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Modern Slavery Bill

Volume 759: debated on Monday 23 February 2015

Report (1st Day) (Continued)

Clause 8: Power to make slavery and trafficking reparation orders

Amendment 8

Moved by

8: Clause 8, page 5, line 11, leave out “Crown Court” and insert “court”

My Lords, in moving Amendment 8, I shall speak also to Amendments 9 to 15, 18 to 25, 32 and 33, 100 and 101, and 103 to 105. This large group of amendments makes minor changes to ensure that the Bill works effectively in light of wider legislative change.

Amendments 21 and 22 remove the limit of £5,000 for fines imposed by magistrates on breach of a slavery and trafficking risk or prevention order. I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, for raising the issue of removing the limit to this fine in Committee. I am also grateful to the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee for its analysis of the delegated power and suggestions for changes. The regulations needed to accompany Section 85 of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 have now been approved by Parliament. Commencing Section 85 will remove the cap on all fines in the magistrates’ courts of £5,000 or more.

These amendments assume that Section 85 will be commenced by the time this Bill reaches Royal Assent, removing the limit on fines in the magistrates’ court. If this is not the case, then transitional arrangements can be made by order. I hope that noble Lords will agree that these amendments give magistrates the ability to respond more flexibly when sentencing, given the particular nature of a breach of a slavery and trafficking risk or prevention order. In addition, the removal of the delegated power ensures that we have addressed the concern about the previous provision raised by the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee.

Amendments 8 to 15, 18, and 103 to 105 relate to reparation orders. This Government believe that the criminal justice system must give greater priority to providing victims of modern slavery, who have been used as commodities, with reparation for the distress, abuse and suffering that they have been subjected to. That is why the Bill will introduce bespoke reparation orders, which will ensure that courts give appropriate priority to compensating victims of modern slavery and have the necessary tools to do so. Currently, confiscation orders may be made only in the Crown Court. Given that reparation orders can be made only where there is a confiscation order, the Bill currently makes provision for reparation orders to be made only in the Crown Court.

However, Section 97 of the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 makes provision to enable magistrates’ courts to make a confiscation order in certain circumstances, and work is in hand to give magistrates’ courts these powers. We want to make sure that any court that has the power to make a confiscation order in relation to a modern slavery offence also has the power to make a reparation order in favour of any victim of that offence. Government Amendments 8 to 15, and 18, will ensure that magistrates’ courts that make a confiscation order will also have the power to make a reparation order.

Government Amendments 103 to 105 make minor amendments to the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 that are intended to clarify how certain sections of that Act are to apply in relation to a slavery and trafficking reparation order.

Finally, Amendments 19 and 20, 23 to 25, 32 and 33, 100 and 101 are technical amendments to reflect the introduction of new offences and civil orders in Northern Ireland through the Human Trafficking and Exploitation (Criminal Justice and Support for Victims) Act (Northern Ireland) 2015, which received Royal Assent on 13 January. The UK Government have worked closely with the Northern Ireland Executive to ensure that our respective legislation creates a robust, joined-up response to modern slavery across the UK. This proposed group of amendments supports this effort by ensuring that the Independent Anti-slavery Commissioner, the slavery and trafficking prevention and risk orders, and the maritime enforcement and transparency in supply chains provisions all work effectively in light of these recent legislative changes.

I hope that noble Lords will agree that this group of amendments makes minor, but necessary, changes to ensure that the Bill works effectively in light of wider legislative changes and will therefore support these amendments. I beg to move.

Amendment 8 agreed.

Amendments 9 to 12

Moved by

9: Clause 8, page 5, line 14, leave out “the Crown Court makes a confiscation order” and insert “a confiscation order is made”

10: Clause 8, page 5, line 16, leave out “Crown Court” and insert “court”

11: Clause 8, page 5, line 19, leave out “it has made a confiscation order” and insert “a confiscation order has been made”

12: Clause 8, page 5, line 42, at end insert—

“( ) “the court” means—(i) the Crown Court, or(ii) any magistrates’ court that has power to make a confiscation order by virtue of an order under section 97 of the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 (confiscation orders by magistrates’ courts);”

Amendments 9 to 12 agreed.

Clause 10: Slavery and trafficking reparation orders: supplementary provision

Amendments 13 to 15

Moved by

13: Clause 10, page 6, line 43, leave out “Crown Court” and insert “court (within the meaning of section 8 above)”

14: Clause 10, page 7, line 4, leave out paragraph (e)

15: Clause 10, page 7, line 29, leave out from “order” to end of line 30 and insert “that could have been made under section 8 above by virtue of the confiscation order”

Amendments 13 to 15 agreed.

Amendment 16

Moved by

16: After Clause 10, insert the following new Clause—

“Civil remedies for modern slavery

(1) A victim of modern slavery may bring a civil action against any person who commits an offence against that victim under sections 1, 2 and 4 (or who knowingly benefits financially or by receiving anything of value from participation in a venture which that person knew or should have known has involved an offence under sections 1, 2 and 4) for the recovery of damages, injunctive relief, and any other appropriate relief.

(2) It is not a defence to liability under this section that a defendant has been acquitted or has not been investigated, prosecuted or convicted under sections 1, 2 or 4 or has been convicted of a different offence or of a different type or class of offence.

(3) An action under this section must be commenced no later than 6 years after the later of the date on which the victim—

(a) left the situation of modern slavery; or(b) attained the age of 18.(4) This limitation period may be extended where the civil court considers it just and equitable to do so.

(5) An action brought under this section may be stayed by the civil court either on its own volition or at the request of the prosecution until the resolution of any criminal proceedings against a defendant which arise from the same act in respect of which the victim has made the claim.

(6) Damages awarded under this section shall be offset by any compensation paid to the victim for the same act pursuant to section 8 (reparation order following a criminal conviction for a relevant offence) or an award paid to the victim for the same act by the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme.

(7) This section does not preclude any other existing remedies available to the victim under the laws of England and Wales.

(8) There shall be the provision of legal aid to enable a civil claim under this section to be brought.

(9) In a successful action under this section, in addition to any award of damages or other relief, the victim’s costs shall be recoverable against the defendant.

(10) This section shall have the same extra-territorial effect as sections 1, 2 and 4 .”

This amendment is intended to close a gap in the law, which currently does not provide sufficient avenues for all victims of modern slavery to seek remedies for damages and the suffering that they have endured. Again, I have to thank Parosha Chandran and Klara Skrivankova for their contributions in working on this amendment. I would also like to say how much I appreciate the work of all the NGOs which have contributed to our work on the Bill. They have done a fantastic job.

Very few victims have been able to receive remedies and compensation so far. This civil remedies amendment would provide an effective means to reduce the financial profitability of slavery, create a further deterrent effect and enable victims to be adequately compensated for the harm done to them. This proposed new clause does not seek to replace the existing remedies, such as those provided in employment law, but to add a more effective route to remedies that has been absent in English law and that, as experience from elsewhere shows, can be an effective means to enabling victims to get redress.

Those victims who have suffered physical harm will still of course be able to use existing remedies, but Amendment 16 is targeted at those for whom such routes remain out of reach. These are, for example, cases where there is an absence of direct physical harm but that involve debt bondage, abuse of an individual’s position of vulnerability, psychological control, threats of denunciation to the authorities, extortionate recruitment fees, and the threat or carefully nurtured fear of violence. Such actions are recognised in international definitions of trafficking and seen as indicators of forced labour. These are the very circumstances experienced by many victims of modern slavery, especially those exploited for their labour. This provision would, for example, allow a civil claim for forced labour to be brought against businesses or a gangmaster which have used and demeaned eastern European or British men for the purposes of slavery or forced labour, which have abused the men’s vulnerabilities to exploit them for profit and also imposed on them bonded debts via extortionate recruitment fees or accommodation charges for filthy living conditions, and which have failed to pay wages owed.

As I pointed out in Committee, when I brought forward an earlier iteration of this amendment, a further significant advantage of a civil remedy is that it is not dependent on criminal prosecution of offenders and can be brought where no criminal investigation has taken place. It was put to me during the debate in Committee that this proposed change in the law might not be necessary as the existing law is sufficient. I was grateful at that time for the helpful comments made by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay, my noble and learned friend Lady Butler-Sloss, who is supporting this amendment, and my noble and right reverend friend Lord Harries. I also thank the Minister for taking the time to write to me about this matter after the debate.

In his letter of 8 December 2014, the Minister took the view that there exist common law and statutory torts, which may be relied on in civil proceedings for damages. I have consulted a number of legal experts on this matter—experts on the issues of human trafficking and forced labour, as well as experts on civil and tort law outside these areas. The advice I have received was unanimous: that the existing remedies are inadequate as they do not provide appropriate routes to redress for all victims. The various examples from civil law described in the Minister’s letter are unable to give due weight to the factors and circumstances encountered in situations of trafficking and slavery. None reflects the elements of control and exploitation inherent in such situations or the subtle means of control assumed over victims by traffickers. One might consider that false imprisonment comes closest to reflecting the element of control over an individual’s life. However, the traditional focus in jurisprudence is on the restraint of physical liberty, and there is no guarantee that the more insidious and very common forms of restraint, such as the confiscation of a passport or the use of vulnerable immigration status to control victims, would be found to amount to false imprisonment. Similarly, the types of individual instances of assault, battery or harassment that can arise in a forced labour scenario may be inadequately represented by existing torts. The long-term nature of abuse and the elements of control of the vulnerable may be quite different from those that arise in other situations.

In the US, a civil remedy for victims was introduced in 2003 after the finding that the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act 2000, a federal law, criminalised human trafficking and contained numerous provisions for victim protection but did not include a civil liability offence. This important omission was soon recognised and was remedied by the introduction of a federal right of action for survivors of trafficking in 2003. Under the US Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act 2003, a victim may bring a civil action against the perpetrator in court and recover damages.

Having spoken to a number of experts here about this issue over the past few weeks, I have found a remarkable consensus on this issue. I have received advice and letters from some 12 legal practitioners, who all agree that existing remedies have been shown to be inadequate. All the lawyers have had clients in whose cases the absence of direct civil remedies against traffickers has prevented them from bringing civil damages claims owing to the uncertainty of the law and the lawyers’ unwillingness to subject already vulnerable and often traumatised clients to experimental litigation that has no clear outcomes for them.

To reiterate, some victims, especially those who are trafficked for sexual exportation or subject to physical violence, may be able to access some of the existing remedies. However, there are still too many of those affected by modern slavery in this country who cannot. The amendment offers a simple, streamlined, cost-effective and common-sense solution to the current gap in the law. However, we recognise that there is a huge amount of complexity around this issue, and that has been demonstrated by the assumptions that people have made about what is available and what can work. We recognise that it is not possible to change the law quickly. I am seeking confirmation from the Minister that he will be able to meet me, the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, and a small number of practitioners from the field to discuss this matter further, because clearly something here is not working in the way that it should. I beg to move.

My Lords, I have added my name to this amendment, as I did to its predecessor amendment in Committee. Anticipating today’s debate, I had a quick word with the Minister, who helpfully—perhaps he seized on it as a way through today, at any rate—agreed that the noble Baroness, I and others may be let loose in the Home Office in discussions with officials. This is a complex issue. It is right to take considered steps, but steps do indeed have to be considered. The short point, as the noble Baroness said, is that people working in the field—I may say that those I have met are no slouches—argue forcefully for a specific course of action. Given the energy that they put into assisting victims by means of their legal work, I take very serious note of that. I am happy to support the amendment but, more importantly, because this is not something that is going to be solved in a 15-minute debate, to continue the discussion at the Home Office, and I am grateful to my noble friend for that.

I have tabled Amendment 17—I suppose it is allied to this one—about claims in the employment tribunal. Again, I am not seeking a solution today. My amendment, which really is adequate only for the purpose of raising the point, asks the Secretary of States to consult the appropriate people with regard to access to the tribunal by victims of modern slavery. I mention the national minimum wage in particular. If there is an employment contract, a claim must be brought within three months and is limited to two years’ arrears. I mentioned the two-year limit to a colleague in this House and said I was concerned that victims of slavery were prejudiced by it. He said, “Well, if we extended it beyond two years, other groups would want it to be opened up”. I thought that if it was not immediately obvious to someone steeped in what the House is doing that a victim of slavery, servitude or forced labour was unlikely to have been able to have access to an employment tribunal until that situation had finished, then this was something that had to be dealt with in detail and very carefully.

There are new regulations, which have just come into force, providing that from July the two-year restriction will apply. I understand that the Deduction from Wages (Limitation) Regulations were introduced to answer concerns expressed by business over unexpected and unquantified holiday pay claims; they were not aimed at victims of trafficking. Clearly they will affect victims of trafficking, but those victims are not mentioned in the impact assessment that BIS provided for the regulations.

There are other issues, too: for example, there is the family worker exemption, where someone treated as a member of a family is not entitled to the national minimum wage or to any payment at all, but the Court of Appeal—I have had an example of this—has regarded someone who worked 14 hours a day and slept on the dining room floor as being treated as a member of the family. That would have been an overseas domestic worker, and of course I am aware of the review of overseas domestic worker visas, but there are particular issues around the national minimum wage that we must not lose when we are dealing with other parts of this jigsaw.

I appreciate that there are a lot of stakeholders with a great range of interests in employment rights and the danger of unintended consequences is high, which is why I framed my amendment as I did. However, the victims of modern slavery have themselves suffered unintended consequences. All the Minister needs to do to my Amendment 17 is to say yes.

My Lords, I have also put my name to this amendment—as with the two noble Baronesses who have spoken, for the purpose of further consideration, not for the purpose of being part of the Bill at the moment.

There are two points that I want to make. The first is that there is clearly a gap. The second is that this would give an opportunity to victims who cannot have the satisfaction of the trafficker prosecuted—or indeed if the trafficker or slave owner is actually acquitted—none the less to take civil proceedings under a different and less onerous standard of care. The criminal law, as I am sure everyone in this House knows, requires the jury or the magistrate to be satisfied so as to be sure, but in the civil courts—the High Court, the county courts or the small claims courts—it is sufficient to have the balance of probabilities. So it gives an added opportunity to those who have suffered to get some redress, even if it does not go through the criminal courts. It is for that reason that we seek the opportunity for the Government to have a look at this to see whether something can be done at a later stage.

My Lords, I add my voice in support of Amendment 16. I will be brief. There is no need for me to repeat the arguments for having a civil remedy in the Bill as this case has been eloquently and well made by the noble Baroness, Lady Young of Hornsey. I just want to emphasise three points. First, we have a duty to give victims of slavery every type of support to help them rebuild their lives. That is why I support this amendment. Effective civil remedies for modern slavery are another tool that we can agree that will help victims gain access to the justice they so rightly deserve. Through our debates in this House we have been increasing and developing the right provisions to support victims of slavery, which has rightly moved up the agenda. Amendment 16 is an essential element of the package of support. Survivors must have the right to pursue civil compensation claims and to recover damages from their abusers for offences carried out against them.

Secondly, like others, I worry that the current civil law is inadequate for the victims of modern slavery. The criteria for existing civil claims which can be brought against perpetrators seem too narrow for slavery victims. Not all victims of modern slavery have been subjected to physical or sexual assault or false imprisonment. The law is highly complex, and the circumstances of each enslavement situation are highly complex. Increasingly there is no physical violence but there is extreme emotional and psychological manipulation. We therefore need civil law to cover all the complexities of a modern-day slavery situation.

Thirdly, and finally, we need to learn the lessons from the US and not repeat its mistakes. As the noble Baroness, Lady Young of Hornsey, mentioned, the US Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act of 2000 did not include a civil liability offence. That was soon recognised as a glaring omission, so in 2003 a federal right of action was introduced for survivors of trafficking. Let it not take us three years to recognise that more needs to be done. The amendment is before us here and now. I hope the Government will take the opportunity before them to respond favourably to this amendment now, or soon through discussions in future.

My Lords, I will be brief. The noble Baroness, Lady Young of Hornsey, has once again made a powerful case in her amendment. We support the principle of a civil remedy for victims of modern slavery against a person who commits an offence against that victim or who benefits financially. As the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, said, civil proceedings are likely to be less of an ordeal for victims than the criminal courts and cases will be determined on the lower threshold of balance of probabilities rather than beyond reasonable doubt, which increases the prospect of a successful outcome for the victim.

In Committee, there was some discussion about whether there was already recourse to relevant and appropriate civil law remedies for all victims. There was clearly not unanimity of view on that point. The amendment would clear up any doubt by putting a clause in the Bill providing for civil action and remedies for victims of modern slavery, and if the Government are going to oppose this amendment all the way down the line, they will need to be rather more convincing than they were in Committee in persuading the House that adequate civil remedies are already available and that that view is not open to serious doubt. I hope that the Minister will be able to respond in a helpful way.

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Young, for moving this amendment and giving us the opportunity for a debate. As my noble friend Lady Hamwee said, we have agreed to continue dialogue on this issue with the Home Office and the Independent Anti-slavery Commissioner, who has expressed an interest in this area. This is also an opportunity to put on the record some remarks on our position, which the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, invited us to do. In doing so, I do not want to detract from the fact that we agree that this is something at which we need to look carefully.

Since Committee stage, we have been looking very closely at civil remedies and modern slavery, and have been exchanging letters about the details with Peers, as the noble Baroness, Lady Young, said. Amendment 16 seeks to enhance civil remedies by creating new torts equivalent to the offences to be created under Clauses 1, 2 and 4. I assure the House that we believe that civil remedies in tort already exist for victims of trafficking and slavery to claim damages from perpetrators through ordinary civil law and the Human Rights Act. Damages can, for example, be recovered for loss or damage caused to victims under the torts of intimidation, harassment, assault, unlawful imprisonment, negligence and breach of duty. We have been unable to identify a modern slavery scenario that would not involve at least one of those torts. Given the serious nature of modern slavery, we consider that it is likely that a court would be able to establish that, on the balance of probabilities, at least one of those civil wrongs had taken place. Accordingly, we are currently of the view that the existing civil law already provides the necessary civil remedies for modern slavery cases.

Once a tort has been established, the court can award damages to the victim. Noble Lords previously expressed concern that such damages may be insufficient in light of the terrible experiences that the victim may have suffered. However, aggravated damages are available in relation to a number of civil torts, such as assault or wrongful imprisonment. This means that where the court, taking into account the defendant’s motives, conduct and manner of committing the tort against the victim, feels that the defendant has aggravated the victim’s damage by injuring his proper feelings of dignity and pride, aggravated damages may be awarded. Given the particular nature of modern slavery, we would expect most modern slavery cases to give rise to aggravated damages, which seem particularly apt for such situations, given their focus on the injurious and degrading effect on the victim, and consider that the availability of such additional damages will enable courts to ensure that victims receive an adequate remedy fully tailored to the particular effect on them.

The Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 retained civil legal aid for damages and employment law claims for trafficking victims to support them in making such claims, and an amendment to the Bill will extend this legal aid provision to all modern slavery victims. I believe this amendment has been widely welcomed.

Amendment 17 would require the Secretary of State to complete a consultation on access by victims of modern slavery to the employment tribunal to make claims, including for payment of the national minimum wage. I assure noble Lords that all employees and workers in the United Kingdom are entitled to protection under our employment law, and those working legally in Great Britain will have access to the employment tribunal. In some circumstances this will include modern slavery victims. However, given the criminal nature of modern slavery, some victims will not have been in legal employment and therefore cannot benefit from all the same protections as those working under legal contracts. For example, access to an employment tribunal would be possible only in certain cases of discrimination. This is because, as a general principle, a court or tribunal will not enforce an illegal contract.

Where victims are eligible to make claims through the employment tribunal, there is a two-year restriction, which my noble friend Lady Hamwee referred to, which applies to most claims for unlawful deduction of wages, including underpayment of the national minimum wage. However, in practice, the majority of national minimum wage claims are handled by a separate enforcement route via Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs. This route is not affected by our changes, and the national minimum wage can still be claimed for up to six years via HMRC enforcement. HMRC investigates every complaint made to the Pay and Work Rights Helpline. In addition, HMRC conducts risk-based enforcement in sectors or areas where there is perceived to be a higher risk of workers not getting paid the legal minimum wage.

An action founded on a civil tort to claim general damages would not be subject to a two-year limit and can usually be made up to six years after the cause of action accrued. In these cases, the amounts of the damages will be based on the individual circumstances of the case and may be higher than the level of wages that should have been paid, although this may be a factor considered by the court in assessing the amount of the victim’s loss. We are committed to doing as much as possible effectively to enhance support for and protection of victims of modern slavery, which includes ensuring that they receive compensation for the horrors that they have experienced.

While our current analysis is that the existing law provides sufficient access to civil remedies for victims of slavery and trafficking, these debates are providing very valuable information in exploring how civil remedies apply to modern slavery cases. We will continue to look carefully at the evidence put forward in the debates, including today’s Report stage debate, in future policy-making. Given the need to explore further the important points raised, I hope that noble Lords will agree that this is not an issue to address through the Bill at this stage. As I have given undertakings, which I mentioned at the outset, to continue the discussion but to put on the record these additional remarks, which represent the Government’s latest position on this issue, I hope that that will provide reassurance for my noble friend and for the noble Baroness, Lady Young, to consider withdrawing her amendment at this stage.

I thank the Minister for his reply, and for agreeing to meet us. However, it is interesting that there clearly is some kind of a problem here if all these practitioners, who are very diligent and very committed to the people with whom they work, cannot seem to find their way through what already exists. That takes me back to 2009, when we were looking at what became Section 71—which we often refer to now—of the Coroners and Justice Act. At that time, a number of arguments were put forward against doing anything about criminalising forced labour and servitude. It now seems impossible to think that anyone would argue against that, but the Government of the time felt that there was sufficient recourse through the civil courts, and we now know better than that. I reiterate part of what the noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy, was saying: we do not want to wait another three years before we get round to thinking, “Oh yes, there is something else—we can do a little bit better”. I therefore hope that we will come to some sort of agreement about a more productive way forward. In that context, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 16 withdrawn.

Amendment 17 not moved.

Clause 13: Interpretation of Part 1

Amendment 18

Moved by

18: Clause 13, page 9, line 43, at end insert—

“( ) In sections 8 and 10, references to provisions of the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 include references to those provisions as amended or otherwise modified by virtue of an order (whenever made) under section 97 of the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 (confiscation orders by magistrates’ courts).”

Amendment 18 agreed.

Schedule 1: Slavery and human trafficking offences

Amendment 19

Moved by

19: Schedule 1, page 44, line 27, at end insert—

“Human Trafficking and Exploitation (Criminal Justice and Support for Victims) Act (Northern Ireland) 2015 (c. 2 (N.I.))7A An offence under section 1, 2 or 4 of the Human Trafficking and Exploitation (Criminal Justice and Support for Victims) Act (Northern Ireland) 2015 (slavery, servitude and forced or compulsory labour; human trafficking).”

Amendment 19 agreed.

Clause 30: Offences

Amendments 20 to 22

Moved by

20: Clause 30, page 22, line 20, at end insert—

“(e) a slavery and trafficking prevention order under Schedule 3 to the Human Trafficking and Exploitation (Criminal Justice and Support for Victims) Act (Northern Ireland) 2015 (c. 2 (N.I.)), or (f) an interim slavery and trafficking prevention order under that Schedule to that Act,”

21: Clause 30, page 22, line 31, leave out “not exceeding £5,000”

22: Clause 30, page 22, line 35, leave out subsection (5)

Amendments 20 to 22 agreed.

Clause 34: Interpretation of Part 2

Amendments 23 and 24

Moved by

23: Clause 34, page 23, line 36, at end insert “(except in section 30(1)(f))”

24: Clause 34, page 23, line 42, at end insert “(except in section 30(1)(e))”

Amendments 23 and 24 agreed.

Clause 37: Enforcement powers in relation to ships: Northern Ireland

Amendment 25

Moved by

25: Clause 37, page 27, line 26, leave out paragraphs (a) to (c) and insert—

“(a) section 1 of the Human Trafficking and Exploitation (Criminal Justice and Support for Victims) Act (Northern Ireland) 2015 (c. 2 (N.I.)) (slavery, servitude and forced or compulsory labour);(b) section 2 of that Act (human trafficking).”

Amendment 25 agreed.

Amendment 26

Moved by

26: After Schedule 2, insert the following new Schedule—

SchedulePublic authorities under a duty to co-operate with the CommissionerLaw enforcement and border securityA chief officer of police for a police area in England and Wales.

The chief constable of the British Transport Police Force.

The National Crime Agency.

An immigration officer or other official of the Secretary of State exercising functions in relation to immigration or asylum.

A designated customs official (within the meaning of Part 1 of the Borders, Citizenship and Immigration Act 2009).

Local governmentA county council in England or Wales.

A county borough council in Wales.

A district council in England.

A London borough council.

The Greater London Authority.

The Common Council of the City of London.

The Council of the Isles of Scilly.

Health bodiesA National Health Service trust established under section 25 of the National Health Service Act 2006 or section 18 of the National Health Service (Wales) Act 2006.

An NHS foundation trust within the meaning given by section 30 of the National Health Service Act 2006.

A Local Health Board established under section 11 of the National Health Service (Wales) Act 2006.

RegulatorsThe Gangmasters Licensing Authority.”

My Lords, I will speak also to government Amendments 42 to 45, 106, 107 and 110 to 113. Amendments 108 and 109 should more logically be taken at a later stage, as they refer to later provisions.

I pay tribute to the work of the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee. Its excellent report has suggested a number of improvements to the Bill, and the Government have responded positively. This group of amendments relates to the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee’s recommendations on the duty to co-operate with the Independent Anti-slavery Commissioner. The committee recommended that public authorities to whom this duty would apply should be listed in the Bill, that additions should be made to this list via regulations subject to the negative procedure, and that public authorities should be removed from the duty only where regulations have been made via the affirmative procedure.

Accordingly, the amendments set out the list of public authorities, which operate either across the UK or in England and Wales only, and which will be under a duty to co-operate with the Independent Anti-slavery Commissioner as soon as the provision is commenced. Those include all the first responders under the national referral mechanism: the police, the National Crime Agency, the Gangmasters Licensing Authority, relevant front-line staff in the Home Office, and local authorities. We have also included National Health Service trusts, which are also highly relevant to identifying victims. Where relevant we have consulted the Welsh Government to ensure that they are content with that list. To ensure that health professionals are not under conflicting duties regarding confidentiality to patients, these amendments specify that they are not required to supply patient information to the commissioner.

Noble Lords will note that the list relates only to authorities that can be specified by the UK Government without breaching the Sewel convention. We have consulted the Scottish Government and Northern Ireland Executive on the committee’s recommendations, but they wish to add public authorities through regulations to ensure that the Scottish Parliament and Northern Ireland Assembly are appropriately consulted. I stress that this is an initial list; I am sure that noble Lords can identify other bodies which might prove relevant in future. I am happy to commit to keeping this list under review and looking carefully at points made in debate. We will be able to add to the list through regulations subject to the negative procedure.

On the second element of the committee’s recommendations, that group of amendments also specifies that a public authority can be removed from the duty only via regulations subject to the affirmative procedure, except where the amendment is in consequence of the authority having ceased to exist. This is an important safeguard as it means the scope of the duty to co-operate with the commissioner cannot be narrowed without careful parliamentary scrutiny. Additions to the duty can be made through regulations subject to the negative procedure. Scotland and Northern Ireland have agreed to follow the same process, and that is also reflected in the amendments. I beg to move.

My Lords, perhaps I might add two names. I am very happy with these amendments, but I wonder why neither the Crown Prosecution Service nor the College of Policing is included in the proposed new schedule. I suggest that that should be looked at.

I thank the noble and learned Baroness. Yes; we have identified public authorities that we consider have a key role to play in supporting the commissioner in delivering his functions. However, I stress that this is an initial list, and we are more than prepared to look at additions to it. We will keep it under review, and will possibly consider ahead of Third Reading whether we should have greater ability to tailor the duty to the particular functions or legislative framework of a future public authority, as we have done with National Health Service trusts and patient confidentiality. The noble and learned Baroness raises two other possibilities, which we will look at ahead of Third Reading, and I thank her.

Amendment 26 agreed.

Clause 40: The Independent Anti-slavery Commissioner

Amendment 27

Moved by

27: Clause 40, page 30, line 40, at end insert “and may bring any matter to the attention of either House of Parliament irrespective of other provisions in this Act”

My Lords, Amendment 27 is in my name and in those of the noble Lords, Lord Patel and Lord Alton, and the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Derby. I shall also speak briefly to Amendment 29 in this group, which is in the same names.

I begin by acknowledging the efforts made by the Minister to respond positively to the many points raised in Committee by Members of this House from across the Benches. The House will recall that in Committee there was great concern that the Bill did not go far enough to ensure the independence of the Independent Anti-slavery Commissioner. Simply to call the commissioner “independent” was not sufficient if the Bill did not fully reflect that description. The Government have eventually, after a struggle, recognised those concerns to some extent in their Amendment 28. However, I gently draw the Minister’s attention to the fact that it does not even go as far as the rather modest collective amendment we have put down as Amendment 29.

Unfortunately, there is a somewhat grudging flavour to Amendment 28, which makes me retain my concern about the extent to which the commissioner remains clearly on a leash—even if, admittedly, on a slightly longer one—from the Home Office. That is why I have tried to provide an override provision in Amendment 27, which would enable the commissioner to,

“bring any matter to the attention of either House of Parliament irrespective of other provisions in this Act”.

That means exactly what it says. If the commissioner at any time considers that he or she is being thwarted or nudged away from airing publicly any significant concern that he or she has, he or she can draw upon the provisions in Amendment 27 to access either House of Parliament to ensure that the issue is brought into the public domain.

The amendment is not directed at any particular Home Secretary but is a provision based on what some of us have observed in Governments of all or any political make-up as reluctance to have difficult or embarrassing issues surface publicly. My colleagues want to ensure a stronger legal bulwark against any such temptation.

It is clear that Parliament has used such a bulwark elsewhere in relation to the Children’s Commissioner, whose functions are set out in the new Section 2 of the Children Act 2004 brought forward last year in the Children and Families Act 2014. New Section 2(3)(e) gave the Children’s Commissioner exactly the same access to either House of Parliament at any time he or she considered it necessary when discharging his or her functions. It states that the commissioner may,

“bring any matter to the attention of either House of Parliament”.

Therefore, not that long ago, this Parliament gave a commissioner with responsibilities for very vulnerable people—in that case, children—an absolute guarantee of access to Parliament should the need arise. Paragraph 436 of the Explanatory Notes to the 2014 Act makes it absolutely clear that the Children’s Commissioner can do this either through his annual report or by other means, such as writing to the chair of a relevant Select Committee. To put it graphically, if I may, if a Minister tries to gag the Children’s Commissioner or censor his utterances, the commissioner can go straight to Parliament.

We should also remember that other countries with equivalents to the anti-slavery commissioner give the person direct access to Parliament. The rapporteur from the Netherlands made clear to the Joint Select Committee on the Bill her ability to do this. She saw it as an important way of giving confidence to people outside that they could bring their concerns to the rapporteur.

As we discussed in Committee, the commissioner needs the trust and confidence of a wide range of agencies and interests if he or she is to be successful. That trust and confidence will be damaged, as the Joint Committee said, if there remain doubts or perceptions that the person’s independence is shackled by the Executive. No amount of warm words from Ministers can remove those doubts and perceptions. A statutory guarantee is required and Amendment 27 gives that guarantee. Having accepted that position in relation to the Children’s Commissioner as recently as last year, I hope that the Minister can do the same for the anti-slavery commissioner by accepting my amendment, which is framed in exactly the same way as the Children and Families Act 2014. If the Government are prepared to agree to Amendment 27, I will be strongly inclined not to press my Amendment 29. I beg to move.

My Lords, as the noble Lord, Lord Warner, indicated, I am one of those who put my name to the amendment, and I am very happy to add my support to it in a short intervention this evening. Before doing so, I endorse what the noble Lord, Lord Warner, said about the thoughtfulness and thoroughness of both the noble Lord, Lord Bates, and the noble Baroness, Lady Garden of Frognal, in dealing with Members from all sides of the House during the passage of this legislation, whether in the series of meetings organised in your Lordships’ House or in the face-to-face meetings with some of us who participated at the Home Office. We are all grateful to them for that. It is exemplary and it should recommend itself to other Ministers who are keen to facilitate their legislation through Parliament. This, of course, does not mean that we have always been of one mind or that we are necessarily going to agree about Amendment 27 to Clause 40.

The issue is the accountability of the Independent Anti-slavery Commissioner. I suspect that it may be one of those issues where we will not find agreement because it cuts right into lines of accountability through the Home Office. Departmental issues may take precedence over what I think may well be the private views of members of the Government but which they may not be able to voice here this evening.

The amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Warner, is commendable for its clarity. However, as he also indicated, it is a shrewd amendment, not least because it is based on the Children and Families Act 2014. If what we did a year ago was right in that context, surely it is right to follow exactly that precedent here again this evening.

It seems to me that one of the most important things is to recognise that, however good the nature or good will of individual Ministers, they, and even Home Secretaries, come and go. We are in a period where we face a general election. There may be a different set of Ministers—perhaps from the same party or maybe from other parties—in the very near future, so assurances given on the Floor of your Lordships’ House in the course of debate, even though they are given in good faith, cannot carry over in the same way that legislation carries over. Parliament does not come and go, unlike individual Ministers, and that is why it is so important that we place these words on the face of the Bill.

There have been plenty of precedents where uncomfortable, inconvenient and untimely issues have arisen, and departments have endeavoured to shelve them or kick them into the long grass, to suppress them or simply to ignore them. This amendment would prevent that. If we deemed such a provision to be necessary to protect children, surely it is necessary to protect victims of slavery, many of whom will in any case be children.

In a letter to me just a couple of days ago, on 20 February, the Independent Anti-slavery Commissioner, Mr Kevin Hyland, said:

“My independence will be unwavering, whether that be toward law enforcement, government, the private sector or indeed any organisation”.

I repeat:

“My independence will be unwavering”,

in the direction of government, as he specifically states. Either he is independent or he is not, and this amendment gives him the parliamentary access which will guarantee him that unwavering independence. I hope that this evening the Government will indicate either that they will take this matter away and look at it between now and Third Reading or that they will recognise the spirit in which the amendment is being moved by the noble Lord, Lord Warner, and give some guarantees to the effect that he is seeking.

While the government amendment is welcome in extending the remit of the anti-slavery commissioner and allowing the commissioner to appoint his or her own staff, there are other areas where there still appear to be constraints on the commissioner's independence.

The commissioner must still seek prior approval of strategic plans from the Home Secretary on his or her activities and areas of focus, and annual reports may also be subject to redaction before they are laid before Parliament and published. Apart from the impact on the commissioner’s independence, it is not clear within what timeframe this checking and seeking clearance has to be undertaken in order to avoid the prospect of delays, for example, in the publication of a report or the approval of a plan or programme. The delaying of the publication of reports by the Home Office is an experience apparently not unknown to Mr Vine, the Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration.

Annual reports from the anti-slavery commissioner may be redacted on the grounds that material may jeopardise the safety of an individual, prejudice an investigation or, in the view of the Secretary of State, be against the interests of national security. Perhaps the Minister could say how frequently it has been necessary to redact reports where the same conditions and criteria as it is proposed to place on the Independent Anti-slavery Commissioner’s reports already apply in relation to comparable commissioners or bodies.

As has been said, following the passing of the Children and Families Act 2014, the Children’s Commissioner can bring any matter to the attention of Parliament. And again, as has already been said, the Explanatory Notes to the 2014 Act state that the commissioner might do this, for example, through annual reports to Parliament or by writing to the chair of a relevant Select Committee. Under the 2014 Act, the Children’s Commissioner must as soon as possible lay a copy of his or her annual report before each House of Parliament.

In his letter of 16 February, the Minister said that,

“the Government’s intention has always been that the Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner will be independent”.

But it appears that there are varying degrees of independence—or lack of independence, depending on which way one wants to look at it. Perhaps the noble Lord could say whether the Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner will be in the same position when laying his annual report before each House of Parliament or writing to the chair of a relevant Select Committee as is the Children’s Commissioner under the Children and Families Act 2014—and, if the answer is no, why that should be the case.

The noble Lord, Lord Rosser, put a direct question to me that other noble Lords have asked. It is because the nature of the information often involves serious crime and young children, and there are matters that may not be appropriate. That is something that is applied to other organisations—for example, with Borders and Immigration, with which the Independent Anti-slavery Commissioner shares an office.

I shall make some contextual remarks and thank the noble Lord, Lord Warner, for returning to this issue. He acknowledged that we have been on a journey with this Bill. The word “independent” was not in the Bill when it was in the other place. That was added and then, rightly, your Lordships asked what it actually meant in precise terms and whether the person has the right to appoint their own staff, or whether they should be able to draw them just from within the pool of the Home Office. Then we found out and were able to confirm that he had already been appointing staff from outside in his designate position, and that he had brought in people from NGOs working in this area to assist in this role.

One point that was helpful in the discussion when Kevin Hyland, the designate commissioner, came to speak to Peers, was that, from his own role, he wanted to be closely aligned to the Home Office because he felt that it gave him a certain amount of authority in dealing with modern slavery—not just within the Home Office but across government. We now have a cross-government strategy, which we have published. He felt that that was very important and that the fact of reporting to the Secretary of State at the Home Office would strengthen his ability to get the changes he wanted in engaging with police officers and other agencies. From his own point of view, he saw no contradiction—to pick up the point of the noble Lord, Lord Alton—and he wanted to be unwavering in how he put forward his case and reacted to his role, as he put it in his letter. I emphasise that that came out on 20 February; I do not think that anybody in the Home Office was consulted about it—and, of course, it was absolutely welcome. He wants to build a strong relationship with parliamentarians and to engage in that process.

The idea of any of us who have had the privilege of meeting Kevin Hyland thinking that he would be anybody’s poodle, let alone on a leash, is something that we do not accept. We want to make sure that he has a very serious statutory role to perform, charged by and answerable to the Secretary of State. His task is to ensure that victims are protected and perpetrators prosecuted. Under previous groups, we talked about how that might be done. This is a very good example of how that might be moved forward.

I know that there are concerns that reports are reviewed by the Secretary of State, but there is another element here, which I want the noble Lord to be cognisant of in pursuing his amendment. Amendment 27 would effectively allow the commissioner to report to Parliament about anything without the important necessary safeguards which would avoid inadvertently jeopardising national security, putting victims’ lives at risk or undermining an ongoing prosecution. Moreover—I ask the noble Lord to think very carefully about this point—Amendment 27 would legislate outside the legislative consent Motions passed by the Scottish Parliament and Northern Ireland Assembly, which were agreed specifically on the basis of the current powers to safeguard matters of important public interest. The amendment would leave a Bill that, if passed, would breach the Sewel convention, and put this critical UK-wide part of the Bill at risk. That is a very serious point for the noble Lord, Lord Warner, to consider.

I have tried to make the point to the noble Lord that, in welcoming his amendment, we have introduced our own amendment, which guarantees the commissioner’s independence of role over his budgets and recruitment of staff and also ensures that it is open to any committee to request the commissioner to come and speak to it. It is entirely within its ability to do that, and any Member of Parliament is entirely at liberty to communicate directly or to meet him, as has already been the case on many occasions. We simply underscore the importance of that role, and have this hesitation only in accepting the noble Lord’s amendment at this stage—it could put at risk some of the prosecutions being brought forward, if information should be inadvertently released. Given that we are dealing with matters of organised crime, that would be a very serious matter, which I know will weigh heavily on the noble Lord, Lord Warner. I ask him to keep that in mind.

Amendment 29 would entirely negate the effect of these essential provisions by allowing the commissioner to report to Parliament about any matter and override existing statutory information safeguards and restrictions on disclosure, such as those in the Data Protection Act 1998 or the Official Secrets Act 1989. I urge noble Lords not to effectively remove the critical and proportionate safeguards set out in the redaction provisions. I must also bring an important issue to the noble Lord’s attention, in the Sewel convention. That is very important to bear in mind. He is aware that the Government cannot support amendments in breach of the Sewel convention. To raise such a controversial constitutional issue at this stage in the life of a Parliament would put at risk important provisions for a UK-wide commissioner.

Given these serious risks, and my assurance that the commissioner will already have his annual reports laid before Parliament and be able to appear before parliamentary committees, I hope that the noble Lord will feel able to withdraw his amendment and support the government amendment to strengthen the independence of the commissioner.

My Lords, that was all very interesting. I thought that there was a certain amount of scrabbling around by the Minister at the end when he went into the Sewel convention and letters of consent. He seemed to be struggling to put the old arguments together—and I can see that there has been some burning of the midnight oil in the Home Office to try to scratch together some of these arguments. It was interesting to hear the Minister talk of us going on a journey. It certainly has been a journey; it has been a rather hard slog through a lot of mud to try to get a bit more independence into this person’s role. I agree with him that this has been a journey. However, I have considerable doubts about whether it has been successfully completed.

I am genuinely grateful for all the work that the Minister has put in since the Bill came to the House, and I very much share the views expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Alton. However, that does not alter the fact that we are legislating for the future, not just for now. I have heard nothing in the Minister’s arguments which convinces me that this House should not include in the Bill an ability for this commissioner that is the same as that of the Children’s Commissioner to have direct access to Parliament when the need arises. I say to the Minister—

The noble Lord claims that he heard nothing, but what does he say to the point about the Sewel convention? It is a serious constitutional point about how this proposal would affect the Scottish Parliament and the Northern Ireland Assembly.

My Lords, if I may be allowed to finish what I was going to say, it would probably be helpful to the Minister. I am not one simply to reject out of hand some of these constitutional issues. However, we are also concerned about the position in this country—England—as well as the position in Scotland and other parts of the United Kingdom. We have the largest population and we are probably dealing with the largest number of enslaved, exploited and trafficked children. If the Government consider that this amendment needs to be amended between now and Third Reading, they could do so and have negotiations with the Scottish Parliament, the Northern Ireland Assembly and so forth. People have these discussions with other government departments when there is a reasonable period of time in which to do so.

In conclusion, on the basis of what I have heard, I see no reason for not testing the opinion of the House.

Amendment 28

Moved by

28: Clause 40, page 30, line 43, leave out subsection (4) and insert—

“(4) The Secretary of State—

(a) must before the beginning of each financial year specify a maximum sum which the Commissioner may spend that year,(b) may permit that to be exceeded for a specified purpose, and(c) subject to paragraphs (a) and (b), must defray the Commissioner’s expenditure for each financial year.(4A) In this Part, “financial year” means—

(a) the period beginning with the day on which the first Commissioner takes office and ending with the following 31 March, and(b) each successive period of 12 months.“(4B) The Commissioner may appoint staff.”

My Lords, I support Amendment 28. Before I set out why I think the independence of the commissioner is of central importance, I want to place on record my thanks to the Minister for hosting so many meetings between Committee and Report to hear the views of Peers and to help to update us with the latest thinking from the Home Office. In relation to the clauses that we are discussing, I thank the Minister for arranging a helpful meeting with the commissioner-designate.

I welcome the amendment, because it will provide a solid foundation for the independence of the commissioner, not only in fact but in appearance. I commend the Minister for listening and responding to concerns expressed by your Lordships during the debate and for taking on board the recommendation of our Joint Committee on the draft Bill with regard to this central issue of the statutory safeguards for the commissioner’s independence. Indeed, I believe that I recognise the text of the amendment from our committee’s alternative Bill. I was pleased to hear from the commissioner himself about his vigorous determination to be an independent voice and to challenge, on the basis of evidence, those who were not meeting the necessary standards of action. I am also pleased to know that he had been involved in appointing his staff team.

The amendment will protect the independence of the commissioner for the long term, beyond the tenure of the present commissioner or the present Home Secretary. The amendment establishes clearly that although the commissioner, his office and activities are funded by the Home Office, that funding is through a budget allocation which the commissioner can apportion as he sees fit. The original text creates a dependency for the commissioner on the Secretary of State for the most basic equipment, and suggests that his office is embedded in the Home Office. That is no different from any other unit within that department, and it gives the Secretary of State the power to determine what office accommodation, equipment and facilities he or she considers necessary for the commissioner’s functions, with the only requirement being to consult the commissioner. This creates the possibility for pressure to be applied to the commissioner, influencing what he is able to do through providing or not providing certain resources. The amendment removes this possibility by empowering the commissioner himself to determine how his budget is allocated within limits set by the Secretary of State.

When the Joint Committee on the draft Bill considered these questions, we were particularly concerned not only about actual undue influence on the commissioner’s activities but about the need for the commissioner to have credibility with the many different groups, agencies and partners that he will have to engage with in his work. A degree of financial independence is key to establishing a clear separation between the commissioner and the Home Office, which the amendment accomplishes.

The amendment also gives the commissioner the power to appoint his own staff. This power is also central to establishing the independence vital to the commissioner’s reputation and effectiveness. It ensures that the commissioner will be able to gather a team with the requisite skills to fulfil his plans and objectives, rather than depending only on staff available from within the Home Office. The ability to appoint staff will also strengthen the credibility of the commissioner’s team as there will be less concern about the ability of staff members with loyalty to the Home Office to offer critical analysis of the Government’s policy.

If the commissioner is not able to demonstrate clear distance between his office and the Home Office policy machinery, the resulting damage to his credibility, and by extension to his reports and recommendations, could be paralysing. Amendment 28 will ensure that this will not be the case by creating a statutory framework that creates and protects that independence. Vis-à-vis the plea made by the noble Lord, Lord Warner, that the commissioner should have access to Parliament, the commissioner—he is a very strong man indeed—can readily ask MPs or Members of this House to ask questions in the House and to initiate appropriate debates.

To protect the independence of the commissioner for the long term, we must ensure that the statute that creates the post lives up to our aspirations of independence. Amendment 28 does this. I offer the Minister my wholehearted support for this amendment.

I am tempted to say very briefly that I of course agree with every word that my noble friend has said. He comes to this with great authority and respect, having been, as I said before, one of the people who generated the whole idea for the Bill. I know he is passionate about getting this right. I think that Amendment 28 goes a long way to address and meet some of the concerns that were legitimately raised by the noble Lord, Lord Warner, in the previous debate and which I understand.

I am glad that Amendment 28 will be made, because it is vital that everyone out there in the NGO community, and police officers, law enforcement and everyone else involved in this work, recognises that the commissioner’s independence is unwavering, as the noble Lord, Lord Alton, put it—and, as Kevin Hyland himself put it, that he has absolute credibility in his background, having been a police officer leading on the prosecution of these areas. None the less, he wants to have a very strong working relationship with the many parliamentarians in both Houses who care passionately about this subject. Amendment 28 will ensure that that happens.

Amendment 28 agreed.

Amendment 29

Tabled by

29: Clause 40, page 30, line 43, leave out subsection (4) and insert—

“(4) The Secretary of State shall, within the approved budget—

(a) allow the Commissioner to appoint any staff he considers necessary for assisting him in the exercise of his functions; and(b) ensure that he has such accommodation equipment and facilities as he considers necessary for the exercise of his functions.”

Briefly, as I am slightly provoked by the comments made by the noble Lord, Lord McColl, on Amendment 28, I was well aware that the commissioner could put people up to ask questions. I did not doubt that. However, it seemed to me that the issue—this is still a shortcoming of Amendment 28—was that Parliament should put beyond peradventure the commissioner’s independence. I am not going to move Amendment 29, but I suggest that it gives the commissioner more independence than the wording of Amendment 28. I am not going to progress this argument any further, but I want to put on record that I am not convinced that we have gone as far as we could have done. In the mean time, I will not move Amendment 29.

Amendment 29 not moved.

Consideration on Report adjourned until not before 8.45 pm.