Wanted: Your views on slavery

“Slavery?” I hear you cry. “In this day and age?”

Sadly, slavery is still very much with us. And it’s not a problem found only in far away countries. It’s happening right here, right now, in Britain.

The extent of the problem and proposed remedies were set out in the Report of the Modern Slavery Bill Evidence Review, chaired by Frank Field MP and published on 16th December 2013.

The government is now proposing new legislation to tackle the problem. As part of the process of preparing this legislation, a Joint Committee on the Draft Modern Slavery Bill has been established, of which I am a member. The Bill was published last December and the committee’s role is pre-legislative scrutiny, to consider and report on the draft Bill. We will take written and oral evidence and make recommendations in a report to both houses of parliament this April, which will feed into the final bill that will be placed before parliament.

The potential value of this Bill is that it provides the opportunity for legislative consolidation to encapsulate all modern slavery issues, so that the legislative source of prevention and prosecution of offenders and protection of victims can be available to those who need to implement the legislation in a single source.

Although the draft Bill is a welcome step forward, however, it has many shortcomings. I am particularly concerned about the failure to deal adequately with the need to protect child victims of trafficking. It’s not just that 40% of victims of trafficking are children but also that child exploitation has specific characteristics and special needs.

Other shortcomings of the Bill include:

  • It merely replicates or brings together existing legislation rather than create a consolidated offence.
  • It fails to distinguish adequately between ‘modern day slavery’ and ‘trafficking’, which are related but distinct problems.
  • It does not distinguish adequately between victims of trafficking and offenders of immigration laws, leaving the former open to prosecution instead of protection.
  • It does not protect victims of trafficking from being prosecuted for crimes they have been forced to commit by their exploiters.

To help improve the draft Bill, I would like to hear your views. I can then feed these into the scrutiny process and help shape the Bill as it appears in its revised format. Given the April deadline, the committee is working to a short timescale, so the sooner you can send your views the better. Parliament’s formal call for evidence expired on 10th February but you can nevertheless feed your ideas to me at [email protected].

* Dee Doocey is Liberal Democrat Tourism Spokesperson in the House of Lords.

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4 Comments

  • What definition of trafficking does it use? I work in an office building in Eastern Europe (EU) where there are job agencies offering to “traffic” people to the UK to work in factories, as plumbers etc.

  • Richard Underhill 7th Jan '17 - 9:32pm

    I have read Wellington by Christopher Hibbert. Tthe First Duke was made Ambassador to Paris, to the court of Louis XV111. At the time we were essentially an occupying power. The UK Prime Minister, Lord Liverpool, asked that the French should abolish slavery, as the UK had done in 1807. Our motives were treated with suspicion for commercial reasons. Eventually a deal was done, postponement for 5 years. During that time Napoleon Bonaparte escaped.
    A request that Portugal should be asked to abolish slavery was refused by the Duke with scorn.

  • Richard Underhill 4th May '17 - 8:14am

    Olympic gold medallist Cassius Clay changed his name to Muhammed Ali saying that Cassius Clay was his “slave name”. Cassius M Clay was a slave owner.
    OUP 1983 The limits of Liberty American History 1607-1980 ISBN 0-19-913074-4
    Thomas Jefferson “began his political career in 1769 by striking a blow for freedom. He was 26, a lawyer of two years standing, when at his first session in the colonial House of Burgesses he attempted to make it legally possible for owners to emancipate their slaves. He did not succeed.” “Nothing liberal could expect success, under the Imperial system of George the Third and his Tory ministers….” SBN 8139-0284-3

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