Thank you for contacting me about modern slavery.
As I am sure you are aware, the Modern Slavery Act 2015 has played a key role in transforming the UK’s response to modern slavery on a national and international level. The Act provides police and law enforcement agencies with the necessary powers to bring perpetrators to justice and enhances protections given to victims. You may be interested to know that the Act has resulted in a significant increase in law enforcement activity against the criminals behind this abhorrent crime.
This country is a world leader in the fight against modern slavery. However, I was alarmed by Home Office research which highlighted the devastating economic and social costs of modern slavery. It is estimated that modern slavery costs the UK up to £4.3 billion a year and each modern slavery crime is second only to homicide in terms of harm to its victims and society.
That is why the Modern Slavery Act must be as effective as possible. I was pleased to see that the Government commissioned an independent review of the Modern Slavery Act, to ensure our legislative framework continues to be truly world-leading as the forms of modern slavery and nature of exploitation faced by vulnerable people evolve over time. It is good news that the Government accepted the majority of the recommendations made in the review. Further information on this can be found at the following link - www.gov.uk/government/publications/government-response-to-the-independe….
I welcome the fact that following the Independent Review, the Government ran a public consultation on proposals to enhance transparency and push compliance with the legislation forward. It is also good news that the consultation sought views on proposals to expand the law to cover the public sector. As you may be aware, the legislation requires businesses to publish statements outlining what action they are taking to tackle modern slavery and forced labour in their supply chains in the UK and overseas. You may be pleased to hear that the Government has committed to introducing a package of measures to strengthen and future-proof the legislation.
This ambitious package includes: extending the reporting requirement to public bodies with a budget of £36 million or more; mandating the specific reporting topics that statements must cover; requiring statements to be published on the new Government digital reporting service; setting a single reporting deadline and taking forwards options for penalties for non-compliance in line with the ongoing development of the Single Enforcement Body for employment rights.
These measures will require legislative change and therefore I look forward to Parliamentary debate and will work to ensure the package of measures announced is passed in order to protect the most vulnerable people.
Leave to Remain, Migrants, Slavery & Human Trafficking: I am absolutely resolute in my determination to ensure this horrendous crime is tackled. It is welcome progress that the Government is identifying more victims of modern slavery and doing more to bring perpetrators to justice than ever before. Continued support of victims and survivors is a clear priority. I will push the Government to ensure action is taken to help these individuals rebuild their lives.
However, a blanket policy of granting discretionary leave risks creating the incentive for some to make false trafficking claims in an attempt fraudulently to obtain leave to remain. This suggested approach would put support for those who truly need help at risk. Having said this, of course, granting leave to remain is appropriate in some cases. However, the individual circumstances of a case should be central to the decision. I do not believe a decision on whether leave is granted should be determined by someone’s nationality.
Detention of Modern Slavery Victims: the Government also established the National Referral Mechanism (NRM) to identify and refer potential victims of modern slavery and ensure they receive appropriate support.
Unfortunately, some illegal migrants and Foreign National Offenders do take advantage of the system and seek these referrals in order to avoid immigration detention, frustrating their removal from the UK. This is why I support a thorough system in order to determine if a case is genuine.
The Home Office has published its New Plan for Immigration which sets out landmark measures to support the victims of modern slavery. A key element of this Plan is to ensure that these victims have the support they need to engage in the criminal justice system to ensure the perpetrators are rightly prosecuted. I welcome the new policies to ensure that victims are provided with specific mental health support to aid their recovery from their traumatic experiences. It is also the case that Ministers are establishing an enhanced needs-based assessment, including private counselling and mental health support where appropriate.
Thank you again for taking the time to contact me.
Craig Whittaker MP