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UK is the first country to publish modern-slavery statement

09 April 2020

iStock

The statement sets out how the Gov­­ern­ment is tackling modern slavery in its supply chains

The statement sets out how the Gov­­ern­ment is tackling modern slavery in its supply chains

THE UK has become the first country to publish a modern-slavery statement. It sets out how the Gov­­ern­ment is tackling the crime in its supply chains, in which it spends about £50 billion a year.

The statement, published at the end of last month, coincides with the fifth anniversary of the Modern Slavery Act 2015. Under the Act, thousands of commercial busi­nesses are required to publish annual modern-slavery statements; the Gov­­ern­­­ment hopes that its move will en­­courage similar action in the public sector. Individual min­­isterial depart­ments will publish their own state­ments in the coming year.

The statement describes the Gov­ernment’s efforts towards eradi­c­ating modern slavery from its supply chains, including direct en­­gage­ment with about 400 suppliers on imple­menting effective modern-slavery due diligence and delivering training to more than 250 govern­ment com­mercial staff.

The Government says that it also wishes to develop a registry for mod­ern slavery statements.

The Cabinet Office minister Lord Agnew said: “We are com­mitted to driving out modern slavery in all forms; so it is crucial that we make sure it’s nowhere to be seen in the supply chains which help provide our vital public ser­vices. I am also delighted that across Government, we will be publishing our own modern-slavery state­ments, so [that] people can see the work we are doing to fight this terrible practice.”

The Minister for Safeguarding, Victoria Atkins, said: “I am proud that we are taking this unpre­ced­ented step to show how we are tackling slavery during proc­ure­ment. We are committed to target­ing perpetrators and safe­guarding victims of this horrific crime.”

Measures in the Act include the introduction of the statutory de­­fence for victims who were com­pelled to commit criminal offences; the crea­tion of Inde­pendent Child Trafficking Guardians in England and Wales to advocate on behalf of trafficked children; and the crea­tion of the post of the Inde­pend­­ent Anti-Slavery Commis­sioner (News, 12 December 2018) to encourage good practice in tackling modern slavery and the identification of victims.

The Salvation Army’s director of work against trafficking and mod­ern slavery, Kathy Betteridge, said: “We are pleased that, five years after the Modern Slavery Act was brought in, the UK Govern­ment is leading by example in publishing a Modern Slavery State­ment to outline the measures it is taking to eliminate slavery from its supply chain. Tak­ing preventative steps . . . is a promising step for­ward.”

One of Britain’s first modern-slavery campaigners, Debbie Hux­ton, who works across the Lichfield diocese, welcomed the Govern­ment’s statement last month. She said that it highlighted the need to be aware that modern slavery was a reality in the UK.

“It is affecting people in all of our parishes, and there is a lot that we as the Church can do to recognise and respond to it. Jesus came so that people could have life — and have it to the full, and this is cruelly denied to those trapped in slavery. Many dioceses are partnering with the Clewer Initiative to say ‘we see you’ to those directly affected by this evil.

“In the Lichfield diocese, this has led us to working closely with the police, local authorities, and a wide range of other agencies and charities. We partner together to raise awareness, to safeguard victims, and to increase the flow of intelligence, so that law enforcement can disrupt the serious and organised crime behind modern slavery.”

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