Modern-day Slavery

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 6:30 pm on 9th October 2018.

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Photo of Gareth Snell Gareth Snell Labour/Co-operative, Stoke-on-Trent Central 6:30 pm, 9th October 2018

We can see from that thoughtful intervention why my right hon. Friend is absolutely the right person to co-chair the review of the Modern Slavery Act. As I said, every statistic is a person whose life has been turned upside down. At the moment, an individual who is found to have been through modern slavery gets 14 days’ support. I do not know about anyone else in the Chamber, but that does not seem sufficient to me. In fact, 45 days really is not enough. The Government made that commitment last October and they should implement it now, but I ask that they do so as an interim step. As my right hon. Friend the Chair of the Work and Pensions Committee says, that would be a step forward, but it would not be enough to establish a pathway for recovery.

There is something the Government could do today to give some semblance of an impression that they want to do something about this issue. They could announce that they will support Lord McColl’s Modern Slavery (Victim Support) Bill, which has been through the House of Lords and has its support. If they guaranteed Government support for that Bill so that it could proceed in Government time sooner rather than later, I am sure that it would get cross-party support and be one of the fastest pieces of legislation to pass the House of Commons.

That Bill would extend support to 12 months—it would give people who have been through horrendous situations a year’s support. Someone who comes out of modern slavery and needs help should receive it because the state and the people want to give it to them, not because of benevolence and charity. Charity is a cold thing—it is self-selecting. The state should be there to provide help and support. I am sure the Minister will be able to indicate one way or the other whether the Government have any interest in supporting Lord McColl’s Bill. I am sure Opposition Members would be happy to vote with the Government if they did support it.

As my hon. Friend Jim McMahon pointed out, there are organisations doing work in this area. I am going to talk again about the Co-op Group’s Bright Future partnership. That organisation has brought together charities, providers and first responders to give people who have been through modern slavery a way into paid employment—a route back to dignity without waiting for charity. By 2020, more than 300 victims of modern slavery will have been given their lives back through that project. We should commend the Co-op Group for leading the way with that work. I know many other companies are looking at the Co-op Group’s work. All I can say to them is, “Go and ask, and help. They will help you become part of this life-changing partnership.”

We need to prevent people from falling back into slavery. The 45-day period does not give those who are entitled to be in the UK enough time to apply for the required benefits, and it does not give those who are not entitled to be in the UK time to apply for leave to remain. It simply sets them up to fail on day 46. As a society, we simply must not allow that.

I am conscious of the time, so I will wrap up with some very quick points. I am aware that the Minister has a file of information to inform her reply, but I ask her to focus on six very simple areas.