Working as a parliamentarian to fight Human Trafficking: Rt Hon Karen Bradley MP

Published 24 January 2022

Working as a Parliamentarian to fight Human Trafficking and Modern Slavery: Rt Hon. Karen Bradley MP

The Rt Hon. Karen Bradley has been MP for Staffordshire Moorlands since 2010. She has served as Minister in the Government Whips office, a Lord Commissioner of HM Treasury, and the Minister for Modern Slavery and Organised Crime in the Home Office. After being re-elected in 2015, she became Minister for Preventing Abuse, Exploitation and Crime at the Home Office followed by Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, and then Secretary of State for Northern Ireland until 2019.
In February 2020 Karen was elected Chair of the House of Commons Procedure Committee. She is also Co-Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Human Trafficking and Modern Slavery and a trustee of the Human Trafficking Foundation. 

As the co-chair of the APPG on Human Trafficking and Modern Slavery in the UK Parliament, what relevant discussions have there been around the Commonwealth Games and trafficking?

In the Human Trafficking and Modern Slavery APPG, we have touched on the issue of trafficking through sport, but we have not done a specific piece of work on it.

However, I am very keen to use the 2022 Commonwealth Games as an opportunity to do a good piece of work and have a panel discussion using the legislative power we have in Government, as well as future legislation to raise awareness of this issue.

All the APPG parliamentarians have been briefed beforehand on how sport can be an enabler for traffickers, and the act of making people believe they are going to be successful athletes. CPA UK, with their push on this issue, is giving us the impetuses that we need. 

As a parliamentarian concerned with the issues of modern slavery, how have you raised awareness of the topic in your Parliament, as well as in your local constituency?

As I took the Modern Slavery Act through the UK Parliament, I do get invited to speak at lots of things which many parliamentarians won’t have the opportunity to do. I have raised the issue recently, for example, on trips in Washington. I have also had opportunities in debates and question times, where I try and raise awareness of Modern Slavery as much as possible to keep it in the political agenda.

Passing the Act is not enough. We need to keep the topic heard in Parliament. By speaking in Parliament on this issue, it allows other members, who may not have the time to focus on this issue, to be made aware of it.

In my constituency, as I was the Minister for Trafficking, constituents often come to me proactively, coming forward to brief me on their Modern Slavery work. We have a new Chief Constable appointed in my constituency, and he came to a meeting with local stakeholders. This was an example where I was able to raise the issue and press to him the need to carry on the focus on Modern Slavery in the police force.

What advice would you give to a parliamentarian trying to help draft and push for anti-slavery legislation similar to the 2015 Modern Slavery Act?

In the case of the UK, it was the Human Trafficking and Modern Slavery APPG that was set up by Anthony Steen and other concerned MPs, that instigated the Modern Slavery legislation. They started working on it by conducting joint debates and questions. It is very powerful when you get a question on an order paper with multiple people jumping on the back of it, as it shows real concern for that issue. 

However, the Act was only one part of the strategy. If you look at what can be done in schools, children's homes, immigration authorities, these are all really important parts of the process to help identify victims. What we looked for was where we needed legislative solutions. For us, we need criminals on the offenses, to allow the police to bring together evidence to charge an offender. When doing so, you have to have a victim-focused approach.

Victims need to be made safe, and provided with care, so that evidence can be collected. Therefore, victim support, identification, and mentoring need to be put in the centre of the process. The final point I would make is that you need to take a step back and see it as a financial crime. We need to break the business circle, because the business for the criminal is financial gain.

The fact that a criminal is prepared to traffic human beings the same way they traffic drugs shows that we should be using the same techniques to break into these criminal gangs. This is not an immigration crime. Paying someone to smuggle you into a different country is a different crime to trafficking, which is where someone is moved and exploited against their will. 

People seem to confuse people smuggling and people trafficking. It is not the same thing and the business model in the case of the trafficking is that the human being is a commodity for which they make money. We need to find a way to stop them from making money, by breaking this business model.