Efforts to tackle modern slavery ‘slow down as transparency rules are ignored’

The international body Chartered Institute of Procurement and Supply (CIPS) urged the Government to better enforce critical transparency rules that are being “ignored”.

Only 29% of organizations required to produce a modern slavery declaration have submitted it to the government registry by 2022, CIPS found.

Businesses with a turnover of more than £36m a year are required to publish an annual statement outlining the steps they are taking to tackle slavery in supply chains, under the UK’s Modern Slavery Act 2015.

They are also “strongly encouraged” to submit statements to the Home Office’s Modern Slavery Statements Register, although it is not required.

But the registry saw just 8,074 returns filed in 2022, a sharp drop of 46% from the 15,019 filed the previous year, CIPS found.

Despite more than a third of organizations saying they believe modern slavery abuses are most likely to occur in the UK, as part of its supply chain, followed by 18% who said China and fewer of a tenth who said India, according to the data. from the register

CIPS noted that companies have a six-month grace period to produce the 2022 return, but said efforts to file returns could be winding down without further pressure from the government.

David Taylor, CIPS director of operations, said: “It is an open secret that vulnerable adults and children are exploited every day to produce the goods and services we consume.

“Organizations face enormous pressures in their supply chains, and in these circumstances it might be tempting to turn a blind eye to modern slavery and prioritize other challenges.

“But it is precisely in times of economic difficulties that we must be vigilant and continue our efforts to address this problem.”

He added that data is a vital resource to help address modern slavery, but is currently being ignored.

Additionally, nearly a quarter of the returns filed last year lacked basic information about the steps being taken, such as including measurable goals.

The government is expected to introduce a new modern slavery bill to Parliament this year that would make registration submissions compulsory for qualified companies.

But the agency noted that the government has not appointed anyone to the post of independent anti-slavery commissioner since April last year, a role required to scrutinize legislation and hold companies to account.

Dame Sara Thornton, Professor of Modern Slavery at the University of Nottingham and a former commissioner, said: “While we await new modern slavery legislation and a new independent anti-slavery commissioner, far too many cases of exploitation, abuse will be allowed to go unheeded. and damage. .”

“That is where our true failure lies,” he stressed.

Illegal Migration Bill
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has unveiled his flagship Illegal Migration Bill, which critics say could dismantle protections for victims of trafficking and modern slavery (Leon Neal/PA)

The analysis comes as Prime Minister Rishi Sunak came under fire this week for his landmark immigration reforms, which could make it harder for victims of trafficking and modern slavery to come forward amid the risk of deportation.

Former Prime Minister Theresa May has called for such victims to be excluded from measures in the Illegal Migration Bill, which seeks to remove protections for people deemed to have entered the UK illegally.

Ms May warned that the bill would “drive a carriage and horses through the Modern Slavery Act, denying support to those who have been exploited and enslaved.”

Home Secretary Robert Jenrick, representing the government, said he saw “growing evidence” of abuse of the modern slavery system.


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