Wednesday 29 May 2019


The facts beggar belief.  I went to school in the 1950s and 1960s and learnt that in my country the slave trade had been ended by legislation in 1807 and in 1833 slavery itself had been abolished throughout the British Empire. Slavery had been relegated to the past. And yet, remarkably, one of the last legislative acts of the Conservative-led Coalition government (2010-2015) was the Modern Slavery Act (2015), designed to combat modern slavery and consolidate previous offences relating to trafficking and slavery. 

Modern slavery - gang labour under the threat of violence

How has it come to this - history reversed; a warp in the time-spectrum? I will make the case that the economic ideology of neoliberalism - the belief that the pursuit of profit unhindered by government regulation will produce the best of all outcomes for all in the long run - is responsible. We have seen the return of slavery because wealthy and powerful interests have taken to their collective bosom a 

set of economic beliefs that lack coherence and academic rigour as well as being morally bankrupt. More on that later. 

Modern slavery - one recent survey indicated that 1 in 5 of the UK population have never heard of modern slavery - we need to know. But we also need to know about the weaknesses of the 2015 Modern Slavery Act.  

First, an exposure of the limitations of the 2015 Modern Slavery Act, with grateful thanks to Wikipedia: 

"Experts in the issue were sceptical of the bill, believing that it had many shortcomings.[16] Parosha Chandran, a human rights barrister and United Nations expert on trafficking, claimed that "the bill is very poor on victim protection". Anthony Steen, who advised on the legislation and chairs the Human Trafficking Foundation, claimed that the bill failed to focus on the needs of victims of trafficking in the UK. “The bill is wholly and exclusively about law enforcement – but it shouldn’t be enforcement-based, it should be victim-based", he said.
Human rights group Liberty argued that the bill should have:[17]

  • Addressed abuses associated with the Domestic Overseas Worker Visa which prohibits individuals from changing their employer
  • Addressed the conflict of interest arising from UK Visas and Immigration being involved with the National Referral Mechanism which is used to identify trafficking victims and which acts as a gateway to support
  • Extended legal aid to slavery victims in civil matters."

I have posted many times previously using the descriptor: 'misgovernment' to characterise the period since 2010 when first a Conservative-led and then a Conservative government has been in power. Granted an Act against modern slavery was passed in 2015, but it lacked vision, teeth and compassion in dealing with injustice and wrong-doing.  

Slavery is closer than you think - the Home Office could be doing more to help the victims - creating hostile environments helps the slave traders.  

My next insight into the dark underside of cheap labour in Britain today comes from the pages of The Big Issue, the edition published on 24 March 2019. My grateful thanks to its author, Liam Geraghty, for these details about modern slavery and how The Big Issue is helping to tackle it.

When someone is homeless, an offer of work and accommodation can be irresistible. But it may turn out to be a path that leads to modern slavery. Liam Geraghty cites the case of 'John' who found himself on the streets and then offered a labouring job by an acquaintance on social media. John was taken in by a family and subjected to 12-hour unpaid working days for seven days a week. He was forced to live in a filthy room with little food and ordered to carry out petty thefts with threats of violence if he didn't comply. When he escaped months later, he was back on the streets and soon picked up as forced labour at a commercial farm. Only after the police raided the farm and he began talking with Hope for Justice, a charity fighting modern slavery, did he find the courage to fully inform the authorities of his ordeals.  

Key modern slavery statistics

John is not an isolated case. The latest figures from the National Crime Agency's National Referral Mechanism (NRM) show that 1,961 potential victims were flagged up by authorities in the last three months of 2018 - 12% up on the previous three months. Across the UK it is estimated that up to 136,000 people find themselves trapped in forced labour or trafficked and exploited for sex. It has been estimated that 40.3 million people are trapped in modern slavery globally. 

The UK government is rated third in the world for taking action against modern slavery by the Global Slavery Index - but does this say more about the lack of action elsewhere than it does about the effectiveness of governmental action? A report by the cross-party Public Accounts Committee in May 2018 stated that the government's "good intentions have yet to result in coherent action to help [victims]". In that same month, the UK's first independent Anti-Slavery commissioner, Kevin Hyland, resigned from his role citing "government interference". 

Since the passing of the Modern Slavery Act in 2015, the number of police investigations have tripled to 600 per year - but this at a time when our police force has been subject to sweeping financial cuts in the name of an austerity policy. There have been significant cuts in numbers of police on the frontline. And it is that political choice of austerity by neoliberal-inspired Conservatives in power which has led to our ever-more divided and impoverished country. That in turn has created the conditions for modern slavery to grow like a cancer in our society.  

Breaking the wall of silence for victims is crucial. But a BBC investigation in 2018 found that more than 2,200 people in the system - those who had been freed and were now entitled to access support and even accommodation during a 45-day reflection and recovery period - had been awaiting a decision on whether their claim was genuine for at least 12 months with 100 waiting since 2015.  

There are, though, hopeful signs. The Big Issue organisation has been active in fighting the menace of modern slavery. Their Sales and Operations teams in the West Midlands have been working with the charity Transforming Communities Together to produce a training programme to protect the vendors of the weekly magazine from being exploited themselves by forced labour gangs - and help them protect other homeless people.  The Salvation Army adopted the campaign against Modern Slavery as its theme for those running in their name in this year's London Marathon - and in so doing has raised at present £60,088 for that campaign from around 26 runners (with Gift Aid to add to that total). I was delighted to have raised £2,333.85 of that total - my thanks once again to my 36 supporters.  

Proud to be a Sally Army Strider 

But make no mistake we are living in the so-called "interesting times" of the Chinese curse because of government policy since 2010. That policy can and will be reversed by a Jeremy Corbyn-led Labour Government, committed to socialism fit for the 21st century. Modern slavery can be wiped out and the time warp put right.  

A good and important read - but most of you know that by now - still, worth checking it out again - it is a book of prophecy



  1. ALL PEOPLE MATTER! and this government will be remembered for its lack of understanding of this important truth.