Submitted by: 11 members.
Mover: Tim Farron MP.
Summation: Sarah Olney MP (Spokesperson for Treasury, Business and Industrial Strategy).
Conference believes that:
- Slavery is one of the greatest affronts to the fundamental British principle of individual liberty; no human being should be enslaved.
- Modern slavery must be eradicated, exploitation prevented and traffickers brought to justice.
- Survivors of human trafficking and modern slavery are among the most vulnerable people in our society and they must all be supported and protected by the Government, regardless of immigration status.
Conference notes with grave concern the Conservative Government's assault on protections for victims of human trafficking and modern slavery - including the Nationality and Borders Act and the Illegal Migration Act - which roll back crucial provisions of the Modern Slavery Act.
Conference further notes that:
- There are estimated to be at least 100,000 modern slavery victims in the UK, and referrals to the National Referral Mechanism (NRM) are at a record high.
- The vast majority of people referred into the system are confirmed to be genuine victims by detailed investigations, despite Conservative accusations of people "gaming the system" through false claims.
- The Conservative Government has consistently broken its promises on tackling human trafficking and modern slavery - from its pledge to create a new single enforcement body, to abandoned plans to remove the "family worker exemption" that permits employers to pay domestic staff less than minimum wage.
- The UK has just 0.29 labour market inspectors per 10,000 workers - less than a third of the International Labour Organization's minimum benchmark of one per 10,000.
- On average, victims have to wait almost 2 years for a decision on their NRM case.
- The Conservative Government's immigration policies have increased the risk of exploitation - whether by making some industries over-reliant on temporary visa schemes or closing safe and legal routes for asylum, pushing desperate people into the hands of traffickers.
- In January 2023, the Government raised the threshold of evidence for victims to be recognised, despite criticism from human rights organisations including the Helen Bamber Foundation and Anti-Slavery International.
- Conservative Ministers have left the crucial post of Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner vacant for over a year.
Conference commends Liberal Democrat parliamentarians for consistently opposing both the Nationality and Borders Bill and the Illegal Migration Bill.
Conference therefore calls on the Government to:
- Reverse its rollbacks on modern slavery protections and ensure that all legislation is compatible with the UK's international law obligations, including the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings.
- Take power out of the hands of smugglers by scrapping the Illegal Migration Act and providing safe and legal routes to sanctuary in the UK.
- Prevent exploitation of migrant workers by removing the Conservatives' arbitrary salary threshold for work visas and replacing it with a more flexible merit-based system, making employers and employees less reliant on temporary visas.
- Establish a powerful new Worker Protection Enforcement Authority to protect people in precarious work, with proactive intelligence-led enforcement of labour market standards and a firewall with immigration enforcement.
- Transfer responsibility for identifying modern slavery victims from the Home Office to local safeguarding agencies and for any additional costs to be fully funded by central government.
- Appoint a new Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner and strengthen the role, while giving Parliament the power to fill the post if left vacant for three months or more.
- Bring more traffickers to justice by resourcing the criminal justice system properly to improve prosecution and conviction rates.
- Create a financial deterrent by establishing a civil remedy for survivors seeking redress from their traffickers.
- Give survivors the support they deserve as victims of a grievous crime, such as access to legal aid - including early advice prior to entering the NRM - and protection from detention or removal.
- Lift the ban on people in the NRM working if they have been waiting for a decision for over three months, enabling survivors to gain independence and move on with their lives while contributing to the economy.
- Improve first responders' ability to support victims through mandatory training and allowing more civil society organisations to become accredited first responders.