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08 April 2014

Pressure grows to strengthen modern slavery law

Pressure grows to strengthen modern slavery law

Pressure has increased on the government to improve and strengthen the modern slavery bill to make sure it does all it can to eradicate slavery and human trafficking.

A committee of MPs and Peers have considered the government's draft bill and while supporting the aims of the planned law have issued a strong call for it to be improved.

Committee chair, Frank Field MP, said that he "hoped the Committee has risen to the home Secretary's challenge to help her introduce a bill that will lead the world in combating the heinous crime of human slavery".

The committee's report calls for the government to separate immigration decisions from determining whether someone is a victim of trafficking or slavery, noting the present conflict of interests.

Further changes are called for to create separate offences for trafficking children and to legally require companies to be transparent about their supply chains, whereas the government's draft bill maintained the current voluntary arrangement.

Oscar winning director of 12 Years A Slave Steve McQueen endorsed the report, saying: “There is much in the history of the United Kingdom in relation to slavery that our country should be ashamed of. But one thing that all British people can be justifiably proud of is our anti-slavery tradition stretching back to people such as Equiano, Clarkson, Wilberforce, and the Quakers, and carried on since 1839 by Anti-Slavery International of which I am proud to be a patron.

"The authors of this report can honourably stand in that tradition. They have listened to the evidence and considered it with great care. Their recommendations are humane and principled. More than that they have grasped the complexity of contemporary trafficking and forced labour in the UK and have set forth clearly the fundamentals of what is necessary to tackle it effectively.”

Following the publication of the draft bill in December, the Evangelical Alliance joined with many other organisations to call on the government to make changes to the bill: to put victims at the centre, to ensure the modern slavery commissioner is independent and that supply chains are transparent, all recommendations taken up by the parliamentary committee.

Director of advocacy at the Alliance, Dave Landrum said: "For evangelicals this is unfinished business; we've been fighting slavery for hundreds of years, and we are still at it today. This bill needs to live up to its promise. It has the potential to tackle modern slavery but the government needs listen to the proposals from Frank Field's committee in order to achieve that aim."

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, gave his backing to the parliamentary report: "This pioneering bill sets a high standard for governments around the world, who will be watching to see how our government handles the issue of modern slavery. It is vital that it seizes this opportunity to continue to set a gold standard that others can follow."

Alliance member organisation CARE have long called for better protection of trafficking victims. They too welcomed the committee's recommendations as well as applauding a vote in the House of Lords on Monday to provide guardians for child victims of trafficking and help prevent them slipping back into slavery. Nola Leach, chief executive, commented: "Too many children have gone missing from state care after being rescued and have tragically ended up back with the traffickers who exploited them in the first place. Ensuring child trafficking guardians are a legally recognised provision for the first time in England and Wales will make a real difference to the lives of these children and end this horrendous cycle of exploitation."

Take Action: Write to your MP asking them to back a strong and effective Modern Slavery Bill