Cont.

"This issue significantly affects women and girls. Of all the victims of human trafficking in Europe, 70% are women and 11% are girls, so a focus on tackling violence against women rightly seeks to address human trafficking. Many of these women will be victims of sexual exploitation, which makes up 76% of all human trafficking cases in the EU.

 Human trafficking is predominantly a cross-border crime. Trafficking networks can often span several countries or continents as victims are recruited and transported from one country to another, so collaboration is key to identification and assistance. In 2016 only 326 of the 3,805 potential victims referred to the UK’s national referral mechanism were UK nationals—over 90% of potential victims of modern slavery were foreign nationals.

Across the EU, from 2010 to 2012, 5,611 EU citizens were prosecuted for trafficking, and almost a quarter of these were prosecuted in a different EU country. This demonstrates the need for strong collaboration, information sharing and co-operation between law enforcement and justice systems to protect vulnerable people from being trafficked.

This country has a proud history as a world leader in tackling modern slavery and human trafficking, supported by the commitment of our Prime Minister. Our Modern Slavery Act is at the forefront of legislation to ensure that we are equipped to properly tackle this issue. We have this moment in history to define the country we want to be. We should seek to maintain our proud record, and build on it, to ensure that we remain at the forefront of the fight against trafficking and the oppression of women and girls.

One of the keys to this is our role in Europol, which the UK law enforcement community, particularly the National Crime Agency, identifies as its most immediate priority. Europol’s commitment to co-ordinating the response to human trafficking and modern slavery ​is key. In 2016, its Operation Ciconia Alba identified 549 potential victims and launched 102 further investigations in the space of a week, in a co-ordinated effort which spanned 28 nations.

We know that the Government have, rightly, made known their intentions to remain a part of Europol and their desire to remain an active partner. Information sharing is the key to safety and security across the EU, and it is essential that we maintain our current access to exchange law enforcement intelligence with other European nations. We know too that this is possible outside the EU, as a number of countries, such as Norway, Switzerland and the US have operational agreements with Europol that allow access to intelligence. But an operational partnership such as this does not include access to the Europol information system, which pools information on suspected and convicted criminals and terrorists from across the EU. However, the EU is as much in need of our information and intelligence, so an agreement should be in the mutual interests of both parties. Tackling cross-border crime and terrorism requires us to seek the strongest possible collaboration across the EU, and I know that this is under negotiation.

I call on my noble friend the Minister to reassure the Committee that these key concerns are being addressed in the negotiations. It is an agreement that I am looking for—I am not so convinced about an annual report, but if one would lead to an agreement then it would be a good first step. We must ensure that we are able to build on our strong, historic anti-trafficking record. Will the Minister ensure that, post March 2019, Britain will use its new-found freedom to continue to lead the way on these crucial issues of justice?"

Watch Philippa's speech here.