Anthony Steen, the Conservative MP for Totnes and chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on human trafficking, saw his Private Member's Bill to establish a national anti-slavery day go through all its Commons stages yesterday.
In a passionate speech, he explained that despite the abolition of slavery in 1833, there are hundreds of thousands of people trafficked around the world for sexual exploitation, forced labour, domestic slavery or organised crime and he highlighted some of the distressing cases that had reached his attention.
"The important thing is to let men, women and children know that modern-day slavery exists here in Britain and needs to be stamped out. We must reinforce the focus and understanding of the public. Slavery did not disappear when Wilberforce passed his legislation through this House. That is why we need an annual anti-slavery day.
"A national anti-slavery day would continue to draw attention to the evils of human trafficking post-Wilberforce and how it is manifesting itself in British society. We would not be the first country to establish a day of awareness of human trafficking and modern-day slavery; the United States has already done this. In June 2007, the US Senate passed a resolution establishing a national day of human trafficking awareness on 11 January each year. The aim of the day is to raise awareness of and opposition to human trafficking and modern-day slavery, both domestically and across the globe. Various events are organised each year in the US on that day, including public debates, press conferences and a film screening, along with news items and media reports."
"Similarly, schools in Britain could be encouraged to incorporate this topic into their curriculum to raise awareness among students. That would encourage teachers to receive special training to help their students learn about modern-day slavery in a sensitive and engaging way. Specialist training would also be a priority for social workers and the police, so they could develop expertise in the area and play an instrumental role in raising awareness among local communities. Thus, people across the board would start waking up; just as Holocaust memorial day was held earlier this week, so we would have a day to raise awareness of slavery, modern-day slavery and human trafficking. The efforts made by individuals, business, organisations, educational institutions and governing bodies to promote the observance of an anti-slavery day each year would represent one of the many examples of an ongoing commitment in the UK to raise awareness of human trafficking and to oppose such trafficking actively."
From the Opposition front bench, Damian Green gave the Bill the Conservative Party's official backing:
Here are the highlights from yesterday's Children, Schools and Families questions.
Buckingham MP John Bercow advocated a more liberal exclusion policy:
"Of course, schools sometimes mistake disability for disobedience. Children with special educational needs are nine times more likely to be permanently excluded from school, and the Government are rightly committed to reducing the incidents of such exclusions. In the light of that, will the Under-Secretary of State consider the merit of amending the law so that a child with SEN or disability may be permanently excluded from school only if a review has taken place of the sufficiency and effectiveness of the reasonable adjustments that have been made under the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 to seek to accommodate that pupil?
Sarah McCarthy-Fry: I thank the hon. Gentleman for his question. I pay tribute to his expertise in this area of special educational needs, and we certainly share his passion and commitment to promoting improved outcomes for children with SEN and disabilities. I am, of course, aware that he has a private Member’s Bill that is due for its Second Reading on 15 May. I believe that that is one proposal that may be considered in it. We certainly look forward to debating that."
By contrast Shadow Minister for Children Tim Loughton stressed the importance of protecting pupils from violence:
"Tim Loughton (East Worthing and Shoreham) (Con): Government figures last year revealed that there was a drop of 13 per cent. in permanent exclusions between 2003 and 2007 despite a 50 per cent. increase in the number of children suspended for five times or more— 867 of them excluded for 10 times or more—at a time that saw 4,370 fixed exclusions for serious racist abuse and more than 207,000 serious offences, such as sexual abuse and violence. Yet, in no fewer than 40 per cent. of appeals against permanent exclusions, reinstatement was upheld so that pupils could return to the scene of their offences with impunity, most of them having nothing to do with SEN. Does the Minister think it right that a pupil who has been excluded for violent crime, racist or sexual abuse should be readmitted to schools under any circumstances against the better judgment of the head or the governors?
Sarah McCarthy-Fry: We are certainly committed to backing head teachers’ authority when pupils’ behaviour warrants exclusion. Last year, the number of successful appeals was just 1.2 per cent. of all permanent exclusions, so we must get this in balance. We obviously recognise, and we have said in response to Alan Steer's report, that repeated suspension should lead to permanent exclusion. We are certainly giving back head teachers authority in that."
Tuesday, April 28, 2009 in Andrew Robathan MP, Angela Watkinson MP, Anthony Steen MP, Edward Timpson MP, John Bercow MP, Maria Miller MP, Michael Fabricant MP, Michael Gove MP, Nick Gibb MP, Robert Wilson MP, Sir Nicholas Winterton MP, Tim Loughton MP | Permalink | Comments (16)
Totnes MP Anthony Steen drew attention to a worthy cause yesterday:
"On 10 August last year, two girls in Hope Cove in south Devon were being swept out to sea and were at risk of drowning. The inshore Hope Cove lifeboat—a service in operation since 1890, which has saved 213 lives since the year 2000—was launched within a few minutes and the girls were saved. Unfortunately, it was against the instructions of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency, which is responsible for the Hope Cove lifeboat.
Now, 3,000 residents have signed a petition to reinstate the lifeboat, which was taken out of service unilaterally by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency some three months ago against the wishes of everyone, including my constituents, those who use the boat, the crew of the boat and the many thousands of people who have enjoyed using the beaches of Hope Cove as tourists over the past few years. Salcombe is some 15 to 20 minutes away in good weather by sea. We need a lifeboat close at hand that can rescue people, as those two girls were rescued on 10 August—otherwise they might have drowned."
Although these are straitened times, it never ceases to amaze one to see which organisations struggle to get public funding and which are awash with it. The decision to cut this service may not have been purely about money, but it seems unlikely that under better circumstances people would conclude that you can have too many lifeboats.
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