Skip to main content

Written Statements

Volume 680: debated on Tuesday 22 September 2020

Written Statements

Tuesday 22 September 2020

Home Department

Modern Slavery

Today, the Government have published their response to the transparency in supply consultation. A copy of the Government response will be placed in the Libraries of both Houses and it will also be published on gov.uk.

The landmark transparency provisions in the Modern Slavery Act 2015 established the UK as the first country in the world to require businesses to report annually on their work to prevent and address risks of modern slavery in their operations and supply chains. This legislation was introduced to empower investors, consumers and civil society to hold businesses to account, and it has since sparked an international trend for supply chains legislation.

I am proud that thousands of businesses have risen to the challenge of reporting and consistently raised the benchmark for transparency since the Act came into force. This year the Government joined the private sector in opening up about their supply chains, becoming the first country in the world to publish a Government modern slavery statement setting out how we are leveraging public spending to prevent risks in Government supply chains and drive responsible practices. In his foreword to the statement, the Prime Minister made the Government’s ambitions clear:

“It’s not enough for Government and businesses to simply say they don’t tolerate modern slavery. As we take stock of both the challenges faced and achievements made, we must match our words with actions.”

Five years on from the Act, it has become more important than ever that businesses take responsibility for their supply chains, and I am committed to ensuring this Government maintain their global leadership on this agenda. In May 2019, the final report of the independent review of the Modern Slavery Act, led by Frank Field, my right hon. Friend the Member for Basingstoke (Mrs Miller) and the noble Baroness Butler-Sloss GBE, considered the Act’s transparency legislation alongside four other key areas and made a compelling case for change. In response, the Home Office launched a public consultation seeking views on a range of measures to strengthen section 54 of the Modern Slavery Act and enhance the impact of transparency.

I am grateful for the expertise of the reviewers and of those who responded to the consultation. Today, I am proud to announce the ambitious package of measures we will be taking forwards to strengthen and future-proof the Modern Slavery Act’s transparency legislation.

To improve transparency, we will be requiring all organisations caught by the Act to publish their statement to a central Government-run reporting service, to ensure organisations’ work to prevent modern slavery is open to scrutiny. At the same time, we will be introducing mandatory topics that modern slavery statements must cover, to increase transparency and encourage year on year improvement in key areas. Taken together, these measures will drive a race to the top, ensuring progress is recognised and gaps are addressed.

To improve compliance, we will introduce a single reporting deadline on which all statements must be published. We are also considering options for civil penalties for non-compliance forwards in line with the development of the single enforcement body for employment rights, led by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.

Finally, we will be extending the reporting requirement to public bodies—a global first. Leveraging public spending is a crucial step towards driving responsible practices and identifying risks, and I welcome the voluntary efforts of many public sector organisations on this agenda. Like businesses, public sector organisations have a responsibility to be transparent about modern slavery risks in their supply chains and how these are being addressed. Ministerial Government Departments have already committed to publishing annual modern slavery statements, the first of which will be published in September 2021.

Many of these measures are global firsts. However, I am determined that Government and industry do everything possible to protect vulnerable workers from exploitation. Tackling modern slavery remains a priority for the Government and I will continue to look at what further measures are needed to strengthen our response, in partnership with the devolved Administrations, law enforcement, business, public sector organisations, NGOs, civil society and the independent anti-slavery commissioner.

[HCWS463]

International Trade

UK’s Future Trading Relationship with the US: Negotiations

The fourth UK-US free trade agreement (FTA) negotiating round took place from 8 September to 18 September 2020.

There were 29 sessions held in this round, covering 16 different chapter areas. Significant progress has been achieved since launching negotiations in May 2020, and most chapter areas are now in the advanced stages of talks.

In total, 132 sessions have been held over the past four negotiating rounds, as well as an additional 30 inter- sessional discussions, involving officials from 20 different UK Government Departments and agencies.

In the fourth round, both sides continued to have detailed textual discussions, and negotiators are now in the process of consolidating texts in the majority of chapter areas.

Shortly before the fourth negotiating round both sides exchanged their first tariff offers, allowing a series of detailed market access discussions to be held during the round.

The exchange of tariff offers is a notable milestone, and the speed at which this stage has been reached demonstrates the momentum behind these negotiations.

Both sides reiterated their commitment to continue negotiations at pace throughout the Autumn in advance of the US presidential elections.

The fifth round of talks will take place in mid to late October, with additional intersessional discussions taking place between the fourth and fifth rounds. Further such talks will be held this week on telecommunications, intellectual property, market access, and rules of origin.

Below is a summary list of those workstreams discussed in the round:

Sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS)

Customs and trade facilitation

Competition

Technical barriers to trade (TBT)

Market access

Financial services

Good regulatory practice

Rules of origin

Investment

Economics

Cross border trade in services

Industrial subsidies

Sectoral annexes

Core text

Trade remedies

State owned enterprises

[HCWS461]

Women and Equalities

Gender Recognition Act 2004

Today, I am announcing the Government’s response to the consultation on the Gender Recognition Act 2004.

As a Government, we are determined that everyone in the UK should be free to live their lives and fulfil their potential regardless of their sex, gender identity, race or disability.

We are proud to have introduced same-sex marriage and passed the Turing law.

We want transgender people to be free to live and to prosper in a modern Britain. We have looked carefully at the issues raised in the consultation, including potential changes to the Gender Recognition Act 2004.

It is the Government’s view that the balance struck in this legislation is correct, in that there are proper checks and balances in the system and also support for people who want to change their legal sex.

However, it is also clear that we need to improve the process and experience that transgender people have when applying for a gender recognition certificate—making it kinder and more straightforward. Our changes will address the main concerns that trans people themselves tell us they have about it.

In 2017, we conducted by far the largest survey ever of British LGBT people, with over 108,000 respondents, of whom 7,000 were trans. Of those who had completed their transition, around two in five said that they had a gender recognition certificate, a higher proportion than is often believed. The survey then asked those who had not applied what had prevented them from doing so. They were able to choose as many reasons as they wanted.

Some 38% told us the process was too bureaucratic. So we will place the whole procedure online. Some 34% said the process was too expensive. This, too, we will address. We will reduce the fee from £140 to a nominal amount.

We have also come to understand that gender recognition reform, though supported in the consultation undertaken by the last Government, is not the top priority for transgender people. Perhaps their most important concern is the state of trans healthcare. Trans people tell us that waiting lists at NHS gender clinics are too long. I agree, and I am deeply concerned at the distress it can cause. That is why we are opening at least three new gender clinics this year, which should see waiting lists cut by around 1,600 patients by 2022. The full benefit of the increases in clinical capacity that we have been able to secure will lead to greater patient choice, shorter waiting times, better geographical coverage and easier access. It will also make it easier to fulfil the medical requirements of obtaining a GRC.

It is why we last year provided funding for the UK’s first national LGBT health adviser to help improve transgender people’s experience.

Britain leads the world as a country where everybody is able to lead their life freely and treated with respect and that, for many years, transgender people have been widely accepted in British society: able to use facilities of their chosen gender; and able to participate fully in modern life.

At the heart of this is the principle of individual liberty. Our philosophy is that a person’s character, their ideas, and their work ethic trumps the colour of their skin or their biological sex. We firmly believe that neither biology nor gender is destiny.

The Equality Act 2010 clearly protects transgender people from discrimination. The same act allows service providers to restrict access to single sex spaces on the basis of biological sex if there is a clear justification.

We want every individual, regardless of their sex, sexual orientation, or gender identity to have the confidence and the freedom to be themselves. We will continue with our international leadership by hosting our international LGBT conference to make sure LGBT people around the world are safe to be themselves.

I am laying the analysis report of consultation responses as a Command Paper today and it will be published on gov.uk.

The attachment can be viewed online at: http://www. parliament.uk/business/publications/written-questions- answers-statements/written-statement/Commons/ 2020-09-22/HCWS462/.

[HCWS462]