February 1 2015 Latest news:
Thursday, July 10, 2014
Modern-day slavery is prevalent in our region, a Norwich MP has told Parliament, amid plans to bring in tough new laws to hand life sentences to perpetrators.
Chloe Smith, who worked alongside eastern Europeans packing salad in Methwold as a teenager, spoke during a debate in Parliament in which she told MPs that West Norfolk was “well aware” of cases of exploitation, abuse and trafficking of migrant workers, with Lithuanian gangmaster Audrius Morkunas convicted earlier this year.
She said: “This is a crime about which we in Norfolk know all too much and the same would be true of other rural areas. This afternoon, I was discussing with my honourable friend Stephen Barclay (MP for North East Cambridgeshire) the way in which this crime is prevalent in our neck of the woods.”
But she said later that while there were large numbers of foreign workers in the region’s agriculture industry, it did not mean the whole of the industry was an abusive one.
She told the Commons that she had worked alongside Bulgarians at the then HLI Factory, now Premier Foods, and while she had not seen abuse at that time, she could see from her experience how it could occur.
She added that “good law” was essential to protect workers, and also the reputation of sectors of industry, such as agriculture.
Ms Smith spoke during a debate held this week introducing the second reading of the Modern Slavery Bill, which was announced in the Queen’s Speech last month.
She will be a member of the Bill committee scrutinising the legislation.
She also told Parliament about the Freedom charity, based in Hellesdon, which helped release three women from slavery in Lambeth in recent months.
• Do you know of any cases of exploitation? Email firstname.lastname@example.org