Clause 27

Part of UK Borders Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 3:30 pm on 15th March 2007.

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Photo of Damian Green Damian Green Shadow Minister (Home Affairs) 3:30 pm, 15th March 2007

The purpose of these amendments is to amend the Sexual Offences Act 2003 to increase the penalties for some offences relating to trafficking specifically for the purposes of sexual exploitation. In our most recent debates we have discussed the extent and the seriousness of all people trafficking. One of the particularly unpleasant subsets of people trafficking is trafficking for the purposes of sexual exploitation. What we seek to achieve with these amendments is to send an even clearer signal than we are sending atthe moment of how much we deplore this particular trade.

We are pleased on these Benches that the Government now agree with us. They have signalled their intention to sign the European convention against trafficking and I can only reiterate what I said in previous debates—that signing the convention and increasing penalties for this crime are an important step forward. They enable the House to send a very clear signal that this type of crime needs to be hit hard now, at the point when it is growing so much. Without this type of measure and without both effective policing and stern sentencing it is likely to grow.

It is one of the inexorable side effects of increasing globalisation and of people’s increasing ability to move about the globe, and in particular to move from relatively poor countries to relatively rich countries, that opportunities open up for criminals as well. One opportunity that we know they are exploiting hugely is the ability to traffic young women and girls for sexual purposes. One of the most terrifying and vivid statistics I have seen is that five years ago 15 per cent. of prostitutes working in Britain were foreign-born; the figure now is 85 per cent., so only 15 per cent. are British-born. There has been a complete reversal in a very small number of years in that particular unfortunate group. That shows the extent of the increased criminality and why it is so important to act against it.

Amendment No. 99 would subject all those found guilty of trafficking people for sexual exploitation to the risk of automatic deportation. Amendment No. 100 is consequential and in effect puts the words of amendment No. 99 into clause 28. We are therefore seeking to increase the penalties for people trafficking for this particular purpose.

The Committee has already debated the appropriate length of sentence before a person is eligible for automatic deportation. That is a very important debate to be had about this Bill. What we are seeking to do with these amendments is to add this peculiarly unpleasant offence to those provisions. It seems to us that one of the most effective signals we can send—because it is practical, not just sending a signal—is that if a person has committed a serious immigration offence, which this kind of trafficking certainly is, then it is reasonable for this country to withdraw its hospitality from that person and add them to the group of people who can be automatically deported.

The purpose of these amendments is simply to encourage the Government to move in a direction that I know they want to move in anyway. It seeks to toughen the Bill. It seeks to make these important provisions even more rigorous and robust. I therefore commend them to the Committee.