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Westlake Legal Group > Modern day slavery

Jonathan Glanz: Allowing tents on the public highway is the wrong way to help rough sleepers

Cllr Jonathan Glanz represents West End Ward on Westminster City Council and is the Council’s Lead Member for Broadband and Connectivity

If somebody pitched a tent on the front lawn of your home, you would be within your rights to remove them from your property immediately as they would be trespassing. If somebody pitches a tent on the Public Highway, as we have seen examples on Regent Street, Piccadilly and Whitehall, the Local Authority has no power to remove them without first serving 30 days’ notice on the occupants. That is the minimum requirement, and it is only then that a Court Order can be made to remove the tent. The process therefore often takes considerably longer.

The Court Order applies not to the individual within the tent, nor to the tent itself, but to the specific location of the tent at the time. If the tent has been moved, even by just a metre or so, the Order is invalid, and even when a valid Order is obtained, the recipients, fully wise to the current law, can move the tent and the whole process starts again.

The tents provide immediate shelter for rough sleepers, but they also provide a space where they can undertake activities unseen from the prying eyes of neighbours or law-enforcement officers.

Tents pitched in Soho have frequently been used as drugs dealing points, for drug consumption, prostitution and other crimes. As they amount to a private space or dwelling, neither the police nor the Council can require the occupants to open the tent flap and reveal the activity within without a warrant.

Those occupying the tents often use the nearby street for dumping, as a lavatory and a queue for drug users or prostitutes’ punters. You can imagine the frustration of living above or besides such activity and having no effective remedy.

This is part of the increasing challenges faced by Local Authorities and police with rough sleeping in our city centres. Westminster spends over £7 million per year reaching out to rough sleepers in an attempt to bring those living on the streets indoors where they can receive medical attention and help to start rebuilding their lives.

Westminster has always had more than its fair share of people living on the streets. Historically, it was Meths drinkers in and around the Strand, many of whom suffered from substance misuse or mental health, who lived (and in many cases prematurely died) on our streets.

However, the new tent-dwelling cohort are part of significant Roma population who have come to London simply to beg and indulge the generosity of the resident and visitor population. Whilst many visitors salve their conscience by thinking they are helping the individual concerned, those who understand the problems know that these people, often victims themselves, are part of sophisticated organised crime.

Literally, millions of pounds per year are taken out of the West End economy by such activity. Unfortunately, little if any of this goes to help the individuals concerned, who are merely pawns in the organised crime game. They themselves are the victims of modern slavery as they are forced to beg on the streets, and then account for their monies to their gang masters. Those giving money believe they are helping the individuals concerned to buy a sandwich because their piece of cardboard, provided to them at the beginning of their shift, says “I’m hungry”. In fact, they are providing money which is more likely to go to fund the next Range Rover for Mr Big back in Romania.

The agencies involved in seeking to help rough sleepers and the police will tell you that it is not unusual for these beggars to take £500 or £600 cash per session in central London. Indeed, a Senior Police Officer told me that he recently arrested one who had £6,500 in cash on them.

Roma beggars now live in our parks, squares, subways and doorways. Men and (even heavily pregnant) women often spend their nights on the streets and then await their gangmaster who will allocate spots to them and organise their shifts and arrange to collect their monies afterwards. They are extremely well-organised.

This behaviour has now has become further entrenched with the tents. Last week saw a huge operation to clear 15 tents from the central reservation of Park Lane and a similar number from Hanover Square, where Crossrail is building one of its Bond Street Stations. Needless to say, they are already back. Residents and businesses are at their wits’ end, complaining that neither the police nor the Council have sufficient resource to undertake the necessary enforcement, but the fundamental problem lies elsewhere.

As Romania is in the European Union, its citizens are free to travel, and free to work in the UK. They claim to be here exercising their Treaty Rights, and the Courts have decided that they have a right to be here, even when they have no intention of seeking work (presumably decided by a judge who does not live in the West End). Consequently, there have been further emboldened by this process, and we must now, as we leave the European Union, revisit the Legislation, so that we can have appropriate enforcement action coordinated between UK Borders Authority and with the full support of the Council, police and Home Office to ensure that this arrangement, facilitating and providing monies for organised crime comes to a swift end.

I am therefore calling on Priti Patel to ensure that Local Authorities be given the necessary powers to deal with such problems. Whilst this problem is by no means confined to the West End or indeed London, without the necessary powers both the police and the Council struggle to make any effective progress.

The idea that tents on the Public Highway require 30 days’ notice for their removal is nonsensical, and, in the same way, as you would be entitled to remove a tent from your front lawn with immediate effect, Local Authorities must be given the same power to deal with tents on the Public Highway.

I am also calling on her to prioritise the necessary legislation to ensure that people who come to the UK as part of an organised begging gang can be swiftly and effectively repatriated.

Without such powers, our city centres, already blighted by begging, antisocial behaviour and criminality will become no-go areas for residents, law-abiding citizens and visitors.

 

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

WATCH: Cameron – “Is the cause of a modern, compassionate Conservative Party lost? Absolutely not.”

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

May’s premiership. How a loner leader met an isolated end.

Few politicians are introverts – let alone senior ones; let alone Prime Ministers.  But such is the disposition of Theresa May – or at least, if not precisely an introvert, she is unusually at ease with silence, as a mass of accounts of dealing with her can verify.  This sense of solitude, modulated by a happy marriage, almost defines her.  Who can pin down what has shaped it?  But part of the answer must surely lies in her upbringing as an only child, with a clergyman father driven by an persistent sense of public service.

But despite this clear-cut character, there have been not so much one, but three Theresa Mays, as far as her political career has been concerned.  The first was a cautious moderniser: an industrious, capable woman on the Conservative benches at a time when these were rarer than they are now.  Given the lack of competition, and her own clear sense of duty, she rose fast – becoming the Tory Chairman who warned Party members that theirs was seen as “the Nasty Party”.

The second May saw her find an adviser and gain a department.  The former was Nick Timothy, whose Conservative profile was unusual and distinctive – left-leaning on the economy, right-looking on social policy (when it comes to immigration control, anyway).  The latter was the Home Office, whose culture of command, wariness and control reinforced her own instincts and tendencies.  She began to make leadership pitches, the first to a conference held by this site, with a distinctly interventionist flavour.

In the aftermath of the EU referendum, she become literally the last woman standing, after the withdrawal from a 2016 leadership contest of Andrea Leadsom.  To many Party members, she looked more than capable of resolving its post-plebiscite tensions.  She had been a Remainer, but had deliberately distanched herself from George Osborne’s “Project Fear”.  Her Home Office record was mixed, but she had fought the former Chancellor, and others, over migration control.  She seemed to offer grown-up government after a decade or so of Blair-light spin.

This site was enthusastic about the possibilities a May premiership offered and, at first, our optimism was more than justified, as she announced a Brexit commitment to take Britain out of the EU’s insitutions altogether – the most natural way of intepreting the referendum result.  Then came the 2017 election gamble and Timothy’s manifesto over-reach.  May’s majority vanished. So did Timothy.  Enter her third and final manifestion.  During it, the social conservatism, such as it was, seemed to vanish, leaving a Government leaning left both socially and econimally.

The Conservative Party is still picking up the pieces, as this leadership election has demonstrated – dispossessed as the party is of the economic thinking that ran through Thatcherism all the way to “austerity”.  But it was on EU policy that May Mark Three – in so many ways a reversion to type – became most manifest.  In retrospect, it is evident that she was hostile to No Deal; even at the time, it was clear that she was incapable or unwilling of seeing Brexit as an opportunity rather than a problem; and the Timothy-era clarity of purpose was replaced by the splitting of differences.

May’s supporters claim that she had no choice but to do so, given the depth of division within the Party over alignment and diversion, and deal or no deal (if necessary).  There is force in the argument, but also strength in the counter-case – principally, that her Government treated Ireland with a chacteristically English complacency; failed to spot the constitutional and political traps in the original backstop, and would have stood a good chance, had it not folded early on the proposal and fought instead for a compromise, of getting a deal through Parliament.

Instead, May gradually ceded ground to the point where she lost the trust of both sides of her Parliamentay Party simultaneously – on transition migration, transition extension, a regulatory border in the Irish Sea, even on the Customs Union, at least as far as the revised, all-UK backstop was concerned.  And as the referendum receded over time, the Remain-sympathetic Commons grew bolder – with the Grieve-Cooper-Letwin push for indicative votes and extension.  The more centralised her decision-making became, the less control over events she actually had.

Perhaps we all eventually turn into caricatures of ourselves.  As time went on, she certainly appeared to.  That childhood-learned sense of duty seemed to narrow to a resolve to cling on in office; the commitment to others, learned early in thse country vicarages, to a conviction that the country needed her.  The game was clearly up by mid-March, when MPs crushed the Withdrawal Agreement for the second time and a vote on extension was announced.   The Conservatives’ poll ratings began to fold that week.  These have not reached 40 per cent since.

If you promise over 100 times that Britain will leave the EU on March 29, and it doesn’t; then say that you are not prepared to delay Brexit later than the end of June, but do; announce that it would be “unacceptable” for European elections to take place, but they happen; and if you denounce Jeremy Corbyn as a threat to the country, but then seek to work with him over Brexit, you will poison the well not only for yourself, but also for your party.  Conservative MPs opted for Boris Johnson for simple, sole reason that they think he has the best chance of cleansing the waters.

May joined the Conservative Party as a teenager.  She married it, so to speak: Philip May was also a young Conservative activist, and could well have become an MP himself.  There is a terrible irony in this long-time Party member, a former Tory councillor who is “one of us”, having presided over an attempt to work with a hard-left Marxist.  You may say that she had no choice, given what the “Spartans” did to her deal, third time round.  And that she could not have ultimately have prevented extension, at least if her government was not to fall.

To which the response must be: if that last claim is true – and we suspect it is – she should have quit mid-March, telling the voters that, since the Commons was thwarting her Brexit promises, she would go.  Yet she hung on – though doing so didn’t save her in the end, as was evident at the time.  Perhaps the best explanation is that she really was set on staying in Downing Street longer than Gordon Brown.  Or, more straightforwardly, that it is a rare Prime Minister who leaves voluntarily – only Harold Wilson in modern times, and he was ill.

Having been so enthusiastic about May during the Timothy era, we would like something to salvage from the wreckage.  There are floating chunks of woodwork – the small business rates cut; parental bereavement leave; the push against modern slavery.  But the loss of even a small majority left her Ministers all at sea.  And the centrepiece of May’s legacy bid is an emissions commitment that won her pleasing headlines, but leaves her successors a delivery headache.  The loner has ended all but isolated, and maybe the key to the second is in the first.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Robert Halfon: Under our new leader, we must prize social justice above social mobility

Robert Halfon is MP for Harlow, a former Conservative Party Deputy Chairman, Chair of the Education Select Committee and President of Conservative Workers and Trade Unionists.

Compassionate Conservatism courses through the veins of this Party. I know – I speak to colleagues and members every day. From educational attainment to lack of in-work progression. From family breakdown to fragile social care. From addiction to defunct housing. These concerns, and many more that disproportionately affect society’s most disadvantaged individuals, are deeply troubling for us all.

We are the Party of high school standards and aspiration. The Party that introduced the National Living Wage, the Modern Slavery Act, the Pupil Premium. Compassionate Conservatives believe in a strong safety net, but also in a dynamic welfare system that is ambitious for individuals, rather than one that writes them off.

Our Party is the champion of free trade and enterprise – the engine of prosperity for us all. But, we also recognise the state’s vital role in helping disadvantaged individuals overcome adversity so that they, too, can prosper.

All too often, however, our concerns about the most disadvantaged are not reaching the light of day. According to a recent poll by the Centre for Social Justice, just five per cent of low-income voters think the Conservative Party is “compassionate”. 72 per cent say the Party is not concerned about people on low incomes. 52 per cent believe that we “don’t understand what it is like to struggle”. And 57 per cent say Conservatives “only care about the rich”. These are damning statistics, and do not reflect my colleagues’ natural sentiments.

Meanwhile, the Left hoovers up recognition, despite the mirage of its self-declared monopoly on compassion. Take its proposals on welfare, which focus more on parking people on benefits than on encouraging aspiration. Or Corbyn’s plan to scrap tuition fees; an enormously wasteful and regressive measure that would suck precious resources out of the pot – resources that could instead be used to support the most disadvantaged. Or Labour’s misconceived notion that helping poorer individuals can only be achieved by taking down the rich.

It is time Conservatives claim compassion as one of our own. However, we cannot do so until we are clearer about what we mean by this.

Equality of opportunity should be right at the heart of our thinking. The problem, however, is that this has become synonymous with social mobility – a term that has become increasingly fashionable but loses sight of the bigger picture. At its core, social mobility implies the capability to move up the ladder of opportunity. But it is not enough just to focus on this. There are swathes of people who are not even at the foot of the ladder in the first place; people who are so far removed from the mainstream that the idea of progression and self-fulfilment is a distant fog.

If we are serious about creating opportunity for all, Conservatives also need to have an answer for these individuals and can only do so by thinking about social justice. This means addressing all the personal circumstances in somebody’s life that are shackling his or her ability to enjoy the opportunities that exist in society. In addition, we must tackle the things that cause people to crash into poverty, rather than the symptoms: educational failure, worklessness, family breakdown, unmanageable debt, addiction, disability, exposure to crime, poor housing.

If we fail to grasp this, we will fail the Conservative Party’s moral heritage. We will also, almost certainly, demolish our prospects of a working majority in the next general election.

The Centre for Social Justice has calculated that over 1.4 million poorer voters live in the 100 most marginal seats in the country. And in every single one of those seats, these individuals exceed the majority of the standing MP, in many cases by a considerable margin. Put simply, the Conservative Party cannot win the next general election without winning the hearts and minds of society’s most disadvantaged individuals.

The next leader must deliver Brexit, arguably, the most daunting task faced by a post-war Prime Minister. And he must do so swiftly and decisively. But this cannot define his premiership. Brexit was a symptom of a much broader restlessness in our society: the marginalisation of large numbers of people from prosperity. The answer to that is a bold, assertive domestic agenda that has social justice right at its core.

Whatever the outcome of the leadership contest, the victor must stitch together the ripped fabric of our society. He must reach out to those who are stuck on the side lines of prosperity. And he must reignite the compassionate instincts that lie at the heart of this great Party.

To make a start, our future Government should transform the current Social Mobility Commission into a Social Justice Commission, embedded in the heart of Downing Street. They must address all the concerns I have outlined, and more, to make sure Government brings every single person to the ladder of opportunity, not matter who they are, where they come from, or what difficulties they face.

The Commission should produce social justice impact assessments on domestic policy and legislative proposals. They should not only be a means by which negative effects are flagged but should be used to ensure that everything we Conservatives do is positively helping to improve the lives of those who need looking out for most.

As our Home Secretary, Sajid Javid, has said, delivering Brexit is about more than just leaving the EU. “The hard bit is yet to come. Because we’ve got to reflect why so many people voted the way that they did in the biggest democratic exercise this country has ever seen.”

What comes next is equally important, if not more so, and delivering social justice to all corners of our nation must be a focal part of it.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Luis C.deBaca: Modern Slavery. The Government’s victim protection scheme is deeply flawed. It needs reform.

Luis C.deBaca is the Robina Fellow in Modern Slavery at the Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance, and Abolition, of Yale University’s MacMillan Center. He served in Barack Obama’s Administration as Ambassador-at-Large to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons.

A few years ago, survivors of the largest slavery prosecution in U.S. history invited me to commemorate the tenth anniversary of their case with them, which I had prosecuted in court. They were no longer the scared and hungry workers we had found behind garment factory fences, but were small business owners, college students, mothers and fathers, joined in America by their families and thriving in their new home. Such an emotional and inspirational reunion could not have happened in the United Kingdom, because the victims wouldn’t have received long-term care, their family members would never have joined them, and they themselves would have been likely to be sent home long before.

As Home Secretary, Theresa May recognised that modern slavery strikes at the heart of our commitment to human dignity, and made combating trafficking her signature issue. As Prime Minister, she again vowed to fight ‘the great human rights issue of our time’. That mantle of leadership, however, is at risk.

As US anti-trafficking Ambassador under Barack Obama, I was honored to testify before the Parliamentary inquiry that resulted in the 2015 Modern Slavery Act. Its supply chain transparency provisions and new criminal tools are a global example. But the same cannot be said for the UK’s victim protection regime, which is rendered almost meaningless by the lack of long-term care and alternatives to removal. Put simply, a country cannot long be a global leader against modern slavery when its own official determination that someone is a victim is undercut by artificial deadlines, lack of services, or even deportation.

That’s why the Modern Slavery (Victim Support) Private Members Bill, currently in Parliament is so important. This Bill, tabled by Ian McColl and Iain Duncan Smith will ensure that official recognition that someone is a trafficking victim will result in a year of specialist support and an alternative to deportation.

Lord McColl’s proposal would not only bring the UK into compliance with UN and global standards of victim care, but would result in more effective prosecutions, as victims would know it is safe to come forward. I saw this directly as a prosecutor and diplomat. In the US, trafficking victims can seek immigration status (the “T-Visa”) if they are willing to cooperate with an investigation. They aren’t just used as witnesses, but are recognised for their bravery and protected for speaking out, often at great risk. Family members can join them, escaping retribution in their home country and knowing that there is a chance to make a new life in America. Before the T-Visa was introduced, some had concerns that it would lead to false claims. These concerns have been unfounded, because each victim goes through a careful review by investigators at each step of the way.

In contrast, the current system in the UK offers no comfort or security to victims once they have been identified. While it is possible for victims identified in the UK to be granted a residence permit (including for working with the police), that appears to have happened for only 12 per cent of confirmed victims. Instead, victims who are officially recognised by one part of the Home Office often find themselves pursued by another arm of the same Ministry for deportation.

Immigration issues aside, those who are identified by UK authorities as trafficking victims lose all government-funded specialist support two weeks later. This makes no sense. The Home Office promises to increase this to 45 days, but that is insufficient. Trafficking victims are still in direct trauma at that stage, and need long-term care if they are to recover. With support cut off at this crucial point it is no surprise that, rather than beginning a healing journey and cooperating with authorities, victims in the UK often return to the shadows, and even re-exploitation, to avoid destitution.

Three years after the Modern Slavery Act, prosecutions in the UK remain low. That means that, in spite of repeated political commitments to stop this crime – no matter how frequent, sincere, or significant – state involvement in Modern Slavery cases brings low risk for criminals and high risk for the victims.

So what are Britain’s counterparts doing in similar situations? New research by Nusrat Uddin, a solicitor at Wilson Solicitors, compares the support available to victims in the UK, Belgium, the Netherlands and the US: countries that each have anti-trafficking systems considered global models (though each system can be improved upon). Each system recognises that victims fear coming forward to authorities. But only the United Kingdom fails to respond meaningfully to that fear, lacking coherent provision of long-term protection and support.

Uddin’s report is not the first to recognise this. Earlier this year, the American Trafficking in Persons Report recommended the British Government provide specialised services for all types of trafficking victims, regardless of immigration status. And last April, the Commons’ Work and Pensions Select Committee recommended that “all confirmed victims of modern slavery be given at least one year’s leave to remain with recourse to benefits and services…“

As a friend of the UK, I have been proud to support your commitment and leadership in this area. But as a friend, I must also honestly point out this glaring shortcoming in the British approach. Accordingly, I urge Government to seize the opportunity presented by the Modern Slavery (Victim Support) Bill to increase prosecutions, prevent trafficking, and become a global leader in victim protection.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com