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Theresa May should be ashamed of record on child slavery, says Labour

Theresa May should be ashamed of her record on protecting child victims of slavery, Labour has said as the PM took personal charge of a new drive against people trafficking.

As Mrs May announced she would chair a taskforce charged with co-ordinating Government policy against modern slavery, and pump an extra £33.5 million into trying to combat people trafficking in countries such as Nigeria, Labour warned that her track record was not a cause for optimism.

The shadow minister for preventing abuse, Sarah Champion, said: "The new Prime Minister should be ashamed that she hasn't acted on the protection for children in the Modern Slavery Act.

"Last year, 982 children were identified as victims of modern slavery and taken into local authority care. Within days, 60% of those children went missing, presumed to be back with their traffickers, where they would continue to be exploited and abused. This is simply not good enough.

"Modern slavery is on the increase but under Theresa May's watch, the police and Border Force have been cut and her Government cut local authorities by over 40%. If Theresa May is serious about tackling slavery, she needs to give professionals the resources to stamp it out."

With ministers estimating there are 10,000 to 13,000 potential victims of slavery in the UK, Mrs May said she wanted to make the fight against the illicit trade a priority.

A review by barrister Caroline Haughey to mark the first anniversary of the Modern Slavery Act found that 289 modern slavery offences were prosecuted last year, and there was a 40% rise in the number of victims referred for support.

While praising the impact of the Act, Ms Haughey warned: "There is a lack of consistency in how law enforcement and criminal justice agencies deal with the victims and perpetrators of modern slavery. We need better training, better intelligence and a more structured approach to identifying, investigating, prosecuting and preventing slavery, including learning from what works and what does not."

The call came after the UK's anti-slavery commissioner, Kevin Hyland, warned that people trafficking cases are not being investigated properly.

Mrs May insisted she is determined to lead a global fight against slavery.

"This is the great human rights issue of our time and as Prime Minister I am determined that we will make it a national and international mission to rid our world of this barbaric evil.

"Just as it was Britain that took a historic stand to ban slavery two centuries ago, so Britain will once again lead the way in defeating modern slavery and preserving the freedoms and values that have defined our country for generations.

"From nail bars and car washes to sheds and run-down caravans, people are enduring experiences that are simply horrifying in their inhumanity," she wrote in the Sunday Telegraph.

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