Rachel Maclean – 2021 Statement on Anti-Slavery Day

The statement made by Rachel Maclean, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Home Department, in the House of Commons on 18 October 2021.

Modern slavery is an abhorrent crime. Tens of millions of victims around the world are coerced, deceived, and forced into a life of abuse, servitude, and inhumane treatment.

This happens in the UK as well; to British citizens and to those trafficked from abroad. Today, on the UK’s Anti-Slavery Day, we pause to reflect on the trauma that victims suffer, the cruelty of those that exploit them and the bravery of survivors attempting to rebuild their lives.

This Government are committed to eradicating modern slavery. Over the past year we have continued to work towards this aim with our partners in the Devolved Administrations, in law enforcement and across the criminal justice system, with local government and our health and welfare sectors, with our international partners, with business, civil society, and academia.

Together we have continued to identify and provide support to thousands of victims of modern slavery through our contract with the Salvation Army. The number of law enforcement investigations has continued to increase. Conviction rates for cases prosecuted through the courts have also increased.

The Independent Child Trafficking Guardian Service now covers in total two thirds of all local authorities across England and Wales; a key milestone to better support child victims delivered through our National Referral Mechanism Transformation Programme.

The HO has invested a further £1.4 million this year to support the police modern slavery response, bringing the total investment to £15 million since 2016. This funding has helped to drive the increase in modern slavery investigations and operations.

And during our G7 presidency, G7 members agreed to joint action on forced labour in global supply chains and reaffirmed their commitment to upholding human rights and international labour standards. Modern slavery and human trafficking is a global problem and we continue to provide global leadership to tackle it.

We are committed to driving greater transparency in supply chains to ensure the private and public sectors use their leverage to tackle the risks of modern slavery in the goods and services they procure and provide. In March this year we launched the Government registry of modern slavery statements on www.gov.uk to enhance transparency. Statements covering over 21,000 organisations have now been added to the registry.

This Government continue to lead by example. We have continued to progress work on public procurement that we committed to in the world’s first Government modern slavery statement that we published in March 2020. And we will soon publish further detail of the actions Government Departments have taken to prevent modern slavery in their supply chains.

We have continued to fund the Modern Slavery Policy and Evidence Centre to improve the evidence base on modern slavery and to help inform our policy response. And the Government have recently launched the Modern Slavery Prevention Fund to test and develop innovative approaches to preventing modern slavery in the first place, aiming to stop this harm before it starts.

Tomorrow, our landmark Nationality and Borders Bill will progress to Committee stage in the House of Commons, and the modern slavery measures in this Bill will seek to bring clarity for decision makers and victims, and maintain our commitment to ensuring victims of modern slavery are identified and supported as early as possible.

These actions demonstrate the Government’s relentless commitment to addressing this crime. We will soon provide further detail in our annual report on modern slavery.

But we are not complacent. The nature of modern slavery continues to evolve. We have committed to publish a new Government strategy for modern slavery next year to ensure we continue to lead the way with our partners in bringing an end to this crime.