THE appointment of the next Anti-Slavery Commissioner must be halted while the post is strengthened to make it more independent, a parliamentary review group has said.
The post is currently vacant after the first incumbent, Kevin Hyland, resigned, citing constant interference from the Home Office. In his resignation letter, sent in the spring, he told the Prime Minister that his successor should be “assured the independence I am sure you intended”.
A review of the position was announced by the Government shortly after his resignation; this has been led by the former Labour minister Frank Field.
Mr Field said this week that the appointment of Mr Hyland’s successor should be delayed until the review’s recommendations for strengthening the Commissioner’s position were considered by the Government.
The interim report of the review group argues that the Government is not respecting the Commissioner’s statutory independence. The report calls for a “transformation” of the part played by the Commissioner, who should not be appointed directly by the Home Office.
Mr Field said: “This is a major publication marking the first part of our extensive review of the Modern Slavery Act 2015. Although the Act has been used to bring some successful prosecutions, we are not yet at the point we need to be to maintain our status as world leaders in this area. The spirit of the Act was that the Commissioner was the key single person in charge of its success. The post must attract people who are figures in their own right and for whom acting independently is a way of life.”
Baroness Butler-Sloss, who is a member of the review group, said: “Ensuring the independence of the Commissioner is absolutely essential to maintaining our status in this area and prosecuting successfully.”
A Home Office spokesman said that the recruitment process would continue, as the “Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner provides crucial scrutiny of the Government’s response to modern slavery, and impartial advice on ways we can improve”.
There are estimated to be about 130,000 victims of trafficking and modern slavery in the UK.