crime of modern slavery. We are implementing the Modern Slavery Act 2015, providing the necessary tools to ensure that there are severe penalties for those who commit these heinous crimes, and enhancing the support and protection for victims. We are trialling advocates for trafficked children and have established Border Force safeguarding and trafficking teams at major UK ports of entry, who will work in partnership with local agencies and feed intelligence to the National Crime Agency.

Photo of Tania Mathias Tania Mathias Conservative, Twickenham

I appreciate what is being done at ports of entry, but a major challenge is to identify victims once they are in households. How will the Secretary of State ensure that victims are identified in my Twickenham constituency and constituencies across the country?

Photo of Theresa May Theresa May The Secretary of State for the Home Department

My hon. Friend makes an important point because, obviously, modern slavery is often a hidden crime. The Government have been raising awareness of it so that anybody who identifies behaviour or anything else that they feel is suspect knows that they need to take it to the police. Individuals can then be referred to the national referral mechanism and we can ensure that the proper support is available to victims. The Government fund that support and it is currently provided through the Salvation Army. I pay tribute to the

Salvation Army, which celebrates its 150th anniversary this year and has done good work in society across all those 150 years.

Photo of Fiona Mactaggart Fiona Mactaggart Labour, Slough

The legal judgment last week about the detained fast track process followed the finding of the Helen Bamber Foundation earlier this year that in two thirds of the 300 cases that had been referred to it, there were signs of torture or trafficking. It is clear that the detained fast track is being abused by the Home Secretary’s officials. I am glad that it has been suspended, but will she promise the House that the suspension will continue until it has had an opportunity to consider Stephen Shaw’s report?

Photo of Theresa May Theresa May The Secretary of State for the Home Department

As I have indicated, we are reviewing the detained fast track. The Minister for Immigration announced to the House that we had suspended it. We are checking how we deal with these people to ensure that we mitigate the risk that those who have been subjected to torture could, inadvertently, be taken into the detained fast track. I say to the right hon. Lady that there will be many opportunities in the coming months to raise this subject in the House.

Photo of Peter Bone Peter Bone Conservative, Wellingborough

The Home Secretary is right that the Salvation Army does an excellent job with adult victims of human trafficking, but that does not apply to child victims of human trafficking, who are given to local authorities to be looked after as missing children. Those children are often re-trafficked. Will she consider extending the Salvation Army programme to child victims?

Photo of Theresa May Theresa May The Secretary of State for the Home Department

My hon. Friend raises an important point, because one concern for us is that victims of trafficking who are taken in by local authorities might be removed from those authorities, and in effect re-trafficked, as he says. We are trialling child advocates in a number of local authority areas to see what system works best for children who are the victims of human trafficking.

Photo of Jess Phillips Jess Phillips Labour, Birmingham, Yardley

Considering the thousands of victims of trafficking who have gone through the NRM, will the Home Secretary tell the House how many human trafficking-related convictions there were in the last 12 months? How does that figure fit with the Prime Minister’s assertion that we are tackling those who commit these crimes?

Photo of Theresa May Theresa May The Secretary of State for the Home Department

The very reason why the last Government, in which I was Home Secretary, brought forward the Modern Slavery Act was to heighten the ability of our police and prosecutors to bring people to justice. There has been concern for many years, since before 2010, about the lack of prosecutions for modern slavery. The Act gives the police extra powers and has increased the sentences for people who commit this heinous crime. It will improve the ability of the law enforcement agencies to bring people to justice. That is why I look forward, under the Act, to seeing more of the perpetrators of these crimes brought to justice.