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26 March 2015

Modern Slavery Bill set to become law

Modern Slavery Bill set to become law

On Wednesday the Modern Slavery Bill was passed in parliament marking an historic moment for Britain in the fight against slavery. 

This reflects the hard work and dedication of MPs, churches and organisations such as CARE and the Centre for Social Justice, which produced a report called It Happens Here that was the catalyst for this bill.

Most importantly it reflects the commitment of individuals. This bill was introduced in response to the thousands of people who called for the government to tackle slavery in this country once and for all. 

We are grateful to the many members who continued to contact their MPs urging them to support improvements to make the slavery bill stronger. This dedication went a long way to seeing improvements made to the bill.

This law can't come soon enough. An estimated 13,000 people in the UK are in forced labour, sexual exploitation and domestic servitude. Globally there are around 30 million people being used, bought sold or transported for exploitation in a multi-billion pound industry.

Under the new law human traffickers may face life imprisonment and authorities will be able to seize traffickers' asset and force them to pay compensation to their victims. 

A new defence has been introduced for victims forced to commit an offence will in slavery. Businesses will be required to show what they are doing to make sure no one in their supply chains is in slavery or forced labour.

When the bill was first introduced the Alliance felt the bill wasn't strong enough to effectively tackle slavery. We wanted to see better support for victims, a requirement for businesses to operate slavery free supply chains and greater independence for the newly appointed Anti-Slavery Commissioner.

The Alliance joined in a coalition with other organisations including Unseen, CAFOD and War on Want to specifically campaign for slavery free supply chains. Through the hard work of many campaigners including those in this coalition the government agreed to include this crucial requirement in the bill. 

It is very encouraging that the law now requires businesses to show what they are doing to ensure everyone working in their supply chains is being treated fairly, receiving fair wages, good work conditions and not working too many hours.

While we are encouraged that the bill has been improved we are disappointed that the government didn't do more to strengthen this bill. There still isn't nearly enough support for victims and this not only impinges on their recovery but could mean traffickers aren't properly prosecuted. The Anti-Slavery Commissioner will be required to report to parliament.

This was a once in a life time opportunity to effectively tackle slavery and to deliver the world class law we so desperately need. While it is a positive step it certainly doesn't go far enough. 

We will continue working with government to not only ensure the law is enacted well and to be vigilant about areas where the law needs strengthening.