I am committed to supporting both the recovery of modern slavery victims and the prosecution of their exploiters. I agree with the Government’s core principle that victims' entitlements should be based on need; temporary leave to remain should be provided when it is clear that need is genuine.
The UK leads the way in the fight against modern slavery. The Modern Slavery Act 2015 has transformed our response on a national and international level, significantly increasing law enforcement activity against the criminals behind this abhorrent crime. Since 2016, £15 million has been invested (including £1.4 million in 2021-22 alone) to: strengthen the Modern Slavery and Organised Immigration Crime Programme; improve the police's understanding of modern slavery; increase prosecutions; and build new capabilities to combat organised immigration crime. In 2018, the Government commissioned an independent review of the Act, to ensure its relevance as modern slavery evolves over time. It is good news that the Government accepted the majority of the review bodies' recommendations. For further information, please search: www.gov.uk/government/publications/government-response-to-the-independent-review-of-the-modern-slavery-act
I was further encouraged by the Government's subsequent public consultation on proposals to encourage greater transparency and compliance within the legislation, and whether the law should cover the public sector, not only businesses. The Government has since committed to stronger measures, for example by: extending the reporting requirement to public bodies with a budget of £36 million or more; mandating the specific reporting topics that statements must cover; requiring statements to be published on the new Government digital reporting service; setting a single reporting deadline and taking forward options for penalties for non-compliance in line with the ongoing development of the Single Enforcement Body for employment rights. As this requires legislative change, I will work hard to ensure the measures are passed when it is debated in Parliament to see the most vulnerable people protected.
For the first time in primary legislation, the Nationality and Borders Act sets out the circumstances in which confirmed victims will receive temporary leave to remain. This approach provides clarity, in line with the UK’s international obligations, that temporary leave to remain will be provided for as long as necessary to bring exploiters to justice.
Please be assured that I am absolutely determined to tackle this horrendous crime. I welcome the Government's progress in identifying more victims of modern slavery and bringing more perpetrators to justice than ever before. I will push the Government to prioritise continued support of victims and survivors.
However, a blanket policy of granting discretionary leave risks creating the incentive for some to make false trafficking claims and would put support for those truly in need at risk. Of course, granting leave to remain is appropriate in some cases, but the decision should be based on individual circumstances, not nationality.