HC Deb 23 April 2001 vol 367 cc131-2W
Mr. Tynan

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what powers he has to prevent the trafficking of women and girls in to the United Kingdom for sexual exploitation and prostitution; and what action is being taken at international level to combat such exploitation. [157527]

Mrs. Roche

[holding answer 10 April 2001]: The Sex Offences Review recommended to Government in "Setting the Boundaries" that there should be a specific new offence of trafficking for the purposes of commercial sexual exploitation for reward. The Government are considering that recommendation in the light of the responses to the report. The Home Office is also co-ordinating a wide range of work by various Government Departments in relation to establishing trafficking offences. These measures support and supplement work being done internationally both in the European Union (EU) and the United Nations (UN). The United Kingdom has already signed the UN Protocol on Trafficking in Persons, especially women and children; and is taking part in discussions within the EU on proposals to establish common offences and penalties in relation to preventing and combating trafficking in human beings, paying particular attention to the sexual exploitation of women and children.

The EU funded STOP programme exists to encourage, support and reinforce practical co-operation to tackle trafficking in human beings and sexual exploitation in children. The International Organisation for Migration, of which the United Kingdom is a full member, is also engaged on work in this field.

Apart from prosecution for other offences, traffickers who attempt to facilitate the illegal entry of their victims may be prosecuted for the offence of facilitation which now carries a maximum penalty of 10 years' imprisonment. Alternatively, or in addition, such traffickers who are also foreign nationals may also be refused leave to enter the United Kingdom.

Apart from prosecuting traffickers, the National Crime Squad, National Criminal Intelligence Service, Immigration Service, Police and Europol are all actively involved in the gathering and dissemination of intelligence on trafficking and people smuggling. This work has been co-ordinated through a multi-agency taskforce entitled Project Reflex. The establishment of a network of Immigration Liaison Officers at strategic locations will further facilitate the exchange of information. The announcement by my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary in his reply to my hon. Friend the hon. Member for Cleethorpes (Shona McIsaac) on 5 April 2001, Official Report, column 256W, of an additional £90 million over three years to combat organised crime includes an additional £22.5 million in support of Project Reflex. This new money will enable further work to be carried out to combat trafficking and people smuggling, including the establishment of a joint team drawn from the National Crime Squad and Immigration Service. The EU is working closely together, drawing upon existing co-operation, to tackle the criminals responsible for this horrific trade.