Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking and Prevention of Sexual Violence in Conflicts Worldwide.

My Lords, Her Majesty’s most gracious Speech contains some very welcome measures that will protect the most vulnerable in our country and advance the cause of a fairer society. One such measure that I particularly welcome, and the subject on which I will speak today, is the inclusion of the modern slavery Bill.

Modern slavery is an appalling crime that has no place in today’s society. The modern slavery Bill, the first of its kind in Europe, represents a historic opportunity to get new legislation on the statute book and reflects the Government’s determination to lead the global fight against this evil. Human trafficking is an issue that is of great concern to me. I have raised it on a number of occasions in your Lordships’ House. I was born and brought up in Africa, which was ravaged by slavery. I have always appreciated the work of General Gordon and David Livingstone. About four weeks ago, I went to Zanzibar and visited the site where the slaves were kept and sold. Some 200 years since the abolition of slavery, it is depressing that there is a continuing need to confront this evil.

Human trafficking destroys lives and its effects damage communities. It is an international organised crime, with the exploitation of human beings for profit at its heart. Vulnerable women, men and, most tragically, children are trafficked for sexual exploitation, labour exploitation or to be used in criminal activity. This is something that no civilised country should tolerate. Victims often travel to the UK willingly in the belief that they are destined for a better life.

Despite concerted efforts in this country and across the world, the appalling reality is that human trafficking is one of the fastest growing international criminal activities. The International Labour Organisation estimates the number of slaves worldwide to be 21 million, with the slave trade generating £150 billion of illegal profits annually. I am pleased that the Government have shown that they will not tolerate slavery and human trafficking within, or into, the UK, and are taking the lead on combating these awful crimes. Human trafficking is a truly international crime, with potential victims identified from all over the world. We must work more closely with our international partners to stop this terrible crime.

The modern slavery Bill will be a significant step in Britain’s approach to combating this evil. The main provisions of the Bill relate to the committal of offences, the introduction of slavery and trafficking prevention orders, the creation of an anti-slavery commissioner, the protection of victims and stricter law enforcement powers at sea. It brings together, rationalises and simplifies existing laws that are dotted around in other Acts, bringing clarity and focus to Britain’s approach. I am pleased that there is cross-party consensus on this issue. We must continue to work together on this so that the Bill is the strongest it can possibly be. I look forward to the modern slavery Bill’s passage through your Lordships’ House and hope that this will be an effective step on the road towards ending this most heinous of crimes at home and abroad.

Finally, I welcome the United Kingdom’s intention to lead efforts to prevent sexual violence in conflict worldwide, which was included in Her Majesty’s most gracious Speech. I have spoken in your Lordships’ House several times on this matter, and I am very glad that a global summit, which will be co-chaired by the Foreign Secretary, is being held in London this week on the subject. I do not have the time to talk about the subject in any detail, but I would like to say it has been reported that rape has been used as a weapon by certain Muslims, and in this regard I would remind them that Islam strictly forbids this evil practice. Prophet Mohammed, peace be upon him, instructed Muslims not to lay hands on women, children and elderly people in any form of warfare.

Updated: 10/06/2014 — 4:49 PM