Modern Slavery Act 2015 Debate

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Modern Slavery Act 2015

Paul Blomfield Excerpts
Thursday 26th October 2017

(3 years, 11 months ago)

Commons Chamber

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Lord Coaker Portrait Vernon Coaker
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26 Oct 2017, 12:54 p.m.

That is absolutely crucial. Often the victim is placed in an immigration situation where they are regarded as a victim of trafficking and yet have no certainty about their status in the UK. I know that the Minister is looking at that, but it is a real problem in the way that the system operates at the moment, as the hon. Member for Livingston (Hannah Bardell) points out.

The Work and Pensions Committee has made recommendations along these lines. Lord McColl’s private Member’s Bill, currently in the Lords, does the same. We cannot continue to lose so many survivors, many of them going back to the same traffickers. As Wilberforce himself said:

“You may choose to look the other way but you can never again say that you did not know.”

It is for us, as legislators, to say, “What are we actually going to do about this?” Survivors need time and assistance.

Paul Blomfield Portrait Paul Blomfield (Sheffield Central) (Lab)
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26 Oct 2017, 12:55 p.m.

One of the critical issues is inspection and enforcement within the labour market. Does my hon. Friend agree that resourcing that is crucial? A recent report by Focus on Labour Exploitation, a charity of which I am a trustee, detailed how far we are lagging behind other European countries in International Labour Organisation-recommended levels of resourcing. Is he concerned that we have only 0.4 inspectors per 10,000 workers while Poland has twice as many and Norway over three times as many, and that we allocate just £7.69 per worker for enforcement while, closer to home, Ireland spends twice as much? Does he think that the Minister needs to address this issue in her response?

Lord Coaker Portrait Vernon Coaker
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26 Oct 2017, 12:55 p.m.

My hon. Friend puts the point very well. There is a need to look at the whole area of labour force enforcement. The co-operation between the Gangmasters Licensing Authority, the Home Office and so on in sharing data and information is important.

The Minister may want to consider an additional point about awareness. Only last week there was a case in the area of my local authority, Gedling Borough Council. The case is in the public domain. Just outside my constituency, people found a victim of labour exploitation working on their farm, Hammond farm. They were found by a person being made aware by a chance remark that caused them to question what was happening. Part of this is about enforcement but it is also about trying to raise awareness so that people may question what is happening and try to report it to the appropriate authorities. We might want to consider how we do that.