Home Office launches modern slavery legislation review
Government has said the consultation three years after passage of landmark act will ensure its provisions keeps pace with offences
The government has announced a review of the Modern Slavery Act 2015 to be led by a panel including two former government ministers and a retired senior judge in order to ensure that the legislation keeps pace with offending.
The Home Office said that the review, to be undertaken by former Labour minister Frank Field MP, ex-Conservative cabinet minister Maria Miller MP and the first female Lord Justice of Appeal Baroness Butler-Sloss, would also consider how to accelerate progress from government and businesses in eradicating modern slavery.
The Home Office says the Modern Slavery Act, which is the first of its kind in the world, has "transformed the UK’s response to modern slavery on a national and international scale", by providing the police with powers to bring perpetrators to justice and enhancing the protection given to victims.
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The legislation has led to what the department called “a significant uplift in law enforcement activity against the criminals behind this vile crime”, with more than 600 live investigations currently taking place.
However, as criminal networks that recruit and control victims are constantly adapting and finding new ways to exploit victims, the department said that an independent review would be an opportunity to enhance the legislation.
Victoria Atkins, the minister for crime, safeguarding and vulnerability, said that “as this awful crime is evolving, it is our responsibility as citizens, businesses and governments to do all we can to stop exploitation”.
She added that the review would focus on the work being done by companies to tackle modern slavery, as well as the provisions around legal access and compensation to victims and improving the support given to child victims
“Chairing the Business Against Slavery Forum last week, it is clear some companies are leading the way but others are falling behind,” Atkins said. “I’ve asked for this review to look at if we should strengthen our legislation to ensure businesses are taking robust action to eradicate forced labour in their supply chains.”
Currently, every business with an annual turnover of or above £36m must set out what they are doing to prevent and tackle modern slavery in its operations and supply chain.
Field saud that “the government is providing the inquiry, and all the groups that they will consult, with a major opportunity to build on the world leading anti-slavery Act so that greater justice is gained for the growing number of people enslaved in Britain and through the supply routes for businesses in this country”, while Miller said “it is imperative that the law is working well in practice and can evolve as perpetrators find new ways of exploiting and harming victims”.
Butler-Sloss stated that the exploitation and enslaving of men, women and children across the world and within the UK is “one of the most shocking crimes and one of the most profitable”.
She added: “The Modern Slavery Act is a splendid piece of legislation but it is very important to review how well it is being implemented and how it could be improved. I am delighted and proud to be asked to be part of a team to hold an independent review into the working of the Act.”
It comes as new Home Office research found the economic and social impact of modern slavery costs the UK up to £4.3bn a year. Each instance of the crime is estimated to cost around £330,000, including the cost of support, lost earnings and law enforcement but most significantly the physical and emotional harms suffered by individuals.
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