To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of (1) reports that up to 10,000 people could be victims of modern slavery in textile factories in Leicester, (2) claims by Andrew Bridgen MP that “a conspiracy of silence” has prevented action from being taken on such victims' behalf, (3) the report by the Centre for Social Justice It Still Happens Here: Fighting UK Slavery in the 2020s, published on 12 July, that estimates there are at least 100,000 victims of modern slavery in the UK each year; and what plans they have (a) to undertake an analysis of those statistics, and (b) publish a summary of the factors to be considered to review the effectiveness of the Modern Slavery Act 2015.
27 July 2020
We are deeply concerned by the appalling reports of illegal and unsafe working conditions for garment workers in Leicester. The Government will not tolerate the exploitation of vulnerable workers for commercial gain and is committed to taking action against those who seek to do so.
While we cannot comment on any ongoing investigations, we can confirm that since 2017 a number of operations have been undertaken in the Leicester area linked to potential exploitation of workers, including by the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority, HMRC and Employment Agency Standards Inspectorate. On each occasion, where breaches were found, enforcement action was taken, including warning letters, recovery of unpaid wages and director disqualifications.
In March 2020, the Office for National Statistics noted that there is no definitive source of data or suitable method available to accurately quantify the number of potential victims of modern slavery in the UK. While the hidden nature of modern slavery makes providing an accurate measure of its scale difficult, we are committed to improving our understanding of this often complex crime. In July 2019, the Government announced a £10 million investment to create a new Policy and Evidence Centre for Modern Slavery and Human Rights. We will continue working with the Centre and other partners to strengthen the evidence base underpinning our policy and operational response to modern slavery.
In July 2018, the Government commissioned an Independent Review of the Modern Slavery Act 2015. The aim of the Review was to identify what can be improved in the implementation of the Act and whether specific areas of the legislation need to be strengthened. The Government response (https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/803406/Independent_review_of_the_Modern_Slavery_Act_-_final_report.pdf) to the Independent Review, which was published on 9 July 2019, accepted or partially accepted the majority of the Review’s recommendations.