House of Lords
Monday, 17 November 2014.
Prayers—read by the Lord Bishop of Worcester.
Retirement of a Member: Lord Chorley
My Lords, I should like to notify the House of the retirement, with effect from today, of the noble Lord, Lord Chorley, pursuant to Section 1 of the House of Lords Reform Act 2014. On behalf of the House, I should like to thank the noble Lord for his much valued service to the House.
My Lords, according to the UNAIDS Gap report published in July 2014, globally it is estimated that 2.1 million men, women and children became newly infected with HIV in 2013, which is down from 3.4 million in 2001. It is estimated that 35 million people are now living with HIV.
My Lords, is not the worst feature of that figure of 35 million people living with HIV around the world that half of them are undiagnosed, and the principal reason is that people are prevented coming forward for testing because of the prejudice and fear that surrounds this area? As we approach World AIDS Day in about a week’s time, will the Government renew their efforts to persuade a change of policy in the 80 countries around the world, several of which are in the Commonwealth, where homosexuality is still a criminal offence?
I start by paying tribute to my noble friend for his outstanding work in this field, and not least for his new book, which I have been reading with great interest, AIDS: Don’t Die of Prejudice. He makes a very strong case not only for action in the United Kingdom—which, of course, he led on, and which I hope he will agree we have maintained—but for very active work overseas. It is by being inclusive, not stigmatising, and by making sure that prevention, treatment and care are all taken forward for everybody that we will indeed turn this around.
Is the Minister aware that many people suffering with HIV are in fact addicted to drugs and that it is the interpretation of the UN conventions that is failing HIV patients and also failing the rest of the world? As 5.5 billion people do not have access to essential pain-relieving medicines, will the Minister support the guidance being prepared by the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Drug Policy Reform, which we are doing in conjunction with the Mexican, Colombian and Guatemalan Governments? Will she support that guidance on the reinterpretation of the UN conventions?
The noble Baroness is right to associate this with the use of drugs, and she will also know that in those countries that have addressed needle use HIV has been reduced—for example, in the United Kingdom it is minimal. We realise the significance of this challenge worldwide, particularly, for example, in eastern Europe. I will look closely at what she has suggested.
My Lords, while HIV is clearly a health issue, does the Minister agree that in many countries gender inequalities remain the driving force behind this epidemic? Studies have shown that women and girls experience violence and are, therefore, at increased risk from HIV and live lives full of threat. Does the Minister agree that the needs and rights of women and girls are not being adequately addressed in response to HIV, and will DfID call for an in-country response to HIV, which includes, as the UN has requested, the creation of specific budgets intended to cater for the specific needs of women and girls?
The noble Baroness is quite right to associate this with violence against women and girls and the inequality of women and girls. She will know that the infection rate among young women is twice as high as that for young men, for the very reasons she has given. It is absolutely fundamental to our approach to address that inequality and try to combat violence against women and girls.
My Lords, an increasing number of people with HIV, although very poor and marginalised in their own communities, live in middle-income countries. To date, DfID’s grant support has been crucially important to the HIV prevention and treatment programmes in those countries. What will happen when the funding ceases in 2015?
My noble friend is probably aware that we are a major donor to the Global Fund, which works internationally in middle and low-income countries. She is right that our bilateral programmes focus on the poorest countries, but through our enormous contribution to the Global Fund—we are the second largest international donor in this area—we are supporting those with HIV in middle-income countries.
Like the noble Lord opposite, I had an extremely instructive visit to the IAVI lab at Imperial College. He will have noted, as I did, the challenge of trying to find a vaccine for HIV because of the difficulty with the way the virus mutates. This is in contrast, for example, with seeking to find a vaccine for Ebola. We continue to emphasise the need for research in this area, but it is immensely challenging.
My Lords, does my noble friend agree that, when the Global Fund launched its great campaign to get antiretroviral drugs out to AIDS sufferers all over the world, it missed an opportunity to ensure that there were simple primary care health systems set up on the back of the campaign, and people in Africa are suffering from that now?
The noble Baroness is right in her analysis of what happened in the first instance. Because HIV was such a major catastrophe, it was targeted separately from the health systems. However, the lesson was quickly learned that these needed to be integrated. Our emphasis now is absolutely that this needs to be integrated with the health systems in the relevant countries, and this has benefits across the board.
My Lords, NHS spending has increased in real terms by £5 billion over this Parliament, underlining the priority the Government place on the NHS. NHS England’s Five Year Forward View set out a range of future scenarios. While NHS funding beyond 2015-16 will be a matter for the next spending review, the Government believe that changes in the way that services are delivered are essential, both to moderate rapid increases in demand and to improve efficiency.
My Lords, I first declare an interest as president of the Society of Chiropodists and Podiatrists, a small trade union professional association that has members working in the health service.
Is the noble Earl aware of the concerns of the BMA and others that the recent changes to NHS structures, particularly funding structures, actually risk worsening health inequalities? What will the noble Earl do to ensure that that does not come to fruition?
My Lords, tackling health inequalities is one of the major tasks facing NHS England. It is built not only into its mandate but into legislation, and we expect NHS England to address it at every level—both in the acute area and in the community. It is of course up to local commissioners to prioritise their funding, but we expect to see over the next few years a shift from care in the acute sector to care in the community, both to prevent acute admissions and to ensure that people stay healthy for longer in their own homes.
My Lords, the 2004 GP contract, which was introduced by the party opposite, forced GPs to come off on-call rotas at night and at weekends, thus removing them from out-of-hours services. The impact of this on our emergency departments has been quite dramatic. Will my noble friend confirm that the introduction of the Better Care Fund will go a long way not only to integrate these services between primary and secondary care but to remove pressure on our A&E services in the acute sector?
I agree with my noble friend that the primary purpose of the Better Care Fund is clearly to make care better, but it is also a major step forward in making our health and care services more sustainable, and moving to a preventive model that delivers care closer to home and keeps people healthy in the community. GPs have a major part to play in this and I am encouraged by the extent to which they are now engaging in the task of addressing the BCF.
Will the noble Earl correct the inadvertent misleading of the House by the last noble Lord who spoke? The obligation for doctors to serve at weekends and in the evenings was not removed in 2004 but many years before—as it happens, under the Conservative Government. What happened in 2004 was that although they were not serving at weekends or in the evenings, as had been allowed by the previous Conservative Government, doctors were spending an increasing amount of time on the bureaucracy of finding a replacement doctor. That bureaucratic burden was what was removed from them. Will he confirm that that was the case, not for the first time but for the second time, because I asked him last year and he confirmed that by 2004 almost 90% of doctors had already opted out of night work and weekend work?
The noble Lord has huge experience in this area and his outline is of course right, in that before 2004 we had largely a system of co-operatives in which GPs could elect to work out of hours if they wished. The 2004 contract gave individual GPs and GP practices the option not to do that. While there was no obligation to move away from out-of-hours care, many GPs have chosen to do that.
My Lords, as it is nearly Christmas I have not given the Minister the advantage of seeing the question beforehand, but with his dexterity in answering I am sure that he will answer it straight. Can he predict which party, elected into government next May, will keep the NHS free at the point of need?
My Lords, the NHS five-year review clearly highlighted that there was a need to upgrade preventive and public health services. Can my noble friend the Minister say how this will be done, particularly when you go back to the 2011 WHO agreement on 25 goals, under which 25% of deaths have to be reduced by 2025?
My noble friend is right to highlight the role of public health. That is why many people are encouraged that health and well-being boards, which now oversee the planning and prioritisation of healthcare in their local areas, are taking those public health goals into account and building them into the strategic health assessments. So the co-ordination of healthcare and public health is in a much better position than it was before the reforms.
My Lords, the Minister referred to the Better Care Fund. How does he respond to the criticisms made by the National Audit Office in the last few days? It said that the programme had poor management and hugely unrealistic expectations, and that it was not going to reduce emergency admissions. Can the Minister explain why the NAO concluded that the programme had no national leadership, limited risk analysis and no analysis of local planning capability?
My Lords, that report is somewhat out of date. Plans have now been through the nationally consistent assurance review. The results have been published and shared with local areas, which have stated some clear ambitions. They are to have 163,000 fewer stays in A&E, to make £532 million savings for health and care services, and to have 101,000 fewer unnecessary delays spent in hospitals, along with other goals besides. We are very satisfied with progress reached in producing the Better Care Fund plans. Not all plans have been approved, but we are well on course.
Financial Services: Cold Calling
My Lords, the FCA’s financial promotion rules apply to regulated financial services and products, and cover all forms of financial promotion, including cold calling. On consumer credit, the FCA requires regulated firms that accept business from unregulated lead generators to take reasonable steps to ensure that the business operates in compliance with legal requirements. The Information Commissioner’s Office can also issue a penalty of up to £500,000 to any organisation that breaches the legal requirements around cold calling.
My Lords, 31 million adults say that they have been offered fee-charging debt management via cold calls and texts. When these calls are from intermediaries, as they usually are, they are not in fact regulated by the FCA. As a result, the callers are not obliged to tell of the existence of free debt management services, which would be the case if the calls came directly from the debt management companies. The FCA already bans cold-call selling of mortgages. Will the Government consider doing the same for payday loans and fee-charging debt management services?
My Lords, all debt management companies themselves are required to advise on free debt management options at their first contact with a potential customer, so even when lead generators are being used there should be no cases in which people sign up for advice without having been told about the free alternatives. That is the key requirement. The circumstances that led to the banning of cold calling on mortgages a number of years ago, around the right to buy, were very different from the broader considerations that apply more generally.
My Lords, does the Minister recollect that when the announcement was made that pensioners could withdraw their pension funds, I asked him if he was aware of the spectre of cold calls every day seeking to advise people. He advised me then that there was no need to worry. Does he now accept that what is happening today, yesterday and the next day is that dozens of phone calls are being made advising people how they may access their pension pot? If the practice goes unfettered, is he aware that thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of people will lose out very badly? Is it not now time to regulate that sort of thing?
My Lords, the easiest way to ensure that people do not get that plethora of calls is for them to sign up to the Telephone Preference Service, which will mean that they do not get the bulk of calls coming in. As far as the potential mis-selling of pensions is concerned, the FCA has a very wide remit and toolkit to deal with any potential mis-selling, and I know that it is working very hard in this area.
Is my noble friend aware that there is something wrong with the Telephone Preference Service, in that numerous calls are made to, I suspect, every Member of your Lordships’ House from overseas, and even from the UK, extensively for financial products, and is it not time that Ofcom and the FCA sat down together, with the help of government, to try to tighten up this whole area?
My Lords, the regulation of cold calling is split between the FCA, the Information Commissioner’s Office and Ofcom. The Nuisance Calls Action Plan was issued by the Government earlier in the year, one of the key parts of which is to bring these components together and to work with equivalent bodies in other parts of the world from where people make cold calls. In addition, a consultation is currently under way, which recommends that it should be much easier in future for the Information Commissioner’s Office to take action and to enforce penalties against people who are breaking the rules.
My Lords, next week we will have our amendment to the Consumer Rights Bill to deal with nuisance calls. It would make it compulsory for every marketing call to reveal its number, either for blocking purposes or to enable action to be taken. Will the Minister ask his friends in BIS to support that amendment when it comes to the House next week?
I will definitely relay the noble Baroness’s request to my noble friends. As she will know from Committee on the Bill, a number of examples were given which made it less straightforward than she suggests, not least in terms of family members having access to calls being made from organisations such as helplines.
My Lords, I wonder if I could press the Minister again, particularly on payday loans. The recent report published by the Children’s Society, Playday not Payday, has highlighted the regulatory gap whereby payday loan companies can make unsolicited marketing calls, whereas, as we have heard, mortgage providers are not allowed to. That report showed that over 40% of people who have taken out payday loans are receiving on average more than one unsolicited phone call a day. Does the Minister not agree that the provisions that prevent the mortgage providers from making that sort of marketing approach really must now be brought in for the payday loan companies in order to protect those who are most vulnerable?
The very specific arguments that apply in respect of mortgages do not apply to payday loans. The key thing about payday loans at the moment is that the payday loan companies are being regulated for the first time, which is leading to a collapse in the number of payday loan companies, so that it is expected that we may end up with as few as four payday loan companies in operation at the end of this process. However, the FCA is undertaking an in-depth thematic review of the debt management sector to assess the quality of advice and the area mentioned by the right reverend Prelate. If it finds substantial evidence of consumer detriment of the kind he suggests, it will be able to consider the scope of further regulations.
Children: Alcohol Harm
My Lords, the Government take very seriously the sale of alcohol to those under the age of 18. The Government have brought into force much tougher punishments for the offence of persistently selling alcohol to children and more powers for the police and the licensing authorities to take action locally. Last month, the Government introduced further changes to strengthen requirements on retailers of alcohol to carry out age verification checks.
My Lords, I am grateful for the Minister’s reply and the progress that has been made. Is it not true, however, that the number of children presenting drunk at A&E departments went up substantially in 2013? Is it not also true that the Government have responded to the industry’s pressure to remove the law that currently deters the sale of liquor to children in other forms in food? Because the sale of alcohol in liquid form has been declining, the industry is now seeking to extend the areas in which it is selling alcohol in other foods, particularly those available to children such as ice cream or sorbet containing vodka. I have written to the Government to seek their intervention on this, but they have declined. Why have they responded solely to the industry’s pressure to repeal that law—the only one that protects children—when nobody else, including parents and the Chief Medical Officer, has asked the Government to do this?
My Lords, I shall try to answer all those questions. On admissions to A&E, I do not disagree with the noble Lord, but we are working with health practitioners to ensure that there is a model and a guidance procedure not just for treatment but for follow-up care for children who present. I do not agree with the noble Lord that we have bowed to the industry. I was just reflecting on that point about liquor in chocolates: I recall that when I was a child, the one sweet that would never be eaten were the chocolate liqueurs because they were so revolting. Should a child decide to eat them, however, they would have to eat vast quantities of chocolates in order to have the equivalent of one glass of wine. As for the ice cream and sorbet, about which the noble Lord was concerned, they are subject to the same rules as alcohol itself and cannot be sold to children under the age of 18.
My Lords, the damage to the foetus from maternal drinking, especially in the first three months, can take the form of foetal alcohol spectrum disorder, which includes heart defects, learning difficulties, kidney defects and other impairments. Will the Minister encourage the Home Office to consider a publicity campaign as hard-hitting as the “Don’t drink and drive” campaign to make prospective mothers aware of the problems?
I thank my noble friend for raising that point: it is an incredibly worrying trend. While we believe that adults should take responsibility for their own actions, the number of cases of this disorder is rising; I understand that there is currently a case in court on it. We certainly are very keen to promote health awareness in this area.
My Lords, has the Minister, as I have, heard of the child of an adult alcoholic speak about being home for his mother when his father returns from the pub, so that he can get between his drunk father and his mother? It can be a catastrophe for children when parents drink too much or are alcoholics. In that light, is it not regrettable that the Government are not moving forward as many have wished in respect of minimum standards for alcohol pricing, or have I missed their change in direction here?
My Lords, minimum alcohol unit pricing is still under consideration. I totally agree with the noble Earl: it is a tragedy and it would be even more of a tragedy if both social services and other local agencies were not on to such families where children are basically being abused.
My Lords, will the Minister take a moment to respond to the question that my noble friend Lord Brooke asked her about the impact of lobbying from the drinks industry? Can she tell the House whether any other group or individual apart from that industry has asked for the deregulation that is in the Bill to which he referred?
My Lords, I answered three of the questions asked by the noble Lord, Lord Brooke. On the point of lobbying by other industries, I do not know of any industries that have lobbied the Government, but I can write to the noble Baroness and confirm that. The Government have requested the drinks industry to take responsibility, or else we will.
My Lords, I wonder whether the Minister would like to reflect on a couple of the answers that she has given. She said that the Government are considering minimum alcohol pricing, yet the Home Secretary said that—no ifs, no buts—the Government would introduce it. I would also like the Minister to clarify the point that she made in answer to my noble friend Lord Brooke of Alverthorpe, who raised the issue of alcohol being able to be sold in forms other than liquid to those under 16. Will she confirm, as she implied in her answer, that that is not the case and that the Government’s proposals in the Deregulation Bill will not make any changes in that regard?
I said that minimum unit pricing was “under consideration”. It is, and the case of Scotland is being closely watched. On alcohol in forms other than liquid, the rules set a limit of 0.2 litres per kilogram of confection. That is to stop vast quantities of alcohol being put into food. That is the situation as I understand it.
Is my noble friend the Minister aware that all good PSHE courses contain some alcohol education and should be taught in every school? Does she agree that when children become involved in sport, they become very aware of their bodies’ efficiency and the effect of alcohol and are much less likely to drink more than a minimal amount? Therefore, what are the Government doing to encourage all schools to teach PSHE and children to take part in sport?
I agree with my noble friend. Good PSHE in schools will certainly refer to that. Schools have a duty to teach children about the harms of drug, alcohol and tobacco abuse. I fully endorse her point about sport, although that seemed to go out the window with my son when he reached the age of 18.
Immigration Act 2014 (Bank Accounts) Regulations 2014
Immigration Act 2014 (Bank Accounts) (Amendment) Order 2014
Immigration Act 2014 (Bank Accounts) (Prohibition on Opening Current Accounts for Disqualified Persons) Order 2014
Motions to Approve
Statutory Shared Parental Pay (General) Regulations 2014
Maternity and Adoption Leave (Curtailment of Statutory Rights to Leave) Regulations 2014
Shared Parental Leave Regulations 2014
Motions to Approve
Regulation of Investigatory Powers (Covert Surveillance and Property Interference: Code of Practice) Order 2014
Regulation of Investigatory Powers (Covert Human Intelligence Sources: Code of Practice) Order 2014
Motions to Approve
Arrangement of Business
My Lords, there are 31 speakers for the Second Reading of the Modern Slavery Bill today. If Back-Bench contributions are kept to around eight minutes, the committal Motion in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Bates, would begin at approximately 8 pm.
Modern Slavery Bill
My Lords, in few other crimes are human beings used as commodities for the personal gain of others as they are in the appalling crime of modern slavery. Men, women and children, British and foreign nationals, suffer a life of servitude and abuse: women forced into prostitution and denied their liberty; children trafficked and sexually exploited for profit; vulnerable men tricked into brutal and inhumane labour; and, throughout, accounts of sexual violence, beatings, humiliation, hunger and mental torture.
Modern slavery is a crime taking place, hidden from view, across Britain today. I am sure the House will agree that it should be consigned to history. That is the purpose of the Modern Slavery Bill—the first of its kind in Europe—which we will discuss in your Lordships’ House today. Having looked down the list of speakers, I am sure that your Lordships are particularly looking forward to the maiden speeches of the noble Lord, Lord Cashman, and the noble Baronesses, Lady Chisholm and Lady Mobarik. This will be an important step towards achieving that goal. It will ensure that we can effectively prosecute perpetrators, properly punish offenders and help prevent more crimes from taking place. It will enhance protection and support for the victims of these dreadful crimes. It will encourage business to take action to eliminate modern slavery from the global supply chains involved in providing goods and services to British consumers. Of course, tackling modern slavery will require more than legislation alone. It will take a determined and focused law enforcement response, greater awareness among front-line professionals, co-ordinated police action internationally, close working with business, and the support of communities, charities and faith groups.
In bringing the Bill forward, I pay tribute to all those who have campaigned tirelessly over recent years to bring this largely hidden crime into the light. I am particularly grateful to noble Lords who sat on the pre-legislative scrutiny committee. This committee held an intensive and thorough inquiry. I pay tribute in particular to the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, for her leadership, commitment and expertise on the issue. Thanks to their efforts, the Bill today is substantially different from the draft Bill published in December last year. It has benefited enormously from pre-legislative scrutiny and from scrutiny in another place. The Government have listened carefully and added very valuable additional provisions relating to protections for victims and business supply chains. I expect that careful scrutiny of the Bill will continue in your Lordships’ House.
I now turn to the specifics of the Bill. Part 1 deals with offences, sentences, reparation, and asset recovery. In this part, traffickers and slave drivers must know that their crimes will not be tolerated and that they will be caught and sent to prison for a very long time. The Bill consolidates the existing slavery and human trafficking offences, making it easier for prosecutors and the police to understand the available modern slavery offences when investigating these crimes. The offences have also been improved, including in response to pre-legislative scrutiny. It is now clearer that the slavery, servitude and forced labour offence can be effectively prosecuted where the victim is vulnerable; for example, a child.
The Bill increases the maximum available sentence for modern slavery offences to life imprisonment, ensuring that the worst perpetrators can get the lengthy custodial sentences they deserve and victims need. Criminals and organised gangs who trade in human beings do so for profit. Wherever possible, we must ensure that the illicit gains made from the trade in human misery are seized. The Modern Slavery Bill makes both slavery and trafficking offences criminal lifestyle offences for the purposes of criminal confiscation under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002, subjecting convicted slavers and traffickers to the toughest confiscation regime possible.
Wherever possible, assets seized from a perpetrator should be used to provide reparation to their victims. Courts currently have the power to order convicted traffickers to pay compensation to their victims and can use money collected under the confiscation order to ensure that such compensation is paid in full. Therefore, it is unacceptable that in the past 11 years there have been only three such cases where criminals convicted of a principal offence of human trafficking have been ordered to pay compensation in this way. The Bill seeks to remedy this by creating a bespoke order for modern slavery offences, so that where the perpetrator has assets available, evidenced by a confiscation order, the court must consider making an order to provide reparation to the victim, and give reasons if it does not.
Part 2 relates to preventive orders. It introduces a vital new tool to prevent modern slavery offences, modelled on existing powers to stop sexual harm and with similar, substantial safeguards to ensure appropriate use. Slavery and trafficking prevention orders will target convicted traffickers and slave drivers and can be used to prevent further modern slavery offences from taking place—for example, by stopping an offender from working with children, acting as a gangmaster or travelling to specific countries.
Slavery and trafficking risk orders will restrict the activity of individuals suspected of being complicit in modern slavery offences where this is necessary to prevent the harm that would be likely to be caused by future offences. For example, they could be used to stop activity where there is insufficient evidence to bring a successful prosecution now, but there is clear evidence of the risk of future trafficking or slavery offences being commissioned.
Part 3 deals with maritime powers. It is aimed to close a gap in existing legislation. There are currently no applicable express policing powers to stop, divert or detain vessels at sea where law enforcement authorities suspect that individuals are being trafficked or forced to work. In the past three years, there have been eight such occasions. The Bill will provide law enforcement with clear powers to take action on these boats, arresting those responsible and rescuing more victims.
Part 4 provides for an Independent Anti-slavery Commissioner. In the past, the number of prosecutions and convictions for these specific offences has not reflected the scale or seriousness of the problem. In 2013, there were only 68 convictions, and that is not good enough. To tackle modern slavery effectively, we need effective co-operation across law enforcement borders in immigration and local services. We need a senior figure dedicated to the UK’s fight against modern slavery to strengthen law enforcement efforts in the UK and ensure that a wide range of public authorities work effectively to identify victims. That is why the Bill includes an Independent Anti-slavery Commissioner to encourage good practice in the prevention, detection, investigation and prosecution of modern slavery cases, as well as improving the identification of victims.
The commissioner’s role is set out in a similar way to other commissioners. The commissioner will be independent and his annual reports will be laid before Parliament. Given the urgent need to see improvements in our approach to tackling modern slavery, the Home Secretary has recently appointed Mr Kevin Hyland as designate Independent Anti-slavery Commissioner, following an open selection process. As the first UK commissioner, Mr Hyland will use his extensive knowledge, gained in the Met, and first-hand experience of working with modern slavery victims to ensure that public authorities do more effectively to tackle the despicable individuals behind these crimes and, importantly, to identify and protect more victims.
Part 5 deals with the protection of victims. At the heart of the Bill and all our work is the desire to ensure that victims receive the protection and support that they deserve and which will help them to recover. Fear of prosecution can deter victims from coming forward to help the police with their investigations and from acting as witnesses in court. It is vital that we give them the confidence to come forward.
The Crown Prosecution Service already has guidance in place to prevent the prosecution of victims who have been forced to commit crime, but we can and should go further. The Bill includes a statutory defence for victims with safeguards against abuse. Even in cases where the defence does not apply, prosecutors will still need to look carefully at all the circumstances to see whether it is in the public interest to prosecute victims.
Helping more victims to testify in court is crucial in our fight against the perpetrators. We need to give victims greater assurance that they can access special measures, such as giving evidence by video link or from behind a screen, so the Bill extends to all modern slavery victims existing provisions which help trafficking victims gain access to special measures.
Whether victims appear in court or not, we need to identify them so that they can receive help and support. That is why the Home Secretary set in motion a review of the national referral mechanism, to ensure that the care and support provided is effective. The review has just reported—last week. The Government will respond to the review in the modern slavery strategy, which will be published ahead of our Committee debates, scheduled for early December. In addition, the Bill includes a provision for statutory guidance for the identification and support of victims to ensure a consistent and effective approach.
One of the most heinous aspects of modern slavery is the trafficking and enslavement of children—robbing them of their childhood and casting a long shadow over their future. Child trafficking victims are exceptionally vulnerable and require specialist support and care. We are currently trialling a scheme of child trafficking advocates in 23 local authorities in England. The Bill includes provisions, which were strengthened in another place, to enable Parliament to place these advocates on a statutory footing once the trial has been completed and, following the evaluation of the trial, to establish how we can provide the best protection and support to this particularly vulnerable group of children.
The Bill also ensures that where the age of a trafficking victim is uncertain and there are reasons to believe that they are a child, public authorities will presume that victim to be a child for the purposes of providing assistance and support. We need to ensure that law enforcement has good data on this largely hidden crime so that we can develop an effective strategic response. Therefore, we are placing a legal duty on public bodies to report suspected victims of slavery or human trafficking.
Part 6 deals with transparency in supply chains. Modern slavery in supply chains is an issue which the Government take extremely seriously. We do not want businesses in the UK to have any connection with these abhorrent crimes and UK consumers should not be put in the position where they inadvertently buy goods that could have been produced by abused and enslaved individuals. In this regard I pay tribute to the noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy of Cradley, for introducing a timely and thought-provoking debate on the subject in your Lordships’ House on 30 October. That is why I am extremely pleased that the Bill was amended in another place to require organisations carrying on a business in the UK above a certain size threshold to disclose each year what they have done to ensure that there is no modern slavery in the supply chains of their organisation.
Modern slavery is an evil against which this Government are determined to take a stand. I know that that view and belief is shared across the House. This Bill is an important measure as it will help effectively to punish the criminals and organised gangs behind this appalling crime, ensure victims receive the protection and support that they deserve, prevent other vulnerable people from becoming victims and encourage action by business to eliminate modern slavery from supply chains. It stands alongside non-legislative actions such as making tackling this crime a priority for the National Crime Agency. Ahead of the Committee stage, the Government will publish a comprehensive modern slavery strategy.
I am under no illusion about the scale of the task ahead. The Bill can be only one step along the path to ending slavery. However, I believe that by acting together in this Parliament we can send a powerful message that we are determined that traffickers and slave drivers will be prosecuted and punished and that the victims of their appalling crimes will be returned to freedom. I beg to move.
My Lords, in rising to speak on this important Second Reading I must first pass on the apologies of my noble friend Lady Royall. The noble Baroness, assisted by my noble friend Lord Rosser, will be leading for the Opposition on this very important Bill, but unfortunately today she has to attend a family funeral.
We often think of slavery as history, a story of atrocities past and fights fought and won. The harrowing film “12 Years a Slave” and Doris Kearns Goodwin’s compelling account of Lincoln’s fight for abolition both tell of events that took place centuries ago. However, slavery is not a thing of the past. Sylvia, one of the women whom the Eaves Poppy Project has helped, is 47 years old. She came to the UK from Uganda to escape an abusive husband, after a friend told her that she could work for his friend’s company. On arriving, however, she was taken to a house in Manchester, locked in a room with another girl, raped, beaten and forced into prostitution. Her traffickers would film and photograph her. She was given just one meal a day and not allowed any contact with her son. After four months she escaped but was so scared that she went into hiding. Finally she got the courage to get help and claim asylum, but the Home Office sent her to Yarl’s Wood immigration centre. There, fortunately, she came across the Eaves Poppy Project, which helped to secure her release and prevented her being sent back to Uganda.
This is what 21st-century slavery looks like in Britain: women raped, beaten and forced into prostitution; children groomed and sexually exploited for profit; men exploited, conned and forced to work in inhuman and degrading conditions; families trafficked by gangs across borders but also within our country and sometimes within the same area. I am proud of the work that we did in government through criminalising trafficking in the Sexual Offences Act 2003 and the Asylum and Immigration Act of 2004; the introduction of the offence of forced labour, slavery or servitude; the national referral mechanism; the creation of the UK Human Trafficking Centre; and, of course, the introduction of the Human Rights Act. But we agree that more needs to be done, so I welcome the Bill.
I pay tribute to the Members of this House who have worked so hard on this issue, particularly the noble Lord, Lord McColl, who is tireless in his fight for trafficked children and victims generally, and the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss. I also pay tribute to members of the Joint Committee, including my noble friends Lady Kennedy and Lord Warner, the noble Baronesses, Lady Hanham and Lady Doocey, and the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Derby.
The invaluable campaign briefings of the many organisations that fight for the victims will also inform our proceedings. The victims of these terrible crimes should be at the centre of everything we do. We owe it to them to make the Bill as good as it can be. We think that it should go further in tackling the problems it seeks to resolve and we will work with colleagues across the House to amend it accordingly. I will now touch on one or two of the issues that we will pursue.
Let me start with the offences at the heart of the Bill. In 2011-12, there were 15 prosecutions for slavery but no convictions. In the same year, there were 150 prosecutions for trafficking but only eight convictions. Ensuring that the offences under the Bill are well drafted, clear and strong enough to allow us to prosecute and secure more convictions of these criminals is therefore crucial. Currently, the Bill transposes existing offences from three pieces of legislation, maintaining the current offences of holding someone in slavery and merging two existing offences of human trafficking into a single one. Worryingly, the threshold needed to secure convictions is very high.
I am sure that we have all heard of the case of Craig Kinsella. Craig was held captive by the Rooke family in Sheffield and forced to work from 7.30 am until midnight for no pay. He was starved and beaten. Craig was not trafficked into the country: a British national, he voluntarily moved in with the family but was then subjected to appalling abuse and exploitation. Despite extensive evidence, the Rookes were convicted of false imprisonment and other lesser offences, not of slavery and trafficking.
A similar situation arose in Kent, involving 29 Lithuanian chicken catchers. They were beaten and had their wages stolen, and they were living in appalling conditions. The police thought that this was criminal conduct but the CPS said that there was not enough evidence to prosecute. Following this case, Detective Inspector Roberts of Kent Police gave evidence to the Joint Committee and said that they had,
“quite considerable difficulty in working out what is criminal exploitation”.
I am worried that these cases would still not be covered under the Bill. Like the Joint Committee, the Anti-Trafficking Monitoring Group, the Joseph Rowntree Trust and others, I believe that there should be separate offences of exploitation.
If the examples of adults being exploited are abhorrent, the idea of a child being subjected to these crimes does not bear thinking about. The numbers are even more shocking. In 2013, the national referral mechanism received 1,746 separate cases of human trafficking, 432 of them involving minors. The UK Human Trafficking Centre identified 2,744 victims last year, including 600 children—yet, since the introduction of the offence, there have been no prosecutions where the victim was a child.
There is much we could do in the Bill to improve the situation for children. Crucially, we need to introduce new offences of child trafficking and exploitation. Have the Government considered child exploitation in relation to recent UK cases, particularly the sexual exploitation of girls in Rotherham, Rochdale, Oxford and elsewhere? These girls were neither trafficked nor held in slavery, but they were exploited. Putting specific offences in the Bill would move the legislative framework from one looking at individual sexual acts to one in which exerting control over a course of behaviour is more important.
The notion that a child could ever consent to their exploitation is beyond my comprehension. They very rarely understand that they have been trafficked and are often duped by those who traffic them. I do not understand the Government’s reticence on this point and we will want to unpick this in Committee. I am pleased to see a basis for the guardianship system in the Bill—once again, I pay tribute again to the noble Lord, Lord McColl, for his work on this—and welcome the requirement for the advocate to act in the child’s best interests, but this was added late in the Commons and we will want to look again at the strength of the clause. We must also look at the issue of the statutory defence for children. The Bill as it stands does not reflect the specific vulnerabilities of children, and that cannot be right.
It is also key that we look at the role that the regulatory framework and the UK industry have to play. We have all heard calls for stronger action on supply chains. Noble Lords will, like me, have been shocked by stories of men trafficked from Burma and Cambodia and forced to work 20 hours a day for no pay, fishing for prawns for UK shops; and by the collapse of the Rana Plaza factory, where 1,200 people making clothes lost their lives. We need stronger legislation to prevent this happening; other countries are doing it and it has the support of 82% of the British public.
I am pleased that the Government have listened and introduced a new clause. I am not sure, though, that it is strong enough. We need to ensure that it has a wide coverage, that consumers are able to compare and assess how different companies are doing, and that the provisions can be adequately enforced. The Government have to play their part as well. Legislating for supply chains without also looking at expanding the powers and remit of the Gangmasters Licensing Authority to other sectors where forced labour is prevalent, such as hospitality, construction and catering, does not make sense.
It is disappointing that Ministers would not even consider the amendment put forward by my colleagues in the Commons, which was only an enabling power. We will also come back to this in Committee. I am also deeply concerned about the issue of domestic workers being tied to abusive employers. The last Government put in place a regime for migrant domestic workers who accompanied employers to the UK that was internationally recognised as good practice. The current Government changed the regime in April 2012. These individuals are now tied to their original employer and their visas are not renewable beyond the initial six-month duration.
Mira, a Filipina domestic worker, was brought by her employers from the Middle East to the UK. She worked 16 hours a day with no time off, shared a room with the family’s children and had no private time or space. Mira’s employer retained her passport and paid her nothing while she was in the UK. She ate only leftovers and if the family ate out, she went hungry. One day, Mira found her passport and sought help from Kalayaan, which advised that she had only a tied domestic worker’s visa. Thankfully, Kalayaan found Mira legal assistance and referred her to the national referral mechanism. Kalayaan found that 92% of those on the new visa were unable to leave the house unaccompanied. This is clearly unacceptable.
Victims of trafficking should be at the heart of the Bill. If we do not support them, we are leaving people who have been abused to be betrayed once again. The national referral mechanism needs to be strengthened. In 2012, the UK Human Trafficking Centre identified 2,255 victims, but the NRM identified only just over 1,000. Too often, they are treated merely as immigration cases.
At the moment the NRM is an internal process of the Home Office, and there is no transparency or appeal. We have an opportunity to place it on a statutory footing and give it a greater ability and authority to support victims at the time when they need it most. I am aware that the review of the NRM has recently concluded, and we will want to look at its findings in Committee.
Victims should be better compensated. We support the provisions to define trafficking as a lifestyle offence, but I urge the Government to look again at proposals that we made in the Serious Crime Bill to strengthen the recovery of assets. Money cannot go to the victims if we are not recovering it from criminals in the first place. I also welcome the creation of reparation orders, but we must ensure that victims can be compensated even when there has not been a specific conviction.
While I welcome the introduction of the anti-slavery commissioner, their remit needs to be strengthened. At present, it is extremely limited to doing little more than acting as directed by the Home Office. The remit should include supporting victims and a clear mandate to make recommendations across government. We also want greater independence for the commissioner, and that is simply not established by the mere addition of the word “independent” to the title.
The Government are rightly proud of having introduced the Bill, but the victims of trafficking need us to do more. A fortnight ago we found out that the UK will no longer support future search and rescue operations to prevent migrants drowning in the Mediterranean. Many of the men, women and children on these boats will be victims of traffickers—gangs who are exploiting people’s desperation by sending them on unsafe journeys and sometimes deliberately killing them. In that context I am glad that we are opting back in to the European arrest warrant, but there is a lot more we could be doing, whether to prevent families undertaking these dreadful journeys in the first place or to tackle these crimes more generally, if it were not for this Government’s reluctance to work with our European partners.
Abraham Lincoln once wrote:
“If slavery is not wrong, nothing is wrong”.
All of us agree that slavery is wrong. That is not the issue today. The Bill is not a party-political Bill. It is about the abuse of human rights; it is about the most vulnerable men, women and children who are exploited by their fellow human beings; and it is about victims, their rights, and our ability to support them and bring perpetrators to justice. I am deeply ashamed that in 21st-century Britain slavery is flourishing and blighting the lives of many. Over the coming weeks, as we debate and seek to improve the Bill, we should keep uppermost in our minds the plight of the all too many victims of this terrible crime; think of Sylvia, Craig and Mira. Working to build on the legacy of William Wilberforce, let us ensure that through the Bill we in this House do everything possible to end this heinous practice. We have a responsibility to work together on all sides of this Chamber to ensure that this good Bill can be an even better one.
My Lords, I declare an interest as co-chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Human Trafficking and Modern-Day Slavery, and as a trustee of the Human Trafficking Foundation.
I do not want to weary the House but I might add to what the Minister has said about slavery. Approximately 29.8 million people—men, women and children—are trafficked and enslaved across the world, more than the entire transatlantic trade 200 years ago. Slavery and trafficking is the second most valuable illegal business in the world, at least $150 billon a year, which includes prostitution, forced labour, domestic servitude, begging, thieving, debt bondage and benefit claims. So far, as noble Lords have already heard, very few traffickers and slave owners have been convicted of these crimes, which is why the Bill is now before the House. In my view, its Second Reading is a historic and exciting moment. The Prime Minister and the Home Secretary are to be congratulated on bringing it forward, and I am aware that both of them are passionate about it.
The background is that in October 2013, the Home Secretary asked Frank Field MP to set up an informal inquiry as a prelude to drafting the first draft of the Modern Slavery Bill. He, John Randall MP and I heard evidence and provided a report. That report and the evidence were incorporated into the evidence of the Select Committee of both Houses, of which Frank Field was chairman and I was a member. We had a lot more evidence, and in our report we bravely, or rashly, drafted our own version of the Bill. Not surprisingly, the Government version did not adopt all our suggestions, but there have been further discussions and more changes made in the other place.
Where have we got to? In my view this is a good Bill, but, of course, in several ways it could be improved. I feel that this Bill is the start of a process, and as we see how it works, we can in the future press for improvements. I therefore suggest that we should not be too ambitious with this Bill. I should like to make a few comments about the contents, but inevitably more issues will arise in Committee, many of which the noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, has already referred to.
It is good to have all the major offences under one umbrella, but I am not entirely happy with the wording in Part 1. There is considerable momentum to include in Part 1 a clause defining child exploitation as a separate set of offences. This, in principle, may seem appropriate but there are certain difficulties which need to be overcome. Proof of the age of a young person under 18 in the criminal courts can be a long, drawn-out and possibly distracting exercise. One needs to bear in mind that the sentence in the Bill for the most serious offences against adults is life imprisonment. You cannot get more than life. There is the possibility that it may make prosecutions more difficult and consequently reduce the protection of child victims. The Home Secretary at Third Reading in the other place spoke of unintended consequences. I am a bit concerned that the offence of child exploitation without some restrictions on its interpretation is too wide.
I am, therefore, now somewhat ambivalent about whether a clause especially for children is really necessary or appropriate. The issue of consent does not arise in Clauses 1 and 2 for adults as I read them. I sought the assistance of a number of former Supreme Court judges who have taken the same view. However, there is strong support for a child clause, and I was strongly in support of it myself at one stage. I am not actually opposed—as I say, I am ambivalent—so I look forward to future more careful consideration in Committee.
As has been said, the sentences for slavery and trafficking in the Bill are increased to life. It will therefore be important for the judiciary in the Crown Court to have some sentencing guidelines. In a recent case in Sussex, a sentence of four years, reduced to two and a half, on a trafficker of 70 women appears to be on the low side. So far, the Proceeds of Crime Act has been less than effective in this area of criminal law. I hope that the changes in the Bill will make a difference and that the assets of alleged traffickers will be frozen at an early stage of the investigation. Equally, reparation for victims is an important part of doing justice to the victims.
It is excellent that the post of commissioner is in the Bill. The word “independent” has just been inserted into the title of the appointment clause. There is a strongly held view, set out already by the noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, that this word alone will not make him sufficiently independent and that his duties should be more directed towards the protection of victims. I think that we should wait to see how the first commissioner, just appointed, carries out his duties. Kevin Hyland, who I have the good fortune to know, is an excellent choice. We shall have to see whether he will find himself constrained or others will find his duties are too narrowly expressed. If that proves to be so we can press for changes in future legislation.
There is a pilot scheme for child advocates with a statutory requirement to act in the child’s best interests, an issue close to the hearts of the noble Lord, Lord McColl, and myself, and the important requirement to report on the pilot to Parliament. I naturally hope that this will form part of future legislation.
Clauses for protection of victims include a partial defence of victims against prosecution, and I agree that there must be exceptions as set out in Schedule 3. We need to see how the defences work out, and whether any of the exceptions prove to be unfair to a victim. If they prove to be unfair, and the victim faces prosecution when the offence was directly the result of slavery, this will need to be revisited. Again, however, it is hugely to the credit of the Government that they have accepted the need for that degree of protection of victims.
There are special measures to help witnesses in criminal proceedings, which is a most important aid to getting victims to give evidence. Very much to the credit of the Government, who have listened to advice, is the requirement for companies to investigate their supply chains, but I find the wording of the supply chain clauses somewhat overelaborate. Two excellent reports have been published on the national referral mechanism which propose the improvement of the system for identifying victims. I hope that those recommendations will be taken up and put into effect. I would like to see in the Bill an enabling clause that gives the power to the Home Secretary to put the NRM on a statutory basis without requiring any further primary legislation.
I turn very briefly to the support for victims, most of which is not appropriate for primary legislation but which is the most important part of the battle against traffickers and slave owners. There are two reasons, one moral and one practical, why this country should put in place adequate and continuing support towards those identified as needing that help. The moral reason is obvious: we have a duty to look after those men, women and children who have been brought into this country to be slaves, and those within the UK who are also enslaved. Indeed, the girls in Rotherham were slaves. The practical reason underpins the main purpose of the Bill, which is that the Government naturally want to improve the number of successful prosecutions. To a very great extent that depends on victims being prepared to give evidence.
In this country we comply with the Palermo agreement, the Council of Europe convention and the EU directive by offering accommodation and support for those going through the identification process. The UK offers 45 days—more than the minimum requirement of 30 days—and for some people a longer period. However, prosecutions may take over a year to be heard in the Crown Courts. So far, many if not most victims who would be witnesses are not given sufficient help after 45 days by way of accommodation, financial support and many other much needed services such as counselling and access to mental health help, which are so badly needed by many utterly traumatised people. After 45 days many go missing, some are retrafficked and some are living on the streets. Read the excellent final report of Jeremy Oppenheim on the NRM. He sets out the plight of those people in clear terms and describes our manifest failure to give sufficient help in all sorts of ways which I do not have time to set out today—and I apologise for going a minute over. The USA and Taiwan have statutory requirements which would be well worth considering. The way in which the strategy policy of the Government and local governments is implemented will define and judge the United Kingdom as a caring or non-caring country and will have a marked effect on whether we achieve the level of successful prosecutions that the Government are seeking to achieve by introducing the Bill.
My Lords, I will concentrate on three areas: the first is support for adult victims of trafficking. Victims of trafficking are entitled to know exactly the support to which they are entitled. That support should be spelt out in statute to avoid ambiguity. The Bill contains a clause requiring the Home Secretary to issue guidance about the support provided to adult victims, but I am not convinced that guidance provides an adequate guarantee to a victim of the assistance to which he is entitled under the EU directive and European convention. If the Bill is truly to serve the needs of victims as well as the justice system, it needs to contain a clear statement of the minimum assistance available to a victim of trafficking in accordance with our international obligations.
I also believe that, as the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, has just said, we need to reconsider the length of time that such support is available. The current 45-day reflection and recovery period is far too little to enable a person to make a proper recovery from their ordeal. Many charities recommend a period of 90 days. Indeed, the United Nations commentary on the EU directive states:
“When transposing the Directive into national legislation, Member States are encouraged to include in their national legislation a period of reflection and recovery of a minimum of 90 days for all victims of trafficking”.
Even 90 days will not be sufficient for some people to take significant steps towards recovery when they experience post-traumatic stress disorder, but we need to ensure that we are protecting and supporting victims to begin that longer-term recovery. One of the recommendations from the recent review of the national referral mechanism is that consideration should be given to the support available to individuals following conclusive identification as victims. I look forward to seeing the Government’s response to this recommendation in due course.
In the context of this Bill, I also want to raise the fact that I have heard from charities that provide assistance to victims of trafficking that many of their clients who are EU nationals are having extreme difficulties accessing welfare benefits due to the application of a more stringent habitual residence test and changes to housing benefit eligibility introduced earlier this year. Understandably, many victims of trafficking are unable to demonstrate when they entered the country, and their labour exploitation does not seem to be valid work for the purposes of these tests. I cannot believe that victims of the heinous crime of trafficking were our intended target in the restriction of welfare benefits. Indeed, if victims are unable to receive this support, I very much doubt that they will be able to remain in this country to assist with police investigations and prosecutions, which is one of the key aims of the Bill before us today. Can the Minister indicate what steps are being taken to ensure that victims of trafficking are not being detrimentally affected by the application of residence tests for welfare benefits and whether he would consider amending the regulations to ensure that victims of trafficking are exempt from these tests?
The second area where I would like to see improvements in the Bill is the protection of children. In September 2013, the report Still at Risk, produced by the Children’s Society and the Refugee Council, stated that a system of protection needs to be developed,
“that includes an independent trusted adult appointed to a separated child as soon as they come to an authority’s attention. This person’s role would be to ensure that all potential victims of trafficking are able to understand their rights, ensure that their voice is heard in decisions that affect them and are supported effectively through the different legal processes that they are engaged in”.
However, still the Government have not been willing to support this proposal in all its fullness. They have accepted the need to introduce trials of specialist independent advocates for trafficked children, which were to be introduced from 1 July across 23 local authorities. We were reassured on 7 April that they,
“will be experts in trafficking, and completely independent of the local authority and social services department. Their role will be to steer the child through the complexity of the multiple government agencies—not just local-authority care, immigration and criminal justice but all government departments. This is to ensure that the child's voice is heard ... these advocates will have the capacity and the expertise to address the additional needs of the child. They will attend meetings, speak for them and act as advocates for them”.
The Minister, my noble friend Lord Taylor, said:
“By getting alongside children and supporting them in this way, the advocates will have a role in ensuring that the risk of children going missing and disappearing will be reduced”.—[Official Report, 7/4/14; col. 1156.]
He said that the timing,
“will enable us to consider the impact of the specialist independent child trafficking advocates, as well as how the scheme worked, during the passage of the modern slavery Bill, which should be before one or other of our two Houses of Parliament. The modern slavery Bill is a much better place to make these changes”.
I specifically asked the Minister why he was not proposing that advocates had a legal status. He said:
“That is a question that the modern slavery Bill will indeed be able to consider”.—[Official Report, 7/4/14; col. 1158.]
We welcome that.
The third area of the Bill where I have particular concerns is the role of the Anti-slavery Commissioner. As presently drafted, the commissioner’s remit is too restrictive to enable him or her to protect victims effectively. Furthermore, the Bill’s provisions need revision to ensure the independence of the commissioner—I refer to the report published recently by the Joint Committee on Human Rights. One other matter that I must put on the record is my deep unease with the fact that the Home Office has proceeded in recruiting and appointing a person as the Anti-slavery Commissioner before the role has been sanctioned by Parliament.
When it comes to statutory support services for victims and statutory child trafficking guardians, the truth is that the political context in which we find ourselves has changed quite dramatically in the last month. Northern Ireland embarked on the road to its modern slavery Bill, called the Human Trafficking and Exploitation (Further Provisions and Support for Victims) Bill, rather earlier than England and Wales. That Bill proposed both statutory support services for victims and statutory child trafficking guardians and on 20 and 21 October the Northern Ireland Assembly voted for those provisions. Of course, central to devolution is the idea that different parts of the United Kingdom can do things differently. However, I want very gently to ask the question: do we want rescued trafficked children to be afforded fewer rights in England and Wales than in Northern Ireland? I think not, and I hope that by the time this Bill leaves your Lordships’ House it will at least be as robust as the Northern Ireland legislation. Incidentally, I pay tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Morrow, who has taken this legislation through the Northern Ireland Assembly, and to the Justice Minister, David Ford, the leader of the Alliance Party, who has worked so closely with the noble Lord on this Bill. It is very encouraging to see all the main parties in Northern Ireland coming together to generate some excellent legislation, and I look forward to their taking the lead and generating ground-breaking legislation in other areas, too.
I welcome the Bill; it is a good Bill and has developed since the draft Bill was published in December. However, I do not believe that it is yet the world-leading legislation that we would like it to be. I am confident that, through the careful examination of noble Lords, this House will achieve some of the key improvements that are needed.
My Lords, I was very pleased to be appointed to the Joint Committee on this Bill. I care passionately about this issue, so the opportunity to play a part in shaping the legislation was extremely welcome.
Tragically, as others have said, slavery is all around us. It is hidden in our communities, yet is taking place openly on our streets, in our farms and in our factories. Daily we hear stories of more adults and children being denied their freedom by another in pursuit of profit and personal gain. As many have said, modern-day slavery is an evil trade and that is why there is strong support on all sides of the House for this Bill. It is a much needed piece of legislation that will rightly get the support of many in this House
There is, however, strong support for this Bill to go further in some areas, to make this the world-leading legislation that everyone wants to see. Given the time today, I will focus on four items. There are two areas that I want to see developed further. These are ensuring that this Bill gives the best protection it can to children, and the best support to businesses in their supply chains in the fight against slavery. The other two areas that I think need to be included are clauses to develop the Gangmasters Licensing Authority, and a change in the Immigration Rules for migrant domestic workers.
First, we must give children the best protection we can. From home and abroad, children are exploited in Britain by criminals every day. The Refugee Children’s Consortium has made it very clear to us all what it thinks needs to be made clearer in the Bill to protect children, and I hope that the Government will listen carefully to the arguments it puts forward. I want to focus on one of the specific areas it has highlighted: that the Bill should include a statutory principle of non-prosecution for children. Of the main children’s issues covered in the Bill, a strengthened non-prosecution principle for children who are detained and prosecuted for crimes they are forced to commit has received the least attention. Despite CPS guidance on the non-prosecution of trafficking victims, children are still being punished for offences that are a direct result of their slavery and exploitation. It cannot be right to prosecute a child who has been forced to commit a crime by their slave master. Enslaved children are victims of abuse: they need guardians, support and protection from repeat exploitation. Clause 45 sets out three elements to that defence. One of them is that a person needs to prove they were compelled to act. As UNICEF has stated, this clause is not in line with international law, which states that trafficked children do not have to prove they were compelled to commit a crime. These are the most vulnerable children. They invariably have little or no English, they are scared, have no family to protect them and are completely reliant on their trafficker. The burden of proof should not rest with the child.
The second area which needs further development is the very welcome new Clause 51 on transparency in supply chains. As other noble Lords have said, publishing the Bill without such a clause was a glaring omission and I am delighted to see it included now. We need businesses to help in the fight against slavery. Multinational organisations have the power to make a real difference to the working lives of millions and improve the working conditions of those enslaved by exploitative suppliers. They have the power to shorten their supply chains and to reform their business models so they are less reliant on outsourcing and suppliers who need to subcontract. They have the power to support good suppliers, encourage trade unions, and insist on proper inspection regimes. Fighting slavery and forced labour at home and across the world cannot happen without businesses playing their part. It is not their fight alone: the Government, the voluntary sector and, most importantly, the consumer—through the purchasing choices they make—have the real power to help eradicate slavery. Thanks to this clause, consumers will now have the information to make more informed choices about where they shop.
However, despite this clause being a huge step forward, there are five areas that need further consideration. First, it is essential that the Bill specifies a set of minimum criteria for disclosure in the organisation’s annual slavery and human trafficking statement. This is vital because we need this supply chain clause to act as a catalyst for change, creating public pressure and competition between businesses so more are encouraged to act. The minimum criteria in any organisation’s statement include the need to conduct risk assessments by product, industry and geography; the need to set out who has identified the risks; what action has been taken to mitigate the risks; and what has been the impact of those actions. Without these criteria, comparisons between companies will be impossible to make, the level playing field desired by good businesses will be difficult to achieve, and the Government will not get the transparency or the world-leading legislation they say they want.
Secondly, the statement needs to be a corporate—and therefore a CEO— responsibility. In his evidence to the Joint Committee, Andrew Forrest, founder of the Walk Free Foundation and chairman of Fortescue Metals Group, which has a supply chain of 3,000 suppliers, summed up perfectly why leadership from the top of the company is necessary. He said:
“The only reason that we found slavery in our supply chain was that it was mandated to be searched for by the chairman … without that leadership from the top, it just would not have happened”.
Thirdly, the Government also need to take leadership from the top and set out actions that allow for the monitoring, enforcement and review of this new clause. There should be a central government portal where all the annual statements are aggregated online, along with a commentary on or analysis of them, especially highlighting who is not complying with the new legislation. Will national and local government be expected to take responsibility for auditing their own procurement practices and supply chains?
Fourthly, the size of the business that will have to comply with this clause will be set out in regulations after a consultation. Given the importance of this issue, will the Government set out the timescale for this consultation and when we will see the proposed regulations?
I also want to discuss support for business in this clause. We all recognise that it will take a few years for businesses to successfully map, audit and evaluate every tier of their supply chains. As we discuss this legislation, it is important that the Government set out how they intend to help business to comply with this clause.
When considering how the Government can help businesses fight slavery we also have to look at the Gangmasters Licensing Authority—the GLA. I completely agree with my noble friend Lord Tunnicliffe that its work is vital in the UK’s fight against modern slavery. It can also play an increased role in supporting businesses in their efforts to eradicate slavery. Since 2006, it has done a great job in raising standards, controlling exploitation and driving out poor performance in the sectors for which it is currently responsible.
Ten years ago when the GLA was set up, limiting its sector focus made sense but now it makes little sense. Many high-risk sectors fall outside remit of the GLA—hospitality, construction, clothing, cleaning and social care. The Bill cannot ignore the exploitation faced by workers who fall outside its remit. There is huge support for a review of the GLA with a view to extending its role and remit, and I urge the Government to look again at this.
The Bill needs to be amended to reverse the 2012 changes to the Immigration Rules for migrant domestic workers—changes which prohibit this vulnerable group of workers from leaving their employers, effectively putting them in an enslaved situation. No matter how they are treated, they have no right to leave. They have no right to withdraw their labour without being rendered illegal.
We are all aware that migrant domestic workers are vulnerable enough without the added burden of being unable to escape their employers. Research by Kalayaan has shown that migrant domestic workers tied to their employers are more likely to be victims of trafficking, more likely to have their passports withheld and twice as likely to report having being physically abused as those who were not tied to their employers.
Amending the Bill to go back to the pre-2012 visa arrangements introduced by Labour in 1998, which allowed migrant domestic workers the right to change employers, is the right thing to do. That has been recommended by both the Joint Committee on the draft Modern Slavery Bill and the Joint Committee on Human Rights. It is incongruous to seek to pass world-leading anti-slavery legislation on the one hand and on the other continue with an immigration rule that allows a vulnerable group of workers to be effectively enslaved by their employers. I urge the Government to look again at the domestic worker visa and the increased risks faced by these workers who are unable to escape.
With this Bill we have the chance to be bold and brave. It is an opportunity to walk in the footsteps of Wilberforce and make him proud. There is much to be welcomed in the Bill. There is strong support, but there are areas for further development and I look forward to debating the issues in the House as we move forward on this legislation.
My Lords, it is a pleasure to follow the noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy of Cradley, who I know has done so much on this Bill. I am also greatly looking forward to hearing the maiden speech by the noble Lord, Lord Cashman, who is someone I have known for many years. We were in the European Parliament at the same time.
Like so many of the previous speakers, I greatly welcome the Bill. It is an opportunity to protect some of the most vulnerable in society and to remove practices that really should have no place in 21st-century Britain. It is a highly complex subject which crosses over into immigration policy, employment law, trade and economic policy and, in the sense that so many of the issues arise from the source countries in the first instance, international development and foreign policy.
The process of pre-legislative scrutiny and the considerable number of concessions made on Report in the House of Commons are also greatly to be welcomed and in particular the concessions made on the supply chain. But it is extremely important to seize this opportunity to ensure that the Bill is exemplary and as world class as possible and where necessary to enable further progress as circumstances change in the future. We should remember that this is an excellent start, but it is only the beginning of a process in eradicating these appalling crimes.
My noble friend Lady Hamwee, as the lead spokesperson from the Liberal Democrat Benches, will cover the Bill in some detail in her speech and my noble friend Lady Doocey will concentrate on issues of child exploitation in her speech, an area in which she has a considerable amount of expertise. I shall limit myself to three areas of the Bill, where I believe that further clarification, probing and possibly further changes would be welcome—the remit of the Gangmasters Licensing Authority, issues surrounding the definition of exploitation, and issues of the accountability and independence of the Anti-slavery Commissioner.
Unlike many noble Lords who have spoken, I am not an expert on this subject. My personal interest stems from an interest and involvement in issues of homelessness and the spread of infectious diseases such as TB, particularly in London. It comes also from a concern for some migrant workers who have found themselves trapped in a spiral of exploitation that is very hard to escape.
I think particularly of a young Bulgarian homeless man whom I got to know earlier this year. One day he told me that he was extremely pleased to have been offered work on a building site in south London. He was especially pleased that accommodation was also being provided. I accept that it is perfectly possible that everything has worked out well for him, and that he has employment and accommodation now, but I would like reassurance that this Bill will result in it becoming much harder in future for someone like this young homeless Bulgarian man to be exploited by an unscrupulous gangmaster.
An excellent report by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation of June this year lists some truly horrific examples of forced labour and exploitation that should have no place in 21st-century Britain. The wages of some of these exploited workers are often tied to their living in pretty appalling, cramped accommodation, resulting in a very real risk of an infectious disease such as TB. The Gangmasters Licensing Authority is extremely highly regarded by the organisations to which we have had the opportunity to speak and may already be stretched to full capacity on its current resources. But it is worth exploring whether its remit can in some way be extended also to cover the construction, catering and hospitality industries where we know that risks of labour exploitation exist.
The second area where I hope that we can probe more deeply is in the definition of exploitation and whether there is a case for a separate offence of exploitation. I would like to seek reassurance that the current definitions do not accidentally result in loopholes.
My final point is about the independence and accountability of the Anti-slavery Commissioner. I would like us to explore in Committee whether there should be an annual report to Parliament.
As I said in my opening remarks, this is a good and welcome Bill, but we need to seize the opportunity to ensure that it is a truly world-class piece of legislation.
My Lords, I was privileged to be on the Joint Select Committee and I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Bates, on his very positive introduction. I also express my appreciation to the Government for listening and being willing to negotiate and explore options as this legislation unfolds.
I remind your Lordships that this is not just a huge and wicked crime. It is, as the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, says, increasing as we talk, massively. It treats human beings as commodities to be traded. The challenge of this legislation is to stop this practice. I am delighted that the Government are committed to producing a slavery strategy to complement the Bill and I hope that many of our concerns can be refined through that strategy. I would like to raise three of four things that might benefit from further scrutiny and wider debate in our process.
The issue of supply chains, about which the noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy, has spoken, sparked a debate a few weeks ago. It is good that the Government have listened and have a genuine commitment to trying to tackle supply chains, which are key to this appalling crime. At the moment, the connection is not clear enough between the kind of information required, by asking companies to be more transparent about supply chains, and the accountability of directors for listening to that information and doing something about it. Many companies already put things about supply chains on their websites, but, as I have said, the crime is increasing. We must be more focused, sharper and tougher.
It may be important to think about the Companies Act being amended, although I know that this is not popular and is continually sidelined. This is not least because the Government have admitted that they recognise that human rights reporting includes supply chain integrity. However, an amendment to connect our aspirations in this Bill with an amendment to the Companies Act would require shareholders and directors to be accountable for what the company was doing with supply chains, and it would be a model that other countries that have companies Acts but not legislation about slavery could easily follow and get up to speed on, and therefore it would be a world leader. It would create a level playing field for all companies, so I flag up the Companies Act as a way of strengthening what we are trying to do.
Also with regard to supply chains, I want to mention the issue of scale. The Government are committed to finding a level at which companies will be required to do some kind of reporting, but the way our economy is developing, with the devolution of much activity into very small-scale, local subcontracting enterprises, that is where much slavery happens, and it is well out of the purview of major operators, which have a vast scale of operation. My right reverend friend the Bishop of Norwich, who is in his place, has been talking to me about evidence from Norfolk that points to a strong connection between something as basic as a car wash and a traded group of people who are doing that labour. It is very difficult to catch that kind of gangmaster activity, where people gather a group of people, force them to do the job, pay them peanuts, often confiscate their passports and entrap them where they do not know the language and do not have connections.
That is why I welcome the suggestion that the Gangmasters Licensing Authority has it remit extended, because part of the problem is we have a very low level of inspection. If the GLA had a wider remit and a stronger base to do inspections, that could be helpful. Another case I referred to briefly in our debate a couple of weeks ago was that in Derbyshire the local police, with the GLA, are targeting companies that might be susceptible to trafficking in their systems and going out to do preventive work, to help them recognise the signs, take appropriate measures and improve their performance. If the GLA had more resources and a wider remit, it could do proactive preventive work as well as inspections and helping with challenging the crime more directly.
I also flag up an amendment in the Commons, which was unsuccessful, introduced by a member of the Select Committee, Fiona Mactaggart, about demand in terms of the sex trade. Although I do not think it would be suitable to have legislation in this Bill about prostitution and criminalising payment for sex, many countries, especially the Nordic countries, have done a lot of work to show that sexual exploitation flourishes through prostitution and that where there has been legislation to criminalise the purchase of sex—which is the commodification of other human beings—that has had a dramatic effect on the level of sexual exploitation and slavery.
I will briefly say something about the national referral mechanism. I congratulate Jeremy Oppenheim on his report and will just pick out a phrase that I think is very helpful for what we are trying to do. He says that we should not talk about first responders—who sound like some kind of St John Ambulance coming in from the touchline—but should call the people on the front line “slavery safeguarding leads”. Slavery is a safeguarding issue. It is about vulnerable adults being taken advantage of, and if we can use the word “safeguarding”, that makes sense to people in our culture and our society. I also endorse the very important point he makes, which we may want to pursue further, when he says that the 45 days, which we all know is inadequate for many purposes, is not a period for rehabilitation. We may need to separate out what space we need to make decisions about legal process and what space we need to try to support people, rehabilitate them and put them back on their feet.
Finally, the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, mentioned the need to have a victim-centred Bill. We have to find a way of privileging victims because they are so abused and so sinned against. At the moment victims fall at many fences. Legal aid changes are beginning to put them in a disadvantaged place in trying to secure any legal support. With benefits systems, residency, housing, jobseeker’s allowance and all those kinds of things, the norms that we have for those bits of welfare activity are making it very hard for people who have been enslaved and have no documents or a settled address to access the welfare system. I wonder whether there is some way of privileging people once they have been recognised as having been exploited or enslaved, to give them a different way of accessing benefits and support because they have been enslaved and treated as commodities. That would make an enormous difference.
Finally, I welcome the nomination of Kevin Hyland as the first Anti-slavery Commissioner. I, too, have had the privilege of working with him and he is one of the great experts in our country. He has been at the forefront of putting victims at the front of this legislation and the work of the Metropolitan Police. He could be an exciting ally in this kind of work. I welcome the Bill and look forward to debating some of the big issues, but I plead that we think seriously about recognising how commodified people are in slavery and about whether they need a special prioritisation through the welfare system.
My Lords, I am really pleased to speak on this very important Bill. It is very important because we are speaking about victims of modern slavery. There is much in the Bill that I welcome: simplifying existing slavery and trafficking offences; increasing maximum sentences; creating civil orders and establishing a legal duty to report potential victims of trafficking to the National Crime Agency. All of these seem like sensible measures to improve detection, enforcement and punishment.
However, I am concerned that the Bill says very little about what will be done to help and support the victims of slavery. It is almost as if the physical, emotional and practical impact on those affected by this terrible crime has somehow been forgotten in the drive to bring the perpetrators to justice. I therefore speak on Parts 4 and 5 of the Bill today. We are told that legislation is not the only way that the Government will seek to tackle modern slavery and that there is a non-legislative programme of action but placing support for victims of slavery on a statutory footing would send out a very powerful message. It would say that victims of slavery have a legal right to help and that it is not being given as a concession or favour. The Government have recently announced their intention to introduce a law for victims of crime, so why should victims of slavery be excluded?
I know there is excellent help and support available for victims of slavery. Earlier this year, I saw for myself the work of the Salvation Army when I visited its safe houses. I would like to pay tribute to the Salvation Army for the outstanding work that it does in this field. I met a number of women who had been trafficked for prostitution and domestic servitude. One woman, Esther, left Nigeria with her mother when she was 14 to go on what she thought was a holiday. After a week, her mother left and she was forced into domestic servitude where she was beaten, starved and abused. After three years, she escaped but supported herself through prostitution and was too scared to go to the authorities. It was only when she was picked up by the immigration services several years later that she was referred to the Salvation Army. There, she has had counselling to help her come to terms with what had happened to her, as well as practical help to resolve her immigration status, find accommodation and prepare to find employment.
The staff at the Salvation Army house were nothing but short of incredible yet a vast amount of their time was taken up with dealing with the bureaucratic processes relating to immigration status, benefits and other practical issues. I appreciate that decisions about someone’s right to remain in this country cannot be made overnight, but I ask my noble friend the Minister to think about what it might feel like to be Esther, who has escaped years of abuse and is now safe. What must it feel like not to know whether she will be sent back to Nigeria and what might await her there? She does not know whether her mother was complicit in her being trafficked or what she could do to support herself if she was returned. This will clearly make her vulnerable to further abuses, including the risk of being retrafficked.
Delays in decision-making do not mean just that an organisation has not met its targets; it also means that somebody’s liberty, security and safety are at stake. I ask my noble friend the Minister to ensure that all government departments work smarter together to ensure that victims of slavery receive that emotional, physical and practical support in a much more co-ordinated, consistent and timely manner. We need local authorities to take responsibility for supporting recognised victims of human trafficking as “vulnerable adults” and to provide suitable housing for them. The sad fact is that very few local authorities do this. Victims of slavery also need support if they are to provide evidence against their abusers in court and they must not be abandoned afterwards. Using victims for our own purpose of securing a conviction and then failing to support them afterwards risks abusing them all over again.
I welcome the steps being taken to reduce the prosecution of victims where the criminal act has been intrinsically linked to their enslavement. I welcome the review of the national referral mechanism, particularly those recommendations related to victims who are moving on from Salvation Army safe houses. I know that the Salvation Army is confident that its subcontractors make every effort to ensure the safety and well-being of victims leaving the service. Many of them provide programmes and “drop-ins” while others provide an “open door” to those who still wish to remain in contact for occasional advice and support. Some of this post-exit support has been funded by the Salvation Army’s victim care fund, but otherwise this funding has had to be found by the subcontractors. We must ensure that support for victims is adequately funded.
The recently announced Independent Anti-slavery Commissioner, Kevin Hyland, has a wealth of knowledge and experience in the field of human trafficking. I wish him well in taking up this new role. However, apart from a statement that the commissioner will act strongly in the interests of victims and potential victims by making sure that the law enforcement response to modern slavery is focused, co-ordinated and effective, there is very little substance on what support will be made available for the victims. As Victims’ Commissioner for England and Wales, I look forward to an early meeting with the commissioner to see how best both our roles can complement each other to ensure that each and every victim gets the help and support that they need.
I know that every one of us in your Lordships’ House feels angry and sickened by the existence of this wicked trade in what we call a “modern society” and that we all agree that detection, prevention and prosecution are important. However, it is just as important to include provisions for emotional, professional and legal support for these victims of crime lest we forget that behind every statistic on modern slavery is a human being in grave danger and in a lot of pain.
My Lords, I rise for the first time in your Lordships’ noble House, and in so doing I respect the normal courtesies of thanks and recognition. But this time it is so very different.
I seek no support, no sympathy in what I am about to say, because it is a matter of fact—though, to me, of huge significance. Three days before I was introduced to this noble House, my partner of 31 years, and husband of eight years, Paul Cottingham, died after a ferocious battle with cancer. Before he died, I spoke of maybe postponing my introduction to another time. We spoke, too, of him attending with the necessary medical assistance. It was not to be. But his insistence was that I enter this House, this noble House, and nobility it has shown me and Paul’s family. Kindness and understanding have come from all quarters: the catering personnel; Mr Phipps and the doorkeepers; the staff and officers; Nicola Rivis in Black Rod’s office; and your Lordships. That is why my thanks today are not part of the usual courtesy: they are as urgent and sincere as any I have ever felt. This is public life at its best. I thank the leader of the Opposition, my right honourable friend Ed Miliband, and his staff, particularly Anna Yearley and Rachel Kinnock, for the love, care and deep affection they have shown me; and—if noble Lords will allow me—the all-embracing care of my Labour Party family. I have found this truly humbling.
My journey to this House has been, in comparison to the lives of others, good. Yet I am fully aware that I have not achieved a place in your Lordships’ House on my own. Thousands of generations of people before me have made possible what I have today by their sacrifices and through the challenges, discrimination and persecution that they faced; minorities of all different hues, but all experiencing one thing in common—inhumane and degrading treatment.
As a gay man who grew up in the fifties—and after the ray of hope of decriminalisation in the 1960s there followed new legislative discrimination in 1988—I can never forget the sacrifices of LGBTI people, and the sacrifices they are still making, despite progress, today. It is through them and because of them, and other much maligned and misrepresented minorities, that I am here today. I do not take that responsibility lightly. Indeed, I am deeply honoured to have recently been appointed as the leader of the Opposition’s global envoy on LGBTI issues—a challenging task.
Of course, at times I will fail. However, if to succeed is our objective, then to fail in trying to do so should be understood. All human beings who imagine a better future, which we do with this Bill, and seek to achieve it, will fall short. It is the intention, the persistence and the weight of time and respect for it that matter most, especially when giving a voice to those who otherwise would remain unheard and unnoticed. That is why I wanted to speak in this debate today, because central to the issues we are discussing are human rights and civil liberties—or rather the denial of those rights.
I make no pretence at being an expert on the minutiae of the Bill, but since when has that ever stopped anyone offering their opinion? However, I have listened carefully to those who are experts and it is clear that there is room for improvement—as noble Lords have already outlined—in particular, in relation to overseas domestic workers; migrant workers; specific offences of child and adult exploitation; measures relating to the supply chains of UK companies; and coherence with the Gangmasters Licensing Authority.
It is worth reminding ourselves that these practices are not happening in some remote part of the United Kingdom or on the other side of the world; they are happening in our cities, our towns, our villages, in the things we buy, the services we employ and the people we subcontract. It is all around us: the exploitation of women, children and men—women, children and men who dare to imagine a better life, and seeking that better life are impoverished and subjected to inhumane and degrading treatment. It has always happened in our society, and it has always happened to migrants in particular. It happened to generations of migrants who made their way to this beacon of democracy, fleeing wars, famine, persecution and wanton discrimination—like my own family, who crossed continents and then the Irish Sea—arriving not welcomed but abused. It is happening still.
Those of us in public life should always be careful about the language we use. Each and every time migrants and minorities are defamed and misrepresented, there are consequences. If we dehumanise people, is it any wonder that others feel they have a licence to treat them as subhuman? The search for the scapegoat has happened for centuries and never more so than in times of economic downturn. However, I sense I am straying into the used bathwater of controversy so I merely say this. I have every hope that the Bill will address these abhorrent injustices. I therefore also hope that the Minister will take on board amendments to deliver effective and dissuasive measures across the board. Now is not the time to reinforce a hierarchy of equality.
Before I pay my final thanks, let me quickly put the Bill into a broader context. I believe that at the heart of everything we do, we should reinforce the concept of civil liberties and responsibilities, and universal human rights. The Council of Europe and the European Convention on Human Rights were both born from the ashes of the Second World War—so too was the concept of the European Union—ensuring that all citizens would have a basic set of transferable rights; that borders would not inhibit those human rights; nor would one group, nationality or minority be bartered away for another’s short-term gain or short-term freedom.
I state that because it has become all too fashionable to argue for change without knowing what you actually want to achieve. The EU, born out of the ashes of the Second World War, has at its heart a small set of fundamental principles that must not be diluted. To do so, especially in times of economic downturn and crisis, would once again raise the ugly face of narrow nationalism, pitting nation against nation, minority against minority. In the end, it is always the individual who suffers.
Finally, I cannot help but reflect that I was born in Limehouse, east London, three weeks before my time, primarily due to my mother attempting to defend my father in a street fight outside Stepney East station. It has been a long road, with many a fight along the way, metaphorically, and I am sure that there are more to come, but the results have been worth it. So, as I began, I thank my dear friends Lady Turner of Camden and Lady Kinnock for agreeing to sponsor me into this noble House. They are two noble ladies whom I have had the comfort and privilege to work with and admire and whom I hold in the highest esteem. I thank your Lordships.
My Lords, I am sure that I speak for the whole House when I say that the noble Lord, Lord Cashman, has the sympathy of the whole House for the loss of his partner of 31 years at such a crucial time in his life.
It is a pleasure to speak following the noble Lord and a privilege to thank him, on behalf of the whole House, for his brilliant maiden speech. He became a household name in 1986, when he was cast as Colin Russell in the BBC programme “EastEnders”. I have no doubt that he is destined to become famous again in a different programme, or House. I have to disappoint him, however, because I have never watched the programme. My excuse is that by the time I was ready to watch it, he had departed the programme, so there was not much point.
As the noble Lord mentioned, he has championed the cause of human rights and civil liberties all his life, and no doubt we will continue to hear him do that. Following the controversy of Section 28, together with Ian McKellen he founded Stonewall. In this House, we heard a lot about Stonewall during the passage of the Bill on gay rights.
As a Member of the European Parliament, elected in 1999, he also used that position to defend human rights and civil liberties. He was successful in introducing legislation in the European Parliament. He served on the Labour Party’s National Executive Committee between 1998 and 1999 and again between 2001 and 2012, serving as chair in his last year. Following that, I wonder whether he is destined for high office on the Front Bench in this House in due course.
Michael received a special service award, I am pleased to say, from the American Association of Physicians for Human Rights—they do not give awards lightly—and an honorary doctorate from Staffordshire University for his work in the field of human rights. We look forward to hearing him many times, and I thank him today for his maiden speech.
I turn now to the Bill to make my small contribution. Before I do so, I pay tribute to the noble Lord, Lord McColl, and to the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, who have both championed the cause of trafficked children and modern slavery for some time. It is in no small measure due to them that we have this Bill today.
I listened very carefully, and with great respect, to both their contributions and I listened to the caution the noble and learned Baroness gave about us not striving to get too much in the way of changes to the legislation. However, I also listened to my noble friend Lord McColl—the fraternity of medicine and friendship goes well beyond the politics of the House, so I refer to him as my friend, my senior friend. I listened very carefully to his plea for trafficked children in particular, and that we make sure that the legislation protects them.
I also congratulate the Government on bringing this Bill forward. It goes a significant way to eliminating in the UK the modern form of slavery, which is, as the Explanatory Notes say, a brutal form of organised crime that treats vulnerable human beings, mostly women and children, as commodities. However, the Bill is more about prosecuting those who traffic, and it goes a long way towards doing so. However, it is light in legislation that would provide victim support, and in this area the Bill could be strengthened.
I recognise the Government’s commitment to tackling slavery, child trafficking and exploitation. However, the Bill misses an opportunity to afford better protection for child victims. The fact that there has not been a single prosecution for child trafficking proves the point, I think: it may well be linked to poor victim support. It is despite the 600 to 1,000 children who, it is estimated, are trafficked. The Bill needs to include a specific offence of child exploitation and trafficking. I look forward to the arguments of the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, as to why that might not be necessary—if she agrees—in Committee.
Given the vulnerability of children, current law relating to the offence of human trafficking fails children, in part due to those charged with protecting them not fully understanding the law. That may well be the cause of the lack of prosecutions. On Report in the Commons, the Minister indicated that she was minded to consider the issue of consent as it applies to children. The noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, also referred to that: children held in slavery, servitude and required to perform forced labour. If that is the intention, why not include it in the Bill by amending Clause 47, as part of the new offence of child exploitation? Children will then get justice, where they currently seem not to.
Legislation also needs to go further in relation to child trafficking advocates. The noble Lord, Lord McColl, has championed this for many a year, if not for decades. While the amendment introduced in the Commons to what is now Clause 47(5) makes it clear that advocates must act in the best interests of the child, legislation needs to be extended to give child trafficking advocates legal powers—powers that include holding authorities to account and instructing solicitors on behalf of the child, in order to truly represent their best interests. An advocate acting as a friend—even a litigation friend, as suggested—does not fulfil the need to instruct solicitors nor compel local authorities to act to enable children to access the services that they need.
An amendment to Clause 47 should also be extended to include the provision of legal advocates for all separated migrant children, as recommended by the Joint Committee on Human Rights. Evidence shows that separated migrant children are often trafficked and the vulnerability of these children is already recognised in international law—and, within the United Kingdom, by Scotland and Northern Ireland. Why would it therefore be inappropriate to do the same in the rest of the UK?
Perhaps I may speak briefly about the role of the so-called independent anti-slavery commissioner. If the Government are to meet their ambition of truly making the UK free from modern slavery, the anti-slavery commissioner needs to have wider powers—powers that include true independence from the Government by reporting to Parliament, and powers to monitor victim assistance measures, to collect data from a wide range of other bodies and to monitor the impact of policies and legislation. The current powers of the commissioner, as stated in the Bill, are too narrow and will not deliver the improvement in prosecution and conviction rates that the Government wish to have. In her recent statements, the Home Secretary recognised the need for victim support and the protection of victims. Why should we not then have those in the powers of the commissioner? The argument put forward by the Government—that the role of the anti-slavery commissioner should not duplicate the roles of other commissioners—is weak. That argument was rejected by the Joint Committee on Human Rights and should be rejected by this House.
The victim protection provision in Part 5 also needs to be further strengthened to include, as has been mentioned, a duty on public authorities to assist victims and to include protection for migrant domestic workers on the overseas domestic workers’ visa. The current rules relating to employment and visa renewal end up with these workers being treated as modern-day slaves. If the legislation is different in other parts of the United Kingdom, my one question to the Minister would be: how would a commissioner whose responsibility goes throughout the United Kingdom be able to deliver efficiency unless the legislation is similar in all parts of the United Kingdom?
My Lords, first, I declare an interest as a vice-chair of the All-Party Group on Human Trafficking and Modern-Day Slavery. I, too, served on the Joint Committee that looked at the draft Modern Slavery Bill. The dedication and sense of shared purpose with which members of all parties carried out the committee’s work is a testament to the excellent leadership of our chair, Frank Field MP. It is therefore regrettable that the Government chose to ignore many of the committee’s recommendations.
I, too, applaud the Home Secretary for bringing forward the long-overdue Bill. However, a number of issues need to be addressed to turn this into a Bill which would set the standard for the rest of the world. My key interest in the Bill is in offences against children, an area which is not adequately covered. Part 1 requires evidence of forced or compulsory labour. However, this should not be required in the case of children. A child can be controlled far more easily than an adult—in many cases, without force or compulsion—so we should accept this and include in the Bill a separate offence for child exploitation. There are a number of circumstances where children are being exploited but which would not be deemed an offence under the Bill, as drafted. Let me give just three examples.
The first is of children being exploited for benefit fraud. A regular scam being used is for a female so-called relative to claim that a child’s mother has been killed in her home country. She then claims asylum for the child, whom she says she is now looking after. If officers allow the child to stay with the woman, she will receive asylum support until the child reaches the age of 16. The same child is then passed from one person to another for the sole purpose of making multiple claims for the same child in various parts of the UK.
My second example concerns children being brought in from baby farms for the purpose of illegal adoption. The CPS has continually failed to demonstrate how it will prosecute anyone for the trafficking of babies and infants. Because infants cannot, by definition, give evidence, these cases simply cannot reach the threshold for slavery, or forced or compulsory labour. An offence of child exploitation would be an unambiguous solution to this problem.
My final example concerns children being exploited for criminal purposes such as begging. Children cannot consent to being exploited, but in most cases they will accept what they are being asked to do by family members without question, because doing what adults tell them is considered normal. Exploiting children is big business. The Metropolitan Police estimates that each child used for begging in London can bring in up to £100,000 per annum for their gangmaster. The committee on which I sat recommended a specific offence which says simply that it is illegal to exploit a child, or to obtain benefit from the use of a child, for the purpose of exploitation. That is simple, yet, for reasons which I fail to comprehend, the Government do not agree. However, those charities that work daily with vulnerable children, including UNICEF, the Children’s Society and ECPAT, believe that the case for a separate child exploitation offence is overwhelming. They are right.
I will briefly mention one other area of the Bill which I believe needs to be enhanced. Like the noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy of Cradley, I, too, have concerns about Clause 45, which provides a statutory defence for slavery or trafficking victims who are compelled to commit a criminal offence. This does not go far enough to protect children, because to be able to use the protection of this defence, an already traumatised child needs to prove that they were compelled to commit an offence and, in addition, that it was a direct result of slavery or trafficking. This is an unnecessary burden and goes against our human rights obligations, because we are required to ensure that trafficked children are protected and not treated as criminals when the crimes they commit are integral to, or consequent on, their trafficking or exploitation.
In conclusion, the National Crime Agency estimates that more than 600 children were trafficked into the UK in 2013 for the purposes of exploitation. This is, on average, almost two children every day. Girls were exploited predominantly sexually and boys largely for criminal or labour purposes. These are shocking statistics, but there is a general consensus among all the agencies that work in this field that the true figure is likely to be significantly higher. People trafficking is the second or third largest source of income for organised crime, up there with drugs and the arms trade. We must do everything in our power to enable the police to prosecute these criminals.
The way we treat our children defines us as a society. It is almost beyond belief that child slavery and exploitation is still happening in this country. A separate child exploitation offence would make a fundamental difference to the lives of hundreds, if not thousands, of children who are being exploited daily. This is a golden opportunity. Let us not waste it.
My Lords, it is an honour to be standing here today, but I stand with some trepidation knowing the history and experience that precede me. This is indeed a place full of expertise. My journey over the past few weeks from Robing Room to maiden speech has been made a great deal easier by the overwhelming kindness shown by your Lordships, the officers and staff and my supporters, my noble friends Lord King and Lady Jenkin, and my mentor, my noble friend Lord Mancroft. This is indeed a welcoming place, especially as it serves crumpets and Marmite for tea. My father, John Egremont, introduced a debate on 13 July 1965 on the Motion that,
“speeches in this House should be shorter”.
Being well brought up, I have of course always taken careful note of any advice given to me by my father, so I will not keep your Lordships long.
I speak for the first time in your Lordships’ House with a sense of how much I would like to contribute to the quality of legislation and seriousness of debate that is so important to our democracy. I have chosen this debate for my maiden speech because over many years as a registered nurse and a former leading Samaritan and, more recently, given my involvement with a drug and alcohol treatment centre in Gloucestershire, I have real concerns about vulnerable people in our society.
I have told your Lordships a little about myself but now I turn to the issue of modern slavery and human trafficking and the growing number of victims being moved across the globe, robbed of their liberty and forced into a life of servitude. As a former nurse and charity worker, I have seen vulnerable people used by manipulative criminals to promote their illegal profiteering. Modern slavery and human trafficking is recognised as one of the most financially lucrative crimes committed domestically and internationally. For the organised crime group it is a low-risk and high-profit pursuit, but for the victims it is a harrowing and traumatic experience and one they will never forget.
As I stand here before your Lordships, there are men, women and children in the UK who have no life at all. They are trafficked into this country and duped into a life of prostitution, labour exploitation, petty crime and domestic slavery, and they are kept in conditions that would seem unimaginable to anyone lucky enough to enjoy hot food and a bed. The key drivers are lack of education, poverty, limited opportunities, an unstable home, unstable Governments and conflicts. It is difficult to estimate how many victims we have in the UK, but in 2013 more than 2,500 cases of slavery were reported to UK law enforcement agencies. We can assume that this is a gross underestimate because this is a crime that all too often goes unseen, and the criminals who trade in human beings work underground.
Nearly two years ago the Centre for Social Justice published a report, It Happens Here, which made a number of recommendations. I am proud to be a supporter of a Government who have subsequently brought forward a modern-day slavery Bill. However, this is just an opening chapter of a horror story which, sadly, is fact, not fiction, and has more chapters to go before we can feel comfortable enough to close the book.
I have said that I come from a nursing background. I would like to see more victims identified and treated, not just for the visible scars derived from beatings and coercion but for those mental scars that run more deeply and last much longer. We all of us have a part to play in helping victims of modern-day slavery and human trafficking: communities, local authorities, the educational establishment, health workers—the list is not exhaustive. Law enforcement has a key role to play in working with all groups to ensure that we have a joined-up approach.
Catching more criminals will surely lead to fewer victims. Importantly, we need to provide the kind of services that help victims to become survivors. It is imperative for the victims to have the right support from the moment that they are identified. The evidence that they give is helped by the effectiveness and quality of support that they receive.
Liz Hales from the Institute of Criminology at Cambridge University said, “You’re being processed along a conveyor belt and unless you have someone to hold your hand, you are lost”. We must ensure that the victims are never again vulnerable to the evil slave drivers who will commit any act, however inhumane, in the name of profit.
I thank your Lordships for the opportunity to speak today, but mindful of my father’s views on the length of speeches, I feel I should now stop. I look forward to contributing to your Lordships’ work in the future and will consider it an honour to do so.
My Lords, it is a great pleasure and privilege to congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Chisholm of Owlpen, on her superb maiden speech. It was a powerful, moving and very constructive response to the important Bill before us today. As someone with a nursing background myself, it is an especial delight to welcome another former nurse to your Lordships’ House. As the noble Baroness was speaking, I thought that perhaps the fundamental values underpinning her commitment to a major caring profession, were reflected in the sensitivity and compassion of a truly memorable maiden speech. I look forward very much to sharing nursing interests in the Chamber and, in nursing parlance, off duty. However, I am sure that every noble Lord here today looks forward greatly to benefiting from the noble Baroness’s distinctive contributions very soon and very often.
I warmly commend the Government for introducing this path-breaking legislation to endeavour to eradicate the barbaric phenomenon of slavery, which continues to inflict indescribable suffering on millions of men, women and children in our world today. I welcome many of the provisions in the Bill. As time is limited, I will focus not on those which I strongly endorse but on three ways in which I sincerely hope that the Bill will be amended in order to achieve its worthy aims.
The first issue relates to the Bill’s failure adequately to tackle slavery in supply chains, as has already been highlighted by many other noble Lords. Forced labour and slavery are flourishing in our global supply chains of raw materials and manufactured goods. I myself may inadvertently be wearing clothes and eating food rendered cheap by slave labour. Every day, millions of modern-day slaves are forced to work in appalling conditions for derisory or no pay. Their suffering is too often hidden at the bottom of long, complex international supply chains which allow some big companies to abdicate responsibility and ignore the suffering involved in the manufacture of many low-price products. The majority are in the private sector, particularly in manufacture, construction and agriculture.
Excellent research by a number of NGOs has exposed the routine use of forced labour in the supply chains of some of the biggest British high-street stores and supermarkets. According to the International Labour Organization, this form of slavery generates an annual profit of $150 billion. Therefore, legislation to ensure scrutiny of the exploitation and working conditions of those at the very bottom of the supply chain is crucial. I join other noble Lords in welcoming the Government’s agreement to include measures to address this issue in this Bill.
However, it is essential that minimum measures of disclosure will be specified. This will not only meet the Government’s aspirations for greater transparency but provide a level playing field for business. Therefore, requiring big businesses to state publicly what action they have taken to eliminate slavery from their supply chains is a significant step forward.
But the devil is in the detail. It is essential that minimum measures of disclosure are specified, particularly the requirements, as mentioned by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Derby, that such information be published in each company’s directors’ report and that this reporting should be annual and progressive. This will demonstrate that businesses are operating ethically and that those which eliminate slavery from their supply chains will not be disadvantaged. This has been welcomed by many business leaders, such as one who said, “We warmly welcome this legislation as it will level the playing field for us. We are free of slavery in our practices here in the UK and we want our global competitors to be, too”.
The second issue I wish to highlight has already been emphasised by a number of other noble Lords. I refer, briefly, to the plight of overseas domestic workers, who remain excluded in spite of strong recommendations from the Joint Committee on the draft Bill. It found that the current visa system, introduced in April 2012,
“unintentionally strengthened the hand of the slave master against the victim of slavery”,
and recommended the restoration of the pre-2012 visa. All the evidence shows that migrant domestic workers remain in a situation of vulnerability, which is morally unacceptable and which undermines the intentions of the Bill. The protections for migrant domestic workers promised by the Minister, such as handing them an information card on entry to the UK or clarifying the contracts submitted with applications for the visa, are welcome, but they cannot replace the basic rights of changing employer and renewing a visa. I hope that the Minister will be able to give assurance of sympathetic consideration of amending the Bill to solve that problem.
The third area where I wish to see the Bill amended relates to the global perspective of slavery. The title of the report from the Modern Slavery Bill Evidence Review, Establishing Britain as a World Leader in the Fight against Modern Slavery, reflects the laudable aspirations of the Government. However, while tackling modern slavery in the UK—including human trafficking—is a moral imperative, it may not impact what is truly a global issue and may also move the problem to other areas of the globe. The Global Slavery Index estimates the number of slaves in the UK to be between 4,200 and 4,600. While that is 4,200 or 4,600 too many, and nothing can lessen the tragedy for each individual, it is a drop in the ocean compared with the global estimate of nearly 30 million.
In my humanitarian work with victims of oppression I have been involved with the redemption of hundreds of slaves in Sudan, abducted by the regime in Khartoum; I have met victims of sexual slavery and forced labour in Burma; children and teenagers abducted by the notorious Lord’s Resistance Army in Uganda, who were subjected to indescribable brutality; and devadasi, or temple prostitutes, in India. I have heard, too often, their anguished, heart-wrenching stories. Their experiences also highlight the need for appropriate aftercare, which is currently inadequate in this country, but which is sadly all too often completely lacking for victims in other countries.
We have a moral responsibility to work on behalf of those who are exploited, wherever they are in the world. To be a truly global leader, Britain must give a rallying call to all countries and work with as many countries as possible to tackle slavery wherever it happens. The Bill provides an opportunity to address slavery and the suffering it inflicts on its victims wherever it exists, and it would be shameful not to take that opportunity now.
While recognising the limitations of legislating on global slavery in the same manner as slavery in this country, three actions could be taken. First, a statutory statement within the Bill which recognised modern slavery as a global issue requiring a global solution and which committed the United Kingdom to assist with exposing and tackling it wherever it exists would be an important signal and declaration of intent. That would need to be followed by Britain taking the initiative in launching collaborative programmes with business, NGOs, public bodies and local communities, sharing expertise, knowledge, intelligence, resources, best practice and political leadership which would engage every sector of society in the fight against slavery.
Secondly, there should be a requirement for all British embassies, high commissions and consulates to assess the prevalence of slavery in the countries where they are located, regardless of whether there is a direct link to the UK, and to support collaborative programmes, especially on-the-ground anti-trafficking and anti-slavery initiatives. Thirdly, the publication of an annual report would assess the extent of modern slavery globally, the progress of measures to address the issue, give an overview of initiatives undertaken by the FCO, DfID and other UK departments, as well as by UK-based NGOs, and would identify actions that would still need to be taken.
If the Bill is to achieve the Government’s stated intention to establish Britain as a,
“world leader in the fight against modern slavery”,
the UK must be at the forefront of making everywhere in the world a “no-go zone” for human trafficking and slavery, shining a light on modern slavery wherever it is taking place and facilitating the sharing of skills, expertise and resources to expose and eradicate slavery in all its forms, everywhere. Only then can Britain truly claim to be a world leader.
My Lords, with the leave of the House, I will now repeat a Statement made by my right honourable friend the Prime Minister in another place. The Statement is as follows.
“I am sure the whole House will join me in utterly condemning the sickening murder of American aid worker Peter Kassig. Our thoughts are with his family and his friends at this time. We will not be cowed by these sick terrorists. They will be defeated and they must face the justice that they deserve. This threat is faced by countries right across the world. We must face it together. It featured strongly in the discussions I had with Prime Minister Tony Abbott in my bilateral visit to Australia.
I took the opportunity of setting out further detail on some of the steps we will take as part of the counterterrorism Bill here in the United Kingdom. As the House knows, these include new powers for police at ports to seize passports, to stop suspects from travelling and to stop British nationals returning to the UK unless they do so on our terms. It also includes new rules to prevent airlines that do not comply with our no-fly lists, or our security screening measures, from landing in the UK. Every country across the world is examining what powers are necessary to keep their people safe, and I am determined that we will do that right here. We will make a full announcement about the counterterrorism Bill soon.
Let me turn to the G20 summit in Brisbane this weekend. Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott set a clear agenda for the world economy and we gave it our strong backing. The Brisbane Action Plan includes a commitment on dealing with our debts and an infrastructure hub that will see British companies as part of a global pipeline for the biggest projects on the planet. But above all it is a plan for growth and jobs, with every country pledging actions that will boost global growth and therefore help create jobs. The aim is an additional $2 trillion to be added to the global economy.
When it comes to growth last year, this year and the forecast for next year, as the head of the IMF said in Brisbane, it is Britain and America that are leading the pack. However, it is also clear that growth is stalling in the eurozone, that world trade is not developing as fast as it should and that previously fast-growing economies are slowing down. Only today Japan entered recession. These warning signs in the global economy show that it is more important than ever that we stick to our long-term economic plan. That is the only way we can secure a better future for our country.
There were also important discussions on climate change, where China and America took important steps forward at the APEC summit in terms of moving towards a deal in Paris next year. Britain will continue to play a key role, including by using our already earmarked resources for the UN Green Climate Fund.
In terms of the global negotiations, the EU has taken the lead with significant planned cuts in carbon emissions. I made clear the importance of every country—Australia included—making a contribution to securing a deal next year.
My focus at this summit was on helping to deliver our long-term economic plan by addressing some of the big global challenges that could potentially threaten our recovery at home. There was important progress on fighting protectionism, on dealing with the damaging effects of global tax avoidance and corruption, and on confronting the instability caused by conflict and disease. I want to take each briefly in turn.
On fighting protectionism and promoting free trade, we welcomed the breakthrough on the Bali trade facilitation agreement, which had been stuck for so long. After an agreement between America and India, it will now go ahead. There was also an important meeting between the countries of the European Union and the United States to agree that an EU-US trade deal must be done next year. This could add £10 billion to the UK economy alone. These trade deals can mean jobs and growth for Britain, so I challenged European leaders to think ambitiously about other deals that could be done, including with our hosts, Australia, and with emerging markets such as India and China.
We pressed for reform of the World Trade Organization so that poverty-busting trade deals can be put together, agreed and implemented more quickly. Britain, Germany and the US, among others, all agreed that the way this organisation works needs to change in the future.
Secondly, there was progress on ensuring that big companies pay the taxes they owe. This is not just a technical issue; it is a moral one. Ensuring the correct taxes are paid is vital in sustaining low taxes and enabling hardworking families and small businesses to keep more of the money they earn. That is why Britain first put this on the international agenda at the G8 in Northern Ireland last year. This issue has now been firmly hard-wired into the G20 agenda. This summit agreed a G20-wide action plan to ensure there is nowhere for large companies to hide to avoid paying the taxes that are due. There are now 93 different countries and tax authorities signed up automatically to sharing tax information. Before the G8 in Northern Ireland last year it was just 29. As the OECD set out in Brisbane, the action we have taken so far in its view has already meant $37 billion of extra tax being paid by big corporations.
The Lough Erne summit also made important commitments at G8 level to stop the true owners of companies hiding behind a veil of secrecy. This is vital in tackling the cancer of corruption that does so much to destroy countries and increase the risks to our security. In Brisbane we agreed to extend this work on beneficial ownership to cover the whole G20—China included.
Thirdly, Britain continued to play a leading role in dealing with the threat of conflict and disease which is vital not only in keeping our own people safe but in ensuring our long-term prosperity. On the conflict in Ukraine, we called on Russia to respect the Minsk agreements and made it clear that if it does not we remain ready to intensify sanctions. Of course, there is an economic cost to us from sanctions. But the cost of allowing such a fundamental breach of our rules-based system to go unchecked would be infinitely greater in terms of cost in the long run. I met President Putin and once again made it clear that continued destabilisation of Ukraine can mean only more sanctions and more pressure. He has said that he does not want a frozen conflict and, as he put it to me, sees Ukraine as a single political space but he must be judged by his deeds not his words.
On Ebola, I wrote to Australian Prime Minister Abbott ahead of the summit to secure a specific G20 leaders’ statement, with a clear plan for dealing with this disease and for improving our readiness to respond to such epidemics in future. Other countries including South Korea, Japan and Australia are now doing more to help with more money, trained medical staff and equipment, while the IMF agreed to double its current programmes in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea and to provide additional debt relief.
The UK will continue to lead the way on the development of a vaccine, with the Wellcome Trust establishing a joint research fund of more than £1 million. We also welcomed the support of the English and Scottish Football Associations which will be raising money at their friendly international tomorrow night. The UK Government will match-fund any public donations up to £5 million.
I also pushed the G20 to consider additional measures that could improve the ability of the global community to respond to a similar outbreak of disease in the future. This could include the possibility of a standing pool of global medical experts who can be deployed quickly during the early stages of a potential epidemic, strengthening in-country surveillance and health infrastructure, asking the IMF and World Bank to explore new mechanisms for ensuring the world is better prepared to deal with such pandemics in future and doing more to fight bacteria resistant to present-day antibiotics. The World Health Organization itself also requires reform.
This was a good G20 for Britain. We delivered progress on the key global economic challenges that will help to protect us from a global economic downturn. In doing so we supported our long-term economic plan to repair the broken economy that we inherited and to deliver jobs and growth in every part of our country. I commend this Statement to the House”.
My Lords, that concludes the Statement.
My Lords, I thank the Leader of the House for repeating the Prime Minister’s Statement in the other place. I join her in expressing horror and revulsion at the barbaric murder of US aid worker Peter Kassig. Once again, this is a demonstration of ISIL’s evil ideology against innocent people. Our thoughts go out to his family at this terrible time. It reinforces our determination to defeat ISIL.
I will turn to the situation in Ukraine. The ceasefire agreed in September is extremely fragile and there are recent reports, confirmed by the OSCE, of further Russian military vehicles crossing the border. The noble Baroness reported on the Prime Minister’s meeting with Mr Putin. Does she think enough is being done to send a clear message to Russia about its aggression and to support President Poroshenko’s Government? Under what circumstances will the UK be pushing for further sanctions against President Putin and Russia? We are all aware of the way in which a conflict such as the one in Ukraine can generate headlines for a few weeks then be forgotten. This must not become a forgotten conflict.
I turn to the issues raised on the formal G20 agenda. As with any summit, the task is to turn good intentions into concrete measures. Tax avoidance is a problem which affects rich and poor countries alike. In June 2013, at the G8 summit, the Prime Minister promised that all UK Crown dependencies and overseas territories would produce registers on the real owners of shell companies. We are 17 months on from that summit: will the Leader of the House give an update on progress? This weekend, the G20 repeated the G8’s commitment that developing countries would have a place at the negotiating table, as part of the process to reform global tax rules. Can the noble Baroness say what progress has been made 18 months after the G8?
On climate change, I agree with her on the welcome steps on carbon emissions made by President Obama and the Chinese President last week. I also welcome the agreement to support the climate fund designed to help with the effects of climate change. When will the UK be announcing our contribution? Can the noble Baroness explain the delay in doing so? What is she doing to bring more sceptical countries with us for an ambitious agreement in Paris next year, not to mention the more sceptical noble Lords who sit behind her?
On the Ebola crisis, I welcome the UK’s role as the second-largest donor in helping tackle this potential threat to people, not just in west Africa but across the world. The G20 conclusions were short on specific commitments from other countries. What does the noble Baroness think we can do further to encourage other countries, including those in the EU, to ensure we tackle the crisis with aid, equipment and—especially—health workers?
Finally, I turn to the G20 conclusions on global growth. Today, the Prime Minister told us that there are red lights flashing in the global economy. This is what is known as getting your excuses in early. The Prime Minister used to tell us that the problems in the British economy were all to do with the British Government and nothing to do with international factors. Now he wants to tell us that, on his watch, they are all to do with international factors and nothing to do with the British Government.
Is it not true that, even before the Prime Minister went to Brisbane, we already knew his export target was off track and that the trade deficit is the highest it has been for 25 years? Before he went to Brisbane, he knew that Britain’s productivity had stagnated on his watch and that average families are £1,600 per annum worse off. The Prime Minister has gone from saying that everything is fixed thanks to him to saying everything is not fixed but it is nothing to do with him. He should have been listening all along to the British people, who see deep problems in an economy that is not working for them. Is it not time that the Prime Minister stopped blaming everybody else for an economy that is great for a few people at the top but is not delivering for most working people?
I thank the noble Lord for his remarks about Peter Kassig. I join him in sending condolences to his friends and family. Across this House, and the country as a whole, there is unity in our views on the terrible atrocities that have happened and in the support we send out to the victims.
I turn to the noble Lord’s comments about the Prime Minister’s Statement and the events at the G20 summit. The Prime Minister’s Statement shows that the UK is setting the agenda at global summits and leading the way when it comes to action. The noble Lord asked specific questions about tax and tax avoidance. My right honourable friend the Prime Minister made this a high priority at the G8 summit last year. Because of doing so, we now see some real progress in this area. Every one of the Crown dependencies and British Overseas Territories has signed up to an action plan on beneficial ownership, so that is clearly progress. Some of them have registers and some are considering making them public, but crucially, every single one of them has agreed to automatic exchange of tax information. That is a real breakthrough because it means that all these tax authorities are exchanging that information and companies cannot hide where they are making their money. As I said when I repeated the Prime Minister’s Statement, when they pay their fair share in tax it means that there is less burden on everyone else.
The noble Lord asked about Ukraine and whether the message to Russia was clear enough. One interesting thing at the G20 summit was that all the foreign leaders present were clear and united in their message to President Putin. There can be no mistake about their views on the need to withdraw from Ukraine. Clearly, if there is more destabilisation in Ukraine, that would trigger greater sanctions. Similarly, if there were a taking down of destabilisation, that would lead to removal of sanctions. But I agree with the noble Lord that what is really important is that this conflict is not forgotten and does not become a so-called frozen conflict in Europe in the way that the world moved on after the destabilisation of Georgia.
Again, we were very much in the lead in ensuring that climate change was part of the agenda for debate and discussion at the G20 summit. There is pressure on all countries to bring forward their plans for the meeting in Paris next year. We have set money aside ready to make our contribution to the climate fund, and will do so in the way to which we have been committed. We are proud to be in the lead on that.
The noble Lord asked about specific pledges made on Ebola. At the G20, Korea and Japan made specific pledges and of course Australia backed up its plan to provide 100 beds in Sierra Leone. As the House will recall from the Statement that I repeated after the recent European Council summit, the Prime Minister was successful in ensuring that the combined contribution from European countries to Ebola has increased to €1 billion. We should not forget that on Ebola it is not just about financial support. There are very many other ways in which countries are lending their support, which is an important aspect of our efforts in the fight against that dreadful disease.
As far as what the noble Lord said about the economy and the Prime Minister’s remarks this morning, let us be absolutely clear: the UK is leading the world, along with America, in terms of growth. That was recognised at the G20 by the head of the IMF. It is only now that we are seeing the problems that other countries face that we can see just how well this country is performing because of the measures that we implemented, and the plans that we have for the future are essential to that continuing. The private sector has created 2 million more new jobs in the past four years and 400,000 new businesses have got off the ground. We are leading the way. We must, however, be very conscious that there are serious threats from elsewhere, but there is no question that we are not on the right course economically.
My Lords, through my noble friend, the Prime Minister should be congratulated on the agreement on beneficial ownership transparency. She knows, however, that the World Bank believes that the United States and the United Kingdom are the two jurisdictions where most companies that hold proceeds of corruption incorporate. It is a little disappointing to see in the communiqué that, while countries are required to submit action plans, there is no time target for how long the approximately 90 of them that have signed up will take in terms of sharing information and achieving the action plans. Can my noble friend tell the House if there is any discussion about that?
On transparency overall we have made a huge breakthrough over the past few years, but my noble friend is right to express some frustration on beneficial ownership transparency. It is an area in which we would like to see greater progress. We have taken concrete action and are establishing this public central registry for company beneficial ownership information. We are working hard to ensure that others follow our lead, but I do not have any further details to offer at this time.
My Lords, we all condemn acts of terrorism. However, does the Leader of the House think that it is productive to use words such as “mindless” or “sick” in describing such acts? That kind of rhetoric should perhaps be removed. As for the long term, it will be better ideas and better practice that defeat the jihadis. The Statement refers to what happens when British nationals return to this country. Can she throw more light on the meaning of,
“unless they do so on our terms”?
Will there be some kind of probation? Surely the long-term objective should be to rehabilitate and reintegrate such people.
I have huge respect for the noble Lord, but I disagree with his comments about the language that the Prime Minister has used to describe the terrible beheadings that have taken place, and the actions against innocent people who have gone to these countries with the sole purpose of helping those in such desperate need.
On the matter of the counterterrorism measures referred to by my right honourable friend the Prime Minister when he was in Australia, more detail will come shortly. We expect the new legislation to be introduced in the Commons later this month. I do not know when it will arrive in this House. When it is introduced, clearly there will be an opportunity for proper scrutiny of it in the normal way.
The Statement refers to the Prime Minister’s concern about a number of instability factors, with reduced growth in the global economy. I understand that. But I am troubled that one of the factors over which he has control is the instability caused by Britain’s threat to withdraw from the European Union. This not only reduces investment in the European Union and here, but also increases the instability. Why does he not say very clearly that under his watch Britain will not withdraw from the EU?
My right honourable friend the Prime Minister has been clear that reform of the European Union is needed. He has great support for this in the European Union. Reform of it would be in the interest of the British people and that is totally consistent with his plans for ongoing growth in this country.
My Lords, does the Minister recognise that what was decided on trade—in particular, the agreement that the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership would be concluded next year—was very welcome? Can she say whether President Obama gave any indication of whether he was now likely to get fast-track authority to conduct that negotiation? What are the Government doing to deal with the broadly spread misconceptions, in this country as well as elsewhere in the European Union, about the risks of such an agreement, particularly stories that this would lead to the undermining of the National Health Service, for which there is no foundation whatever? These misconceptions need countering. Are the Government doing something about that?
On the World Health Organization, it is right, as the Statement says, that it needs some reform. Above all, it needs some resources. There is strong evidence that an absence of resources was part of the reason why it was rather slow off the mark when the Ebola outbreak began.
On the question of the transatlantic trade talks, or TTIP, the Prime Minister was very much in the lead in ensuring that there was an opportunity for those discussions to take place outside the main G20 summit. He is reported as saying that, in the course of those discussions, rocket boosters were put under the need for agreement on this trade deal. It is so essential to our economy and the European economy more broadly. That is an additional point that I would like to make to the noble Lord, Lord Soley, in response to his comments on Europe. This is a trade deal between Europe and the United States, and the Prime Minister is in the lead in ensuring that this is agreed.
I cannot vouch for what President Obama said during the discussions, but it is noted that the change after the recent mid-term elections and the Republicans securing control of Congress make a deal on TTIP that much more likely. This is clearly a good thing. The noble Lord is right to highlight the misconceptions of the risks in TTIP. There has been some worrying scaremongering about this being a threat to the National Health Service or food standards. That is completely wrong, in each case. The European Union Development Commissioner has made it clear that the public sector is excluded from TTIP. But the noble Lord is right: we must continue to make these things quite clear.
As far as his remarks about the World Health Organization are concerned, I do not know whether things got as far as talking about funding. In looking at its reform, how to make it more effective is key.
My Lords, I seem to agree with my noble friend that if anything the words used to describe the Islamic caliphate were not strong enough. Its habits are to decapitate its prisoners, murder aid workers, violate women and produce the kind of medieval butchery that we thought had been expunged from the planet. The rhetoric aside, can she say whether at the G20 there was any readiness to recognise that more than speeches are needed, that action from all the partners in the G20 throughout the world is needed, and that to try to contain the caliphate and its murderous habits is not just a western task? It is a task for all civilised nations, whether we are talking about China, Australia, the United States or even Russia, whose values are equally threatened. Can she say whether something more definite was put forward in those terms at the G20?
I am grateful to my noble friend for his endorsement of what I said about rhetoric. I agree with him: there are no words strong enough to describe what has happened at the hands of these people in Syria and Iraq. As to his question about action from all the G20 partners, certainly the Prime Minister urged all the G20 partners to demonstrate their support for the Iraqi Government and the international efforts to counter ISIL, as well as the need to work against Assad and condemn his regime, which has allowed terrorism to flourish. As my noble friend said, we must all recognise—which I think is now starting to happen—that there are threats from ISIL to all parts of the world and it is not just a threat that we face in the West.
My Lords, in the tax and transparency portion of the Statement, there is a reference to the OECD saying that $37 billion of extra tax is being paid by big companies. Can my noble friend give us any information as to how much of that extra tax is being paid to G20 countries and how much is being paid to the rest of the world?
My Lords, will the noble Baroness say a little bit more about the alleged Russian intrusion into eastern Ukraine? We have heard a lot about this. President Putin says that there is no Russian infiltration into eastern Ukraine; the Canadian Prime Minister says that he is lying. We have seen one or two clips on YouTube or iPhones of the alleged military intervention. There are, after all, satellites in the area. Not a mouse can move without a satellite taking a picture of it. May we have some indication of when NATO or Her Majesty’s Government will publish proper evidence of what the situation in Ukraine is?
There is a united view that Russia is threatening and destabilising Ukraine and that its actions are having that impact. As I said in response to the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, there was unanimity among the leaders at the G20 in their steps to seek to apply pressure on President Putin to disengage, and there is absolute commitment to ensuring that stability is returned to Ukraine as soon as possible.
My Lords, in her reply to the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, the noble Baroness was not able to answer his question about the TTIP arrangements. If President Obama agrees that the plan is to get agreement on that next year, it will not happen unless the Americans get the fast-track arrangement from Congress. As Congress is now Republican-dominated, did the President give an undertaking at the meeting that he had got agreement from both Houses of Congress for the fast-track procedure?
As my noble friend knows, sadly I was not at the G20 summit or privy to those discussions. What I know from the briefing that I have received is that there is agreement between the European leaders who were at the G20 and President Obama that this deal is incredibly important and they want to see it reached by the end of next year. If I can offer any more information to my noble friend after the Statement, I will certainly do so, but I can absolutely assure him that there is no unwillingness on behalf of the President to get this deal sorted.
My Lords, at Brisbane the issue of falling wages and job insecurity was discussed by a delegation of trade unions, including the general secretary of the TUC, Frances O’Grady, which met the German Chancellor Angela Merkel and President Obama. It is reported that the Prime Minister did not have time to meet them. Will the Leader of the House take a message back that this is a very important subject for ordinary working people in the country and that it would help both sides if the Prime Minister met Ms O’Grady and others to discuss the issue?
It is quite clear that jobs are at the absolute top of the Prime Minister’s agenda, and ensuring that the economy is on a sure footing and that more jobs can be created, as indeed they already have been. I have no doubt whatever that he continues to be absolutely committed to that.
In response to the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, will my noble friend confirm that the coalition Government have in fact shown great and practical compassion to some of the most vulnerable people in the country, by raising the basic tax level; by providing free school meals for the youngest children and help with childcare; by increasing the state pension for the elderly people; and by providing a real means to tackle failing schools and the lack of any hope for so many young people? Will my noble friend confirm that these measures, among many others, are evidence of the coalition Government’s real compassion?
I absolutely agree with my noble friend. She is right to outline a whole range of measures through which this Government have ensured that the success of this country is felt by everyone. That is what we are trying to do. By putting the economy at the top of our agenda, we are ensuring that there is security and stability for everybody, and if we have a sound economy we can ensure that the reforms we have introduced, whether in education or welfare or the way that we are ensuring the future of the NHS, mean that everyone in this country benefits from the future success of this country.
My Lords, I want to return to one of the more compelling points made by the noble Lord, Lord Hunt—I thought some of his remarks later on were getting a little desperate; one might almost think we had an election in the offing—when he mentioned Ukraine. There can be no doubt that the Kremlin has acted irresponsibly, impetuously and almost certainly illegally, but much the same would have been said about the Kremlin during the whole of the Cold War and yet during that time we always kept the channels of negotiation open. There are reports in America that the Russians may wish to withdraw from nuclear safety discussions, which would be entirely short-sighted. Will she take that message back and ensure that the channels of communication are always kept open, no matter how desperate the situation gets? After all, that helped bring the world back from the precipice in the Cold War. We should regard what is going on now not as a fight to the end but, I hope, a battle for what might be a new beginning.
My noble friend is right to emphasise the importance of retaining communication at all times. Indeed, that is certainly what we in the UK are doing. My right honourable friend the Prime Minister had a bilateral with President Putin at the G20. Others did as well. There is certainly no question of us seeking to close down those channels of communication and we would urge all other nations to keep those channels open.
Modern Slavery Bill
Second Reading (Continued)
My Lords, I am very conscious that I am following on from two excellent maiden speeches, and there is a third one to come. I welcome the noble Lord, Lord Cashman, and the noble Baroness, Lady Chisholm, who is not in her place, and congratulate them on the speeches they have made today.
It was a great privilege to be part of the Joint Committee on the draft Modern Slavery Bill. As other noble Lords have said—in fact, it may be only one; I think the noble Baroness, Lady Doocey, is the only one to have mentioned him so far—it was most ably chaired by the honourable Member for Birkenhead, Frank Field. Our own noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, was the vice-chairman and she helped guide us through the discussions. I believe that we came up with a very compelling report on the draft Bill, and it has also been really helpful that there has been cross-party support and, mainly, cross-party agreement for the Bill itself.
It is welcome that the Government have responded positively to the committee’s recommendations—at least in part; I hope they will be persuaded to respond positively to even more recommendations before we are finished—and made some changes to the Bill. These concerns include, as we have heard, issues surrounding the transparency of chains and the independence of the anti-slavery commissioner. However, the response still leaves a number of questions unanswered. Regarding future legislation—and I do not agree with the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, on this—it is very unlikely that legislative time will be given in the future for a comprehensive consolidation Bill such as this, so we have to get this Bill as nearly right as we possibly can.
I make no apology for returning to the matter of the anti-slavery commissioner. As other noble Lords have said, the commissioner was appointed during the course of the Bill’s passage in the other place. I have no argument or disagreement at all regarding the appointee. I believe that he is perfectly the right person and know that he has gone through a perfectly proper process. It was good to see that the Government have indicated, and put into the legislation, that he will be independent. However, he has been appointed by the Home Office. He will sit in the Home Office and be paid by the Home Office. Can the Minister tell us who will appoint and pay for his staff and office, or is it the intention that the Home Office will also pay for those? If I am correct in all of that, what assurance can the Minister give us that that oversight by the Home Office will allow him to be truly independent of the Government? One hopes that he will continue to be able to alert Parliament to issues if he feels that that is necessary, and to do so without having to gain the Home Secretary’s permission. It is also unfortunate that his annual report to Parliament will apparently have Home Office scrutiny before publication. Perhaps the Minister can give us a better indication of how this “independence” will be independent. The job description also suggests that the commissioner will have a great deal of liaising to do. Can the Minister tell us what authority he will have to compel compliance and co-operation and to take independent action where necessary?
We have been told that the modern slavery strategy—and the Minister confirmed it this afternoon—is being developed to run alongside the legislation. The Minister said that it will be available shortly. However, who will be responsible for implementation and monitoring of the strategy? Will the independent commissioner’s strategy link in with this strategy, or will there be two separate strategies running on two verging train lines? Strategies—and also legislation, now that I think about it—frequently become lost once the first excitement has died down. It would assist our discussions to have sight of the strategy before Committee, if that is possible. Can the Minister commit to that?
That leads me to ask about the work of the multi-agency safeguarding and anti-trafficking teams at the borders of the country. What powers will those involved have to identify and, where thought appropriate, question domestic workers who may be suspected of being subject to a tied visa? I understand that the idea is for them to be given at least a card with information about where they can get help if they need it. If that is what is being done, perhaps the Minister’s officials can arrange for us to see an example of a card. It would be helpful if we can see what will be put out so that we can judge whether it is likely to be adequate. If the safeguarding agency is doing more than that, it would be helpful if we could be told so before Committee. Slavery is a dreadful form of abuse and, as with other suspected trafficking for other purposes, those who are subjected to it must be able to find an easy and non-threatening way to escape.
Other colleagues from the Joint Committee have raised and will raise other important issues, particularly on the trafficking of children and the need to ensure that they have early protection and access to advice and support. It is essential that an early assessment of the trial on child advocates is made, even if that is a part-assessment. We need to know where these child advocates are going and what they can do either under legislation or by regulation.
I want to raise one matter that I do not think that previous speakers have raised—the prevention orders about which the committee had some considerable concern; not the prevention orders that are likely to be given as a result of a sentence following a conviction on trial but the risk orders. People can be put under the subjection of these orders on the basis of a supposition that they might be about to be involved in trafficking. We heard evidence from the Magistrates’ Association and others. My concern as a former magistrate is that if you cannot find enough evidence to put before the court for a judgment to be made, it looks very odd to try to put forward the suggestion that there “may be a suspicion of” and get that through a court system. I will particularly want to return to this because we need to make sure that what these orders do is sufficient and that they are not going to leave courts, in particular, in a huge dilemma about the decisions they have to make.
In general, the Government are demonstrating and have demonstrated that they are and have been listening to what has been said inside and outside Parliament, both before this legislation came forward while discussions were taking place and subsequently during its passage through Parliament. My honourable friend Karen Bradley, in the other place, who is leading as Minister, has done an exceptional job in talking to people and ensuring that their concerns have been put forward. However, I hope the Government will take courage and go further as we debate these issues so that, at least as far as possible, the concerns of all those who have any part to play in dealing with the victims of these horrific abuses are heard and learnt from. None of us who has been associated with the Bill or the discussions beforehand will want to leave this matter—after all the work that has gone in not only to the Bill but to all the preliminary processes—without being reasonably satisfied that the job has been done.
My Lords, let me, as the first Labour speaker since my noble friend Lord Cashman’s excellent speech, congratulate him on his maiden speech and commiserate with him on his loss. As someone heavily involved in bringing forward the Human Rights Act 1998, I was pleased to hear his trenchant words of warning about undermining important bulwarks of liberty; long may he continue to chide us, encourage us and speak to us about those bulwarks. I cannot improve on the tributes offered by the noble Lord, Lord Patel, but I have to confess that my own mother was a fanatical supporter of “Coronation Street”, so my filial duty was never to watch “EastEnders” under any circumstances at all.
I approach this Bill as a critical friend who was pleased to serve on the Joint Committee on the draft Bill under the excellent chairmanship of my right honourable friend Frank Field. Modern slavery is one of the great disgraces of our time, and none of us can be comfortable about how it continues to flourish. Our cheap food and clothing too often come at a terrible personal price at the point of their origin. Too often that price is paid by children. The Government are to be congratulated on their commitment to this Bill, particularly in the final legislative programme of a Government. Other people have commented on that well deserved congratulation.
However, as a number of noble Lords have said today, the Bill could still be improved considerably. I suggest to the House that a good starting point in looking at those improvements is the Joint Committee’s report, where there were a large number of well argued, backed-up-by-evidence recommendations which the Government have slightly turned their back on. They need to revisit that report and some of the evidence which led to those recommendations being made, particularly as we go into Committee. If they do not, we will probably bring forward amendments to encourage them further to have a look at some of those arguments again.
I am afraid that I am not as ambivalent as the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, on the offence of child exploitation—I rarely take issue with her on these matters—but I am four-square behind the noble Baroness, Lady Doocey. The lack of successful prosecutions of offences involving children does not suggest that the police and CPS have been doing a crackingly good job in this area. We need to try to do something different. The Joint Committee’s report argued that there was a danger in the way that Part 1 is framed, even as amended, of villains slipping through the net. We need to revisit this issue in Committee and have a good look at the arguments again.
Let me turn briefly to the unsatisfactory position on the national referral mechanism. It was a source of great frustration to the committee that the Home Office took so long to establish that review. It is true that what has come out from it is an extremely good and helpful piece of work which we now need to build on, but now that we have got the review’s report and the rather sorry picture that it paints of the NRM’s effectiveness, we need to consider very seriously—and the committee had some discussions on it—whether we put in the Bill some provisions relating to it. Because we need to consider the detail of that review report, we may well not be able to put a lot of detail in the Bill, but there is a strong case for what I inferred from my first read of the report: that we should make the NRM a statutory entity and should not be afraid to give wide powers to the Home Secretary in establishing that body to draw on the evidence from the report in making sure that it works more effectively. The arguments about leaving these matters to administrative practices will not be very reassuring to many stakeholders and will not do enough to safeguard the position of victims. I hope that the Minister will be receptive at a later stage to amendments in this area. It would be helpful to know how the Home Secretary proposes to deal with the review’s report.
I want briefly to flag up four other areas of concern: protection of domestic migrant workers; the remit of the anti-slavery commissioner; issues around the supply chain; and support for victims. On the first of these, it is very simple: the Government should reverse the 2012 changes to the Immigration Rules to restore the previous protections for domestic migrant workers. They can either assure us that they will amend the Immigration Rules, which may cause a bit of discomfort in some quarters, or must be prepared for us to consider amendments to the Bill.
On the second area, it is a missed opportunity to draw the remit of the new commissioner so narrowly. It is a big decision—a big call—to do so. The noble Baroness, Lady Hanham, has rightly made the point that there will be no quick revising regulation. To make the system work better, we should draw the commissioner’s remit very widely and at the same time take another, rather critical look at the remit of the Gangmasters Licensing Authority.
Thirdly, although the Government have moved on the supply chain, we need to check whether it is as far as we need to go. Like my noble friend Lady Kennedy, I was much impressed by the trenchant remarks from Australia and California about how they had gone about securing change in this area.
Finally, we need to think again about whether the Bill provides adequate protection for child victims. We have come some way since the draft Bill was first framed, but we have to consider providing much greater protection for children and much greater support for those who have been victims, and giving them the chance to make full recoveries from their experiences. I was much taken with the remarks of the right reverend Prelate and of the noble Lord, Lord McColl, about privileging victims in this area. I hope that the Government will look sympathetically at some of those issues.
This is an important Bill. We need to spend the time to put it in better shape and to help the Home Secretary achieve her ambition of a world-leading legislative measure to combat the scourge of modern slavery.
My Lords, Article 4 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states:
“No one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms”.
Since those words were crafted in 1948, many new forms of slavery and human trafficking have emerged and, as many noble Lords have said during this Second Reading debate, this Bill is as timely as it is welcome. However, following on from what was said by the noble Lord, Lord Warner, with whose speech I entirely agreed, it seems that the proverbial words about the curate’s egg apply to the Bill: it is good in parts; there is much to commend, but there is still work to be done in Committee to improve it in all the areas that he identified. I hope that the Bill will emerge with a post-legislative provision. The Minister spoke at the outset about the important work done by the pre-legislative scrutiny committee, and many noble Lords have paid tribute to it, but a sunset clause requiring us to return to this Bill in a relatively short time—let us say, three years—to look again at how it has worked, on everything from the anti-slavery commissioner to supply chain transparency and victim support, should be put in the Bill.
In June 2002, I attempted to amend the Proceeds of Crime Bill, referred to earlier, having read in a Written Answer from the then Government:
“At present there is no specific offence of trafficking in human beings and so no data exist about the confiscation of assets of those engaged in this practice”.—[Official Report, 18/6/02; col. WA70.]
People trafficking had become the fastest growing facet of organised crime, generating around £4.3 billion a year—the third largest source of profit for organised crime after the trafficking of drugs and firearms. In 2002 I told the story of how an Albanian woman, kidnapped, raped and believing she had been rescued, was brought to London only to be forced into prostitution—an issue mentioned by the right reverend Prelate—by her trafficker. A year later, I described Saw Naing Gae, an eight year-old Burmese child whose parents were shot dead by the Burmese military. He was then trafficked across the border and sold to a Thai family. Those are two cases among hundreds of thousands, cases which demonstrate that this is a global issue demanding global solutions. I entirely agree with what was said earlier by my noble friend Lady Cox, who described the situation in places such as Burma and Sudan, and indeed in North Korea—which I visited with her on three occasions.
Back in 2002, my amendments called for the proceeds of trafficking to be channelled into the support of victims and the resourcing of a strategy to tackle this scourge at source—something that I was glad to see Kevin Hyland, the new anti-slavery commissioner, say in an interview in the Sunday Times over the weekend and an issue that I hope the Government will revisit. Supporting me back in 2002, the late Lord Wilberforce, a Law Lord and descendent of William Wilberforce, described trafficking as,
“a pervasive crime committed in all kinds of areas by all kinds of people. It must be dealt with by a great variety of authorities and police forces all over the country, many of which have no idea of the nature of the crime or the remedies available to deal with it”.—[Official Report, 25/6/02; col. 1225.]
Two years after he made those remarks, the failure to combat human trafficking was underlined by the tragic death of 23 Chinese cockle pickers who died in Lancashire in Morecambe Bay, part of a criminal racket exploiting workers all over England and estimated to funnel £1 million a day back into China.
In 2006, Parliament created the Gangmasters Licensing Authority, but 2013 research by Durham University found that that legislation has insufficient teeth and that those trafficked for labour exploitation would soon exceed those trafficked for sexual exploitation. Professor Gary Craig said there was a “real problem” getting people to acknowledge that,
“slavery exists in the UK”,
and that his research,
“suggests there may be upwards of 10,000 people at any one time in the UK in conditions which we would class as modern slavery”.
The mandate of the GLA should be extended, it should have powers of arrest and investigation, and keep fines to fund its work. Professor Craig says the resources directed to the GLA are “totally inadequate”.
Part of the hold over migrant workers such as the cockle pickers is debt bondage, which affects more than 20 million people. Modern day forms of slavery, based on discrimination because of racial origin, forced labour, child labour, trafficking and debt bondage, all underpin the economic and trade relationships from which we, and many other countries, continue to benefit. In confronting all this does the Bill do enough? Does it justify the Government’s claim to be “world leading” and to be making “legislative history”? We must measure this claim against the independence of the anti-slavery commissioner, the treatment of victims and migrant domestic workers, the development of transparency of supply chains, and the protection of children, points to which many noble Lords, particularly the noble Baroness, Lady Doocey, referred earlier in the debate.
In April, the House decisively supported the proposal of the noble Lord, Lord McColl, for introducing child trafficking guardians. However, we should compare the weakness of Clause 47, stating simply that the Home Secretary will merely produce guidance on support services, with the definition of the role that we voted in favour of in April. The most vulnerable group of victims will, as so many noble Lords have said, always be children. It is said that 60% to 70% of trafficked children have gone missing in this country from care. Therefore, like other noble Lords, I do not want to be ambivalent about this, and, for once, I find myself in mild disagreement with my noble and learned friend Lady Butler-Sloss. I would like to see the Bill introduce a specific offence of child exploitation and trafficking and include a statutory principle of non-prosecution so that children who have been trafficked are not detained, prosecuted or punished for offences committed as a direct consequence of their trafficking, slavery or exploitation. I also think the Bill fails migrant workers. That is something we will no doubt want to return to in Committee.
Last week I met the Transparency in Supply Chains Coalition and I strongly support its proposals to strengthen the Bill in five respects: coverage; minimum requirements; reporting; monitoring and enforcement; and review. These recommendations draw on its wide experience of corporate responsibility and supply chain management. However, we should also act in the light of the implementation of the California Transparency in Supply Chains Act 2010.
The need for measures to tackle modern slavery in company chains is amply demonstrated by the abuses and exploitation of workers in cotton mills in places such as Tamil Nadu in India or, for that matter, the situation of children of brick kiln workers in places such as India and Pakistan. The report, Flawed Fabrics, published in October, detailed forced labour abuses, including shocking “prison-like conditions”. The report makes several recommendations on brands, retailers and manufacturers, and highlights the need for supply chain mapping, transparency and the identification of risks.
There should be a requirement in the Bill that a company’s report on slavery in the supply chain must be referenced in the directors’ report for each financial year; a requirement in the Bill that reports should be placed in a prominent position on the company’s website; a central repository of the company reports on a government website; a clarification in the Bill that the provision should be the responsibility of the board and/or CEO; and a recognition that year on year reporting should be progressive.
Many of our predecessors in this House, back in the 1820s and 1830s, argued against repeal of the then slave laws, insisting that to do so would spell ruinous economic disaster for England and her empire. Economic interests remain a potent factor in the continuation of slavery. That is why today even more people are enslaved than in those distant times. According to the International Labour Organization, around 21 million men, women and children around the world are in a form of slavery, estimating profits generated of around $150 billion a year. It is significant that Rathbones, which can count Liverpool’s William Rathbone IV as one of the strong voices raised against historic slavery, has been at the forefront of the campaign for transparency in supply chains. It says:
“The power of business needs be enlisted in the fight against modern slavery, as only business has the global reach and necessary resource to make a genuine difference”.
Rathbones has promoted transparency and published a letter signed by investors with £950 billion of assets under management. Alongside investors like that, this legislation can play a very significant part in that fight. However, we will need to do far more in this House to improve it when it comes to the Committee stage.
My Lords, when I was first given news of my appointment to your Lordships’ House, I must admit I was astounded, and, on my introduction, most honoured and flattered to be in your Lordships’ distinguished and learned company. In the few weeks that I have been here, I have found this to be a truly enlightened place, where civility and kindness predominate throughout—from the attentive Doorkeepers and helpful security guards to the courteous catering staff. At my every wrong turn in the many corridors of your Lordships’ House, there has been someone to offer assistance, and always with a welcoming smile and warm words.
I feel truly blessed by this and because I have been introduced to the House by my esteemed and noble friend Lord Strathclyde, having had the honour of serving on his commission on further devolution in Scotland on behalf of the Conservative Party, and the esteemed and noble Lord, Lord Smith of Kelvin, whom I have known for many years. Our paths crossed in the business world in Scotland, most recently in meetings in his capacity as chairman of Glasgow 2014 and the Commonwealth Games, and mine as chair of CBI Scotland. I also offer my gratitude for the guidance offered to me on entering the House by my noble friend Lord Younger of Leckie.
Having been asked by some as to what brought me here, I can only say that it is as a result of a series of rather random activities in my life, including some attempt at academia, as well as involvement with business, voluntary roles and charitable causes. Certainly there was no master plan, only a desire to engage and play a part in the wider world, which I hope that this new chapter in life will further allow me to do. Indeed, my 89 year-old father, someone in possession of one of the strongest personalities I have come across, now believes me to be finally qualified to write the occasional letter for him. I feel that I have finally arrived.
When taking stock of life on an occasion such as this, it is important to remember one’s elders and forefathers. My father and late mother were unique individuals, who gave much of their time and wealth to serving their community and to charitable causes. My father, having served in the British Indian Army during the Second World War, went on to establish a successful business in Pakistan, post-partition. In 1958, he ventured out of his homeland with the intention of exploring business possibilities in Canada, but stopped off in Scotland having heard much about its natural beauty from a British officer whom he had befriended during his Army years. The rest is history. He stayed in Scotland where he established several more successful businesses. However, that was only part of his achievement.
As I have already declared, both of my parents had a great belief in serving their community and in helping others who were less privileged—something which I, too, believe in and aspire to. Hence I choose this debate on the Modern Slavery Bill to make my maiden speech—not because I have significant expertise in the subject but because, for me, there can be no better reason to serve in this House than to speak for those who have been denied a voice.
There are many issues in the world today which are of great concern and need our attention: war and conflict, poverty and disease, food, energy and water scarcity, lack of education and healthcare, and the plight of persecuted minorities of all ethnicities and religions around the globe. Here in our country and in my city of Glasgow, there are those who feel disfranchised, struggle to make ends meet or are in a downward spiral of drink and drugs. All those social issues need our attention, and many are surely interconnected, but slavery in all of its insidious manifestations—human trafficking, bonded labour, domestic servitude—is such a direct attack on the human spirit.
I am conscious that while I sit in this glorious Chamber in comfort to contemplate and debate among your Lordships, countless others live in squalor and fear. While I am able to walk freely among nature and appreciate God’s bounty, for others there is only endless toil. It is estimated that 21 million people—according to some sources, as many as 30 million—are in some form of slavery today. Just a short distance from here in Westminster Abbey lies William Wilberforce who, with others, took up the cause of the abolition of the slave trade in the 19th century, which eventually led to the Slavery Abolition Act 1833. It is indeed disturbing to think that in 2014 we still face this moral outrage.
The Prime Minister has committed that Britain must once again lead the way in tackling slavery globally. Today we have the Second Reading of the Modern Slavery Bill, and I welcome the Government’s introduction on Report in another place of measures to address the issue of transparency in business supply chains, building on the pre-legislative scrutiny committee and recommendations of the evidence review. It is heartening to know that there was a clear and strong cross-party consensus in this regard, with certain reporting requirements to be included in the Bill.
Although it is important that we do not place undue burden on business, it is the moral duty of business to take positive action to eliminate this practice. No legitimate business would wish to tolerate any element of forced labour in its supply chain, and it is right that the Government legislate and provide the tools for business to audit effectively. Clearly, the financial gain which is derived by illicit and unethical practice is what drives bonded and forced labour and ultimately distorts markets. As a small business owner and a member of the council of CBI Scotland for many years, I can say that my colleagues, many representing big business, were highly principled, cared about social issues and would wish always to act ethically.
I have always believed that business has a very significant part to play in delivering prosperity for all and can be a great force for good. As the Institute for Human Rights and Business stated,
“as part of their responsibility to respect human rights, companies must be prepared to ensure the safety and dignity of all those who make their products or provide services”.
The Centre for Social Justice set up by my right honourable friend in the other place, Iain Duncan Smith, and its slavery working group report has exposed some of the shocking circumstances of those who are trapped in slavery. It has made recommendations for a fresh approach to tackle it, including equipping those on the front line to recognise modern slavery and act, offering compassion and support to rebuild those whose lives are affected and ensuring the part that business has to play in effecting transparency in its global supply chains.
The press has highlighted the issue of slavery in the shrimp trade in Thailand and the global garment supply chain, which directly impacts on our retail sector, but slavery does not only happen elsewhere; it exists here in the UK. The UK Human Trafficking Centre has evidence of forced labour in industries such as agriculture, food processing, construction and tarmacking, where vulnerable people are exploited by unscrupulous gangs and individuals.
It is not an exaggeration to say that modern day slavery is one of the humanitarian catastrophes of our age and I, for one, hope to be fully engaged in following the Bill through its passage in Parliament, so that we can put in place legislation which will help to eradicate this scourge from our midst.
My Lords, I am delighted to be able to speak after the noble Baroness, Lady Mobarik, and to congratulate her on behalf of the whole House on her excellent speech. I did not know her before today, but when I did my research, I found what your Lordships have already heard—that she is a passionate champion of business and of social cohesion. This is two-way. As she has said elsewhere, businesses can be immensely more effective through a better understanding of the communities they serve—locally, nationally and globally. She has demonstrated that. In line with that commitment, the noble Baroness is a prominent member of the CBI in Scotland and has done a lot of work with a number of charities within the country. She also plays a global role, including as chair of the Pakistan-Britain Trade and Investment Forum.
I also found a statement which I think will resonate with your Lordships’ House. The noble Baroness says that she,
“believes that, although globalization brings us ever closer in some ways, in others it creates an ever-widening gulf making it incumbent on all of us to try to help bring about positive change, in eradicating poverty and bridging the gap between people of different faiths and cultures”.
That is what she talked about in her speech today, and it is entirely appropriate that her maiden speech should be about business and also about global issues. In congratulating her once again on her speech, I look forward to many more such contributions in future.
Turning to the Bill, like others, I very much welcome it and I congratulate noble Lords and others who have put in so much hard work to get us where we are today, with a very effective Bill in front of us. A great deal has been achieved. I also applaud the ambition to be world-class, but there is more to do to make sure that that is realised. I note the point made by my noble and learned friend, Lady Butler-Sloss, that we do not want to overelaborate the Bill; that is practical advice and recognises that this is new ground and there is much to learn. We will not get everything right first time. For that reason, I entirely support the point just made by my noble friend Lord Alton about the need to return to this in a few years’ time to review what has actually happened.
Bearing that in mind, I want to raise just a few issues. The first is on the supply chain. I have read letters about the great willingness of British business to engage with this exercise—the noble Baroness, Lady Mobarik, just reminded us of that—but there are also those who are unwilling to engage. There is a key role here for public and consumer scrutiny. To enable that, key requirements in the report that businesses will produce each year need to be specified in the Bill. That will allow for some monitoring, at least at the level of collating and sharing the information, as proposed by my noble friend Lord Alton, so that we can see what is happening across the country, not only to see the good and bad things but to promote good practice, because this area is developing as we speak.
This may be envisaged as the role of the commissioner and is perhaps something that the Minister could come back to.
Turning to victims, and particularly to children, I would like to understand better at what stage in the process child trafficking advocates will be appointed. It is very important whether or not this is early on in the process and whether it covers many children or only a few. I particularly want to raise the question of what they or others can do to ensure that there is long-term support for victims. This is not, by any means, a short-term matter for children. In this context the noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, and others have drawn out the point that there is exploitation that is not covered by this Bill and that many children need support. It points to an appalling gap in care support for exploited and neglected young people in our society.
There are, as noble Lords know, many hidden things happening in our streets and towns. I say this from having recently visited Kids Company here in London and heard some appalling stories there. Support for victims long after the period of abuse or exploitation is very important and we need to discuss it further during the development of this Bill. I also echo the remarks of the noble Baroness, Lady Chisholm, in her excellent speech, about the importance—not just for children but also for adults—of helping victims to become survivors. This is about long-term recovery, and more help is needed.
On the commissioner’s role, I agree with others that it needs to be broadened. The role will develop through experience but it is important that it starts more broadly than is written at the moment, in order to allow the commissioner to develop the role that will best work in practice for all the stakeholders. Obviously, in the light of what I have already said, I believe that there is an important role for the commissioner in monitoring and in victim support, and that his or her role—his in the first case—should not be limited to the legal aspects but should also include thinking about the long-term impact on our society.
I also pick up the point about international issues and the importance that the commissioner potentially has as an international player—linking with others, sharing and learning. In this I echo what my noble friend Lady Cox said. If this is going to be a world-leading Bill it needs to have a proper global perspective. Not just the commissioner but others need to be engaged in the global debate and global influence. How will this be achieved? I liked my noble friend Lady Cox’s suggestions and I look forward to the response to them in due course, and to further debate about this widening international role.
Finally, I look forward to the Bill continuing to be improved and ultimately to it helping to improve the lives of many people around the world.
My Lords, I congratulate the Government on their recognition of the seriousness of this issue and I welcome the Home Secretary’s determination to see that the United Kingdom leads the international community in tackling one of the most serious human rights challenges in the contemporary world. As others have said, in this area there can be unity in this House and a strong, coherent piece of legislation can be produced which has cross-party support.
There is nothing new about the exploitation of human beings by their fellow man. Slavery is of ancient vintage, as we know. What is new is globalisation. While many people have been lifted from poverty by the expansion of markets, many others live on the dark side. All the advances in technology and communications which stimulate the operation of global markets, from cell phones to connection through e-mail and the internet, from the electronic transfer of money to ease of travel—all those things which help markets to work also feed the murky underbelly of the market with equal assiduity. I know this from my work in the criminal courts. Globalisation has brought in its wake an explosive increase in illegal trade—in arms, drugs, fissile material, human organs, genetic material such as human eggs, babies for illegal adoption, women, children and young men for sex or for domestic servitude or forced labour, as others have said. There is nothing that cannot be sold and I emphasise that law is fundamental in addressing this, both nationally and internationally.
I had the privilege of acting as the investigative commissioner for the Equality and Human Rights Commission in Scotland, which reported on human trafficking. It was the UK Equality and Human Rights Commission that had charge of this inquiry. We looked at Scotland because it gave us an insight into a smaller area that could provide lessons for the whole United Kingdom. I also sit on the Joint Committee on Human Rights and have acted in a professional capacity as a lawyer for trafficked women. This is, therefore, a field in which I have a special interest and perhaps some expertise.
I, too, would like to see this Bill being more victim-focused—at the moment it is not. The reason prosecutions are difficult to bring and convictions hard to secure is that victims are in abject terror. I have taken evidence from victims of trafficking, and you can feel the fear in the room when they give their accounts. Their fear is not just for their own lives but those of their children—if they have children back home—of their parents, and of other people they love. They know the kind of people they are dealing with. They know the consequences of involving the authorities. They are often also fearful of authority, because they come from places where authority is not to be trusted. It is fair to say that they do not know who to trust.
The way to secure better outcomes and to end this vile abuse of human rights is to concentrate on the victims. That is how you get successful prosecutions; that is how you get to the traffickers. So there should be a statutory right to assistance—as others have said in this Chamber—with a requirement to conduct individual assessments, case by case, of those who we fear have been trafficked.
The national referral mechanism has to be reviewed and the time for reflection extended to—I agree on this with the noble Lord, Lord McColl—at least 90 days. People who are afraid and who start giving their account need time to reflect on the implications of it. They have to be sure what the future will hold for them before they can feel confident enough to commit themselves to giving evidence in court against those who have trafficked them. Victims need reassurance that they will be well catered to. As the noble Lord, Lord McColl, says, this should be spelt out in the Bill. I agree with him—I thought he made one of the most powerful speeches in this debate.
There are lots of good things in the Bill. I welcome the special measures extension to trafficked victims: that they should be able to give their evidence via video and avoid all contact with those they accuse. However, I am very concerned about the problems in securing the welfare of victims while they are waiting, before there can be any prosecutions. They need support, housing and legal aid for many other matters they have to deal with. I would like to see special arrangements. I welcome the suggestion by the right reverend Prelate that there should be some privileging of the position of those who have been trafficked.
In the months before a case comes to trial many witnesses are traduced by their traffickers—they are found. It is amazing how it happens, but they can often be traced. Family members of the trafficked person are prevailed upon to seek to induce them to take their evidence away. We have to find ways of providing the right kind of support before a matter comes to trial. I have had evidence from women of the ways in which, even in the aftermath of trials, they have had pressure put on them or threats made to their lives.
I, too, would like to see a greater synergy with Northern Ireland and what is being drafted in Scotland. I think it right that we have been ousted by Northern Ireland’s progressiveness on this. As I understand it, in Scotland, too, the First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, is giving this priority and will shortly be announcing the Bill that will be going through the Scottish Parliament. Again, there should be much greater coherence among the different parts of the United Kingdom.
I agree with other noble Lords about the need to strengthen the powers, scope and remit of the Independent Anti-slavery Commissioner, which really are not framed well enough at the moment. I also agree with others in being somewhat disappointed that the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, who is such an authority on issues to do with abuse, children and so forth, is too accepting of what arrangements are in the Bill, which could be greatly strengthened. When the Joint Committee on Human Rights reported on this, it made some very sensible suggestions.
On children, I agree with the criticisms made by other noble Lords. We should have a special offence in relation to the exploitation of children—and, as a lawyer, that is not to deny the problems that there are in defining exploitation. That will not be easy but we have to take a crack at it. I would like to see greater powers and independence in the role of the child advocate, in the way that was described by the noble Lord, Lord McColl.
On the Gangmasters Licensing Authority, I, too, want to see an expansion of its powers. When I took testimony from it, I was greatly impressed by the work that it was doing. It really is one of the keys to improving the working conditions of exploited labour and I emphasise some of the points raised about how important it is.
On supply chains, very quickly, when the Rana Plaza collapsed in Bangladesh, 200 companies in the clothing retail sector got together with their competitors to say that there had to be inspectorates, support for health and safety audits and so on. Corporates are engaging with human rights issues, which matter to their brands. The UN has produced some principles, which are called the Ruggie principles after the professor of law at Harvard who put them together with help from places such as Oxford University, where I am based. We put together a set of principles to which the corporates are now signing up. I support what my noble friend and namesake Lady Kennedy said about the importance of this part of the Bill and how it can be strengthened.
There are many entrenched and vested interests in all this, some of which might to be do with businesses that are not so highly ambitious as some of the corporates. However, men and patriarchy have to be addressed, too. The idea that there is an entitlement to sexual servicing is one of the problems in all this. Men could play a vital role in ending the kind of sexual exploitation which I have seen trafficked women experience. I urge all noble Lords to try to get the Bill to a better place. It is highly important as its subject is serious human rights abuse.
My Lords, I hope that the Minister is as gratified as I am by the extent to which noble Lords have greeted the Bill. I very much welcome it, too. I hope that this bodes well, as we all want to work hard to do our best to improve it. It represents a major step forward through the consolidation of existing legislation and it is clear that it has so much support, not only within the House but in the other place and outside. It is very heartening to hear of such a strong consensus across so many organisations and individuals.
Both here and in the other place, the name of William Wilberforce is inevitably invoked in this context. There is an implied link between his work and the Government’s desire to establish the UK as world leaders in combating modern forms of slavery in all its ugly manifestations. But it is as well to reiterate that the abolition of the slave trade was not brought about by Wilberforce alone but by a broad-based, campaigning coalition of people across Britain and internationally. I imagine that the likes of Olaudah Equiano, Hannah More, Thomas Clarkson and William Wilberforce, as well as Mary Prince and the working people of Manchester who petitioned Parliament to abolish the trade in humans, would be rather disappointed that some 200 years later there are even more people subjected to the horrors of enslavement and so on than there were during those brutal centuries of the transatlantic trade. Likewise, I hope that we can recognise today the efforts and sacrifices made by all those who struggle daily against the horrible conditions which we are talking about and those individuals, organisations, companies and so on that stand beside them.
I hope your Lordships will forgive me if I repeat some of the points made earlier by other noble Lords. At this stage in the programme, it is hard to bring something original to the table but I will focus on two main areas where we could make some real improvements to the Bill and which other noble Lords have mentioned repeatedly.
First, on the Independent Anti-slavery Commissioner, like several others I query whether the insertion of “Independent” into the title has made any difference to the way that the role will function. The recent report from the Joint Committee on Human Rights states that,
“there remain several provisions in or omissions from the Bill which mean that the Commissioner cannot be described as ‘independent’ in any meaningful sense”.
Paragraph 1.51 of its report lists six key indicators of the lack of independence in the role as it stands which, by and large, refer in one way or another to the relationship of the commissioner to the Secretary of State. They cover such things as: the lack of specificity with regard to the duration and conditions of the terms of employment; the commissioner’s lack of power to recruit his own staff; the fact that the commissioner may report only on what the Secretary of States wishes him to report on; the Secretary of State having to approve the commissioner’s strategic plans; the fact that the commissioner may be directed by the Secretary of State to redact or omit any part of his report deemed against the national interest before it is laid before Parliament; and the Secretary of State having the power to state which public bodies have a,
“duty to co-operate with the Commissioner”.
In conclusion, the JCHR locates the problem of the commissioner’s status in being “an adjunct” of the Home Office rather than part of the human rights machinery, which is a fair point.
Other critiques of the commissioner’s role include the lack of adequate monitoring. To echo the comments of several other noble Lords, particularly the noble Baroness, Lady Newlove, and my noble friend Lord Patel, these concerns are about the remit of the commissioner being primarily focused on law enforcement but with little to say about how the interests of victims will be served by him other than through that route. Of course law enforcement is crucial but it needs to go hand in hand with the protection and support of victims, holding government and other bodies accountable for their performance and ensuring that policies are effective.
The commissioner should, then, be truly independent of the Government and free to decide the focus of their annual plan of activities and hire their own staff. They should: have the power to monitor the implementation of all policies relevant to modern forms of slavery; have statutory powers to collect and request data from a wide range of government and non-government agencies; be empowered to hold inquiries; and report directly to Parliament. These amendments to the role would then complement the models developed in Finland and the Netherlands, which are considered to be leaders in the field.
The second area I want to examine is Part 6, on reporting transparency in supply chains. Here, I declare my interest as chair of the APPG on Ethics and Sustainability in Fashion. I am also a patron of Anti-Slavery International and on the board of Cotton Made in Africa. The Government have listened to Members in the other place, as well as business and NGOs, and introduced Part 6 on transparency and mandatory disclosure of efforts of private and public companies to address the risks of modern slavery in supply chains. This is a really important step forward and, again, it is gratifying that the Government have listened and tried to do something about this issue. However, as other noble Lords have said, it really does not quite go far enough. For example, it still does not incorporate requirements provided for in EU directive 2011/36/EU,
“on preventing and combating trafficking in human beings and protecting its victims”.
The directive includes a requirement for each member state to establish jurisdiction for trafficking offences committed by one of its nationals and provides for the criminal liability of those who benefit from human trafficking in Article 5. This provision is already binding for the UK and its inclusion in the Bill would reinforce the transparency and supply chain provisions, and ensure that a mechanism is available to sanction those companies that choose modern forms of slavery as their business model.
As businesses’ supply chains extend into parts of the world with high levels of corruption and poor rule of law, so the probability increases that these supply chains will be rife with forced labour of one kind or another. This has been demonstrated by a number of organisations, including Anti-Slavery International, in relation to the forced labour of young women and girls in southern Indian textile manufacture. I am sure that many noble Lords will also be aware of how the Government of Uzbekistan derive an unfair advantage by the use of forced labour, forcing their citizens to abandon their jobs every year during harvest season and go to the fields to pick cotton. Thanks to international pressure there are fewer children involved in that forced labour, but there has been an unprecedented mobilisation of public sector workers in Uzbekistan. The UK needs to send a clear message to such countries that it is not acceptable to force their citizens to work in this way.
It has been said that consumers have a responsibility to pressure business to improve the situation in their supply chains. This is so, to some extent, but it is highly likely that the cotton in the clothes of many of us in the Chamber today will have been picked by forced labour. Who can tell? We do not know and have no real way of knowing. Such is the nature of supply chains that we can hardly ever be sure.
We can make Part 6 more effective, and the noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy of Cradley, and my noble friend Lady Cox have both made several suggestions on this issue with which I broadly agree. There needs to be more detail in the Bill, mainly to support business to adapt to this new legislation. A threshold of global turnover above which companies have to comply with Part 6 should be specified so that there is little room for pleas of ignorance or ambiguity. That is how the California Act works. There also need to be strong guidelines and the company’s reporting statement should be in a prominent place on the company’s website, not tucked away at the back, and in the company’s annual report.
Will the Minister clarify what, if any, consequences will arise from a company failing to produce a report, or consistently producing a report basically stating that the company has not sought to discover whether human rights abuses, in the form of forced labour, take place in its supply chain? Will he also clarify whether a person or individual can be prosecuted under any other section of the Bill for failure to address slavery or forced labour in their supply chain?
In conclusion, given the widespread support for the general principles of the Bill from all parts of your Lordships’ House, I hope that we will see the strongest possible legislation enacted. Virtually everybody who has spoken today has urged the Government to go further, not to pull back. I hope that, when amendments are tabled, the Government are open to listening and to strengthening this. Then, perhaps, we could start to think about claiming to be world leaders in the field.
My Lords, I am a great supporter of the Bill, although I am very sad that there is such a need for it. I particularly welcome the option for life sentences for those caught in this awful crime against humanity and the provisions and protections in place for victims of slavery. Slavery, as we have heard several times today, has been with us for thousands of years, although I do not know how we can have much idea of the number of slaves at the time, say, of the height of the Roman Empire, 2,000 years ago. Yet I read, with heartache, estimates that there are more people in slavery in the world today than at any other time in history. It is almost unbelievable, but there it is. Why is it so?
I believe it is because global commercialism has never been as booming a part of industry as it is now, with improvements in methods, machinery and technology. Demand for things, for services and for low costs has never been greater than it is at this moment. This has provided a breeding ground for exploitation to continue to flourish. Slavery is an industry all of its own. I have seen figures of profit margins ranging from between £34 billion to £90 billion per annum—the latter being, for instance, three times the profit of the computer company, Apple. It seems entirely sensible to me that the responsibilities of businesses are one of the central themes of the Bill.
Slavery only exists because, crassly, there is a market for it. I am a strong supporter of the principle in the Bill that business supply chains will have to be certain with whom they do business and produce annual slavery and human trafficking statements, as many noble Lords have said. However, Clause 51 makes provision only for commercial organisations over a certain size, based on turnover, which is yet to be set and determined by the Secretary of State. Does my noble friend have any idea where this threshold might be pitched? Will he explain why there needs to be a threshold at all? Surely, all businesses should be subject to this rule of investigation into their own practices annually.
Under Clause 51(9) civil proceedings can be brought against any company which does not produce a statement. I very much welcome this. Will my noble friend tell the House what this civil punishment might range from and to? Will proceedings also be brought against any organisation which knowingly or negligently produces a slavery and human trafficking statement which is incorrect; that is to say, if a company were found not to have investigated or reported on their supply chains properly? Who will oversee this reporting? Will it come under the remit of the Independent Anti-slavery Commissioner’s office?
On the topic of the Independent Anti-slavery Commissioner, what is the application process for this job? Has the Secretary of State any individual in mind? What happens when slavery is discovered by businesses through this mandatory reporting practice? Presumably, if it is occurring in the UK, the police will be notified—that makes sense—and the Act will come into play; but what if the supply chain involved in forcing people into slavery is based abroad, as we know so much of it is? What can be done in this instance? Will there be some type of register for known slave traders and companies using people as slaves? This is, surely, one of the many good reasons for keeping the European arrest warrant, as mentioned by other noble Lords.
I know that there are going to be special advocates who will work with and offer guidance and care to people who are discovered in the UK who have been forced into slavery. What special powers will these advocates have which existing workers in this field do not already possess? What will occur when people forced into slavery in the UK are not UK nationals? Will they be granted care and leave to remain in the UK? I can just see instances where people might be too afraid to speak out about their ordeals if they fear they will be sent back to their home countries, where their fate might be much worse, or where they would almost certainly be captured and traded again. Where the victims are children, who cannot look after themselves, is the Minister happy that arrangements are in place to look after children who have been misled in this way?
I know that the Government are working hard with companies, charities and organisations already doing fantastic work in this area. Has thought been given to launching a campaign aimed at better educating the public, as well as current victims, making us more aware of the signs of slavery? A helpline number might be provided, perhaps at UK entry points and other key points, so that we can all keep our eyes open and know what to do in order to do our bit, mostly for the victims, who far too often do not know their rights. I am sure that consideration must have been given to this. Too often there is a slippery slope between abuses in the workplace and modern slavery. I think it would be of enormous benefit for all of us to be more educated in what signs to look out for, and for potential victims to be able to recognise their rights and what they can do about their situations. It is a simple idea; can my noble friend say if it is in the pipeline? He has just nodded at me: I hope that that means that it is.
I am sad that, under our watch, slavery could be worse than it has ever been in history. We learn from the past that slavery cannot be eradicated by legislation alone; we need to climb into people’s minds and get the public and business leaders to see red flags when they see unnaturally cheap products or, indeed, weary souls performing services, and not simply see bargains or savings in their budgets. I believe that the provisions in the Bill will start to make real change for the incredibly vulnerable group of modern slaves who are hidden, often in plain sight, in our communities, on our streets and sometimes in our homes, through either forced domestic service, sexual exploitation or via the products sitting on our shelves or in our wardrobes that have been made in illegal factories worldwide. We all need to protect these people together, and the Bill goes a long way towards bringing attention and legal redress to this abhorrent crime.
My Lords, I wish that I had not been involved with the issue of domestic slavery for so long and with particular reference to London. This goes back to 1990 and, later, to a Private Member’s Bill that I took through your Lordships’ House. Like my noble friend Lord Alton, I regret that more progress has not been made in all these years.
We know that foreign visitors may now bring domestic workers with them for up to six months, while foreign diplomats may import such workers for up to five years. Both categories must have visas and contracts of employment, but I must ask the Minister: when the visa is issued, does anyone check that the previous employment outside this country was not abusive? Are the contracts of employment scrutinised to see that they comply with British practice?
Clause 1(4) provides for vulnerable people. Like the noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy of Cradley, I submit that all foreign domestic workers coming into this country are ipso facto vulnerable because they are tied to one employer for the duration of their stay and mostly live on the employer’s premises. I agree with the Joint Committee on the draft Bill that public agencies and NGOs should be able to remove a domestic from an abusive employer and to recover their passport. I point also to its recommendation that diplomatic domestics should have contracts directly with the embassy or consulate. Decisions of our courts or employment tribunals should be made enforceable against the embassies concerned—thus, I admit, limiting full diplomatic immunity.
How many complaints have been received in recent years about diplomats and embassies? The Home Office appears to think that foreign domestics are all unskilled workers. In fact, often they are highly skilled in childcare and cooking. Lest your Lordships should think that abuses are trivial, I will give brief details of the wrongdoing observed over many years and continuing to this day. It is common for employers to withhold upon arrival the passports of domestics and to confine them to their houses. This cuts off access to citizens advice bureaux, legal advice, employment tribunals and the police, not to speak of friends and recreation. The non-payment of wages or the payment of less than the national minimum have often been reported, together with physical and sexual violence. Normal contract terms are often breached—for example, no time off or paid holidays; no privacy or own room; being forced to sleep in a corridor or bathroom; and excessive hours without overtime payments. It is a disgrace that such things have been allowed to happen, despite questions and debates in both Houses and despite the evidence collected by trades unions and voluntary organisations, some of which was presented to the Joint Committee.
Such things cannot be allowed to continue. I therefore ask the Minister to assure the House that the Bill covers all the abuses complained of. There has been general impunity up to now. Will abuses now be rigorously prosecuted? Will the Government accept amendments dealing with foreign embassies and help with their drafting? On the question of children, I must ask: how will the Bill, the proposed independent commissioner or the child trafficking advocates help to prevent children in local authority care being lured away or kidnapped? Over the years many have disappeared, and better prevention is urgently needed. The Bill has good intentions and is a step in the right direction, but I am sure that it can be improved and I hope that it will be, with all-party support.
My Lords, I declare an interest in the debate as a trustee of the campaigning organisation Liberty. I urge all of us to ask ourselves: is this Bill all that we can do? Have we given everything that we can? If there is one more victim, one more slave, as there definitely will be, will we be able to look them in the eye?
It is an honour to sit in your Lordships’ House in the Parliament of a country that so often has been defined by what it stands for as well as what it does. As we have just commemorated, we have fought for freedom from international tyranny so that people and communities across the world may have the opportunity to live with dignity and hope. That is our fundamental human desire, for ourselves and for our children—that we might have the chance to live lives of dignity where we might put our talents to good use and see just how much we can do, with the simple hope that tomorrow might be better than today.
One could of course quote the Universal Declaration of Human Rights at length to show the extent of international agreement on this, but we know what we want for our children when they are born. It is not for them to be spirited across borders against their will, to work backbreaking hours with little or no pay, with the promise of only a beating if they try to escape, or to live their lives under the violent control of others, exploited for their labour and robbed of their free will and hope. That is not what we want for our children.
Sitting in your Lordships’ House, I have come to realise that all the people in this country whom we represent, whether or not they were born here, are our children. It is their right to have a future that we must honour and secure. Therefore, I welcome the fact that we have come so far in progressing the Bill and I acknowledge the dedication and commitment of so many in your Lordships’ House, the other place and the public realm to bringing the freeing power of light to an issue that has known too much darkness.
However, as we consider the Bill today, even with the changes that have been made, we know that it is not all that we can do. The Bill currently suggests that our primary objective is to punish the perpetrators, not to give victims a life where they can enjoy their inherent human rights. I strongly support the inclusion of measures such as the restoration of legal aid for all potentially trafficked people, to give them access to their rights, protection from further abuse and a strong voice in the system. The experts, including the Prime Minister’s former special envoy on human trafficking, Anthony Steen, are clear that a Bill without strong victim protection and victims’ rights at its heart will not be as effective as it should be, either in giving victims of exploitation back their lives or in securing conviction—the worst of both worlds.
The Bill currently sacrifices pragmatism and outcome for symbolic efficiency. While I wholeheartedly support the principle of consolidation, by not breaking down human trafficking into its component crimes we make it much harder to secure conviction. I strongly endorse the proposition of being more specific in setting out separate offences not only to ensure that we can secure convictions but also to address all forms of exploitation. The absence of specific definitions and clauses relating to child exploitation are a powerful example of this Bill being strong on intent but weak in delivery.
The Bill currently has our values and leadership a distant second to political expediency. Some say that because of potential public confusion about victims of trafficking and immigrants, the Bill has pulled its punches in terms of victim protection and support. If we do not offer victim support, we abdicate not only our moral duty but also our responsibility to the economy, as forced labour undercuts the job market. The current Government’s 2012 visa changes to overseas domestic workers—tying them to one employer and drastically increasing the number of people at risk of domestic slavery—are a worrying example of this. The Bill is politically strong for the Conservatives on immigration, but it is weak on compassion and human rights.
In the other place, William Wilberforce spent 25 years fighting for the abolition of the slave trade. While we are part of that same arc of history, our struggle to bend society towards abolition and towards justice will be much easier and quicker if we choose to achieve that end. The moral argument has been won: every country condemns slavery. The economic argument has been won: the cost of ending slavery is just a fraction of the value freed slaves will create for economies. The legal argument has been won: legislation is not the silver bullet, but it certainly plays a large role, as we acknowledge here today.
The intent of the Bill is good. However, we are talking about the rights and futures of our children. In that light, the Bill does not go far enough. Their lives are too important for political expediency. Our children call on us for moral leadership. We have to send a clear message to the boys, girls, men and women who are currently enslaved, living lives where hope becomes more distant and the future more bleak. We have to say: “We will not let you live lives without dignity, without rights, without a future worth living. You are our children, too”. I ask your Lordships to ensure that, through this debate and our subsequent work, we make the Bill worthy of this Chamber, this country and the people whom we represent.
My Lords, this has been a remarkable and moving debate. We have heard about the charities that are doing such remarkable work and the debate has made me think about the work that the Government have done in this area. The noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, mentioned the Poppy Project, which reached out to the woman in Yarl’s Wood and rescued her from what must have been an appalling experience. We heard about the exploitation of young women and girls who were taken from foreign countries and brought to this country for sexual exploitation. I thought about the remarkable work of the coalition Government in terms of their commitment to international development and the education of girls. The millennium development goals recognise the need to educate children in the developing world. Of course, if girls can read and write, they are far less able to be controlled by others and they have access to the internet and to knowledge.
The debate has also made me think of an experience that I had as a teenager working in Greece, picking oranges. It was an interesting experience. A rumour went round that some of the employers were confiscating passports. We just turned up at a café in the morning and were hired or not. I guess that I was bit vulnerable back then.
The debate has also made me think principally of the young men whom I have known who have come to this country as children, separated from their families. They may not have been trafficked, but they are still extremely vulnerable. I remember particularly one young man who arrived here from Eritrea. His mother was Eritrean and his father was Ethiopian. At the time, the two nations were at war with each other. He was here with his sister as a child. He was a remarkably bright and diligent young man. He worked hard, got good A-levels and went on to University College, I think, read civil engineering, qualified as a civil engineer and was eager to return to his own country to make a difference as it recovered from the civil war. He kept up with his home language, Amharic, and was an altar boy in the Coptic church, not far from here.
I remember another young man, an Albanian in a hostel, with whom I used to play chess over several months. His father was a teacher. He was a bright young man and yet, meeting him with some of the people whom he came across in London, I worried that he might be drawn into a gang of criminal culture. The point that I want to make is that these young people have great potential and it is a criminal waste to allow any young person’s potential to be wasted. I have met other young people—again, perhaps, not trafficked—who have come to this country and have not had the support that they have needed and have ended up in mental health institutions.
I therefore warmly welcome this Bill and am most grateful to the Minister for introducing its Second Reading. I welcome the work of the campaigning organisations, the parliamentary groups and parliamentarians who have done such good work in bringing the Bill forward.
Much has already been said about children. The Bill offers an important opportunity to protect child victims of trafficking. I would like to remind your Lordships of further facts about children. The International Labour Organization has conservatively estimated that 5.5 million children are trafficked every year—that is 26% of total victims. In the UK, we have seen a significant increase in the number of children identified as potential victims of trafficking. At least 10 children are trafficked every week in the UK, but many remain undetected. The real scale of trafficking is likely to be substantially higher.
Trafficked children are alone, frightened and traumatised, facing uncertain futures and often struggling to access the support that they need. It is therefore imperative that we do all that we can, both through legislation and through practice, to ensure that those children, whether British-born or migrants, are safe, protected and able to rebuild their lives. I am keen for us to move forward, beyond even the welcome measures in the Bill, to strengthen the protections of these young people, in particular with regard to the child trafficking advocates, so I welcome the enabling provision in the Bill. However, I am worried that, unless advocates are given legal powers, they will lack the ability to step in at times when they are most needed, to hold authorities to account, to instruct solicitors on behalf of a child and to truly to represent that child’s interests. If those children are to have faith in their advocates, they need to see that their advocates have clout, that they can make a difference and that they will not disappoint them.
The Northern Ireland Assembly has just introduced provision for that in the human traffic and exploitation Bill, to which the noble Lord, Lord McColl, referred, and I hope that the Government will soon follow the Assembly’s lead. An advocate who can instruct a solicitor to act in the child’s best interest is needed because trafficked children do not disclose that they have been trafficked, as they have been manipulated by their trafficker, are afraid of what the trafficker will do to their family, or have not understood or psychologically accepted that they have been trafficked. That may particularly be the case if they were trafficked by a family member. That means that, if the victim of trafficking were to instruct a solicitor, it could be contrary to their best interests, safety and protection and it might protect their trafficker.
In Committee in the House of Commons, the Minister explained that the advocate would act as a litigation friend. However, that does not go far enough, as my noble friend said. A litigation friend cannot instruct solicitors or act in immigration, asylum or criminal proceedings. There are also issues with local authorities; I am very aware of that from my work as vice-chair of the all-party parliamentary group on young people in care. Again, being able to instruct a solicitor can help children to get services from local authorities that they might not otherwise be able to access. I am therefore keen to see that power of instruction and for us to reach out to all separated children, because often we do not identify that they have been trafficked until it is too late and they have been taken away from their care home or foster care.
At the same time, I recognise that the Government have come a long way with the Bill—I heard the concerns expressed by my noble and learned friend Lady Butler-Sloss, who said that we need to acknowledge how far the Government have come. I will therefore look to my noble and learned friend for a cue on how fast we have to move forward with these issues. In conclusion, once again, I very much welcome the Bill and I look forward to the Minister’s response.
My Lords, other noble Lords have already referred to William Wilberforce; 181 years after his death it is utterly horrifying that slavery continues to exist. As he once said:
“You may choose to look the other way but you can never say again that you did not know”.
I am pleased to add my voice to the many others welcoming this Bill on modern slavery, and I commend the Home Secretary and the Government for bringing it forward. It is a hugely positive and important step in trying to combat this horrendous crime. I also pay tribute to the many campaigners and organisations that work and campaign so tirelessly in this area.
Modern slavery is indeed a most heinous practice, inflicting immense suffering and misery. As the director of UN Women, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, says:
“Trafficking in persons is a grave human rights violation and a serious crime”.
As we have already heard, while accurate statistics are unknown, the National Crime Agency recently estimated that nearly 3,000 people were trafficked for exploitation in the UK last year—a 22% increase on 2012. Meanwhile, the conviction rate of traffickers is astonishingly low. I am told that only eight were convicted in 2011, 12 in 2012, and 19 last year. Perhaps the Minister can confirm whether those figures are accurate.
As has already been discussed, people are being trafficked here for a variety of reasons, from forced labour and domestic servitude to sexual exploitation and forced marriage. I agree with other noble Lords that, as vital as it is to apprehend and prosecute the traffickers, it is of equal importance that we support the victims and help them restore their lives; one cannot begin to imagine what these people have suffered. I hope that the Bill, when finalised, will robustly address both these approaches.
The charity Eaves, which works to address exploitation of women, states that very few victims of trafficking are willing to get involved in prosecuting their traffickers due to threats to themselves or their family back home if they talk to the police, as we already heard from the noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy. I hope that this House can look further at ways in which support can be given to victims to address that, because traffickers need to be brought to justice.
Victims of trafficking often face what can be described as a double trauma—being enslaved; and, upon release or escape, finding themselves prosecuted for crimes that their traffickers forced them to commit or that they committed in an attempt to escape. I emphasise my support for the measures in Part 5 which provide a statutory defence for victims of slavery and trafficking. It is important that the level of evidence must not be too burdensome on the trafficked victim, who may well find being interrogated by the police intimidating, only adding to their trauma. A general principle of non-prosecution of victims except in extreme circumstances might be considered.
As other noble Lords have mentioned, in the wider sense I would like to see the Bill go further in making support provisions for victims. The current model of assistance, which has already been referred to, through the national referral mechanism, provides only 45 days of shelter and legal and medical assistance. After that time they must leave and are in effect abandoned. What happens to them then? They are all alone in a strange country, maybe not speaking the language and without any money. I was recently told by the Human Trafficking Foundation of widespread suspicions that they often have to fall back on the original perpetrator through lack of other support. Assets recovered can perhaps be deployed towards compensating and helping those victims. We simply must do more to help those people rebuild their lives and return home if they want to.
As was already discussed, the establishment of an anti-slavery commissioner will be absolutely pivotal, and it is extremely important that he can oversee and cohesively draw together the work of the various agencies—the police, border officials, health workers, local authorities, third-sector organisations and others—involved in preventing and penalising slavery. I agree that this will lead to a more efficient and effective system, which will ultimately result in increased numbers of prosecutions. I also support the view that this role creates an opportunity to provide better support and protection to victims. The office can provide a central resource for best practice, as well as gather data and information, monitor trends and the impact of policies and legislation, and develop protocols on dealing with victims. It must also ensure that UK measures against trafficking comply and co-ordinate effectively with those already in place in Europe and internationally, including CEDAW and UN conventions.
Without doubt, prostitution is one of the main drivers of women and girls being trafficked. While the Bill does not deal with the laws on prostitution—rightly—I very much hope that the commissioner will make a thorough review of those. It is considered important that this commissioner is independent, but can that truly be the case if that role sits in the Home Office as well as being appointed by and accountable to the Home Secretary? One can look at similar roles in other countries. I understand that the Joint Committee that looked at the draft Bill took evidence from the Dutch national rapporteur on trafficking in human beings, who emphasised that her role’s long-term success lay in its statutory independence, and there is a similar situation in Finland. I hope that that aspect will be examined again as the Bill passes through your Lordships’ House; the Minister could comment on that.
Much has already been said about children, but it is utterly shocking that some victims of trafficking are children. As has already been identified, it is particularly important that the Bill works to protect them. The introduction of child trafficking advocates will, I hope, provide child victims with better safety and support. As we have already heard, there has been a significant increase in the number of children involved in trafficking in recent years; apparently at least 10 children are trafficked every week in the UK. It must be such a terrifying experience for a child, and we must ensure that they are always treated as victims and not perpetrators.
UNICEF told me the story of a girl named Katja. Katja was trafficked into the UK as a teenager and was forced to work on a cannabis farm. When found, she was taken into custody and then into care. She soon escaped, disappearing back into the hands of her traffickers. She was then sexually exploited and became pregnant. She was found again in hospital, alone and unable to deal with the pregnancy.
Katja’s story is frighteningly common. Over 60% of trafficked children taken into care go missing. Most fall back into this life of exploitation and abuse through desperation and lack of support. Children such as Katja need somebody whom they can trust and who will keep them safe and make sure that they get the support they need.
It is crucial that these advocates are able to act in the child’s best interests, and I welcomed the recent government amendment to that effect. It is also widely felt that these advocates must be wholly independent and, as the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, said, that they must have significant authority in their supervision of the child, including legal powers, as is the case in the Netherlands. This will provide appropriate support, especially in criminal proceedings, where they can instruct solicitors on the child’s behalf, thus ensuring the child’s best defence in court. And surely child trafficking should always carry particularly heavy sentences.
Above all, wherever possible, we need to help these children return to their homes. Life in care is not a satisfactory outcome, as demonstrated by the fact that so many children want to escape.
I think we all recognise how complex a problem modern slavery and trafficking is. This Bill will go a long way in helping law enforcers to target traffickers but it can go further to improve support and protection for victims. As others have already said, this must be a world-class Bill.
Longer-term education and awareness-raising are also crucial, and we must continue to work with businesses and other countries to tackle the problem at its source. This includes understanding the factors that increase people’s vulnerability to trafficking and, in particular, the specific needs of women and children.
I conclude by quoting again the UN Women executive director, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, speaking on the first World Day against Trafficking in Persons:
“We must redouble our efforts to stamp out trafficking in persons, to return hope to those who have suffered this injustice and to build a future where these crimes no longer threaten any person, anywhere”.
My Lords, I am very pleased to speak in this Second Reading debate on the Modern Slavery Bill. I commend the Government for bringing the Bill forward and for the increased focus that the heinous practices of slavery and trafficking will receive as a result of this proposed legislation and the measures within it. However, like many other noble Lords, I believe that there is significant scope for improvement.
Like many, I was very concerned that when the draft Bill was published it seemed more like a Modern Slavery (Criminal Justice) Bill than a credible, ground-breaking Modern Slavery Bill. It simply dealt with the traffickers and not the trafficked, and to that extent it was very lop-sided. Any Modern Slavery Bill worthy of the name must put in place both better provisions for catching traffickers and better provisions for caring for the victims of trafficking.
The Bill before us today is improved in two crucial respects, although there is still much work to be done. In the first instance, the Government have responded to the concerns expressed by the Joint Committee on the draft Bill about the absence of any victim care provision through the introduction of a new clause, Clause 48, which says that the Secretary of State must offer guidance on victim care. This falls far short of the provision of a statement of support services for victims of trafficking that you would expect to be itemised on the face of any Modern Slavery Bill, but at least it is something.
In the second instance, the Government have taken a step on the journey to converting this from a Modern Slavery (Criminal Justice) Bill into a credible Modern Slavery Bill, principally, I think it is fair to say, as a result of a vote in your Lordships’ House on 7 April this year. My noble and learned friend Lady Butler-Sloss, supported by the noble Lord, Lord McColl, and others, moved an amendment to the Immigration Bill introducing child trafficking guardians. This was opposed by the Government, who were then defeated by 98 votes.
Let us remind ourselves of the facts. Many children who have been trafficked go missing from care after they have been identified and rescued. Reports from the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre record that between 2005 and 2010 almost a third of the children identified as probable victims of trafficking and being “looked after” by local authorities had gone missing. I have also seen other localised studies which give the much higher figure of 60% of children going missing.
Until a foreign trafficked child comes into the care of the authorities, the only people in this country whom they may know or trust are likely to be their traffickers. Children are vulnerable to being manipulated and threatened. They are told not to trust the police or other authorities and they can be warned by traffickers that the authorities will imprison them or treat them badly. They can be manipulated into trusting and caring for their traffickers as if they were members of their family. Protecting trafficked children from the continued influence of their traffickers once they come to the attention of the authorities must therefore be of the highest priority. One key way to do this is by providing these children with the support of a person with specialist understanding of the particular needs and challenges experienced by child victims of trafficking.
The Still at Risk report commissioned by the Home Office and conducted by the Refugee Council and the Children’s Society, already referred to by the noble Lord, Lord McColl, following debates in your Lordships’ House in 2012 noted:
“Respondents in this research felt that the immediate provision of intensive, one-to-one support for these children by an adult who the child can form a trusting relationship with, and who could help them to make sense of the different processes and professionals that they encounter, would reduce the risk of the child going missing”.
That description perfectly describes the role that a child trafficking advocate should play. Clearly, the factors involved in a child going missing are many and complex. However, one step is to provide the child with support from someone with specialist expertise who will be able to build a relationship of trust with the child and will advocate for the child to receive the sort of accommodation, legal advice and care that will best help to protect them from their traffickers.
Part of the rationale for moving the child trafficking guardian amendment on 7 April was that, since the Government had made it plain that they were not interested in having such a provision in their Modern Slavery Bill, we must look elsewhere. When confronted by the amendment to the Immigration Bill, however, the Government resisted it on the basis that a better place for it would be the Modern Slavery Bill. When they were defeated, they agreed to reintroduce a provision in the Modern Slavery Bill—Clause 47.
Although I am very pleased that noble Lords played a key role in helping to deliver a second victim support clause in the Bill, helping to give grounds for the claim that this is a wide-ranging Modern Slavery Bill, I have to say that in the same way that Clause 48 is very disappointing for merely delivering guidance, Clause 47 is very disappointing because it is bereft of the proper definition of a child trafficking guardian which your Lordships’ House voted for so overwhelmingly on 7 April. Clause 57, which commences Clause 47, also remains equivocal about whether these guardians will ever come about, putting this off to a future decision.
As I survey these two clauses, I am glad that the Bill now has two victim care clauses. These two steps forward are welcome but the Government have given so little away that, to me, the Bill still feels more like a Modern Slavery (Criminal Justice) Bill than a genuine Modern Slavery Bill. Further steps now need to be taken and I very much hope that they will be taken in your Lordships’ House. We need Clause 48 to move from guidance to statutory support services for victims and we need to amend Clause 47 and Clause 57, which commences Clause 47, so that Clause 47 contains a proper definition of child trafficking advocates and ends all equivocation about whether such guardians will be provided.
Again, as the noble Lord, Lord McColl, mentioned, the imperative for this change is now greatly strengthened by the fact that the Northern Ireland Assembly voted to introduce both provisions last month through the Human Trafficking and Exploitation (Further Provisions and Support for Victims) Bill which, while sounding less grand than our Modern Slavery Bill, actually goes further. This should, indeed, give us pause for thought. I do not want—neither I am sure do your Lordships—victims of trafficking in England and Wales, both adults and children, to be given fewer rights than victims in Northern Ireland.
This is a very important Bill but there is clearly still work to be done during its remaining stages. I hope and believe that we shall succeed in improving it still further.
My Lords, I congratulate my three new colleagues on their maiden speeches this evening. It is important to say that because they were tremendous. I also congratulate the Government on this Bill. I see it as a global Bill and will discuss that shortly. I also see it as an across-the-divide Bill, and I hope that if we work together to strengthen it, we can get it through the House on a correct timetable to have it on the statute book before the general election. In the next year or two after that, having worked with it as an Act, it can then be amended. I am very keen to get this Bill through; it is absolutely vital.
Human trafficking is not a woman’s, a man’s or a child’s issue; it is a human issue that traverses political divides in all countries. We are at a crossroads and better enforcement mechanisms, as well as improved harmonisation efforts, are needed successfully to combat human trafficking of persons and modern-day slavery. I see this country as one of the leaders on how to take this across borders, as in the Council of Europe’s directive on human trafficking, from which this Government took the amendments. We can prosecute across borders and recover so-called funds.
We know that human trafficking is worth at least $32 billion around the world. It is a cash industry. The World Bank has spent its time going round telling countries in eastern Europe and others how they should not be dealing with suitcases of cash. We know that even in this country illicit cash is banked. We have the mechanisms to ensure that this does not happen, and we have to look at that part of human trafficking. It is a cash industry and one in which the middle managers are women. That is a hurtful thing to say but children, men and other women trust women, as we all do. It is very important to look at that side of human trafficking.
I support the noble Lord, Lord McColl, in what he said today. I remember when we had problems during the ratification of the Council of Europe’s human trafficking directive. We had trouble with the previous Government when they thought that the time we were asking for was too much. We really do need 90 days. I congratulate both the Salvation Army and the Poppy Project on the work that they do with victims. Besides needing to trust, they also need to be healthy and to have food. They need a lot of comfort to make them feel comfortable to give evidence and to stay.
These victims may stay or go back to their own countries. If we do not treat them properly, what will they think of Britain plc in two or three years’ time, or in 10 years? They may be in a position when they can give us support, so we should look at them as victims and help them to become survivors and no longer victims. They do not want to be victims for life; they want to be survivors. We need to give them time to help them to be survivors.
We also need them to see the perpetrators put in prison and having their funds sequestered. I am very keen on recovery of cash because we know that the cash is there. I wrote an article for the Guardian earlier this year about the amount of money going into the banks and their lawyers went all over it. It was published and had quite a lot of support. It is interesting that the banks did not complain, and nor did their lawyers go to the Guardian—so it shows you.
One of the main issues on which I feel strongly is the supply chain for companies. This is an issue that we have to take on board, and if we can amend this Bill a bit, we should. We know that it is not difficult. Companies procure goods every day and do so in all sorts of ways. We should look at it as a health and safety issue, so procurement departments should also have to look at that. If necessary, they should travel to see where and how the flowers are picked, and how they are parcelled up. We all know that there is evidence of fishing boats off Australia, New Zealand and other parts of Asia. People die on those boats; they never come off. The supermarkets and restaurant traders take the fish and sell it on. It is the same with flowers and other agricultural products. We know that there is bonded and slave labour in the agricultural trade as well as in the retail trade.
The retail trade is even worse because we know that cheap football garments sold in our country and in others by the football clubs come from parts of Turkey where there is slave labour. We know that it is the same in India, and there is proof that the footballs come from there. When I challenged some football clubs at a sports conference two years ago in Qatar, they did not deny it, but said, “We’re clean because we get the goods from X”. When I asked, “When did you go to see where they come from?”, the reply was, “Well, we didn’t actually go”. It is the same with retailers.
We have to go back to them and say that we want corporates to include in their audits on gender pay, equal pay, and all sorts of other issues, to say where they got their goods. There should be confirmation and some form of mark to show that they are not produced by bonded or slave labour. We also have to understand that we have to pay more for goods. Why should we live off the backs of other people? We know that anybody who has been trafficked and lived in this way never lives a long life. They never have the life that we are lucky to have. We need to look closely and come back to the issue of the supply chain.
I agree with all the issues that have been mentioned around children and victims, but there is also the question of the commissioner. I am not sure to whom this person will be accountable. What is the budget and what about the staff? Will there be a separate legal department or will it be part of the Solicitor General’s department or the Home Office? We have not had many cases, but it is there for us to be able to do that. Lawyers and policemen are being trained to recognise what is human trafficking. As we agree, there have not been many prosecutions, and those that there have been have not been very successful. I am not sure where the accountability of the commissioner will be. Is the commissioner accountable to the Home Office or to Parliament? How do we ask questions? We know with quangos that if we ask a question in this House or in the Commons, we cannot always get an answer because it is out of the mandate of Parliament. I have a number of questions about the commissioner—or should we, in the short term, look at the office as being a unit within the Home Office that will stand alone once it is set up with all its powers? I feel that that will be a very important issue.
My Lords, the anti-slavery campaign lies at the heart of our democracy. It was the great cause, not only of famous parliamentary reformers, but of ordinary people who did not have the vote at that time yet who petitioned Parliament, lobbied and became the forerunners of today’s civil society. This subject regularly produces great passion in this House and it is no surprise that we are discussing it again today. The contributions of our maiden speakers were eloquent examples.
This cause has become so universal it has even been adopted by government. The Prime Minister and Home Secretary are among the leading campaigners; the Home Office and NSPCC website is testimony to that. It is an impressive vindication of the Government’s commitment, beyond trafficking, to other issues. It is also rare to see a Bill that has already had the benefit of scrutiny by the House of Commons and two Joint Committees. We must be especially grateful for the typical thoroughness of the Human Rights Committee. Some lobbyists have already had a fair wind from the Government and I imagine we need to thank the Lib Dem side of the coalition for that.
The Bill is evolving and there is a lot of consensus that it needs improvement. The Government have already accepted some amendments and the Minister is probably preparing more. I hope, therefore, that he will not see our suggestions as carping but will agree to the changes further down the line. He has obviously seen many of them before but, after he has dealt with Protocol 36 and all the opt-ins, he will have to look at them again—and again.
We should acknowledge that behind these changes there are quite a few prominent NGOs with real experience of the issues. One or two prompted the previous Government’s interest in the first place. This is important because I sometimes wonder what Governments would do without the benefit of specialist NGOs. I single out Anti-Slavery International, partly because I declare an interest as a former council member but also because, as the noble Baroness, Lady Cox, knows, it has built up expertise over a much longer period all over the world and, increasingly, in the UK. It is 175 years old this year and pre-dates every other voluntary organisation: one could go back to 1839 or earlier.
Mr Hyland’s appointment as the first independent commissioner must be welcomed, not least because of his relevant experience, provided he remains truly independent and is given the power to hold inquiries. I am glad that the noble Baroness, Lady Hanham, is pursuing this. I join many other noble Lords in asking for a specific offence of child trafficking and exploitation in Part 1. Advocacy support or guardianship—whatever we are now calling it—for child victims has long been recommended by Frank Field’s committee and others, yet the Government still hold out against this seemingly obvious improvement. Legal aid is going to be a contentious issue again. One example is claims for compensation from the CICA, for which legal aid is not currently available. There are other improvements, such as putting the NRM on a statutory basis. The recommendations made by my noble and learned friend and the noble Lord, Lord Warner, extend the 45 days—or, as the noble Lord, Lord McColl, said, double it.
On Report, the Government introduced a new Part 6 on supply chains, which is welcome. The Joseph Rowntree Foundation has carried out thoughtful research on this subject and points out that there is a spectrum of exploitation which, as the right reverend Prelate said, is very difficult to define when it comes to offences. However, there should be an obligation on companies over a certain threshold to report regularly and provide monitoring of their compliance. This recommendation, set out by the noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy, comes from a wide coalition of NGOs.
In 2012, Rowntree looked at the UK food sector, where there have been several examples of forced labour and exploitation. Here, I declare a tangential interest in that I have some experience of the sandwich industry, in which migrant workers play an essential part. It was alleged last week that Hungarians now have to make our sandwiches because we Brits cannot or will not make them any more. It is true that it is boring, repetitive work at an industrial level, but I remember seeing lines of Lithuanians making sandwiches in a small factory in the East End. In that case, they were contented workers in perfectly hygienic conditions, but there is no doubt that there is exploitation in some of our factories. Rowntree’s research found at least 14 forced labour practices through interviews with 62 workers. Interestingly, most were breaches of contract or lack of contract; non-payment of wages; or payment below the minimum wage. In half the cases there was purposeful isolation and psychological harm.
The noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, briefly mentioned a prominent case of a licensed gangmaster in Maidstone who supplied workers to Nobel Foods, a major processor of eggs and chickens which supplies our major supermarkets. The gangmaster appealed but eventually lost his licence. The GLA called it one of the worst cases of exploitation ever uncovered in the food industry. The point here is that, although companies’ practices down the supply chain must obviously be brought to account, the legislation covering the work of the GLA must be strengthened and its powers extended into other areas. Forced labourers must be given the same level of protection as victims of trafficking.
My noble friend Lord Hylton said it all on overseas domestic workers and I will be brief. I remember some of us giving the previous Government heart-rending evidence during immigration Bills. Some migrant workers are, literally, bonded: their passports dictate that they cannot change to a new employer. The Minister may correct me, but the Government appear to have ignored the advice of both Joint Committees on this, even on bringing back the level of protection these workers had before 2012. I hope they will rethink that particular point. There will be a lot of strong feeling on this in Committee. The tied visa is morally wrong, it is a blatant injustice and the Government should move quickly to change it.
Kalayaan, the charity involved, has given us a picture of the average domestic worker. She lives on less than £50 per week; she is rarely allowed to go out; she is wholly dependent; she may live at risk and yet can do nothing about it. I will keep the case study of Maria for Committee—unless the Government can do, or even promise to do, something to help her first.
My Lords, it is always good to follow the noble Earl. Earlier in the debate, the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Derby, in one of his characteristically thoughtful contributions to our deliberations, spoke about how he wished we would talk more of safeguarding and get this concept more deeply rooted into our community. I am very much with him, but wonder whether he could have a little coalition with me in saying that that should go alongside support and solidarity. It often strikes me that people in the midst of the experiences which we have been hearing about and describing are going through a nightmare. They have never had decent human relations; they often do not know what it is to have a reliable friend; they have certainly never had the experience of being loved. Getting the legislation right will solve nothing in itself; it is the spirit and motivation and the values which operate within the legislation which will ensure that we are really tackling the issue as we should.
This cannot be separated from the context in which the problems we are discussing arise. They arise in a society in which there is too much talk of market without the ethics that must underlie any meaningful, socially justifiable market system. A market without ethics is, in itself, highly dangerous and relevant to the issue of trafficking. It is about the prevailing characteristic of greed in our society and the concept of instant satisfaction. This is partly aided and abetted by the rapid development of information technology. Everything is instantaneous, everybody wants instant satisfaction and, therefore, they do not stop to think.
This brings us to the importance of the context of social education in which young people, but not only young people, are beginning to understand their responsibilities. As the noble Lord, Lord Luke, so rightly said, all this happens because there is a demand. I do not advocate that young men—or men of any age—rush off to prostitutes. But how often do people who use a prostitute—I employ the word “use” deliberately—have any thought about the story behind that prostitute and what they may be aiding and abetting? There must be a development of social responsibility and social education.
In his remarks, the noble Earl referred to non-governmental organisations. As noble Lords will know, I have spent a great deal of my life in non-governmental organisations. In this sphere, we are extremely fortunate to have the non-governmental organisations from which we have been hearing. They speak with the authority of engagement. They have high-quality people thinking about the issues, and not just academically: they are thinking about them in the context of the work that they are doing with real people in real situations. It would be very unwise of us not to listen to what they have to say.
In reading the evidence that has been coming to me, I have been struck that there is no antipathy towards the Bill at all from the NGOs. They welcome it as a step forward. Their concern is to strengthen it and give more effect to its intentions. That is what this is about. It is a highly constructive operation. We should listen to them and not be ashamed to bring their perspectives into the argument. That is what I will do for a moment or two before I complete my own observations.
An organisation called the Anti Trafficking Monitoring Group brings together a number of these organisations with intimate experience of the issues. It talks about the importance of:
“Inclusion of a duty on public authorities to identify and assist victims
Inclusion of the minimum standards for protection and support
Provision for the establishment of the”,
national referral mechanism,
“and the key principles which underpin it, including the principle of non-discrimination and the right to recourse against erroneous decision-making”,
and that there should be:
“Inclusion of protection provisions for migrant domestic workers on the Overseas Domestic Workers visa”.
At a minimum, the group argues for,
“the right to change employer and to apply to renew their visa while in full time employment as a domestic worker”.
Then there is the whole issue of children, and there is no shortage of charities and voluntary agencies with great insight and experience in that area. UNICEF UK makes its case strongly. It is very much supported, again, by the Refugee Children’s Consortium, which brings together a number of organisations working in this sphere. I want to share for a moment the very specific priorities of the Refugee Children’s Consortium. It believes that,
“a specific offence of child exploitation and trafficking”,
should be included in the Bill to,
“recognise the particular vulnerability of children, both those trafficked within and to the UK, as well as the fact that they cannot legally consent to any form of exploitation”.
The consortium continues:
“The Bill should include a statutory principle of non-prosecution”,
“amended to include legal powers for child trafficking advocates”.
The consortium believes that,
“advocates should be allocated to all separated migrant children”,
“the current clause on age assessment is unclear and should be redrafted to ensure these assessments do not take place by default. Legal aid should be restored for victims of trafficking and slavery”.
There is strong feeling, too, on the issue of the commissioner. There is a feeling that the commissioner must be independent in order to be effective. He should:
“Be independent from the government to freely decide activities, hire staff and control the office budget … Oversee victim assistance measures including the statutory child protection response for child victims … Have statutory powers to collect and request data and information on trafficking from a wide range of statutory non-statutory bodies … Monitor trends and assess the impact of policies and legislation relevant to trafficking… Hold inquiries”,
and must be able to “Report directly to Parliament”.
These are issues about which we will hear a great deal from the NGOs in Committee and we need to take them very seriously. But I want to end by underlining what my noble friend Lady Goudie just said, because it is terribly important. There is the whole issue of the supply chain. All the NGOs feel that if we are taking the Bill seriously, we cannot give too much priority to scrutinising the whole issue of the supply chain, ensuring that there are effective measures in place to call to justice those who abuse it.
My Lords, something very significant happened two or three weeks ago. Forced labour featured on television in an episode of “Scott & Bailey”, with some very sensitive questioning, I am happy to say, by the police officer involved. I wonder whether it will do as much to raise public awareness of slavery as the body under the patio in “Brookside” did for domestic violence.
In the preface to his review of the national referral mechanism, Jeremy Oppenheim comments on,
“the commitment across sectors, organisations, disciplines and generations”,
but even so,
“there are passionate differences of opinion as to how to achieve”,
the goal of erasing the evil of trafficking. I thank all those who have briefed us; their commitment shines through. Like others I welcome the Bill both for what it is and as an opportunity to do more to achieve that goal.
I am happy to be able to congratulate the maiden speakers at this point. All three made clear their enthusiasm to contribute to the work of the House, although I have to say, in the rapidly decreasing temperature of the Chamber, that I could have done without the mention of crumpets. I know that all three will contribute very effectively.
It is obviously not possible to cover every issue at this point, but I start as others have done—and as we should always start—with the victim, or as the noble Baroness, Lady Goudie, said, with the survivor.
The Bill’s provisions are welcome. It is shocking that someone cultivating cannabis can be prosecuted while his traffickers are not. We will examine whether “compulsion” and “characteristics”—terms used in the Bill—are wide enough, as well as whether the crimes excluded from the new defence need a more subtle approach. A victim may need considerable time, patience, professional expertise and therapy to be able to tell his or her story. The right reverend Prelate rightly reminded us that this is not to be confused or conflated with the 45-day period. There are risks of retraumatisation by requiring the victim to relate and repeat the story. There are so many matters about which so many of us need more understanding.
The reasons why someone may not be able to give a complete or consistent story is an issue for everyone, including those in the criminal justice system. The noble Baroness, Lady Newlove, said, and I agree, that if we use the person only for evidence then we are committing abuse again. The first encounter with the criminal justice system is very significant. Not all police forces make preparations to receive victims when they are rescued with the appropriate care and support. Not all are alert to the need to preserve evidence. I understand that in New York the police immediately photograph the living conditions of people who have been found in servitude before anyone has a chance to make everything look normal; they may bring in health and safety officers, for instance. We must not overlook support for those who are working on these issues in a range of capacities. Everyone’s resilience, even judges’, has its limit. What happens when the breakdown van breaks down?
From this country, through the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and DfID, we are providing training through the preventing sexual violence initiative in countries affected by sexual violence in conflict, where many of the same issues arise. Let us use the expertise here for ourselves. An area of information and training across all relevant sectors and stakeholders is something that I too would like to see embraced by the commissioner.
Like others, I am disappointed that the appointment of the commissioner went ahead based on a job description written before Parliament had agreed what that job should be. Like others I hope that it will be about more than enforcement. The word “holistic” is overused but it should be used here. Nevertheless, I trust that we can consider the role, remit and powers applied to carry it out. The Home Secretary herself has said that the protection of victims is part of the role, although that does not appear in the Bill. A lot will depend on the individual, as it does with many of the commissioners, but it is a pity that the commissioner has not been appointed as a cross-departmental position, which, as others have reminded us, is the case in the Netherlands and Finland. After all, the interdepartmental ministerial group that we have includes the MoJ, the Department for Education, the Department of Health, and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, so we have accepted the principle. Others have referred to the importance of reporting directly to Parliament. The JCHR remarked that the commissioner,
“looks very much like a creature of the Home Office, with very little interaction with Parliament”.
The Bill is about people, but it must be right technically. I confess to having concerns about the definitions. Are they complete in themselves? Do they leave any lacunae, particularly as trafficking is an international crime and needs an international response? Are they sufficiently extensive? I am particularly concerned about exploitation, which may not be quite forced labour—although so far I am with the noble and learned Baroness on this. I am not persuaded that a separate offence of child exploitation is desirable. I am talking not about necessity but about desirability because of difficulties, for instance, regarding the establishment of age. I am very aware that consent is relevant in the cases of many who are not children, as well. The supply chain provisions are or should be detailed technically. They will amount to little if there are no effective sanctions. The noble Lord, Lord Alton, listed the recommendations of the coalition working on this and I will not take more time on it now, although I would like to.
The JCHR has reminded us that the UK’s scheme for overseas domestic workers between 1998 and 2012, when the visa rules allowed for a change of employer but not of sector, was cited by the ILO and the UN special rapporteur as best practice. The logic of that tells me that what we have now is not best practice. There seems to be widespread agreement—although, sadly, not extending to the Home Office—that allowing a change of employer is the only way of addressing the situation. The point at which an officer at a port of entry hands over a card—in English, I assume—detailing the worker’s rights, or more likely slips this inside her passport, which her employer then takes from her, may be the last time that that woman is visible.
Looking at the civil orders included in the Bill, we must not, of course, forget our own values in other ways too. The JCHR has recommended an explicit reference to the applicable standard of proof, in other words akin to the criminal standard. The Government say that it is sufficient to rely on case law. With regard to criminal behaviour orders, the same was initially said during the passage of the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act. To my delight—one occasionally has these small triumphs—that was then amended, when the Government had decided, according to the noble Lord, Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon, that there were grounds for making that change “on reflection”. I cannot remember whether he had more or less than 45 days to reflect on it, which is another matter to which we will come back. I am with the noble Baroness, Lady Hanham, in this area. I am also fairly clear that the orders, as they are, are not clear or not clear enough. We risk failure unless both the legislation and the guidance are tightened up.
My noble friend Lady Suttie remarked to me, although not during the debate, an interesting point about assessing the costs and benefits of extending the remit with the necessary resources of the Gangmasters Licensing Authority. It appears perverse not to extend the good experience to sectors where we know there are bad experiences. Last week I heard of another failure to join up the dots. A woman who had been trafficked was held in immigration detention, but never referred to the NRM.
In the debate that we had on supply chains, I quoted Frederick Douglass, the African-American who escaped slavery to become a social reformer. I will end by indulging myself with another quote from him:
“Man’s greatness consists in his ability to do and the proper application of his powers to things needed to be done”.
This Bill has been notable for the cross-party approach at all stages. My noble friend Lady Doocey mentioned the shared sense of purpose of the pre-legislative scrutiny committee. All politicians and those of no party want to do the best. There is remarkable uniformity across the House so it is appropriate to end with Oliver Twist’s request for more.
My Lords, I will be brief as I am speaking in the gap and I am conscious of time. I declare an interest as the former vice-chair of the Ethical Trading Initiative, so I have a deep and abiding interest in this. I, too, congratulate the Government on making time and bringing forward a very important piece of legislation.
I congratulate my noble friend Lady Kennedy on introducing a debate on supply chains a short while ago, which anticipated this debate. I want to focus on that issue. They are a key part of the challenge we face, not just in the UK but, as we know, in global supply chains that truly stretch around the world. My mind was concentrated over the weekend by an article I read on cotton, of which probably everybody in this Chamber is wearing an item, and the appalling conditions in India, where young women are, in effect, in bonded slavery. They cannot escape from their employers and if they try to they are often captured and brought back. They are working in conditions that are nothing less than slavery, with the thought that they are eventually going to earn enough money to release themselves from this bondage, which of course they never do. How difficult is it for companies to find out about the cotton they are using in the garments they manufacture? It is quite difficult and we should not underestimate that challenge. It is not for me to stand up here and be an apologist for companies but I hope to address the topic in a realistic way.
If the Bill is going to have the impact that we all want it to have, we know the importance of companies taking this issue seriously from the very top and ensuring that it is dealt with in their annual report in a serious way. I was interested in what the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Derby said about whether we should be looking at the Companies Act. Certainly we have debated previously the importance of companies being involved and setting the threshold of the size of those companies.
My last point concerns the role of the Gangmasters Licensing Authority, which I am proud to say the Ethical Trading Initiative played a leading role in bringing into being. A number of people have already made the point that it is probably the most important organisation in trying to ensure that we do not have even more slavery in this country than currently exists. I hope that the Minister will look carefully at ensuring that the Gangmasters Licensing Authority is properly resourced, as well as the question of extending its remit.
The challenge for us as we try to get this legislation through will probably be selecting the amendments that are the ones that we really need to focus on, so that we do not swamp the Bill with amendments and defeat the main objective.
My Lords, I extend my congratulations to my noble friend Lord Cashman and the noble Baronesses, Lady Chisholm of Owlpen and Lady Mobarik, on their very different but equally powerful and thoughtful maiden speeches. I, too, hope they will continue to give us the benefit of their knowledge and expertise in other debates in the future. I will not be able to match the expertise and power of so many of the contributions we have been privileged to hear today but I hope that that will not be taken as indicating a lack of understanding or appreciation on my part of either the importance or the awfulness of the issue we have been considering for the past few hours.
I know that the Government are endeavouring to raise awareness of modern slavery in the United Kingdom and to promote a new modern slavery helpline and website, and have allocated a budget of £2.3 million. What has surprised me, though, is that according to a recent Parliamentary Written Answer, the Government have paid £154,000 for sponsored online and print articles in the Daily Mail and Mail on Sunday and have placed sponsored articles in the Daily Telegraph and Sunday Telegraph at a cost of £125,000. This raises a number of questions but it would be inappropriate to pursue them today.
We have had a constructive, informed and, at times, passionate debate on a Bill that has support from all sides of the House. The concerns and differences of view that have been expressed relate not to the principles or objectives of the Bill but to whether it will achieve what it sets out to do and whether it should and could go further than it does in a number of areas, in addressing and combating the increasing scourge that is modern slavery, whether by human trafficking, slavery, forced labour or domestic servitude, and the horrors involved for its vulnerable victims.
Freedom from slavery is a fundamental human right; yet contrary to the popular view that we abolished slavery some two centuries ago, and contrary to the European Convention on Human Rights, it continues to exist as a global issue, not just in other parts of the world—which, as the noble Baroness, Lady Cox, reminded us, is bad enough—but also here on our very own doorstep. We have had spelt out to us during this debate specific and detailed examples of abuse, exploitation and denial of fundamental human rights. It is difficult to comprehend that these can occur to a sustained and far-from-isolated extent in a highly developed and democratic society such as ours that values individual freedoms and rights and the rule of law.
It is not so much the fact that abhorrent episodes of this kind can occur at all that is difficult to comprehend, since there have always been individuals for whom the prospect of abusing, exploiting and exercising unchecked power over others—particularly when allied to the ability to make considerable sums of money in the process—means that every concept of humanity and decency can be ignored and thrown out of the window. Rather, the aspect that shakes one to the core is the fact that the episodes we have heard about today, which are but examples, have gone on for so long, and involved so many victims, without either being known about or detected; or, if there were warning signs or claims that something was seriously amiss, these were not taken seriously or properly investigated by those in a position—or, indeed, whose job it was—to do just that. It has been a case too often of closing eyes or crossing over and walking by on the other side of the road.
The Bill is not the first legislation on this issue, as my noble friend Lord Tunnicliffe reminded us. Criminalising trafficking was included in the Sexual Offences Act 2003 and the Asylum and Immigration Act 2004. The Coroners and Justice Act 2009 then saw the introduction of offences of forced labour, slavery and servitude, recognising that slavery is not just about international forced travel. That same year also saw the introduction of the national referral mechanism as the means to identify victims of human trafficking in the United Kingdom, act as a gateway to victim support services and be a source of data on the extent of trafficking.
The intention of the Bill, among other things, is to make it easier to prosecute those involved in the crime that is modern-day slavery through consolidating and strengthening the law. Let us hope that when the Bill finally leaves this House and becomes law, its terms will enable that objective to be achieved, because the number of prosecutions to date for trafficking offences has not exactly been overwhelming, running now at way below 50 each year, with the number of successful prosecutions each year being even lower and not always even into double figures. In 2012, however, the UK Human Trafficking Centre—part of the National Crime Agency—identified 2,255 human trafficking victims, many of them children. Even the Home Office internal process, which is the national referral system—about which there is little transparency and from which there is no appeal against decisions taken by competent authorities on whether a person is a victim—identified more than 1,000 victims. The contrast between even the national referral system figure for human trafficking victims, and the number of prosecutions—let alone successful prosecutions—should be a cause for concern before we even start to consider the very large discrepancy between the UK Human Trafficking Centre figure and that from the national referral mechanism.
We need to look at what we do to support victims, and make sure that an actual or perceived lack of support, and an actual or perceived inability by the authorities and organisations concerned to work together to understand and identify abuse and exploitation do not lead victims to feel that they have little alternative but to keep quiet and accept their lot. That is an issue about the people involved and the training they receive, and also about the way the different authorities and organisations involved with victims do or do not operate and work together to focus on them as victims. I appreciate that there is a review, but we need to look at the status, standing and role of the national referral mechanism, particularly in relation to victims, and the case for putting it on a statutory footing to enhance its authority.
A number of references have been made during this debate to the proposed Anti-slavery Commissioner and the role and powers of the position. The role of the commissioner under the Bill is to encourage good practice in the identification of victims and enforcement, which is fine, but not to also have an emphasis on providing support for victims either directly or indirectly, which is not so fine. There is also the question of the independence, or lack of it, of the commissioner.
Some 25% of the victims of human trafficking identified in 2012 were children. Too often, as with adults, they seem to be regarded as immigration cases rather than trafficking victims. Of those who are rescued by the authorities and put into care, two- thirds go missing again from a system that was intended to protect them; no doubt they end up back with the only people they probably know, namely those involved in trafficking and exploiting them in the first place. We welcome the first moves towards the introduction of a system of child advocates, but will want to ensure that such an arrangement will be as strong as it needs to be. Trafficked children are not just abused; they can be led to believe that the trafficker, who may be the only adult with whom they are acquainted and who speaks their language, is their friend or relation, and end up saying and doing what the trafficker wants. We need to ensure that child advocates have the necessary authority and can act independently of local authorities in addition to acting in the best interests of the child. We also need separate offences of child exploitation and child trafficking.
Some of the worst cases of slavery that have occurred during the past two or three decades have had as their victims people who have come to the United Kingdom as a domestic employee of an international employer. We introduced the domestic workers visa, which gave an opportunity to people to get out of slavery and go to work for another employer. The Government effectively abolished those visas. Research undertaken by a charity closely involved in this area indicates that, since those visas were significantly changed, 60% of those on the new domestic workers visa, which does not allow such domestic workers to escape to another employer, were paid no salary compared with 14% on the original visa. The same research also showed that 92% of those on the Government’s new visa were unable to leave the house unaccompanied, which sounds suspiciously like slavery. Those who escape under the new visa system, which ties them to their employer, have the choice of either going back to their employer or being deported. Under the previous visa arrangements, they could have been helped to find other work.
This is not the only area that needs to be addressed in the world of work. The Gangmasters Licensing Authority has made a significant difference in preventing the exploitation of workers but only in the limited areas in which it could exert its influence and use its powers. We should look at building on the work of Gangmasters Licensing Authority by considering how that work might be extended to cover exploitation in hospitality, care and construction, as well as looking at how the law on exploitation in the workplace can be strengthened.
We recently had a short debate in this House on the importance of tackling modern slavery and the supply chains of the goods we buy that are imported from other countries from around the world. It was a debate initiated by my noble friend Lady Kennedy of Cradley. There was no reference to this issue in the Bill when it was first published, and the debate that we had in this House drew attention to that unfortunate fact. The Government subsequently put down an amendment in the last stages of the Bill’s progression through the other place. We will want to discuss that amendment during its passage through this House, since there appear to be doubts—doubts that have been expressed today—as to whether the amendment will necessarily deliver what it says on the tin.
My noble friend Lord Tunnicliffe set out the issues that we will wish to pursue and consider in more detail in Committee, and I have referred to many of them again. The Government produced a draft Bill and we have also had the benefit of pre-legislative scrutiny of the Bill by a Joint Committee which included Members of your Lordships’ House. I add my thanks to those already expressed to the members of that committee.
The Government accepted some of the changes proposed in the light of the pre-legislative scrutiny but not as many as one might have hoped. It is now a case not of opposing a Bill whose aims and objectives have been widely welcomed but, rather, trying to improve it further. It is right that our legislation should be strengthened to recognise the different forms of human trafficking and slavery and make it possible to prosecute those who enslave, abuse and exploit. It is right that penalties should be increased with the Bill, enabling trafficking offences to be given the maximum of a life sentence as well as making provisions in relation to asset seizures and reparation orders. It is right also to establish an Anti-slavery Commissioner to provide a statutory defence for victims, to lay down a duty to notify the National Crime Agency and to have undertaken work on prevention and risk orders.
However, the Bill needs to be carefully considered and improved to ensure that its terms and provisions deliver its stated objective. We need to be clear about the specific factors and considerations that allow modern slavery in its various forms to exist and expand in our country, and about whether the specific provisions in the Bill will effectively confront and eliminate or minimise those factors and considerations, as well as the difficulties over securing successful prosecutions for trafficking. It is clear from the concerns that have been expressed today, not least over support and assistance for victims, that there are real doubts that the Bill, despite its admirable intentions, will actually deliver those important objectives. This, rather than ministerial assertions about world-class legislation, will surely be the test by which the effectiveness or otherwise of the Bill will be judged, including by the victims of modern slavery themselves.
I hope that the Government will accept during further consideration of the Bill, that we should all strive to ensure that the obscenity of slavery—which in its most open and obvious forms was addressed some 200 years ago—is now decisively addressed in the Bill in the more hidden and less obvious but equally obscene forms in which it still exists in our country and in our supply chains today.
My Lords, this has been an outstanding debate to be part of and to listen to. There have been 31 excellent contributions and it is absolutely right that, before I move on, I should mention three in particular—the maiden speeches. The noble Lord, Lord Cashman, spoke of this place, having just arrived, as being public life at its best. Many of us who have been here a little longer will understand and respect that. We welcome very much his journey from the East End to the West End and hope that he is as effective and successful here. My noble friend Lady Chisholm spoke of her personal experiences in this area, from her life as a nurse and from her time dealing with those with drug and alcohol issues. Again, I think that that experience will be helpful. My noble friend Lady Mobarik brings great expertise from the world of business, which will be crucial as we get into the area of the supply chain.
I have the easy task of summing up 31 speeches, to which I have—and I counted—42 pages of notes from the Box, in not more than 15 or 20 minutes. I say at the outset that it is an impossible task. I know that many noble Lords on the other side, who have stood where I have, realise that. However, I think that, following the debate, we should perhaps respond with a substantial letter, copied to all Members. That can be a basis, as we go into Committee, for examining the many issues in much greater detail.
I recognise the passion that noble Lords have brought to the debate. Many who took part spoke from personal experience, whether it was the noble Baroness, Lady Cox, speaking with international experience of freeing people from slavery in Sudan, the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Derby, talking about his experiences in his diocese, or the noble Baroness, Lady Doocey, and my noble friend Lord McColl, with their experiences in this area.
Responding to my noble friend Lord McColl gives me the opportunity again, like the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, to pay tribute to the excellent work undertaken by the pre-legislative scrutiny committee. Often we complain about systems and processes for examining legislation in this place. I think that this might be one case where it is not complete yet but is heading in the right direction. As well as the pre-legislative scrutiny and a draft Bill, there was, as the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, mentioned, the consideration by the Joint Committee on Human Rights, which also looked at the Bill. One of the comments that more or less summed up where we were on this was made by the noble Baroness, Lady Young of Hornsey. She began her remarks by saying that she hoped that I and the noble Baroness, Lady Garden of Frognal, who is with me on the Front Bench, would be gratified by the warm reception that the legislation had received. She then proceeded over the subsequent seven minutes to tell me all the things that needed to be added to it to make it acceptable. We can all see the gaps, but it will be a long process.
I was grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, for pointing out in his winding-up speech that this is not something that we have just alighted on. It has been a long-standing problem tackled by successive Governments. As the noble Baroness, Lady Goudie, pointed out, it will have to be revisited in future. The reason for that is interesting. I had occasion to visit the National Crime Agency’s human trafficking unit to receive a report from it. It is mind-blowing to think that the things that it was telling me about are going on in this country. If it had told me that these things were going on in Sudan or North Korea, which the noble Lord, Lord Alton, mentioned, I might have believed it, but they are going on in this country.
That was why it was so important that the Centre for Social Justice, referred to by my noble friend Lady Newlove, entitled its 2013 report It Happens Here. We need humility. We tend to look around the world to point out the gaps where other people are falling short, so removing the plank from our own eye is a good place to start. One reason driving that, according to the report’s analysis, was that our action against the drug trade and the movement of weapons, guns and contraband was so successful in closing those activities down that organised crime gangs were now switching to another commodity—trafficking human beings and exploiting them. That is horrific and certainly deserves the increased sentences that we propose.
I turn to some particular issues. Given the work that my noble friend Lady Newlove does across government as Victims’ Commissioner, it is important that victims are at the heart of this. She and the newly appointed commissioner should address it and make recommendations.
My noble friend Lord McColl and many other noble Lords referred to child trafficking advocates and the importance of including them in the Bill. A number of references were made to how Northern Ireland had spelt out the responsibilities and that that was a better way forward. Of course we will look at what Northern Ireland has done, but we have taken a slightly different approach. We have simply said that we will undertake trials across 23 local authority areas, working with Barnardo’s, which will have child trafficking advocates who will speak up for the children. We will learn from that and on that basis set out in regulations what those responsibilities should be. That is exactly the same as what has happened in Northern Ireland, except that there it has happened in primary rather than secondary legislation. We feel that it is more suitable to have those responsibilities, which may be subject to change over time, dealt with in regulations rather than in the Bill.
I absolutely accept the chiding of my noble friend Lady Hanham when she said that it was critical that the evaluation of this exercise should happen promptly and that we should not waste any time. Of course that is our intention. As the Bill progresses, we will come forward with some of our early thoughts about the timing of when all that will happen.
There was reference to the national referral mechanism, which was introduced by the previous Government in 2009. It is worth putting a couple of figures on the record. In 2009, there were 535 referrals on to the national referral mechanism. Last year, that had increased to 1,746. My noble friend Lady Hamwee was on to something when she talked about the importance of raising awareness about this issue. Sadly, too few people are aware that this is something that is happening right here.
That is the role of the new commissioner. The new commissioner has very much to engage with these forces, with local authorities, to ensure that those referrals happen and that prosecutions are brought. I very much subscribe to the view of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Derby when he talked about people seeing themselves as “slavery safeguarding leads”—that is a very good way of describing it. However, out of the referrals that have happened so far, 42% came through the Home Office, 25% came through the police, 21% came through NGOs—reference has been made to some of those excellent NGOs—but only 9% came through local authorities, 2% through the National Crime Agency and 1% through the Gangmasters Licensing Authority. There is progress, but attention needs to be drawn to this issue. The role of the commissioner is very much to ensure that those numbers increase and that the number of prosecutions increases. He has to report to Parliament each year and parliamentarians will have an opportunity to give their views on his progress.
There were comments from several Members on the period for reflection—about what the figure was, whether 45 days was too short and whether it should be 90 days, as was suggested. The Council of Europe convention which provides for this said that it should be 30 days. We have said here that it should be a minimum of 45 days. That is not a maximum: in fact it will go on longer than that in many cases. There is no maximum time for this but I reassure noble Lords that that element is there. However, again, we will come back to it and look at the appropriateness of it, and of course we will get feedback on it—a lot, crucially, from the child trafficking advocates. When they have undertaken their work they will be able to offer us some feedback about it.
Several Members—I think it was the noble Baroness, Lady Howe, who focused on this—spoke about the fine balance: whether it was a criminal justice measure or something aimed at victims. The answer has to be that it is both. The crucial element we are after here is to disrupt and prevent the organised gangs which are undertaking this work. Part of that is to do with this Bill; part of it was to do with legislation we passed in the earlier Serious Crime Bill, which has now gone down to the other place with amendments. That Bill looked at tackling and restricting the work of the criminal gangs behind these activities. That is an extremely important part of it.
Several Members also referred to the supply chain. I have already referred to the noble Baroness, Lady Mobarik, but of course the noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy of Cradley, led that excellent debate on 30 October which to we have referred. It is critical that we do this. I was mindful, when she was talking about it, that I myself had had some experience of dealing with suppliers overseas. Often, if you could only get people to apply the same standards to quality of product as they do to the terms and conditions of employment of people then the problem would be solved overnight. There is no question that people here demand the highest standards of quality—they do not flinch from that for one second, because reputations depend on it. We want them to take the same approach when considering the quality and the terms and conditions which they are applying.
I cannot remember exactly who it was but there was reference to the importance these days of brands. It may have been the namesake noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy of The Shaws, so I pay tribute to her work in looking at the human rights element in this and her experience in dealing with victims at first hand. Brand is absolutely mission-critical to any business. The impact of having one of those stories which, sadly, we regularly find in our newspapers—the effect of having loose practice in supply chains—can be tremendously damaging to brands. I would have thought that it would behove any director or senior management team of any company to want to protect their brand above all things. This is a key element and the more aware that the public are of it, the more that will come to the fore.
There was reference to the Gangmasters Licensing Authority, whose work was recognised by many people and which was introduced by the previous Government. It has been a success. After the horrific example referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Alton, of the deaths in Morecambe Bay of 23 Chinese nationals, the establishment of the Gangmasters Licensing Authority brought some order into a disorderly marketplace and applied some structures. One of the problems is that whenever any organisation is successful, we immediately want to broaden its remit. Before we do that, we have to be very careful that in seeking to broaden its remit into the other, vulnerable sectors that have been mentioned, we would not undermine the good work that it is doing already. At the moment, it is doing a very focused job in an excellent way and having a positive effect in the broader fight against exploitation. We want that to continue but it is something that we will keep under review. I am sure that we will come back to it in Committee and listen very carefully to the suggestions that are made.
Several noble Lords referred to the fact that there are far too few prosecutions. My noble friend Lady Hodgson asked me to confirm the paltry number of prosecutions which have been brought forward, compared to the scale of the problem of which we are aware. I think that the noble Lord, Lord Warner, also referred to our needing to do much more to increase the number of convictions. I know this is coming back to a criminal justice focus but there is no doubt that when people see regular, severe sentences being handed out which meet the scale of the crime, that will act as a deterrent effect—as has happened in other areas of organised criminal activity. To do that, it is absolutely critical that we provide more support to victims so that they feel that they can come forward and bring their concerns to the public without fearing that they will end up in the dock, when it is the criminals who have brought them here or exploited them. I think that a lot of the measures that area are broadly welcomed.
In terms of the statutory footing, I am running out of time so I will be into the territory of reaching for that letter faster than I thought. However, the international effort is really important and we are already talking about it with the Department for International Development, which I know was referred to, and the FCO, which is working to see what more can be done in tackling this, as well as the National Crime Agency, which is working overseas as well.
I should probably be drawing my remarks to a close there. Again, I apologise to your Lordships for not being able to address all the points which have been made. I hope that we have provided some reassurance that, in the words of the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, we are no longer walking by on the other side and closing our eyes to this problem. I look forward to debating all these issues and more in Committee and I am sure that they will be debated in the informed, constructive and engaged spirit that has made tonight such an impressive occasion. At the heart of our further deliberations on the Bill should be the victim. I have no doubt that the true mark of the success of the Bill, and our continued fight against modern slavery, will be fewer victims whose lives are blighted by modern slavery.
I am very happy to give the noble Lord that assurance. Many hundreds of points have been raised, but the substantive points will certainly be covered and that will form the basis of our discussions in Committee. Fewer victims whose lives are blighted by modern slavery is what we all seek, and I commend the Bill to the House.
Bill read a second time and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.
Criminal Justice and Data Protection (Protocol No. 36) Regulations 2014
Motion to Approve
That the draft regulations laid before the House on 3 November be approved, and to move to resolve that this House thereby endorses the Government’s formal application to rejoin 35 European Union Justice and Home Affairs measures.
Relevant documents: 13th Report (Session 2012-13) and 5th Report (Session 2013-14) from the European Union Committee, 12th Report from the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments (special attention drawn to the instrument), 13th Report from the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee, 1st Report from the Extradition Law Committee
My Lords, we return to a detailed European matter that, over the last 18 months, has become very familiar to many in this House. Indeed, this is the third time the House has debated this matter on a government Motion this year alone. I remind noble Lords of the background to this matter. Protocol 36 is the part of the Lisbon treaty which relates to the United Kingdom’s opt-out from those policing and criminal justice measures which were adopted before the Lisbon treaty came into force. The opt-out provisions are unique to the United Kingdom and were negotiated by the previous Administration.
Under the terms of Protocol 36, the United Kingdom had to decide before the end of May 2014 whether we wished to opt out of all those police and criminal justice measures, around 135 in all, which predate the Lisbon treaty. This opt-out had to be exercised en masse: we could not simply leave the measures that we did not like. In July last year this House endorsed the Government’s decision to exercise this opt-out and we have until 1 December to notify the Council which measures we would like to remain party to. However, this process must be completed well in advance of December. As a result of the final member state, Spain, not lifting its reserve on the deal we negotiated until 10 days ago, we are running short of time.
The Government have always been clear that, in exercising the UK’s opt-out, we wanted to remain part of a smaller number of measures which give our police and law enforcement agencies vital and practical help in the fight against crime. In July last year, this House endorsed 35 measures, set out in Command Paper 8671, which help our law enforcement agencies to tackle serious crime and keep this country safe. That package was the product of careful deliberation in this House and beyond. It follows consultation with the police, the Crown Prosecution Service, our security and intelligence agencies, the devolved Administrations, the Lord Advocate in Scotland, the Government of Gibraltar, victims’ groups and many more. It has been scrutinised by parliamentary committees in both Houses.
I pay tribute to the work carried out by the EU Committee of this House in scrutinising these matters and thank the Committee for its well considered and very detailed reports. I express my thanks to the noble Lords, Lord Hannay and Lord Boswell, and to the noble Baronesses, Lady Corston and Lady Prashar, for their leadership on this matter and for the guidance that they have provided to the House.
In July this year my noble friend Lord Taylor of Holbeach addressed this House with an update on the Government’s negotiations. He informed the House that good progress had been made in negotiations with the European Commission and other member states, and that we were close to reaching an in-principle agreement. My noble friend also informed the House that this matter had been discussed at the General Affairs Council in June but that some member states—Austria, Poland and Spain—had expressed technical reservations.
The Government published another Command Paper, 8897, which included the full list of measures included in the in-principle agreement discussed at the General Affairs Council, and impact assessments on each of those measures. The Government had hoped to be able to provide a further opportunity for Parliament to consider this matter before the Summer Recess, but the reservations expressed by other member states meant that it was not possible to do so. In September two of those member states lifted their reserves, and I am pleased to be able to inform the House that Spain, the remaining member state blocking the deal, formally lifted its reservation in Brussels 10 days ago.
The deal that the Government have negotiated in Europe is a very good one for the UK. The package of 35 measures that we would like to remain part of includes Europol, which does excellent work under its British director, Rob Wainwright, to tackle cross-border crimes. It includes Eurojust, which facilitates co-operation between our police and prosecutors and their European counterparts, and has proved instrumental in the prosecution of animal rights extremists here in the UK.
The package includes the second generation Schengen Information System or SIS II, which will further strengthen our ability to detect foreign criminals at the border, including individuals wanted in their own countries for serious crimes such as rape and murder. It also includes the Council decision on child pornography, which ensures that international co-operation to tackle this abhorrent crime is prioritised and that collective pressure is put on internet companies to tackle the disgusting crime of online child sex abuse wherever it takes place.
I shall say a little about the timing and format of the decision before the House today, as I know that it is a matter of interest to many. Now that the final reservation has been lifted on our deal, we must allow for discussion at the Council in Brussels before the month is out. That means that we do not have long to complete our domestic processes. This means we must be ready to ensure that we can transpose those measures that are not yet fully transposed in our domestic law on 1 December. It is therefore very important that this House completes the necessary legislative steps as soon as possible. The other place has already voted by a substantial majority to do so.
The Government propose to transpose the measures in the regulations using Section 2(2) of the European Communities Act 1972, but we do not have the vires to do so until 1 December. That is why we have chosen to bring forward an affirmative instrument to enable the House to see the regulations and debate the whole package of 35 measures that we will seek to rejoin. Many of those measures are inextricably bound together, and all of them are the result of a successful negotiation. That is why we are asking the House to consider them as a package and take a single decision on a single Motion.
The amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Boswell, questions the Government’s approach to this matter. I reassure him and other noble Lords that there is nothing nefarious about this approach. Noble Lords will of course be aware that almost all these measures, including the European arrest warrant, have already been endorsed by this House in the vote of July 2013. Unlike in the other place, it is open to us in this House to amend the normal Motion for approving affirmative instruments to make reference to the package of 35 measures that the Government will seek to rejoin. That is why the Government have amended the Motion to put beyond doubt that we see tonight’s debate and decision, just as we saw the debate and decision in the other place last week, as on the whole package of 35 measures that the Government will seek to rejoin in the national interest.
The decision before the House today is no different from the decision that was before the other place last week. The Home Secretary made clear throughout that debate that a vote to approve the Motion would be a vote in favour of the wider package of 35 measures. The House of Commons approved that Motion, and it remains the Government’s intention to rejoin the whole package of police and criminal justice measures, as it is in the national interest so to do. It is now time for this House to make the same decision.
I acknowledge the amendment to the Motion tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Boswell. I have explained why the Government have proceeded in the way that we have, and I believe that the Government have gone out of our way to provide opportunities for this House to consider this matter over the past year. I urge noble Lords to ensure that, when they consider the amendment, they focus on the proceedings in this House today. As I have explained, only a certain number of the 35 measures require transposing through the regulations before the House today.
Before I go further, I say how grateful I am for the work done in short order by the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee of this House, led admirably and skilfully by the noble Lord, Lord Goodlad. It would be remiss of me not to mention the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments and the helpful work that it has undertaken to assist the Government with their preparation of the SI that we are debating.
The regulations include the measures which provide for the freezing and confiscation of criminal assets and which will simplify the current processes significantly. The regulations also make provision to give effect to the European supervision order in England and Wales and in Northern Ireland. This allows British subjects to be bailed back to the UK, rather than spend months abroad awaiting trial.
Another measure covered by the regulations is the European Criminal Record Information System, or ECRIS. It also includes the Swedish initiative which simplifies the exchange of information and intelligence between law enforcement agencies, and the data protection measure protecting personal data transferred in the fight against crime. These all require transposing, and are covered in the regulations.
Another measure covered by the regulations provides for joint investigation teams between our police and their European counterparts. These allow our police to participate in cross-border operations such as Operation Birkhill, which saw five criminals sentenced to a total of 36 years’ imprisonment this summer for their involvement in the degrading trafficking of over 120 women from Hungary, the Czech Republic and Poland into the UK, or Operation Rico, which resulted in 110 arrests, mostly in the UK and Spain. We are also seeking to remain part of the prisoner transfer framework decision, which helps us to remove foreign criminals from British jails.
The remaining measures from our package which require transposing are the mutual recognition of financial penalties, which increases the effectiveness of financial sanctions by providing that they can be enforced across the EU, and a measure ensuring consistency with regard to trials in absentia, providing safeguards for dependants.
I am aware that the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee considered these regulations last week and felt that more information was required on the policy objectives of these instruments. I hope that today’s debate has helped to clarify some of these matters. This is a hugely complex matter and the Government are limited by the guidance on the length of these documents. There are many lengthy documents, including two Command Papers referred to in the Explanatory Memoranda, that sit alongside the substantial evidence provided to the committees of this House and the other place that set this out in full. The Government will respond to the committee and will support any further scrutiny that they undertake.
I turn to the European arrest warrant. Noble Lords will be aware that the Government have legislated to reform the operation of the arrest warrant and increase the protections offered to British people and others who are wanted for extradition. The changes that we have made through the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act mean that the arrest warrant which sits in our package of 35 measures is a better and safer arrest warrant than the one which operated over the last decade.
First, the Government have changed the law to ensure arrest warrants are refused for those suspected of minor offences. A British judge now considers whether the alleged offence and likely penalty are sufficient to make someone’s extradition proportionate. And a British judge considers whether there are measures less coercive than extradition that are available to foreign authorities.
Secondly, the Government have clarified the rules on dual criminality to ensure that an arrest warrant must be refused if all or part of the conduct for which a person is wanted took place in the UK and is not a criminal offence in this country. The National Crime Agency is now refusing arrest warrants where it is obvious that the dual criminality test has not been met. It has done so nearly 40 times since our reforms came into force in July.
Thirdly, the Government have changed the law to require that a decision to charge and a decision to try the person have been made by the requesting country before they can be extradited. That will help to prevent lengthy periods of pre-trial detention, which I know have been of concern to many noble Lords, as they have been to the Government. All these provisions have been made in UK law and came into effect earlier this year. All our reforms are based on existing law and practice in other member states and are already making an important difference to the operation of the arrest warrant.
The package of measures in which the arrest warrant sits is a set of vital tools for our police and law enforcement agencies. That package represents a good deal for the United Kingdom which will keep this country and its inhabitants safe, and bring criminals to justice. We must now vote to seal that deal and transpose those measures which require transposing. I beg to move.
Amendment to the Motion
My Lords, my amendment to the Motion expresses regret at the inappropriate manner in which the Government have sought parliamentary approval for their application to rejoin the 35 justice and home affairs measures.
Nevertheless, in moving this critical amendment I thank the Minister for his efforts in his introduction to this debate. This is an important issue which deserves calm and considered debate. I trust that the wording of the Motion before us, which the Government amended late last Tuesday—just before we went for a short break—so as to include explicit reference to the 35 measures, along with the Minister’s thoughtful opening, mean that we will not see any repeat of the chaotic and acrimonious scenes that were played out in the House of Commons this time last week.
The amendment, which I have tabled with the support of the European Union Committee, which I chair, refers to undertakings by Ministers. I should begin by putting those before the House. They could hardly have been clearer. On 15 October 2012, the Home Secretary said to the House of Commons:
“I hope that today I have conveyed to the House not only the Government’s full commitment to holding a vote on the 2014 decision in this House and the other place, but the importance that we will accord to Parliament in the process leading up to that vote”.—[Official Report, Commons, 15/10/12; col. 35.]
That was more than two years ago. As recently as 8 May of this year, the noble Lord, Lord Faulks, who is of course in his place, repeated the Home Secretary’s undertaking on the Floor of this House, saying:
“The Government have been clear throughout this process that Parliament will be given a vote on the final list of measures that the Government apply to rejoin, and I am happy to repeat that commitment today”.—[Official Report, 8/5/14; col. 1587.]
It is thus crystal clear that the Government explicitly promised both Houses a vote on the “final list of measures” that the United Kingdom would be rejoining. This is not a recent matter; it has been understood on all sides for more than two years.
I emphasise the words “final list”, not because of pedantry but because the list has changed substantially over time. It is all very well for the Minister to say that we had a debate in July, but at the time of that debate the Government’s list and the Commission’s list were different. Even on 5 August, when the Home Office and the Ministry of Justice wrote to the Committee, they were unable to confirm that their list was final, although they did not at that time “anticipate” any further changes. It was not until 30 October—less than three weeks ago—that Ministers finally wrote to confirm that negotiations with the Commission had finished and that there would be no further changes to the list.
I will make one further observation on the Government’s account of our debate in July, which was given in a letter I received from the Leader of the House earlier today. The Government claim that the debate on the package of measures, which took place in this House on 17 July, was on—and I quote from the Leader’s letter—an “amendable and divisible motion”. I remind Members of the House of the wording of that Motion. It was:
“That this House has considered the United Kingdom’s Justice and Home Affairs Opt-Outs”.
Are the Government really saying that the House, if it wanted to vote, should have voted on the question of whether or not it had considered the opt-out—on an entirely neutral statement of fact debated as last business on a Thursday? Frankly, the Government should really stop digging on this.
Moving on, on 3 November the Government laid draft regulations before Parliament, the effect of which, as the Minister said, will be to transpose 10 of the 35 relevant measures contained in the final list into UK law. I note in passing that these 10 measures are not new. For example, the European supervision order was adopted in 2009, with a deadline for implementation in December 2012. The EU Committee accordingly recommended its immediate transposition into UK law in January 2013. Noble Lords may well wonder why it has taken so long for this Government finally to get their act together and comply with obligations which they had themselves entered into.
More generally, I think that the House should be aware that the draft regulations were laid only because the European Commission, quite reasonably, required that the 10 measures be transposed into United Kingdom law before it would ratify the United Kingdom’s application to rejoin them. These regulations make no mention of key measures—essential, as the Minister said, to United Kingdom national interests—which we are seeking to rejoin, among them the European arrest warrant and the Europol and Eurojust decisions, which are outwith the specific regulations.
Nevertheless, the Government in the House of Commons, instead of tabling a Motion inviting that House to approve the Government’s decision to rejoin the final list of 35 measures, as they had undertaken to do and which they could have done with no difficulty, tabled a Motion merely to approve the draft regulations. Ministers sought to present this as a vote on the complete package, but it was immediately obvious to anyone with the slightest understanding of the issues that it would not wash, and last Monday the whole thing predictably and spectacularly blew up in the Government’s face.
The same approach was initially tried with the earlier Motion—the one initially tabled in this House. The Motion tabled by the Government on Monday night was also a simple approval Motion, but in the course of Tuesday either the extent of the disaster sank in or wiser counsels prevailed, because by Tuesday evening the Government had in effect hauled up the white flag by tacking a measure for resolution Motion endorsing the Government’s application on to the basic approval Motion for the regulations.
Of course, I welcome that change because it goes at least a small way to fulfilling the Government’s repeated undertakings. However, while from a procedural point of view the Government are entitled to use pretty much whatever word they like in a Motion for resolution, from a logical perspective the Motion is utterly incoherent. It states that a big decision endorsing the application to opt in to all 35 measures, including the vital European arrest warrant, Europol and Eurojust, is somehow implicit in a rather small decision to approve regulations transposing just 10 technical measures out of the 35 into domestic law. This really is nonsense. The Motion seems to be more about the Home Secretary saving face than about submitting government actions to proper parliamentary scrutiny and oversight. I am afraid that this is disappointingly typical behaviour in some of these technical matters from the Government, and from the Home Office in particular.
Of course, the European Union is not perfect—very far from it—but I am clear that United Kingdom membership of, and constructive engagement with, the EU is overwhelmingly in our national interest and in the interests of our friends in the other 27 member states. The United Kingdom is stronger in the European Union and the European Union is stronger with the United Kingdom in it. I think that this engages very much with the issues that the House is discussing tonight.
It follows that all of us—Ministers and parliamentarians alike—have a collective responsibility to engage critically but constructively with the European Union and its institutions. This, indeed, is the work which this House has remitted to our European Union Committee and its six sub-committees. I am hugely proud of the work we do, and every one of our 74 Members in promoting that kind of constructive engagement. That is why we have been scrutinising the United Kingdom’s block opt-out and the decision to opt back into these 35 measures so closely and for so long. In fairness to the Minister, he has acknowledged that.
The problem now is a handling issue. The Government—particularly the Home Office—seem to be crippled by fear. Instead of encouraging a frank debate and a clear vote on their decision, they have resorted to undignified and ultimately self-defeating procedural dodges. For the avoidance of doubt, I emphasise that I fully support the Government’s application to rejoin the 35 measures. Indeed, my committee urged the Government to opt back into some more of the 130 measures that were originally subject to the United Kingdom’s block opt-out. If it were to come to a vote I would support the Government’s Motion, whether or not it had been amended.
I am also confident that the House, if given a proper opportunity for an informed debate on the European arrest warrant and the decisions on Europol and Eurojust and all 35 measures, would listen to the arguments and in the end, not unanimously but overwhelmingly, support the Government’s application. It is a shame that that debate, instead of being held openly and with proper warning—after all we have known it has been coming for five years—has been tacked on an inappropriate Motion, the wording of which was changed at the last minute and which will be decided conspicuously late on a Monday evening.
I repeat that I am genuinely grateful to the Minister for his attempt to deal with these issues and present them to the House, and for his genuine willingness in other contexts to engage with the European Committee and the House. However, I would say, with great respect, that the department to which he belongs needs to wake up to its responsibilities, to take parliamentary scrutiny and accountability seriously and, if I may say so, to start making the case for the United Kingdom’s continuing engagement with the European Union. I have said my piece and look forward to the debate. I beg to move.
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Bates, for introducing this Motion, albeit that he did so at a somewhat galloping pace, which is perhaps not surprising after the marathon that he has already performed today. I agree with the criticisms of the procedures made by the noble Lord, Lord Boswell, although, unlike him, I have some wider reservations about the whole 35 measures that the Government propose to opt into.
The noble Lord, Lord Boswell, talked about the procedure in this House and in the Commons. Of course, a very important point in the other place was that a specific vote was promised on the issue of the arrest warrant. That is an extremely important point. In November 2013 the House of Commons European Security Committee concluded that the vote on opting back in,
“should ensure there is a genuine opportunity for the House to determine the measures the Government intends to rejoin. To consider the 35 measures as a ‘block opt-in’, subject to one motion, would be seriously to misconceive the individual significance of some of the measures … We ask the Government to reflect this by … tabling separate motions for each of the measures in which it wishes to opt back in”.
That was in paragraphs 571 to 574 of the report.
It was a great pity that there was not a specific debate on the arrest warrant as it was impossible for Members of the House of Commons to talk about individual cases as they affected individuals. When one Member of Parliament, Mr Wiggin, attempted to do that, to give an illustration of what this meant for one of his constituents, he was told by the Speaker that he could not go on describing that and that it was out of order.
My second important point is that the European Scrutiny Committee in the House of Commons concluded that the opt-out, combined with the Government’s proposals for opting back into certain laws, represented no significant repatriation of powers from the EU. Indeed, the Home Affairs Committee thought that it could result in a net flow of powers to the EU, given the introduction of full European Court of Justice jurisdiction. This is because of the relative impact of the laws the Government wish to back into, measured against the lesser importance of many of the other measures under the opt-out.
Another important question is whether we have legally binding agreements, treaties or co-operation. In their command paper of July 2013, the Government said that, in some cases, there was no need for legally binding agreements for practical co-operation to take place with other EU countries to tackle cross-border crime. In the case of some of the 35 EU laws which the Government propose to opt back into, the need for binding law is highly questionable. For example, do we really need to have supranational measures to deal with the exchange of information between member states to police international football matches? The Government also said that, where a binding agreement is needed, an alternative to opting back into EU legislation—which is irreversible and entails full ECJ jurisdiction—is a bilateral treaty between the UK and the EU as a whole. This could apply to extradition.
A fundamental problem with opting back into these EU laws with full ECJ jurisdiction was expressed by the Government in 2012 in response to the European Committee of this House. They stated:
“The practical effect of the ECJ gaining full jurisdiction in this area after the transitional period from 1 December 2014 is that the ECJ may interpret these measures expansively and beyond the scope originally intended. This concern is compounded by the fact that the ECJ has previously ruled in the area of Justice and Home Affairs in unexpected and unhelpful ways from a UK perspective”.
Those are not my words but the words of the Government, and we should take them extremely seriously.
Instead of opting back into the legislation, an alternative would be a new bilateral treaty on the matters in question. This would have the following advantages. The UK would negotiate as a sovereign state regarding the relevant matters. A UK-EU bilateral treaty would enable the UK to avoid coming under the jurisdiction of the ECJ; we could apply different rules and safeguards for British citizens. It would also allow us to withdraw from it if it began operating against the national interest; it would not be frozen in aspic for ever.
I am grateful to the noble Lord for giving way. He has quoted extensively from the committees in another place and from evidence given by Ministers but he has not seen fit to refer once to the two reports made to this House. Could he come on to those, because they answer every single point he has made?
The noble Lord can, I am sure, speak and answer my points. I have not yet finished my speech: I have quite a few more points to make. I know that the committee in this place went in a completely different direction from those in the House of Commons. I confess that I found those in the House of Commons more persuasive than the committee in this House. However, it is, as always, open to the noble Lord to speak and I am sure he will do so as persuasively and charmingly tonight as he always does.
Pursuing the point about a bilateral treaty between ourselves and the EU, there is a precedent for this. Denmark has its own opt-out on justice and home affairs and concluded three treaties with the EC prior to the Lisbon treaty. The point is often made that the three EU-Denmark treaties under the provision are subject to the ECJ. That is true, but it does not follow that a UK-EU agreement would have to be: it depends entirely on what we say. It depends what the Government negotiate. A UK-EU treaty could provide an alternative dispute mechanism as the EU has some treaties with various other countries. Of course, I accept that a treaty would take time, but the EU treaty—specifically Article 10(4) of the Protocol on Transitional Provisions—allows the Council on a proposal from the Commission to agree to transitional arrangements in the light of the opt-out. The UK could ask for the relevant pieces of the EU legislation, such as the arrest warrant, to continue to apply for a period of time that allowed for the conclusion of a replacement bilateral treaty. That would not entail opting back in—which is, as I say, irreversible.
The Government have argued that the protocol provides for continued application of the EU legislation only for a very short period of time—weeks or days—and then only on the basis that the UK would be opting back in. But that is not what the Government have always said. On 3 November 2014, the Government said as part of their evidence to the European Scrutiny Committee in the Commons that the EU had “wide power” under Article 10(4) to adopt consequential and transitional arrangements. Even if the Government’s contradictory claims of the narrowness of Article 10(4) is correct—and the text of the protocol, I am informed, does not provide much evidence for that—fast-track EU legislation under the main justice and home affairs section could be used, entering into force immediately after the block opt-out took place on 1 December. That could apply to the relevant EU laws for a period of time.
I will try to be brief, but I now turn to the arrest warrant. I acknowledge what the Minister said about two changes that have been made that he said make it “safer”. The first was proportionality and the second was the test of whether a decision to charge and try had been taken. I welcome the change on proportionality, but I note the considerable worries about this expressed by the Law Society. The society, in evidence to the House of Commons Home Affairs Committee—I apologise for referring to that committee, but that was where the evidence was given—said that,
“we do have some concerns regarding legal certainty and whether this proposal would be in accordance with the underlying Framework Decision”.
In its response to the Government’s review of extradition arrangements arranged in 2007, the Law Society of England and Wales said that,
“there are clearly shortcomings in the EAW scheme, such as the lack of a proportionality test, which cannot be addressed by UK implementing legislation alone but only by amendments to the EAW scheme itself”—
that is to say at the European level. It is not enough to do it at UK level because it is subject to the ECJ.
I come now to the more important issue, which is the question of whether a decision to charge and try has been taken. I acknowledge the great expertise and knowledge of my noble friend Lord Faulks—I am not sure whether he or my noble friend Lord Bates will reply to the debate—but there is a distinction between charging and trying. I notice from an Answer to a Parliamentary Question asked by, I believe, the honourable Member Mr Jacob Rees-Mogg that no arrest warrants had been blocked under this test to charge and to try since it came into force in July, even though 302 extraditions from the UK have taken place under the EAW in that period.
While a country may take a decision to try, that does not necessarily mean that it is ready to conduct the trial immediately. In addition, the UK legislation makes a distinction between a decision to charge and a decision to try, requiring both to be satisfied. However, Article 1 of the EU legislation establishing the EAW says that an EAW is issued,
“for the purposes of conducting a criminal prosecution or executing a custodial sentence”.
I ask the Minister whether requiring a decision to try in addition to a decision to charge will be deemed by the ECJ to be compatible with EU legislation. That is the point. This will now be justiciable by the ECJ.
Furthermore, it is highly unlikely that these changes to the Extradition Act would have stopped the extradition of Andrew Symeou. I will not go into the details of this case. It has been highly publicised. People tried to refer to it briefly in the debate in the House of Commons. There is also the case of Mr Garry Mann. Both men gave evidence to the Home Affairs Committee in the House of Commons. In Mr Symeou’s case the Greek authorities had made the decision to take him to trial at the point of his extradition, even though there was subsequently a very long delay before he was actually brought to trial.
Since the Extradition Act was passed, British courts have also been able to consider whether carrying out an EAW would violate the subject’s human rights under the Human Rights Act. These include the right to a fair trial and the right to liberty, which includes the right of the arrested person to be brought promptly before a judge. However, British courts have applied this safeguard restrictively and it is not stopping the many injustices that have occurred to date under the EAW. The test has not been altered with this year’s reforms to the Extradition Act. If British courts began applying the test more generously, they could surely be overwritten again by the European Court of Justice, which may give more weight to speedy extradition as a component of European integration and a vigorous enforcement of individual rights.
The basic flaw in the European arrest warrant, which has been stated many times, is the concept of giving parity of esteem within the European Union to different legal systems. Frankly, without being rude about other countries, I believe that there is no way that the legal systems of post-communist Balkan countries could be equated with those of our own or of western Europe. That is precisely why the Government have programmes to give assistance on justice and home affairs and why they spend money and send Ministers to advise these countries on how to improve their systems.
There have been a number of cases of British subjects who have suffered appallingly. I will not go into them in detail. Mr Symeou was one such case. In the Mail on Sunday this weekend there was a case that I had not heard of before, concerning a Mr Hainsworth and a terrifying experience in Greece. There were also the cases of Garry Mann and Mr Dines.
It is often forgotten that standing trial abroad, when charged abroad, is very different from standing trial in one’s own country. First, language facilities may not be available. That ought to be a basic right, but often that is not the case. People do not understand what is going on. Secondly, often there is no bail abroad. Logically, if you have a Euro-arrest warrant system, you ought to have a Euro-bail system. Yet people who are extradited to Greece or to Balkan countries are then refused bail on the grounds that they have come from a foreign country and there is a risk of flight. There are of course the extra costs as well. Lastly, as I have observed, remand conditions in many of these countries are simply appalling. We have an NGO, which used to be called Fair Trials Abroad and is now called Fair Trials International, because of the difficulty that individuals get into when they are extradited and face charges abroad. That presumably is why so many countries have been historically reluctant to extradite their own nationals.
The point has been made, and I know it will be made again and again in this debate, that the EAW is not just about extraditing UK citizens abroad; it is also about the people whom we want to extradite—vastly more numbers, we are told: the terrorists, the paedophiles—and get them back here. Of course that is true, but we cannot regard this as just some sort of balance of trade, with so many one way, so many the other—as long as we get people back from abroad, if a few of our own citizens are wrongly imprisoned, so what?
It used to be said that it was better for five guilty men to go free than for one innocent man to be wrongly imprisoned. That principle—that value—seems to have been completely and totally forgotten. Of course we want people to be extradited back here, but I am absolutely convinced that if we were to attempt to have a treaty with other countries and negotiate with other countries as a bloc, it would be in their interests, just as it is in our interests, to negotiate an extradition arrangement. Italy, France and Germany are not going to refuse to extradite terrorists back to us simply because we have a different institutional arrangement.
Frankly, I am amazed that there is not more concern about this issue. Yes, it is our duty to protect British citizens against terrorism. That is true, but it is also our duty to ensure that British citizens have fair justice. I am afraid to say that I am not so far convinced that the proposals that the Government have brought forward actually achieve that. I shall listen to my noble friend’s arguments but I remain profoundly sceptical about and worried by these proposals.
My Lords, I listened with great attention, as I always do, to the criticisms made by the noble Lord, Lord Lamont, of the 35 measures and the European arrest warrant. I thought that his points made no sense at all. His principal objection to the European arrest warrant seemed to be that it involved the jurisdiction of the ECJ, but then a few sentences later, having complained about the ECJ, he started complaining about the British courts and said that they were too restrictive in applying rights. Well, if you did not have the ECJ you would presumably be entirely and exclusively at the mercy of British justice. He does not like British justice, he does not like the ECJ—what exactly does he like?
The noble Lord then complained about the fact that we did not have exactly the same procedures for handling criminal cases in all the member states of the European Union. Surely if he wants some standardisation of procedures, which is a perfectly reasonable thing to demand, what he wants is indeed a treaty and what he wants to do is to support the Commission with its road map on procedural rights, which I hope he is aware of, which takes us in exactly that direction. But presumably he would not support that proposal because it is European. It is quite clear that his objection, as is always the objection of Eurosceptics to practical, sensible measures in this field, is entirely theological. One cannot do anything about that kind of impenetrable theology but one can at least try to make sure that as a House, as a whole, we look at the national interest in a cool, calm and logical fashion. That attitude has been notably missing from this whole debate over the past two or three years.
I have very little sympathy for the Government over this. The Government last week tried to make a fool of the House of Commons, which is a very undesirable thing for a Government to try to do. They ended up making fools of themselves and no doubt they are very conscious of that at the moment. The way that they have treated this House, as the noble Lord, Lord Boswell, so lucidly set out, is pretty close to duplicitous at times. It is very worrying indeed that we should be treated in that fashion.
The whole thing is completely unnecessary and pointless. It was quite obvious from the beginning that the Government were going to get parliamentary approval for these measures. It was equally quite obvious from the beginning that there was no need whatever, on substance, to opt out of anything at all. There is no objection in terms of national interest—nor has anybody ever suggested it from the government Benches—to any of the measures that we are not opting back in to. They were all secondary, technical measures or else they were redundant or obsolete. They could have been left quite happily and quite safely to wither on the vine. If we had wanted to make some changes in them, we could have negotiated changes.
Where we have in fact gone forward with these 35 measures, we have succeeded very well, I think. I congratulate the Government on getting some practical improvements—for example, in the area of proportionality in the case of the European arrest warrant—and I gather that we have persuaded the Poles, who were issuing warrants far too lightly and easily, to desist from that. That is the way forward, of course, in the European Union generally: quiet, sensible and constructive diplomacy. That works and confrontation does not.
I have to say to the noble Lord, Lord Lamont, and others who think it will be possible to negotiate a treaty between the European Union and the United Kingdom to replace the 35 measures, who is to say that the European Union would agree to anything of the kind? There are very considerable constitutional difficulties about the European Union. It is not provided for in the treaties at all—having a treaty with a member state of itself. It is a very peculiar philosophical and constitutional concept indeed. I do not think it is a precedent that the Union would wish to extend. It certainly has no reason to do so at the present time. Its obvious answer would be, “If the United Kingdom has come out with all these bizarre new proposals and suggestions and special requests, we will have to look at them all together. Since we are going to have a renegotiation by 2017, maybe we will look at it then in that context”. Some of our partners would not want to be helpful at all. As the House knows, Spain, until 10 days ago, was actually objecting to our opting back in. No doubt it would have come to us and said, “We would like a concession on Gibraltar or something in return for our support”. We would have ended up in a complete mare’s nest going down that path. Thank goodness that we did not. It would have been extremely dangerous.
I have to say, in case it has not already come to the attention of every Member of the House, that there is not a single police force or anybody connected to the criminal justice community in this country who does not think that these 35 measures are absolutely necessary, including, of course, the European arrest warrant. There is nobody who has been dealing with them to whom I have spoken who does not think that the experience of these measures has actually been a very happy one for this country. We have enormously increased the effectiveness of law enforcement. I have the figures here. We have now managed to get extraditions from EU partner states in an average of 45 days. It used to be, under the old 1957 convention, an average of 18 months. I say to the noble Lord, Lord Lamont, that we often did not get terrorists repatriated. I remember very clearly that, when I was shadow Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, the Government of the Irish Republic were most reluctant to allow us to repatriate some very nasty terrorists. It was a major political issue in Ireland and Ministers in Ireland were under considerable political pressure not to extradite. A number of very nasty terrorists managed to get away with murders and less onerous offences as a result of that. That is the system that worked badly. The present one is working well. In 2013, the last year for which there are figures, the EU surrendered 127 suspects to the United Kingdom and the UK surrendered 1,126 arrested persons to other EU countries, 96% of whom were not British citizens but were citizens of other countries, mostly other EU countries. We were well rid of those suspected malefactors and we would not have been able to get rid of them before in the same way.
The arrest warrant is working extremely well. You do not, if you are sensible in life, throw over and destroy a mechanism—particularly if it is a complicated mechanism that depends on the co-operation of 28 other nation states—unless there are very sound reasons for doing so in substance. Not a single sound reason for doing so in substance has come to my attention either in this debate or in the debates in the House of Commons which I tried to follow last week. This House should support the Government on the substance of these issues. I pay tribute to the way that they handled their dealings with the European Union on this matter in substance, while berating them over, and regretting very profoundly, the way that they think they can treat Parliament. They must not be allowed to get away with that; they must remember that. They must never try on again the tactics that they used either in the House of Commons last week or those that they have used—as the noble Lord, Lord Boswell, set out—in dealing with this matter in the House of Lords. It is quite a disgraceful episode and it should be carved on the record of this Government that they actually descended—quite unnecessarily, quite absurdly—to such very disgraceful behaviour.
My Lords, on behalf of these Benches, I strongly welcome the prospect of finalising renewed participation in the 35 measures, even if the procedures—as outlined by the noble Lord, Lord Boswell—have been far from ideal. It is, as other noble Lords have said, axiomatic that cross-border co-operation against major crime and terrorism is essential for the security of the UK and the safety of its people. Just this evening, the London Evening Standard headline is: “Met war on 200 cyber crime gangs”. You do not really need to read the rest to know that their operations are extending across the United States, Russia and the rest of Europe.
I am proud of the Liberal Democrats’ role in this coalition. As my noble friend Lord Stoneham said in the debate on 17 July:
“I hate to think what would have happened if the disciplines and the support of the coalition had not been in place”.—[Official Report, 17/7/14; col. 753.]
However, perhaps we would not have chosen to start from here. I say to the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Stamford, that the opportunity of the opt-out—in the words of the EU Committee, its origins are obscure—was essentially drawn up on the back of an envelope by the previous Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, on the margins of the intergovernmental conference in Lisbon seven years ago, presumably to avoid a referendum. The former Home Secretary Charles Clarke has said that he regretted that it had been negotiated, so perhaps there has to be some humility on the Benches opposite about why we are in what the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, has referred to as,
“the infernal machinery of Protocol 36”.—[Official Report, 17/7/14; col. 761.]
There were strong arguments that measures that were old or defunct could have been allowed to wither on the vine. The idea that the European Commission was going to concern itself with pursuing infringement proceedings for some ancient joint action from the 1990s was fanciful; it will have an enormous amount on its hands just making sure that 28 member states properly implement the most important measures, including the European arrest warrant.
It is unfortunate that this decision is preceding rather than following the results of the balance of competences review on policing and criminal justice, because that review could have enlightened the decision-making on this exercise, but I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Stamford, that it needs to be a pragmatic, not an ideological, exercise.
UK leadership on justice and security is very strong and these Benches believe that it must continue. We have had two British directors-general in the European Commission dealing with these matters; as has already been noted by the noble Lord, Lord Bates, the current director of Europol, Rob Wainwright, is British; we have had two British presidents of Eurojust; the present Lord Chief Justice, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Thomas, was—as Sir John Thomas—chairman of the European Networks of Councils for the Judiciary in 2008 to 2010; we had the European Police College here, although it is no longer; and we have had judges and advocates-general in the Court of Justice.
Given that we are so strong, with a strong reputation for the credibility of our police—notwithstanding a few recent problems—and given the depth of reputation of our judges and our upholding of the rule of law, we should lead in this area of justice and policing. Our not doing so is having an unfortunate effect on negotiations in Brussels on the measures that we are trying to opt in to. That is perhaps not so much the case in the Council of Ministers but, from my recent experience up till last May in the European Parliament, I know that it is difficult to persuade MEPs to make changes, as they should, to accommodate the common law if they are not sure whether the UK will participate. Some of those changes are ones that they are prepared to make, but they would not be necessary if we were not around. It is necessary for the European Commission to do some spring-cleaning of the list of old measures and it is a pity that it did not do that before this exercise had to be undertaken.
I understand the frustrations expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Boswell, and strongly thank him and his colleagues, the chairmen and the previous chairmen of Sub-Committees E and F.
I can count only 10 measures in the Explanatory Note to the regulations, but 11 are cited in the Explanatory Memorandum. I think that the missing one is the in absentia measure—which seems ironically apt—because I suppose that it is incorporated in other legal measures.
It is not appropriate to fear the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice. There is no evidence of judicial activism in this area. In fact, the court has to be very cautious, including in the case of Radu, about a European arrest warrant, when there were great hopes two years ago that the court would rule on a proportionality test at EU level. Unfortunately it shied away and decided on a technical basis. However, that in itself demonstrates that the court is being quite cautious on criminal justice. The Government have said on record that they have no objection in principle to the jurisdiction of the CJEU and, of course, we welcome it in other areas such as the single market.
I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Lamont, that the preference should be to reform the EAW at EU level. I was grateful to be able to give evidence recently to the Extradition Law Committee, led by my noble friend Lord Inglewood, which very speedily got out its extremely useful interim report. I agree with the reforms that the Government made in August, although we have not fully seen how they are going to pan out. It would be preferable to have a proportionality-checking issuing state, and to have a broader human rights refusal test than the one we have incorporated in UK law, which the courts have regarded as a high threshold.
There are other flanking measures we need to do the procedural rights. The European investigation order, when it comes into place, will take some of the weight off the European arrest warrant, which should be a last not a first resort—certainly when things such as video interviewing or temporary transfers can be done instead of reaching for it. We need much more to be done at EU level to stop unnecessary pre-trial detention.
It would have been absurd if the Government had not implemented the European supervision order, which, although not sufficient to ensure that people will stay in their home country on bail, is a necessary step to ensure that that would happen. I am fully conscious both as of a patron of Fair Trials International—which I should perhaps declare in this debate—and as a then constituency MEP for Andrew Symeou, just how appalling an experience he and his whole family had a few years ago. He conducted himself with huge dignity through that.
I finish by saying that other noble Lords have mentioned some omissions that would be nice to see, perhaps principally in the European probation order. I hope the Government will be able to give that real consideration in the future, and consider opting in. The UK Government were one of the instigators of the Prüm decisions on the exchange of biometric information, DNA and fingerprints, because we are putting much more into the pool than we are getting back. Therefore, that would be a good one to pursue. Regarding the framework decision on incitement to racial hatred, we lead in Europe on these measures. It is sad that we are not opting into that. There are also one or two others that I have not got time to mention.
There are also some current measures, not part of the mass opt-out but part of the case-by-case decision on whether to opt in, that I hope the Government consider further. One is the internal security fund which, in its previous incarnations, has given considerable funding to UK police and NGOs for investigative operations, for instance Operation Golf, a Metropolitan Police investigation into a child trafficking ring, and other projects. The second is the directive on the right to a lawyer. The Government have rightly pointed out, in their opt in to the framework decision on child pornography, that Articles 72 and 276 in the EU treaty put the maintenance of law and order and safeguarding national security outside EU law and court jurisdiction. That means, for instance, that if there was real suspected criminality, you could intervene on legal, professional privilege, but not in an illegitimate way. I ask the Government to have another serious look at that measure, because we set the gold standard in Europe on access to lawyers—this is not about legal aid but on the right to have a lawyer present.
These are my last words. We do not want to become, in the words of Professor Steve Peers,
“a kind of Brazil of Europe, without the nicer weather. A place that you”—
that is, criminals—
“would flee to or move assets to”.
Britain should not become a safe haven for criminals, and I strongly welcome opting in to the 35 measures.
My Lords, before we go further with this, it is now 10 o’clock. I get the sense that the House will be detained for a considerable time. Usually, the House concludes at 10 o’clock. Perhaps the Government can explain how much longer they intend the debate to continue. It is extremely unusual for us to consider a controversial measure such as this so late in the day and for us to continue so long at this late hour. Perhaps someone from the Government Front Bench can explain exactly how they intend to proceed.
My Lords, usually where there is no limit on time for debates such as this, it is advised that people keep within 15 minutes— but given the lateness of the hour, perhaps the general principle of the House is that people keep their contributions brief.
My Lords, it seems to me completely unreasonable for the Government to schedule this debate so late at night—it did not start until three minutes before nine o’clock—when a number of Members wish to speak: noble Lords with considerable expertise on this issue. The Government’s response is to tell them to keep speeches short. That is completely and totally unreasonable.
My Lords, it is not unusual to refer to the Companion on the general principles of conduct of the House. We have had the Modern Slavery Bill and the Statement today, which were expected to conclude earlier than they did. I am just giving guidance.
I have every sympathy with the noble Baroness’s response, but she is aware that someone from her Front Bench spoke for a pretty lengthy time at the beginning of this debate, and now she is asking everyone else to take a lot less time. I think it would be best if we got on with it.
My Lords, I shall be brief. I chair the Home Affairs Sub-Committee, and I want to start by thanking the Minister for acknowledging the work done by the EU Select Committee and the Home Affairs Sub-Committee. The Sub-Committee was previously chaired by the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, who made a great contribution in bringing some clarity to a complex issue and enabling us to have some calm debate. It is a pity that those reports have not been referred to.
I will say just two things at the outset. First, I entirely support the Government in their intention to opt back into the 35 measures. Indeed, I wish that they had gone further and opted back into a number of other measures, as advised by the Home Affairs and Justice Sub-Committees jointly in two reports in 2013. I am particularly disappointed that the Government have not sought to rejoin measures to combat racism and xenophobia, the European judicial network and the European probation order. I do not find their explanations for not seeking to join them very convincing, because I do not think that they have given significant consideration to the substantive and reputational damage of not seeking to rejoin them. So be it.