Parliament

MPs show support for Lord McColl’s Modern Slavery (Victim Support) Bill

In a wide-ranging Westminster Hall debate last night on tackling modern slavery, MPs from across the House voiced concern that victims of modern slavery were being left destitute because of a lack of statutory support.

Last October the Government announced plans to increase the number of days of support a person who has been confirmed a victim of modern slavery receives from 14 days to 45. Labour MP Gareth Snell, who called the debate, criticised this small increase as insufficient and said it should only be introduced as an interim step, citing that it was not nearly long enough to introduce a pathway to recovery.

He continued: “There is something the Government could do today to give some semblance of an impression that they want to do something about this issue. They could announce that they will support Lord McColl’s Modern Slavery (Victim Support) Bill, which has been through the House of Lords and has its support. If they guaranteed Government support for that Bill so that it could proceed in Government time sooner rather than later, I am sure that it would get cross-party support and be one of the fastest pieces of legislation to pass the House of Commons.”

 

 

Indeed, several MPs used their speeches to argue in favour of the measures in Lord McColl’s Bill that would significantly improve support for victims of modern slavery.

“I support the proposal that the Government should adopt the Modern Slavery (Victim Support) Bill. Mention was made of the proposal to extend the move-on period from 14 days to 45 days. At the moment, that period is inadequate. It does not give people time to establish stable building blocks for their future. It is not long enough for non-UK nationals to apply for and be granted discretionary leave to remain, which gives victims access to housing benefit and other services. Extending that period to 12 months and offering victims accommodation and financial and other support, according to their needs, would enable victims to establish much more secure futures.” – Fiona Bruce MP (Con).

 

 

The overall consensus in the room was that 45 days was too short a period for victims to even begin to process their trauma, let alone be expected to move on with their lives and reintegrate into society.

“When we—Members of Parliament and Members of the House of Lords—scoped the original Modern Slavery Bill, the most stunning and terrible evidence we took was from people who had been enslaved. The idea that people get over such bondage easily was knocked sideways by all that. We were in tears listening to the evidence of people who had been broken by modern slavery” - Frank Field MP (Ind).

Gareth Snell restated the latest figures on modern slavery from the Global Slavery Index highlighting that there are 136,000 people still trapped in modern slavery in the UK today:  “Behind every statistic, case and referral there is an individual whose life has been turned upside down and torn apart because of modern slavery.”

He continued: “We need to prevent people from falling back into slavery. The 45-day period does not give those who are entitled to be in the UK enough time to apply for the required benefits, and it does not give those who are not entitled to be in the UK time to apply for leave to remain. It simply sets them up to fail on day 46. As a society, we simply must not allow that.”

In response to the concerns raised in the debate The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, Victoria Atkins thanked Gareth Snell for the debate and for the work that MPs were doing to tackle modern slavery.

The Minister used the debate to announce that the Government had decided to roll out the 45 days of support to confirmed victims of modern slavery in early 2019 as well as an extension of the child trafficking advocate scheme.

CARE was pleased to see that Lord McColl’s Modern Slavery (Victim Support) Bill has support from across the House and was disappointed that the Minister chose not to address this in her reply.

CARE’s Senior Policy Officer – Human Trafficking, Louise Gleich said:

“Reducing modern slavery starts with putting the needs of victims first. Modern slavery victims need more time than they are currently being given to break the cycle of exploitation and live free for good.

“Whilst it was good to have clarity on when the new victim support measures will be in place it must be restated that 45 days is not enough.

“This debate made clear that the Modern Slavery (Victim Support) Bill is not only needed but that it has the support across the House to guarantee that it would become law.

“The Government should do the right thing and throw its weight behind the Bill.”

To watch the debate in full please click here.

CARE is a member of the campaign group Free for Good, made up of leading anti-trafficking charities and businesses that back the Modern Slavery (Victim Support) Bill. 

Find out more about the Bill here.

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