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Photo by Kristina Tripkovic on Unsplash

I am delighted that the members of the London Assembly have backed my call to write to the Home Secretary to demand she fills the role of an Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner – echoing the calls of councillors where they’ve embraced the Modern Slavery Charter and Labour & Co-operative Police and Crime Commissioners. As the both a Co-op Party sponsored Assembly Member and the Labour Lead on Crime and Policing, I felt it was my duty to raise this issue, and was very grateful to have the backing of Leonie Cooper AM who seconded the motion.

London is at the sharp end of modern slavery. Of the 15,210 referrals made last year to police through the national referral mechanism for modern slavery, 5,183 were made to the Metropolitan Police Service here in London – just over a third of all referrals for modern slavery were in the capital. It’s heinous crime and it demeans us all that the Government has been soft pedalling on it with the failure to appoint an Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner.

Let’s just remember, the Home Secretary is legally obliged to appoint an Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner as a result the Modern Slavery Act that the Tories passed in 2015. But then they’re led by a Prime Minister who broke and was fined for breaching his government’s own lockdown laws, more recently fined by not wearing a seat belt, and filmed letting his dog run wild in Hyde Park when it should’ve been kept on a lead. It’s hardly leadership by example.

The reluctance to appoint to the role is no mistake. One job the Commissioner should be doing is scrutinising proposed legislation. It’s no surprise then that the role is vacant when the Government has introduced to Parliament the Illegal Migration Bill. My motion – also supported by the Lib Dems and Greens though notably the Tories abstained – expressed our concern about the measures in the Bill, the legality of it, and whether it’s actually workable. It’s right that as London representatives we have a stage on which to express our concern; it’s a worrying situation when the Government seeks to quash criticism of their proposals by a BBC presenter; it’s outrageous that they’ve not appointed the one person who by statute has a role in scrutiny of the proposals.