Committee (1st Day) (Continued)
Clause 2: Human trafficking
Amendments 10 to 12 not moved.
13: Clause 2, page 2, line 4, at end insert “(whether V is an adult or a child)”
The noble Baroness, Lady Goudie, has caught us slightly on the hop with her amendments, so we have got to government Amendment 13. This is one of a number of amendments I have tabled to ensure that we are clear and consistent in showing that the offences in the Bill are effective for children. The amendment makes clear that the consent of a victim to their travel is irrelevant, regardless of whether they are an adult or a child. This reflects the fact that many adult victims of trafficking believe, for example, that they are travelling into the UK to do a job or for a better life, and so they consent to that travel without knowing the severe abuse which may lie ahead of them. This provision has been in the Bill throughout, but we thought it helpful to spell out that it applies to all people, including children.
I now turn to a number of amendments further on which relate to trafficking. The approach we have taken in the Bill in defining trafficking reflects the same broad approach that has been taken in our legislation since trafficking was first created as an offence here in 2002, an approach that is tried and tested and well understood by law enforcement. I acknowledge the real concerns that defining the offence differently in the Bill would add unnecessary confusion for law enforcement and prosecutors, who understand and use the trafficking offence, when we want them to focus on gaining more convictions in practice. When giving evidence to the Public Bill Committee in another place, the Director of Public Prosecutions highlighted that the offences in the Bill are clearer than the alternatives which the pre-legislative scrutiny committee suggested.
Both alternative approaches to defining trafficking also, probably inadvertently, could make prosecution harder than under the offence as set out in the Bill, because they seek to tie the conduct element of the offence to the specific means set out in the EU directive. There is no requirement for any particular means to be involved in the conduct element of the offence in the Bill or in existing law, so replacing this approach with an exhaustive list which indicates the means through which someone may be trafficked would have a narrower effect than the current provision. I doubt that anyone would want to see that happen. That relates to Amendment 13, which stands in my name. I am happy to respond to other amendments as they are spoken to by other noble Lords. I beg to move.
My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for moving his amendment, which I am happy to support, but I wish to discuss some profound changes in relation to the offence of trafficking and will therefore speak to Amendments 23 and 25. Our opposition to Clause 3 standing part of the Bill is of course consequential on those two amendments.
Amendment 23 aims to delete the current definition of human trafficking and insert a new one based on international definitions, while Amendment 25 would create a separate offence of exploitation to ensure that a conviction can still happen without the element of travel. We have a unique opportunity here to strengthen the law, with a view to protecting victims and to securing more prosecutions. The fact there are so few prosecutions shows that the current definitions do not work, although I well understand the view expressed earlier by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay, that the Bill must be a means of prevention, not just a means to more prosecutions.
I do not understand why the Government have decided, as the noble Baroness, Lady Doocey, said earlier, to copy and paste existing offences into this new Bill. If the offences have not worked in the past, I do not believe that they will work after the Bill has been enacted. At Second Reading, various examples were given by my noble friend Lord Tunnicliffe—more have been given today—of perpetrators who should have been prosecuted but who were either not prosecuted or prosecuted for lesser offences. In the discussion on the last group, the Minister said that we must not make it more difficult to secure prosecutions, which of course I agree with, that we need to increase awareness, which is absolutely right, and that we need more training, which I certainly agree with. Given that in debates on other Bills we have talked about the need for training, but it has simply not happened, I wonder whether in due course we should make certain sorts of training mandatory. However, that is for another day. Notwithstanding those facts, even if there were increased awareness and better training, it would not be enough, although I note that the noble Lord will have further discussions with the DPP and CPS between now and Report.
My noble friend Lord Rosser and I are not alone in our views: many noble Lords spoke of these things at Second Reading, as have many of our colleagues in the House of Commons. A wide range of groups have been pushing for a new definition of human trafficking and a separate offence for exploitation, including the coalition of groups that have come together to form the Anti-Trafficking Monitoring Group with the help of legal experts in trafficking, including barristers. The Joint Committee on the draft Bill was concerned about existing gaps and loopholes. The Joseph Rowntree Foundation noted that the current clauses,
“do not capture the full array of situations linked to”,
slavery and exploitation. Particularly where it may be difficult to prove slavery, we have to ensure that another offence is available to secure a conviction. If not, these crimes will go unnoticed and will only materialise over time as more severe forms of exploitation, which would subsequently amount to forced labour and slavery.
We have concerns as regards the current definition of human trafficking in the Bill and the weight it places on travel and movement. Trafficking does not always require movement. In reality, it is conducted through acts which include recruitment, harbouring and transferring, and the receipt, exchange or transfer of control over another person. The absence of these specific terms is problematic in cases involving large criminal networks, where different people take different roles in the trafficking process. It is also a problem where victims arrange their own travel into and around the UK and to the site of exploitation, which often occurs when individuals are deceived about work conditions or when conditions deteriorate over time.
The Equality and Human Rights Commission says that the prerequisite of travel in the offence means that,
“it may not be possible to prosecute those involved in the trafficking chain where there is no movement”.
Therefore, those involved in the initial stages of trafficking—for example, those who recruit victims—may not necessarily be convicted under the current definition. The draft Bill committee also pointed out that under the current definition it would be hard to convict someone who trafficked a victim—that is to say, moved them—but did not care how the victim would be treated by the person they delivered the victim to. In that case, the defendant does not intend or believe anything about the future treatment of the victim, and therefore would not be caught by Clause 2.
The language in our definition of human trafficking reflects the language used by the International Labour Organization, in article 2 of the EU directive on trafficking, Article 4 of the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings and Article 3 of the UN Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, also known as the Palermo Protocol. As noble Lords will know, the human trafficking definition was established in an internationally binding treaty integrated into the national laws of some 134 countries. We are an international player, we live in a globalised world and we have to ensure that our definitions are in line with our international obligations. Focusing on travel and movement could incorrectly be linked to immigration—I think we will look at that sort of problem later. Moreover, it fails to capture the reality of modern trafficking. The words,
“arranges or facilitates the travel of another person”,
are far too simplistic to enable effective prosecutions. The draft Bill committee concluded that the offences in Part 1,
“fail to capture current or potential future forms of modern slavery”.
As the Bill is currently drafted, there is no separate offence of exploitation; it would only be part of Clause 2 and should fall within the criteria of Clause 3. Clause 3 cannot even be looked at unless the conditions of Clause 2 are fulfilled. Clause 3 fails to include two of the most common forms of exploitation: forced begging and exploitation for the purpose of begging, as discussed earlier. The draft committee recommended a separate clause on exploitation that would apply in situations where the victim is an adult, there is no travel and the standard need to secure a child exploitation offence has not been secured by the prosecution.
The creation of separate offences for adult exploitation and trafficking and for child exploitation and trafficking would create an overlapping pattern to ensure that the offences were watertight and to give the courts—both judge and jury—a selection of offences to consider. The then Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales—the most senior criminal judge in the country—the noble and learned Lord, Lord Judge, said,
“that is another aspect of the Bill that troubles me. We are making provisions for slavery, servitude and compulsory labour in clause 1 of the Bill. In clause 2, trafficking is the offence. It becomes an offence because you do it with a view to exploitation—knowing, believing or whatever words are chosen to be used. You could have an offence of trafficking, full stop, and a separate offence of exploiting. As it stands at the moment, you have a single offence with two parts—here is the trafficking, and it is with a view to exploitation”.
He goes on to say:
“My concern reading clause 2 and the various subclauses is, ‘Is this really what we want?’—a single offence that has two ingredients, rather than two separate offences and, possibly, a third offence, which would put the two together”.
We take the same view.
In giving evidence to the draft Bill committee, Detective Inspector Roberts of Kent Police gave the example of the Lithuanian chicken catchers who were living in squalid conditions and paid very poorly. Even though their experiences were dreadful, their case did not amount to slavery or forced labour, as the bar was too high in current legislation. This is a prime example that proves how the current law is not working. So why duplicate it when here we have an opportunity to make it more effective? We believe that we need a separate exploitation offence that captures vile criminal behaviour which does not quite meet the threshold of the other offences in the Bill and in current legislation.
I know that the Minister will say what he said earlier in respect of children, that creating two separate offences can create risk and confusion, and there is a plethora of legislation already in place, but we believe that having the two new offences will create certainty and clarity and, most importantly, will lead to more prosecutions. I well understand if the Minister and others think that the definition in our amendment might not be perfect, and I know that reaching a definition on exploitation is extremely difficult, but the amendment provides a sound basis for further work.
Leading judges, barristers, legal experts, members of the CPS and senior members of the police are all telling us that there is a problem with the current drafting of the offences in the Bill and that the current legislation is not working. I believe that we have to listen to them. As the Minister will know, the modern slavery strategy has four main components, the first of which is “pursue”—that is, prosecuting and disrupting individuals and groups responsible for modern slavery. We agree with that aim, which is why I am speaking to these amendments.
My Lords, on that last point—on Amendment 24—the noble Baroness and the House will understand how much I support the need to look at an offence of exploitation, because that, after all, was the rationale for my Amendment 100 in the earlier group.
However, if we take the point—which I absolutely do—about fitting in with international legislation, I wonder about the suggestion of a separate offence of trafficking and exploitation, because Article 2 of the directive, which has been referred to, is about trafficking “for” exploitation. So one has to be careful about making sure that we do fit in. However, on the point of whether there should be a separate offence of exploitation, yes, I am absolutely in agreement with that.
Whether, as the noble Baroness says, the list is the one that one would want to end up with—and, I have to say, whether it is something one would want to go to without the opportunity of consultation, which is why I had my amendment in the form that I had it in—I am not sure. The term “on the hoof” was used earlier. I would not quite say that, because we have all been thinking about this for some time, but we have to be quite careful before creating more offences, important as they are.
The issue of the international—the European, at any rate—definitions concerns me greatly. The Government have reassured us that all our international obligations are covered, and I do not doubt for a moment their good faith, but I wonder whether there is a sort of natural, human reluctance to change a provision to something that was “not invented here”. I am sorry if that is cruel.
I would accept, at least as an argument to be explored, being told that because the offences in the Bill repeat offences from earlier legislation, there was case law that we did not want to lose. However, I put that to members of the Bill team and they said that at that point it was not in their thinking.
I wonder, and I ask the Minister, whether there could be a direct reference to Article 2 of the directive, such as to any act proscribed by that article—or, to put it another way, to say that “travel” shall be construed as including the intentional acts punishable under that article. This is drafting on the hoof, but the article deals with harbouring and reception, which are among the items that are causing us all quite a lot of trouble.
I will put a specific example to the Minister. A man who is grooming a young woman arranges to meet her when she is travelling—undertaking travel in the normal sense of the word—and then his mates or customers, whatever you want to call them, happen to be at that meeting point and he passes her on to others to be raped. If he said, “See you at the Station Hotel. Come and have a drink—you get there under your own steam—and we can hang out”—is that arranging travel within Clause 2, the trafficking offence? I am concerned that there may be a distinction between that and, “I’ll pick you up at nine on the corner and we will go—I will drive you—to the Station Hotel and we will have a drink and hang out”. That is the sort of thing that worries me as to whether Clause 2 is sufficiently extensive.
I have Amendment 27 in this group. That would add in, at the end of the first subsection of Clause 3, actions or offences that are planned or in contemplation. This is simply probing. Clause 2(1) covers travel with a view to exploitation. Clause 3 seems to require the commission of an offence, not just having it in view. So if people are transported with a view to their being exploited but, for instance, are found at a port of entry before they have been exploited, is that covered? I think that that is what is meant by Clause 2(1), but I want to be certain and this seemed to be the time to raise the point.
The noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, has looked at the directive. I have gone back to the convention of the Council of Europe, which comes before the directive but is couched in very similar terms. I am somewhat surprised that the noble Baroness, Lady Goudie, did not pursue her amendments, because they seem to me to be closer to what is needed. They wanted to put in the phraseology that is in the convention and the directive: “recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons” and so on. Clause 2 is fine so far as it goes, but it does not go quite far enough.
We seem to have an extraordinary English desire for the word “traffic” to mean movement. However, that is not how it is seen across Europe. What worries me about that is that this is going to be a flagship Bill of great importance which may well be followed by countries round Europe and far beyond. However, we may not fall in line with all the conventions from the Palermo Protocol through to the Council of Europe convention and the directive of the European Union and we may want to use the Bill internationally—I hope we may—to persuade other countries to send their offenders to us, or to ask them to send over our offenders.
The offences with which we are concerned—for example, offences covered by the European arrest warrant—may involve movement. A group of men may be trafficking in the English sense—that is, trafficking men, women and children right round the world to England, but doing so in order to sell them on. Their job is to get them here; once they are here, other groups take them over. I hope that Clause 1 deals with that situation but I am not entirely sure. However, if you put into Clause 2 the Council of Europe definition of trafficking, you will be absolutely safe on that.
The point that is worrying me is that we have produced a much more defined and limited version of this. Article 4 of the convention—oddly, it is Article 4 of both the convention and the directive—explains in paragraphs (b), (c), (d) and (e) what paragraph (a) actually means. Interestingly, the word “exploitation” appears in an explanation of trafficking. If I may respectfully say so, that is where the Government have got this right—because one wants to include trafficking for the purposes of exploitation.
Taking account of the amendments of the noble Baroness, Lady Goudie, which were not moved, my only issue on this is that we ought to include in Clause 2(1) the extended wording of recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt. I appreciate that, if we do that, the Bill team may say that we are covering part of Clause 1. That may be a problem. However, I do not think that the fact that it is repeating something in different words is the end of the world—because, if you are to use the word “trafficking”, you may have to explain to a jury that you do not have to move somebody from A to B in order to traffic them. If you put in the offences of Clause 1 as the alternative offences, I expect you would be covered anyway. However, I am unhappy that we are limiting the word “trafficking”, given its important European meaning, and that we are one step behind the Europeans in a Bill which we hope will be taken up, particularly by eastern European countries.
My Lords, I want to underline what the noble and learned Baroness has just said for a particular reason. The Government have been keen on saying that, in accepting the European arrest warrant, they want to make clear that they will not allow it to be used for offences committed in other countries which are not offences here. In those circumstances it is most important that we get the offences here right in parallel with what is an offence in another country. It is that point which I think the noble and learned Baroness has put her finger on and it is that which we have to get right.
I question the Government’s view on the restriction of the European arrest warrant. However, if they want to do that, they have to make sure that we do not find ourselves in a position where we have ill defined a particular offence so that it does not operate in the way we would like it to do in any complementary legislation in other countries. I hope that my noble friend will consider this suggestion very carefully, probably not at this moment, but between now and the next stage of the Bill, as it is worth trying to get this matter right.
My Lords, I will comment on a slightly wider point and back up my noble friend on the definitions of trafficking and exploitation. She spoke about the benefits of having stronger definitions of trafficking and exploitation and referred to the comment of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay, that stronger definitions could lead to the prevention of trafficking and exploitation. I will add that a benefit of having clear and strong definitions is in the identification of trafficking. Here I am talking specifically about identification when one is in court.
As noble Lords may know, I sit as a magistrate in both adult and youth courts. I have sat in youth courts on quite a few occasions where a young person has been brought in for either pickpocketing or shoplifting and a man is sat at the back of the court who we are told is the young person’s uncle. We have received training on what to do when our suspicions are raised with regard to the status of the person sitting at the back of the court, who is there supposedly in the interests of the youth appearing before it.
I know that the YOTs, the probation service and the police have also received training on this matter. It is important that we have clear identification and that the courts can act quickly when they think this issue is being raised, because when one is actually going through the court process, one does not have very long to identify potential victims of either trafficking or exploitation. Therefore, it is important that this definition is as clear as possible and is well known by the various agencies that deal with young people—and not so young people—who may have been trafficked.
My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Royall, for speaking to the amendment and, as is so often the case, expressing sentiments and views which are shared on all sides of the Committee. It is perhaps not unusual that we are rehearsing some of the general principles discussed on previous groups of amendments. It is interesting to note that paragraph 2.3 at page 15 of the Modern Slavery Strategy document underscores the point made by the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss. It states:
“However, we also know that a high number of victims are UK nationals, including children. Not all victims of modern slavery are trafficked across the border. We know that the internal trafficking of victims to other parts of the country takes place, and other forms of modern slavery take place that involve no movement of the victim at all”.
My noble friend Lord Deben made a very interesting point. We want to see the Palermo Protocol used as a basis for harmonisation. The Palermo Protocol sets out an international definition of trafficking in persons as,
“the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation”.
That definition is relevant to the point made by my noble friend Lady Hamwee. She asked about a particular set of circumstances. I will look at that case study. Case studies are extremely helpful in this world, because they provide us with an opportunity to explore the options. All case studies will be matters for the police, the Crown Prosecution Service and ultimately the courts to adjudicate on. I would certainly have thought that the individual to whom she referred would, at a minimum, be caught by Clause 4, “Committing offence with intent to commit offence under section 2”. It states:
“A person commits an offence under this section if the person commits any offence with the intention of committing an offence under section 2 (including an offence committed by aiding, abetting, counselling or procuring an offence under that section)”.
I will be happy to come back to this and look further at it, but that is my initial thought in relation to that question.
I turn to the specifics of the amendment and some of the questions which were raised. The alternative trafficking offence set out in Amendment 23 also removes the reference to travel. I fully appreciate the intention behind the amendments. However, I am confident that the language used in Clause 2 is already entirely consistent with the EU directive—the point made by my noble friend Lord Deben. The offence of arranging or facilitating the travel of another person with a view to exploitation includes all the ways through which human trafficking may be committed, as set out in the Palermo Protocol and EU directive, to which I have already referred. Those international instruments are explicitly concerned with human trafficking. The serious evil they rightly identify is trafficking and clearly trafficking involves some element of movement or travel of the victim.
The noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, referred to Clause 2. I must pay tribute to her incredible sharpness of mind, despite her having flown in from sub-Saharan Africa and arrived at something like 5.30 this morning. I just got the train down from Newcastle and I have to say that I am feeling a little bit groggy. I think that probably reflects the difference in mental capacity between the two of us, but we will carry on. In Clause 2, we have already responded to concerns during pre-legislative scrutiny and made clear on the face of the Bill that a person may arrange or facilitate travel by recruiting, transporting, transferring, harbouring or receiving, or transferring or exchanging control over a person—words which are used in the protocol.
The noble Baroness, Lady Royall, asked specifically whether we needed a general exploitation offence, because forced begging is not covered in the offences of the Bill. Forced begging is an offence under Clause 1 as it amounts to forced or compulsory labour and therefore our view is that it would be caught by that.
My noble friend Lady Hamwee asked whether the trafficking offence covers incitement of the victim to travel to a particular location, which was the example that was given. The trafficking offence can cover inciting a victim to travel somewhere with a view to exploiting them—for example, the perpetrator telling a victim to meet them at a particular time and in a particular place with a view to exploiting the victim. There is no requirement that the perpetrator physically moves the victim. Any kind of arranging or facilitating their travel is enough.
In the case of grooming a victim for use in prostitution or for rape, as in my noble friend’s example, then telling the victim to meet them at a hotel—to hang out, as she asked—would certainly be covered by the trafficking offence. Inciting a victim for prostitution is a form of exploitation under Clause 3 and such conduct is an offence under Part 1 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003. As I referred to from the strategy document, any arranging or facilitating a victim’s travel, including travel within the UK, for that purpose will amount to an offence under Clause 2.
My noble friend also asked whether the trafficking offence covers all the acts proscribed in Article 2.1 of the EU trafficking directive. The UK is fully compliant with all our international obligations in relation to human trafficking, including in relation to the EU directive. It is not inconsistent with the international instruments to retain the concept of travel in the offence. Our offences, ever since they were created, have had that element. The international instruments are explicitly concerned with human trafficking. The evil that we are trying to tackle is trafficking and clearly trafficking involves some element of movement and travel of the victim. Following pre-legislative scrutiny, we took the opportunity to make clear in Clause 2(3) that a person may,
“arrange or facilitate V’s travel by recruiting V, transporting or transferring V, harbouring or receiving V, or transferring or exchanging control over V”.
The words reflect those used in Article 2.1 of the EU directive. Therefore, we do not think that there is a need for a specific reference to Article 2, as suggested by the noble Baroness.
The alternative offence set out in Amendment 23 provides no definition of exploitation and suggests removing the clause that defines exploitation. We have real concerns about failing to define a key part of a very serious offence which, if the Bill is passed, could result in a life sentence. The offence would be unclear and potentially extremely wide. The public rightly expect clarity on what conduct Parliament has decided should be potentially punishable with life imprisonment.
Amendment 27, proposed by my noble friend Lady Hamwee, seeks to ensure that the definition of exploitation in relation to trafficking includes where the offender is contemplating or planning to commit the forms of exploitation set out in Clause 3. This is an important point to raise and I welcome the chance to provide reassurance to the House. If we catch traffickers in the act of moving victims and we have evidence that they are planning to exploit those victims, we can prosecute and convict those perpetrators for human trafficking under the offence in this Bill. A human trafficking offence simply requires that someone arranges or facilitates the travel of another person with a view to exploiting them. There is no need to wait for the exploitation to actually occur.
I turn to the question of whether we should consider new criminal offences around exploitation. I have listened carefully to the debate and I want to explain the Government’s approach to exploitation, where there is no trafficking. We have touched on these points already in relation to child offences. I believe that the Bill should target really serious wrongdoing. Where the exploitation hits the seriousness thresholds required by the slavery, servitude and forced or compulsory labour offence, it is already covered by the Bill under Clause 1.
The criminal law also provides for a series of other offences to deal with forms of exploitation which should rightly be criminal. Some are very serious offences indeed, such as offences around sexual exploitation. A very wide range of other offences can be used to tackle benefit fraud, begging, petty theft, and in cases where the Clause 1 offence is not clearly made out.
Amendment 25 proposes an alternative approach including a general exploitation offence. The offence would be potentially too broad in scope, as I have already pointed out, if Parliament does not explicitly say what it should cover. After cases have gone through the courts, we might well find that it captures behaviour that would not be the behaviour that we are aiming at today, and which would certainly never justify a life sentence.
I am also concerned that introducing a potentially vague new offence would create more uncertainty and confusion for law enforcement agencies and prosecutors. The noble Baroness, Lady Royall, has already referred to the importance of training for agencies to understand fully the warning signs of when an offence has taken place and to ensure that those prosecutions come forward. In this regard the points made by the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, drawn from his experience in courts, were particularly valuable, because they highlighted at what point responsible agencies have an opportunity to identify potential victims and intervene. Training magistrates will be a very important part of that.
I am drawing to the end of my remarks. The Director of Public Prosecutions has been clear in Parliament that additional offences, such as this one, would not be helpful to prosecutors and that existing offences are clearer and more workable. I take that advice seriously—as I am sure do all noble Lords. Given this explanation I ask noble Lords not to move their amendments.
I believe that the noble Lord’s amendment will come before mine in the pecking order. I want to make two points. Of course, I hear what he says about the views of the DPP, but a huge number of lawyers and other people involved in the system are looking at these issues, including charities and various organisations. They are all deeply concerned that notwithstanding the fact that we have this plethora of laws at the moment, as was said at Second Reading, the UK Human Trafficking Centre last year identified 2,744 victims of trafficking, including 600 children. Yet, since the introduction of that offence there have been no prosecutions when the victim was a child, and there have been very few prosecutions at all. I agree with the noble Lord that awareness training is terribly important but there must be something wrong with the current offences if they cannot be used to prosecute people who are perpetrating the most evil of crimes. Therefore, I ask him to look at this again.
In relation to the definition of trafficking, I listened carefully to what the noble Lord said, but it would be very good if he could respond on Report to the points made by the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss. I still think that there is something missing, and it is not in the Bill that we are absolutely in tune with our European partners. That needs to be on the face of the Bill. I would be content with that in terms of human trafficking but I certainly want to come back to the issue of an offence. We have to do something about getting more prosecutions for these heinous crimes.
I remain concerned about the definition of trafficking, and I am sure that we will come back to that. I want to ask the noble Lord on the narrow point of whether I am right in understanding that he is saying that incitement falls within arranging. He referred to Clause 2(1), which states,
“if the person arranges or facilitates the travel”.
He may not want to answer that now but I ask the question now whether incitement is within that term. The answer may come later.
The incitement element is important from the general definition in the Palermo Protocol, and I referred to that part of it. We will certainly get clarification on that point and return to it. Of course, we are always open to look at new evidence that becomes available, or evidence that comes from speaking to the Crown Prosecution Service and the National Crime Agency, as well as the stakeholder group. If we draw the offence too widely, it becomes more difficult to prosecute. We are totally on the same side when we talk about the number of prosecutions being woefully low, as I said previously. We need that number to increase, and for that reason we have taken the view that we need to be very explicit about the offences that we have in mind. The noble Baroness has invited me to reflect on her arguments and the remarks made by the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss. I will certainly do that ahead of Report.
Amendment 13 agreed.
Amendments 14 to 23 not moved.
Clause 2, as amended, agreed.
Amendments 24 to 26 not moved.
Clause 3: Meaning of exploitation
Amendment 27 not moved.
Clause 3 agreed.
28: After Clause 4, insert the following new Clause—
“Access to employment tribunals
It shall be an offence to deny access to an employment tribunal to a person entering the United Kingdom on a visa restricting the person to a single employer.”
My Lords, I will refer briefly to Amendment 94, to which I have added my name. That goes to the root of the problems of foreign domestic workers in the United Kingdom. Amendments 28 and 95, which are both in my name, and in this group, try to improve the nuts and bolts of the situation as it presently is here.
I submit that it is a fundamental right of all employees in this country, whether citizens, residents or visitors, to have access to an employment tribunal if they have serious complaints about working conditions or pay. At Second Reading I raised the cases of foreign domestic workers whose visas tie them to a single named employer. They are usually resident on the employer’s premises and are thus wide open to exploitation. In too many cases, their passports are removed and they are confined to the house or allowed out only under close escort. In such circumstances, they cannot get essential legal advice and they cannot reach a tribunal. The result is that serious exploitation, maltreatment and non-payment of wages go unpunished.
I detailed at Second Reading some of the abuses recorded over many years and I will not repeat them now. Since then I have heard nothing from the Home Office about better protection and remedies. I have therefore tabled Amendment 28 to make it an offence to deny access to a tribunal to anyone on a restricted visa. Perhaps the proposed offence should be wider still. It may be that I should have specified penalties for summary trial and on indictment. That is something to which we can come back at a later stage. Meanwhile. I commend the amendment.
I should also speak to Amendment 95 in this group, which also relates to something I said at Second Reading. There have been a few cases where embassies or foreign diplomats have failed to observe best practice in relation to their domestic workers, who are often recruited overseas. Some cases may not have reached legal decision, and in others, enforcement may have failed—in both categories because of diplomatic immunity. In my understanding, such immunity is given for the protection of diplomatic functions and not as a cover for employment malpractice. I was therefore encouraged to read in the Irish Times of 26 November that an employment appeals tribunal in Dublin awarded €80,000 each to three Filipino women against an ambassador and his wife. The women had been paid less than the national minimum and their conditions were described as “horrific”. If this can be done in Ireland, it should be possible here.
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, has undoubtedly drawn attention, as he did at Second Reading, to the abuse of people who are under tied visa arrangements. We await with interest the Government’s response to the points that he has made. We are associated with Amendment 94, which will be debated much later, to which the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, has added his name, along with the noble Baroness, Lady Cox, and the noble Lord, Lord Alton of Liverpool, as well as my noble friend Lady Royall of Blaisdon. The amendment seeks to insert a new clause entitled “Protection from slavery for overseas domestic workers”, which would enable such workers to change their employment and not remain under the tied visa arrangements. That is the goal that we, and perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, and others, seek to achieve. Amendment 94 will be debated later. For the moment, we await the Government’s response to the two amendments to which the noble Lord has spoken.
My Lords, I would very much like to support my noble friend Lord Hylton, and I follow the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, in his support for Amendments 28 and 95. The noble Lord, Lord Rosser, has rightly reminded us that when we get to Amendment 94 there will be a chance to have a wider debate about the whole question of the overseas domestic worker visa.
Many of us would say that the subject of denying someone the right to go to an employment tribunal—that is what my noble friend’s Amendment 28 specifically deals with—is a sort of curtain-raiser to the debate that will come later. Enabling migrant domestic workers to change employer, to apply to renew their visa annually if in full-time employment, and to have the right to go to an employment tribunal, would be a significant step towards preventing abuses against migrant domestic workers, including forced labour for their employers, and would enable them to seek redress without fearing deportation from the United Kingdom.
My noble friend Lord Hylton has a long and honourable record of raising this question for all the years that I have been in your Lordships’ House, so it comes as no surprise to me that he has tabled these amendments. He is not, of course, alone in raising this question. Amnesty International UK, the Anti Trafficking and Labour Exploitation Unit, the Anti-Trafficking Monitoring Group, Human Rights Watch, the Immigration Law Practitioners’ Association, Kalayaan and Liberty are among those who support moves in this direction.
Evidence since the introduction of the tied ODW visa in 2012 demonstrates how the current tied visa system facilitates the abuse of migrant domestic workers in the UK and therefore undermines the objectives of this timely and very welcome Bill and the Government’s efforts to fight modern slavery. Because of its deleterious effects, the 2012 decision, whether it was made wittingly or otherwise, is something we need to return to in the course of our deliberations, to see what we can do about it.
The Joint Committee on the draft Modern Slavery Bill identified the 2012 policy as having,
“unintentionally strengthened the hand of the slave master against the victim of slavery”,
“Tying migrant domestic workers to their employer institutionalises their abuse”.
The Joint Committee on Human Rights reported that it,
“regards the removal of the right of an Overseas Domestic Worker to change employer as a backward step in the protection of migrant domestic workers, particularly as the pre-2012 regime had been cited internationally as good practice, and recommends that the Bill be amended to reverse the relevant changes to the Immigration Rules and to reinstate the pre-2012 protections in the Bill”.
We have heard a great deal already today about the importance of having what my noble and learned friend Lady Butler-Sloss described earlier as flagship legislation. I know that it is the Government’s wish that this should be seen as an international gold standard piece of legislation that others will be able to imitate, and that they hope it would be capable of implementation worldwide. But that is in doubt unless we put right this defect that was incorporated into our legislation. I recognise that it may not be possible to do that today, but I hope that when the noble Baroness replies to the debate she will indicate to my noble friend that we will continue to discuss this issue to see what we can do to remedy something that was done in 2012 and has, wittingly or unwittingly, brought about these consequences. One of those consequences is, as is highlighted in Amendment 28, that people are prevented from having access to employment tribunals.
My Lords, one of the things that has struck me in our discussions about the rights of overseas domestic workers is the importance of enabling them to enforce their rights. That is what the amendment aims to do. This should not need saying, but it has come through to me very strongly that we need to give people the tools and make sure that they are available.
My Lords, I have been trying to think of the adjectives that would best describe my noble friend’s amendment, and I have come up with “reasonable”, “ingenious” and “brave”. It is reasonable because we all feel indignation about this issue; there is no question about that. It is ingenious because I think my noble friend is anticipating the result of Amendment 94. We must not be drawn into that today, but it will be interesting to see whether this presents a way out for the Minister in relation to Amendment 94; I hope it does not. The amendment is brave because my noble friend is trying to tackle the question of diplomatic immunity. I think that the Government would like to do that on many fronts at the moment. My noble friend is to be commended.
Finally, I have to say that the Bill does nothing to release domestic servants from their bondage. They are, fundamentally, in this Bill, so I do not know—the Minister may like to reflect on this—why this category has somehow been left out or gone unnoticed. We will wait and see how the Bill can correct the situation at a later stage—but this amendment is a very clever alternative.
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for tabling these amendments, and I echo the comments about his distinguished record on such matters. I thank, too, the noble Lords, Lord Rosser and Lord Alton, my noble friend Lady Hamwee and the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, for their comments.
These amendments raise the important issues of ensuring equal access to employment tribunals, and of diplomatic and state immunity, with particular reference to overseas domestic workers. I welcome the opportunity to reaffirm the Government’s commitment to protecting individuals who have come to work in the UK as overseas domestic workers—or indeed in any other capacity —who, while they are here, are subjected to abuse. I know that Members of the Committee feel strongly about this. The Government share the commitment to ensure that no individual in this country is subjected to abuse and exploitation.
Holding anyone in modern slavery is totally unacceptable. Overseas domestic workers, like anyone else, deserve protection from modern slavery, as well as support and help if abuse takes place. The Government intend that the Bill should give that protection to all victims, regardless of who they are, why they are in the UK and for whom they are working. This intention must none the less take account of this country’s existing international obligations, and I will address the point concerning immunity in a moment.
The Committee will wish to know that overseas domestic workers, in common with any other employee in the UK—irrespective of whether they can switch employers or not—already have the right to access employment tribunals and the courts, where the tribunal or the court has jurisdiction.
Perhaps I may turn to the new clauses tabled by the noble Lord. Amendment 28 would create an offence where a person whose visa restricts them to a single employer is not permitted to access an employment tribunal. Employees and workers in this country, including people from overseas who are working legally in Great Britain, are entitled to the rights and protections of our employment law. If those rights are breached, the individual can bring a claim to the employment tribunal. Access to employment tribunals is a matter of law and it is for the tribunal to decide whether it has jurisdiction. An employer therefore cannot dictate whether someone working for them can bring a claim, as this is not in the employer’s control. They also cannot decide when the tribunal has jurisdiction to process the claim, so the offence created by Amendment 28 is unnecessary and would have no impact on employers. Where diplomatic or state immunity applies, this operates in relation to the offence, so it would also have no effect.
The Government take seriously the ability of individuals to access the justice to which they are entitled and fully support the aims that the noble Lord is trying to achieve. I can reassure the Committee that the current system of dealing with complaints in relation to employment rights is generally available to those legally working in the country. Noble Lords may be interested to know that we are currently trialling a system at Heathrow Terminal 5 whereby employees are handed a card about knowing their rights, and with numbers to call. We shall be monitoring how helpful and effective the trial proves to be.
The effect of Amendment 95 would be to disapply state immunity in respect of the enforcement of judgments against diplomatic missions where the judgment is made under the proposed Act. I noted the noble Earl’s comment that the words, “reasonable”, “ingenious” and “brave”, might be applied to this amendment. Immunity from jurisdiction is a well established principle of customary international law. The fact that this is a principle of customary international law means that the UK is bound by it. The aim of the amendment appears to be to remove in certain circumstances the immunity from enforcement jurisdiction. This could put the UK in breach of international law, and I do not believe that that is the intention of the noble Lord. The Committee will understand the need carefully to consider the implications of this amendment.
It may be helpful to explain the role that diplomatic immunity plays in cases of alleged mistreatment of overseas domestic workers and the measures that are in place to deal with such allegations. Diplomatic immunity is an important part of a package of principles within the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations that are designed not to benefit individuals, but rather to ensure the efficient performance of the functions of diplomatic missions. They provide diplomats with necessary protections from the authorities in the receiving state to enable them to carry out their functions effectively. They work on the basis of reciprocity, and if UK diplomats are to be protected overseas, it is important that the UK respects the law of immunity as regards diplomats serving here. The Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations requires all diplomats to respect the laws and regulations of the receiving state. This applies to the terms and conditions of employment for all domestic staff, which employers have to agree with their workers in accordance with a prescribed template before the worker applies for an overseas domestic worker visa to come to the UK.
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office treats any allegation of mistreatment of domestic workers in diplomatic households very seriously. Few such allegations are brought to the FCO’s attention by the police, and when they are, the FCO liaises as necessary with the relevant diplomatic mission, UK Visas and Immigration and the UK Border Force to work for an appropriate response. If an allegation of mistreatment requires further investigation by the police, the FCO will request from the diplomatic mission concerned on behalf of the police a waiver of the diplomat’s immunity, and failure to provide a waiver may result in the FCO demanding the immediate withdrawal of the diplomat. It is not appropriate to seek to impede the operation of or amend the State Immunity Act 1978 or the Diplomatic Privileges Act 1964 through the creation of criminal offences or exceptions in the Modern Slavery Bill without reference to the underlying legal obligations they reflect.
Overseas domestic workers should feel confident that if they are abused while they are in the UK, they can come to the authorities and will be treated and supported as victims. However, I do not believe that these amendments would add to the existing protections, or that they are appropriate having regard to our existing international obligations. I am confident that the current legislation covering employment, the measures in this Bill and the measures the Government are looking at to enhance protections for overseas domestic workers represent the best way of tackling any abuse of such workers. We are working to see that they are implemented. Given this response, I hope that the noble Lord will feel free to withdraw his amendment.
My Lords, I am extremely grateful to the four noble Lords who have spoken in favour of my first and, to some extent, the second amendment. I think I can reasonably claim that Amendment 28 has received support from all around the Committee. I was glad to hear from the Government that they believe that overseas domestic workers on short-term visas deserve protection. However, I fail to see how the Bill increases any protection, which at the moment is to a very large extent lacking. Will Clause 3(2) give additional grounds for prosecuting those who exploit and abuse their domestic staff?
Further to that, the noble Baroness referred to the card that is supposed to be given to overseas domestic workers before they leave a foreign country to come here. While that may be helpful to some extent, particularly if the card spells out what the minimum wage levels are in this country, it would be stronger still if a model contract was in existence. This is a point on which I have already written to the noble Lord, Lord Bates. A model contract would give both the employer and the employee a much better idea of what we expect to happen when they both come to Britain.
If the Government could give me some encouragement that it would be possible to have a meeting on these subjects between now and Report, I would be somewhat readier and more willing to withdraw the amendment.
Perhaps I may say to the noble Lord that, yes, indeed, a further meeting would certainly be possible. The card that is handed out states what the minimum wage should be and that workers should have a written contract of terms and conditions. Moreover, there are emergency numbers that can be called. These are elements of information which should be helpful, but obviously the question then is getting workers themselves into a position where they are able to access and implement the information.
Amendment 28 withdrawn.
Amendment 29 not moved.
House resumed. Committee to begin again not before 8.45 pm.