This afternoon Kevin Hyland, the UK Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner issued a statement saying he would be stepping down from his position this summer. The post was established in the Modern Slavery Act 2015 and Kevin Hyland is the first to occupy it. In his resignation statement he suggested there had been problems with the independence of the role and voiced his hopes that his successor would be able to be more independent.
Focus on Labour Exploitation (FLEX) worked closely with Kevin Hyland. On a range of issues he listened and took action to seek clarity or answers from the Government, such as on the reform of the National Referral Mechanism for victims of modern slavery. FLEX will greatly miss Kevin Hyland’s openness and willingness to engage, and joins him in hoping that his successor is permitted to exercise strong independence to drive forward UK progress on modern slavery.
At the time the Modern Slavery Act was debated in Parliament, many, including Focus on Labour Exploitation, raised questions about the role and the control the Home Secretary would hold over any post-holder. In response the word ‘Independent’ was added to the job title in recognition of the need to strive for independence. However, this move did not provide sufficient clarity about how such independence would be exercised and Kevin Hyland’s statement today suggests that this confusion has been a feature of his time in office. Unless this role is genuinely independent, it will not be able to provide oversight to government or to champion the needs of victims. Anything less than this and the Anti-Slavery Commissioner risks becoming an expensive PR exercise.
As Kevin Hyland prepares to leave his post, we wish him every success in the future and as the Government looks to his successor we urge them to place a priority on the high aims of the Modern Slavery Act.