We welcome the announcement of a Modern Slavery Bill in the Queen's Speech yesterday. In particular we are happy that the bill will ensure law enforcement authorities have stronger tools to protect victims and bring perpetrators to justice.
A summary of the bill is below:
Modern Slavery Bill
The purpose of the Bill is to:
- Strengthen the protection and support for victims of human trafficking and modern slavery and increase the accountability of companies and other organisations to drive out modern slavery from their supply chains. The main benefits of the Bill would be:
- Reducing the prevalence of modern slavery in supply chains through increased transparency from businesses and public bodies, building on the strong foundations of our existing approach to increase the pressure on those that do not take action.
- Enshrining in domestic law the Government’s international obligations to victims of modern slavery, especially regarding their rights to assistance and support, providing greater legal certainty for victims.
- Ensuring law enforcement agencies have stronger tools to prevent modern slavery occurring, protect victims of modern slavery and bring perpetrators to justice.
The main elements of the Bill are:
- Strengthening the requirements on businesses with a turnover of £36 million or more to publish an annual modern slavery statement to set out steps taken to prevent modern slavery in their operations and supply chains.
- Mandating the reporting areas to be covered in modern slavery statements; requiring organisations to publish their statements on a government-run registry, extending these requirements to public bodies and introducing civil penalties for organisations that do not comply with the requirements.
- Strengthening the operation of Slavery and Trafficking Prevention Orders and Slavery and Trafficking Risk Orders, which place conditions on an individual, to prevent and disrupt modern slavery crimes and better protect victims. These will be backed up by criminal sanctions for any breaches. Territorial extent and application
- The Bill will, in the main, extend and apply to England and Wales, with some provisions extending and applying across the UK.
- Modern slavery encompasses slavery, servitude, forced and compulsory labour and human trafficking. In 2015, the Government introduced the landmark Modern Slavery Act making it the first country in the world to have legislation dedicated to tackling modern slavery.
- The number of live police operations has increased since the Modern Slavery Act became law, from 188 police operations in December 2016 to 4,322 in January 2022. In the year to September 2021, the police recorded 9,158 modern slavery offences, an increase of six per cent from the year to September 2020 when there were 8,622 offences recorded. The greater recognition of modern slavery through the Act has enabled us to crack down on modern slavery operations and tackle these crimes at the source.
- More potential victims are being identified and protected due to greater awareness and improved understanding of modern slavery. In 2021, 12,727 potential victims of modern slavery were referred through the National Referral mechanism to the Home Office, a 20 per cent increase on the previous year (10,601).
- In March 2021, the Government launched an online modern slavery statement registry and encourages all organisations to publish their annual modern slavery statements on the registry. Since its launch, over 7,000 statements have been submitted covering over 23,350 organisations on a voluntary basis.