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.