Tackling the scourge of modern slavery

Posted on 10/07/2014 by

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parlystatueThe Modern Slavery Bill was introduced in the House of Commons this week, but local MP Mark Lazarowicz believes the legislation doesn’t go far enough.

The bill would provide law enforcement with stronger tools to stamp out modern slavery, ensure slave drivers can receive suitably severe punishments and enhance protection of and support for victims.

The bill includes provisions to:

  • ensure that perpetrators can receive suitably severe punishments for these appalling crimes – including life sentences
  • introduce new orders to enhance the court’s ability to place restrictions on individuals where this is necessary to protect people from the harm caused by modern slavery offences
  • create an Anti-Slavery Commissioner to improve and better coordinate the response to modern slavery
  • introduce a defence for victims of slavery and trafficking compelled to commit an offence
  • create an enabling power for child trafficking advocates
  • introduce a new reparation order to encourage the courts to compensate victims where assets are confiscated from perpetrators
  • close gaps in the law to enable the police and Border Force to stop boats where slaves are suspected of being held or trafficked

Edinburgh North & Leith MP Mark Lazarowicz‘ says the Bill is a major step forward but should be tougher.  Speaking in Tuesday’s debate on the Modern Slavery Bill at Westminster, he praised the Bill as a major step forward but highlighted two areas where it needs to be strengthened significantly at UK level:

· Extension of the powers and funding of the Gangmasters Licensing Authority created by the last Labour Government,  and

· Increased transparency and accountability of companies for their supply chains.

Commenting after the debate, the local MP said: “Modern slavery can see people desperately seeking a better life trapped and exploited in ways as varied as sex trafficking, domestic servitude or agricultural workers whose meagre wages are docked to pay for sub-standard food and accommodation leaving them with debts they can never pay off.

“Vulnerable people, often with very few language skills, may simply not know where to seek help even if they get the chance and be fearful that they may be deported if they do escape.

“The last Labour Government first set out to tackle this modern evil by creating the Gangmasters Licensing Authority to root out abuse in agriculture and related industries: it’s been widely praised and its funding and remit should be increased.

“Companies should also be accountable for how their goods are produced in supply chains with annual reports setting out steps they took to verify and audit suppliers.

“Whilst enabling the prosecution of traffickers and slave-masters, the Bill must also advance the protection of victims: too often companies and consumers do not know and in the worst case may not even care how workers are exploited in producing the food we eat, the clothes we wear.”

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