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Damian Green urges Government to take immediate action against human trafficking

Damian Green MP begs to move:

"That this House believes that human trafficking is the modern equivalent of the slave trade, and, while welcoming the Government’s commitment to ratify the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings, regrets that this commitment has been delayed for more than a year since the Conservative Party first asked the Government to take this step, and will not come into effect during 2008; welcomes the forthcoming United Nations forum to fight human trafficking and urges the Government to take further immediate steps to help the victims of trafficking, including new measures to intercept traffickers and victims at our borders, better provision of refuge places, the use of telephone helplines, and a drive for better cooperation among national authorities within Europol and Eurojust, so that the United Kingdom can become one of the leading countries fighting human trafficking."


"It is good that we are having this debate 48 hours after the Home Secretary made the significant announcement that in the next 12 months the United Kingdom would ratify the European convention on action against trafficking, for a number of reasons. The first is that it was a cause of some national shame that 12 other countries had ratified the convention and we had failed to do so. The second and most important is that it may mean that the Government will stop merely talking a good game on action against trafficking, and will actually live up to their rhetoric. The third is that it shows that parliamentary opposition can have some effect in shaming a Government into doing what they know they ought to do.

It was in January 2007 that we first urged the Government to sign the convention and to take a number of other actions against the appalling trade in human beings. In March they signed the convention, and made some other efforts against trafficking which we welcomed. By January this year, we thought that the process had become alarmingly slow, so two weeks ago we returned to our call for action, this time for ratification of the convention, and last week we decided to hold this debate. Two days ago, the Home Secretary said what we wanted to hear and we welcomed it, as we do in the motion. Better late than never is the appropriate phrase to describe the Government’s performance on the matter."

Denis MacShane MP (Lab): "Before the hon. Gentleman goes too far down that road, may I ask whether he is aware of the article that I wrote in January 2006 calling for such action? It took a full year for the Opposition Front-Bench team to support my proposal, and the outcome was achieved thanks to the help of Back-Bench colleagues in his party, who raised the matter again and again at Question Time. He should stop being so smug, because it is Members behind him who did it, not his absent colleague the shadow Home Secretary."

Damian Green MP: "Being accused of being smug by the right hon. Gentleman is one of the more arresting parliamentary events of the day. Nevertheless, I pay tribute to his work in this regard. I am glad that he has brought it to our attention."

John Greenway MP: "It is members of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe who have taken the lead on this issue on a cross-party basis. My hon. Friend is right, and I congratulate him on securing the debate, but will he ensure that we concentrate not just on the trafficking of human beings for the sex trade, which is appalling, but on the trafficking of children and of people in boats from north Africa? Those boats have nothing else to do, because all the fish have been taken away. We should do something about stopping them in the first place."

Anthony Steen MP: "I asked the question in the House about whether tackling human trafficking is core police business, and the Government answered that it is, but is my hon. Friend aware that there was no statement in the House saying that it was core business? The action plan said that it would become core business, but gave no indication of when that would happen, and nobody knew anything about it until the Minister for Security, Counter-Terrorism, Crime and Policing said the day before yesterday that it was now core police business. The significance is that if tackling human trafficking is core business, the police get money for doing that, but if it is not core business, they do not get that money. There is quite a lot of confusion in police forces as to whether or not it is core business, and whether they are getting any money for it."

More from Hansard here.

Also see the ToryDiary post on the Conservatives' recent press conference on the issue.


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