Slavery: the hint that Theresa May gave a fortnight ago of dramatic rescue

Home Secretary told awards ceremony of 'men, women and children in our country ... living lives of servitude and misery'

Deputy Political Editor

A fortnight ago in the opulent Savoy Hotel in London, Theresa May gave a hint of the dramatic rescue just miles away of three women from their captors.

The Home Secretary told an awards ceremony: "We're sitting here in these beautiful surroundings, having had a wonderful meal.

"But remember there are men, women and children in our country who are living lives of servitude and misery - probably some of them not too far away from where we are today."

She spoke of her determination to tackle the "long engrained injustice" of modern-day slavery, singling it out as a priority for the Home Office.

Next month Mrs May will publish a draft Modern Slavery Bill that will bring together measures to combat human trafficking and the activities of gangmasters. The aim is to get the Bill on the statute book within a year.

Under its measures, the most serious offenders will face life in jail, while other traffickers would banned from owning companies, working with children or young women or visiting certain premises.

It will create a modern slavery commissioner whose job will be to hold government departments and agencies such as the police to account if they fail to tackle the problem. It will also improve training for officials to recognise when people are being against their will.

A Home Office minister today spoke of his fears that thousands of vulnerable people could be working unpaid in agriculture, industry, prostitution and domestic service in Britain.

James Brokenshire warned that criminal networks were trafficking victims from across the world, many of whom did not even realise they were being held in Britain.

He said: "It is difficult to genuinely quantify the problem, though one organisation has said the number [of slaves in the UK] is as high as 6,000.

"If you see something you think is suspicious, that doesn't quite add up, if you have natural concerns that something does not feel quite right, then report it to the police and they will investigate."

David Cameron's official spokesman said the Prime Minister viewed the case as "utterly appalling".

He said: "The importance of this issue and the importance of ensuring that, where it is occurring, it is brought into the open is exactly why the Government is taking through the House the modern-day Slavery Bill."

Video: 'Psychological' control

News
ebooksNow available in paperback
News
The data shows that the number of “unlawfully” large infant classes has doubled in the last 12 months alone
i100Mike Stuchbery, a teacher in Great Yarmouth, said he received abuse
Arts and Entertainment
The starship in Star Wars: The Force Awakens
filmsThe first glimpse of JJ Abrams' new film has been released online
Sport
Rio Ferdinand returns for QPR
sportRio Ferdinand returns from his three-game suspension today
News
The Speaker of the House will takes his turn as guest editor of the Today programme
arts + ents
News
people

Watch the spoof Thanksgiving segment filmed for Live!
Sport
Billy Twelvetrees will start for England against Australia tomorrow with Owen Farrell dropping to the bench
rugbyEngland need a victory against Australia today
Arts and Entertainment
The cover of The Guest Cat – expect to see it everywhere
books
Sport
Tyson Fury poses outside the Imperial War Museum in south London ahead of his fight against Dereck Chisora
boxingAll British heavyweight clash gets underway on Saturday night
News
i100 Charity collates series of videos that show acts of kindness to animals
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

Christmas Appeal

Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

Is it always right to try to prolong life?

Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

What does it take for women to get to the top?

Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

French chefs campaign against bullying

A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

Paul Scholes column

I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game