The UK Government’s claim that it will produce a ‘world-leading Modern Slavery Bill’ has been challenged by a group of leading anti-trafficking charities, including ECPAT UK, who today published an ‘Alternative Bill’ highlighting deficiencies in the legislation.

The influential Anti-Trafficking Monitoring Group (ATMG), led by NGOs representing the interests of children and adult victims of trafficking and modern-day slavery, is proposing alternate legislation, with assistance from a group of expert lawyers, in order to assist Parliament in strengthening the Modern Slavery Bill that is currently before Parliament.

The ATMG’s Modern Slavery, Human Trafficking and Human Exploitation Bill contains vital provisions for victim protection and ensures the specific needs and rights of children are addressed and upheld.

Echoing ECPAT UK’s Modern Slavery Bill campaign, launched in December 2013 and supported by nearly 80,000 people, the Alternative Bill includes a clause for a system of legal guardianship to protect child victims of trafficking, a separate criminal offence of child exploitation to increase prosecutions for child offences and a clause to prevent the criminalisation of child and adult victims of trafficking forced to commit crimes. 

In addition, the ATMG Bill simplifies and strengthens the Offences section to criminalise perpetrators of modern slavery and trafficking, has provision for an improved and independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner to monitor the UK’s response to the issue, a clause to tackle forced labour in companies’ supply chains and measures to stop the enslavement of overseas domestic workers.

Chloe Setter, Head of Advocacy, Policy & Campaigns (Child Trafficking), ECPAT UK, said: “The Modern Slavery Bill currently lacks the necessary provisions to successfully prevent and prosecute slavery and trafficking offences, and to protect the victims, particularly children, of these evil crimes.

“The ATMG’s Alternative Bill shows it is possible to create a robust piece of legislation that not only tackles the criminal elements of these acts but also puts victims at its heart. We urge the Government to heed the collective expertise of those who drafted this alternate legislation and not waste this important opportunity to strengthen its Modern Slavery Bill.”