Politics.co.uk Blog

Monday, 26 October 2009

More work for Wilberforce's heirs

Last week, in the wake of the super-injunction storm, ministers pointed out that just because an Act was passed in the 19th century doesn't mean it has suddenly stopped applying.

Usually legislation, helped along by common law, can just about get by. But it turns out the Slavery Abolition Act 1833 is in need of a fundamental shake-up. Today the Lords is voting on whether to expand its remit, or not.

It seems strange that William Wilberforce's work is not yet done. Yet that is what Liberty and Anti Slavery International are arguing. "The current law does not adequately protect the human rights of victims," they state. It's the 21st century, and yet there is no stand-alone law which clearly states that those who can't escape from working for little or no pay deserve the right to freedom.

Forced labour, 'servitude', virtual labour - call it what you like, it's a problem which needs urgently fixing. Updating the law, through the coroners and justice bill, might seem like a theoretical, academic step to take. But Liberty reports police are reluctant to help those who run to them for help. It's up to peers to help remove that reluctance - and help those in need.

Liberty have an excellent briefing on the situation here.

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