Modern Day Slavery

The Right Hon. Member for Meriden, Representing the Church Commissioners Was Asked – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 12th July 2018.

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Photo of Bob Blackman Bob Blackman Conservative, Harrow East 12:00 am, 12th July 2018

To ask the right hon. Member for Meriden, representing the Church Commissioners, what progress the Church of England has made on its work to tackle modern-day slavery; and what steps the Church of England is taking to educate school children on that issue.

Photo of Caroline Spelman Caroline Spelman The Second Church Estates Commissioner

I am very grateful for that question, because it allows me to pay tribute to the work of the Bishop of Derby, who has just announced his retirement, but who has been the Church of England lead in the House of Lords in tackling modern-day slavery. It was Bishop Alastair who pioneered the idea of creating an information pack for children in schools so that they could understand the horror of the history of slavery and this country’s involvement in it. He did that in the diocese of Derby, but we have learnt a great deal from it, and the scale of the initiative will now be extended.

Photo of Bob Blackman Bob Blackman Conservative, Harrow East

On a recent visit to Romania, the ministry in charge of Romanians abroad was very concerned about the number of women who were being trafficked for sexual purposes across the European Union and the number of children who were being forced into modern-day slavery. What more can the Church do to highlight the problem and combat it?

Photo of Caroline Spelman Caroline Spelman The Second Church Estates Commissioner

The Church of England has always had a great heart for the marginalised, the excluded and the vulnerable. Through the “We see you” campaign, we are starting to raise awareness in society of what we often do not see around us. The Church is working in all schools to raise children’s awareness of this modern form of slavery, together with the charity Just Enough UK—as much as anything, to help them to protect themselves from becoming victims.

Photo of Michael Tomlinson Michael Tomlinson Conservative, Mid Dorset and North Poole

Commercial sexual exploitation involving trafficking is widespread. Does my right hon. Friend agree that it is time to consider supporting the Nordic model and making it illegal to pay for sexual services, in order to reduce such exploitation?

Photo of Caroline Spelman Caroline Spelman The Second Church Estates Commissioner

My personal view is that the approach taken by countries such as Sweden, Norway and, more recently, Canada and Ireland to outlaw paying for sex is a policy worth looking at, and is infinitely preferable to the approach taken in countries such as Germany, which has liberalised prostitution. That is a personal view and not necessarily the view of the Church of England, but it can have escaped no one that sexual exploitation is a horrific aggravation of the crime of modern slavery.

Photo of Philip Dunne Philip Dunne Conservative, Ludlow

I am most grateful to you, Mr Speaker, particularly for mentioning the Churches’ Clewer initiative, which encourages members of the public to use an app. Admirable though that is, does my right hon. Friend think that it should have been left to the Churches to take the initiative to protect vulnerable people from exploitation in unregulated hand car washes, or should regulatory bodies themselves have taken such a step?

Photo of Caroline Spelman Caroline Spelman The Second Church Estates Commissioner

My hon. Friend is an assiduous member of the Environmental Audit Committee, which has launched an inquiry into abuses in unregulated car washes, and I can only commend his work and that of the Committee. Hopefully, in return, he can commend the ingenuity of the Church of England in making a leap into the digital age and developing an app that helps all of us to identify circumstances which we suspect may involve slavery or exploitation. That is but one example, and I imagine that other apps could be created that would really help us to stamp out modern-day slavery in our society.