Robert's Weekly Swindon Advertiser Article - 5th August 2015

As your local MP, I’m contacted by my constituents about a multitude of both national and constituency-based issues. This week, I would like to draw attention to the efforts of the Government to tackle the growing problem of slavery.

Slavery is an affront to humanity and has no place in our society. Despite the fact that the slave trade was abolished nearly two hundred years ago, people trafficking and modern day slavery is sadly still with us.  Young people who are given the promise of a good life in the West, who are tricked into owing thousands to people traffickers and who end up minding cannabis farms or being forced into prosecution. I saw this during my work as a barrister and am very glad to be a Minister in a Government that is leading the world in this area.

The Modern Slavery Act 2015, which received Royal Assent in March, is one of the first in the world to specifically address slavery and trafficking in the 21st century. These new rules give law enforcement the tools they need to target today's slave drivers and ensure that perpetrators can be severely punished.

I firmly believe that tackling human trafficking in all its forms is vital to bringing this abhorrent exploitation of human beings to an end. I am pleased that the Government has shown that it will not tolerate slavery and human trafficking within, or into the UK. The Government has introduced the Modern Slavery Act to disrupt and imprison the organised criminal gangs behind much of the modern slave trade.

The legislation gives law enforcers the powers they need while enhancing protection for victims by: allowing the courts to give life sentences to perpetrators; creating a new Anti-Slavery Commissioner to ensure law enforcers are doing all they can to tackle this crime; allowing assets seized from perpetrators to be used more often to provide reparation to victims; and providing a defence for victims of modern slavery, who are forced to commit offences (other than serious offences where the defence shouldn't be available).

This prosecution and asset recovery work are brought using existing legislation, however the CPS expects the Modern Slavery Act 2015 to further strengthen such cases. The Act not only clarifies the law regarding the prosecution of these crimes, but also extends asset recovery and introduces reparation orders to confiscate assets from those convicted, and in many cases given directly back to the victims.

On a local level, I was delighted to attend the Summer Fete on Saturday afternoon at Goddard Park Primary School in Park North. To organisers of the event, which helped to raise awareness and funds for local families whose lives are touched by autism and/or ADHD, my thanks. 

I was Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Autism from 2011 – 2014, and I continue to take a strong interest in autism provision in Swindon and know many families who, like my own, are dealing with autism and what it means.

As ever, I’m hosting regular advice surgeries across Swindon, so please get in touch with my constituency office for more information. It was great to chat with local residents at the Honey Pot café in Wroughton on Saturday. I’m also excited to be launching my new website this week, which will feature my latest news and information about how I work on your behalf in Swindon and in Parliament. So keep your eyes peeled at