Clause 43: Duty to co-operate with Commissioner
1: Clause 43, page 35, line 37, at end insert—
“(10) Regulations under subsection (7), (8) or (9) which add a public authority to Schedule 3 may contain provision modifying the application of this section in relation to that authority.”
My Lords, I shall also speak to government Amendments 5, 7 and 8. As noble Lords will be aware, on Report the House agreed amendments which specified an initial list of public authorities which will be subject to the duty to co-operate with the Independent Anti-slavery Commissioner. During that debate the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, indicated that the Crown Prosecution Service and the College of Policing should perhaps be added to this list. On that occasion, I indicated that the Government would keep the list under review and consider, ahead of Third Reading, whether an ability to tailor the duty to individual public authorities would be helpful.
Our experience from working on the initial list of public authorities is that some authorities have existing remits or duties which could conflict with the duty to co-operate. In the case of NHS trusts, we needed to make it clear that patient confidentiality would be respected before they could become part of the duty. I want to ensure that it is possible to extend the list of bodies subject to the duty to co-operate in future, in light of that experience. Today, I am therefore putting forward amendments that will ensure that where we subject a public authority to the duty to co-operate by regulations, we can tailor the duty to co-operate to reflect the particular functions or legislative framework of that public authority.
The aim of this measure is to ensure that we can apply the duty to co-operate to more bodies relevant to the commissioner’s role in future. To assure Parliament that this duty will be used only appropriately, and will not inappropriately circumscribe the duty to co-operate in respect of a particular public authority, it will be subject to the affirmative procedure or the equivalent in the devolved legislatures. I hope that the House will feel able to support these amendments, which aim to ensure that the duty to co-operate can be extended practically to other public authorities. I beg to move.
Amendment 1 agreed.
Clause 50: Regulations about identifying and supporting victims
2: Clause 50, page 39, line 34, at end insert—
“( ) Regulations under subsection (1) must set out—
(a) what services will be provided to meet international obligations for the physical, psychological and social recovery of victims;(b) how the services will be provided to meet international obligations in respect of a victim’s consent, safety or other special needs;(c) that provision of services must not be made conditional on the victim assisting with a criminal investigation or prosecution; and(d) how the services will be monitored and audited.”
My Lords, Amendment 2 is in my name and would clarify the content of regulations that may be introduced under Clause 50 for the provision of support and assistance to victims. I have spoken both in Committee and on Report about the importance of putting support and assistance provision into legislation and, in particular, the benefit of setting out the minimum range of support and assistance to be provided. There are three key reasons why I continue to think that this is important.
First, it will give confidence to victims and support workers that they will receive support and therefore it will encourage more victims to come forward to seek help. This point of view has been expressed by victims’ organisations and the pre-legislative evidence review, chaired by Mr Frank Field MP. Secondly, putting the basic principles of support and assistance into legislation will provide a strong framework to ensure consistent standards and availability of care across the country, strengthened by monitoring and auditing mechanisms.
The third reason for putting details of support and assistance into legislation is that it will ensure that provision will meet our obligations by allowing parliamentary scrutiny in a way which policy provision alone cannot. The review of the NRM was extremely welcome, although it was disappointing that it found many of the same problems identified by the evaluation report of the Council of Europe group of experts known as GRETA when it visited four years earlier in 2011. Putting support and assistance provisions into domestic law will focus the attention of the Government in a way that international obligations have not.
It is a matter of some regret for me that we have not been able to add detailed support and assistance provisions to the Bill. I am grateful to the Minister for giving the option of secondary legislation at some point in future and I hope that it will not be long before we see those regulations. However, I continue to have concerns about the disparity in statutory rights between victims in England and Wales and those elsewhere in the UK. As I have said, I continue to believe that there is a great benefit for victims by putting these provisions into legislation. I therefore strongly encourage whoever might be in leadership in the Home Office when the NRM pilots are completed to use the enabling power under Clause 50 and to put support and assistance provision into regulations. I can assure your Lordships that when the evaluation of these pilots is published we will be looking at it very carefully and will continue to raise this matter with whoever is responsible.
Although Amendment 2 does not put support and assistance into primary legislation, nor does it alter the enabling nature of Clause 50, I have introduced it because I believe we need clarity about the content of the secondary legislation about support and assistance, just as we have done in Clause 48, which gives rather more specific direction about the matters to be contained in regulations for independent child trafficking advocates.
On Report, during the debate on the introduction of this clause and my amendment on the subject, various noble Lords urged the Minister to consider further. The noble Baroness, Lady Grey-Thompson, specifically highlighted the absence of any mention of the kinds of support and assistance in the new enabling clause and asked the Minister to,
“reflect on whether a reference to the types of assistance set out in the convention and directive could be added to the reference to guidance in Clause 49 and the enabling clause”.—[Official Report, 25/2/15; col. 1679.]
The enabling clause is Clause 50. The noble Baroness, Lady Howe, expressed concern about the varying standards of care and welcomed the provision in my Report stage amendment regarding minimum standards and auditing processes. The noble Baroness asked the Minister to,
“reflect on how key elements ensuring consistency in standards of care might be incorporated into the regulations that he proposes”.—[Official Report, 25/2/15; col. 1681.]
The noble Lord, Lord Rosser, invited the Minister to look further at the need to give greater detail about the minimum level of assistance to be provided and the circumstances of that provision. I was grateful for the Minister’s response that he would reflect further on the comments made in the debate. I was rather hoping that the Government might introduce an amendment such as mine in order to provide the assurance and clarity that your Lordships had been seeking during our Report stage debate.
Amendment 2 gives an indication of the matters that should be covered in the regulations for providing support and assistance to victims under Clause 50. It ensures that the support and assistance under the regulations will fulfil international obligations and sets out clearly, as per the Council of Europe convention, that support should be for victims’ physical, psychological and social recovery. It also stipulates that the support and assistance should be provided in a manner that adheres to international treaties and in particular taking account of issues to do with the victim’s consent to receive support, their need for safety and any special needs that the victim might have, such as disability or illness. The amendment also makes it clear that support must not be conditional on a victim acting as a witness. Additionally, the amendment requires the regulations to address how support services will be monitored and audited to ensure that standards are being met.
I welcome the Minister’s comments on Report that Clause 50 will allow for regulations to be made about accommodation, financial assistance, assistance in obtaining healthcare and the provision of information, translation and interpretation services, which are the kinds of support detailed in the convention and the EU directive. However, the fact that the clause allows such details to be included in regulations is not the same as directing that they should be covered. Can the Minister confirm that it is the Government’s intention that regulations under Clause 50 and guidance on this topic under Clause 49 should cover the specific points I have outlined in my Amendment 2 about both the types of support and the manner in which it is provided?
I was also grateful for the Minister’s comments on Report regarding the inclusion of minimum standards in the tendering process for the new victim care contract. Can he give further details of the processes to provide the routine inspection of care provision under the contract that he also referred to on Report?
As I conclude my speech at the end of the passage of this Bill, in which I am proud to have played a small part, along with so many others in this House and in another place, I express my thanks to the Minister for the open and constructive way in which he steered this Bill through your Lordships’ House. I sincerely hope that our aspirations that this piece of legislation will make a difference to victims will be borne out in the months and years to come. I shall certainly be watching its progress and implementation carefully to ensure that the assistance and support provided in England and Wales meets our international obligations and is of a consistent standard.
My Lords, I should like to add a few words in support of Amendment 2 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord McColl, who has made a convincing case today and on previous occasions for why measures about support and assistance, in accordance with our obligations under international treaties, should be put into statute. I agree with the noble Lord that it would give confidence to victims, improve access to support and establish a consistent quality of care for victims, wherever they might be or whatever their personal circumstances. I am particularly concerned that continuing with a policy-based approach will perpetuate the scope for failures in support provision identified by the NRM review, but highlighted by many NGOs and the Council of Europe GRETA report a long time before the NRM review took place.
Flexibility to respond to changing circumstances is important, but it must not come at the cost of meeting our international obligations and ensuring that all victims receive the support they are entitled to and at a proper standard. I welcome the inclusion of Clause 50 in the Bill and very much hope that, before too long, we will see the introduction of regulations that Clause 50 enables. As the noble Lord, Lord McColl, has said, during Report I was one of those who asked the Minister whether he would consider incorporating something into the regulations under Clause 50. Specifically, I asked if he might look at adding,
“key elements ensuring consistency in standards of care”.—[Official Report, 25/2/15; col. 1681.]
Amendment 2 would provide the necessary direction to ensure that the regulations promote that consistency. I am particularly interested to hear from the Minister why he does not believe it valuable to add such elements to Clause 50. If, as I suspect it might, the Minister’s answer points to the guidance in Clause 49, perhaps he could indicate why that clause similarly contains no details about the international reference points for the guidance or even that the guidance should cover the elements of providing support set out in Amendment 2—that is, the types of support, the manner and circumstances in which support is provided and provisions for monitoring support.
As the noble Lord, Lord McColl, noted, the requirements for the regulations about independent child trafficking advocates are far more specific about what needs to be covered, than either the reference to guidance in Clause 49 or the regulations in Clause 50.
I would also like to ask the Minister how the Government intend to ensure consistent standards in victim care provision without reference to them in the Bill. For example, can he give details of the minimum standards to which the care providers will be held, and the inspections referred to by him on Report? Will he also indicate whether—and, if so, where—those minimum standards of care have been published? At the end of this remarkable landmark Bill, I am still very disappointed that the Government have not introduced amendments on this matter. I very much look forward to the Minister’s comments.
My Lords, it is not just trafficked people who need physical, psychological and social support when they arrive here; the same is true of many asylum seekers who have experienced torture, rape and imprisonment as well as arduous journeys to get here. Many Members of both Houses have pointed this out on successive immigration and asylum Bills. However, I am not sure that the Home Office yet fully reflects these points in its day-to-day practice, particularly as regards women asylum applicants. I strongly support the amendment.
My Lords, the points made in this amendment seem to me of considerable importance. However, if the Minister could go back to his department and be reasonably certain that these aspects will be reflected in the regulations, it would not be necessary to test the opinion of the House.
I will make a few brief comments, largely in line with the views that have already been expressed. A number of noble Lords have already referred to the Minister’s comment on Report that the government amendments would,
“allow for regulations to be made about accommodation, financial assistance, assistance in obtaining healthcare … the provision of information, and translation and interpretation services where a person is a victim of modern slavery or there are reasonable grounds to believe that they are”.—[Official Report, 25/2/15; col. 1684.]
However, the indications that the Minister gave about what could be included in regulations did not appear in the enabling clause and are not in the Bill. That is precisely the point that the noble Lord, Lord McColl, made.
I assume that the Minister does not intend to accept the amendment—I think that he would already have indicated if it was his intention to do so. However, as has been pointed out, we are facing the prospect that victims of trafficking in England and Wales will have fewer statutory rights than victims in Scotland and Northern Ireland, where statutory support services are set out in detail in the relevant legislation. As the noble Lord, Lord McColl of Dulwich, said, the purpose of his amendment is to provide clarity at least about the fundamental principles of support.
I ask the Minister only to give a helpful response to the amendment. He has been asked in particular to commit to the various issues that he said the regulations could cover. Will he stand up now and say that they are not, in that sense, meaningless words and that the regulations will cover the specific issues to which he referred when he spoke on Report? Ideally, noble Lords would like to see this in the Bill—but if the Minister is not able to agree to that, I hope that he might at least be able to say something rather firmer that will leave people with a very clear view that these issues most certainly will be in the regulations when they come out.
My Lords, I will be able to say something further on the record today, which I hope will go some way towards reassuring my noble friend and other noble Lords on this important matter.
It might be helpful for the House to reflect on where we have come on this particular part of the Bill’s journey, which relates to identification and support. We had Jeremy Oppenheim’s review of the NRM, which was widely welcomed and appreciated on all sides of the House. It is important to remember that Jeremy Oppenheim stopped short of suggesting that there ought to be a statutory footing for this. He said that he felt that would take away from the flexibility of tailoring support to the needs of potential victims. He argued that it would be better not to put it on a statutory footing. We had that debate in Committee, with the very helpful support of the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, and my noble friend Lady Hamwee, as I recall.
We then came forward with this enabling clause to say that we could enable the Government to bring forward regulations under the Bill. We then said that we would ensure that the services are working as effectively as possible and that we would have two pilot schemes, which will be set up in the next few weeks. They will test out the recommendations that have been put forward on identification and care in the Oppenheim review, along with other recommendations that have been made. We then said that, following those pilots, the guidance that will be produced will be subject to a public consultation.
I am going to some length to spell this out because someone looking at this amendment in isolation might think that the subject matter we are talking about, namely what services and care we provide to the victims of these crimes and how, which is of fundamental importance, is not stated anywhere—that it is somehow in the ether. The point I made in the past, and which I will make again, is that Her Majesty’s Government currently comply with all our international obligations under the EU directives and the convention. All we are talking about in this clause is what more we will do to go even further than our obligations require us to do. The idea that we are somehow going to drop below that threshold is simply not there.
When it comes to the amendment, we have some very specific difficulties with one or two of its provisions. I say to my noble friend, who has played such a pivotal role in bringing this legislation forward, that this has not been passed off lightly. The noble Lord, Lord Rosser, talked about the words which I used at Report and then asked whether the Government would be bringing forward their own amendment in respect of this. We have gone through this painstakingly to see whether we can do this, but we feel that to do so would be effectively to prejudge all the very good stages of consultation, pilots and testing which we have put in place. That is the only reason why we are not in a position to support the amendment in its current form. However, I want to put some additional remarks on the record and to answer the very clear questions which were made by the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, and the noble Baroness, Lady Howe, so I will seek to do that.
The quality of identification and support for victims is a critical issue. As I have said before, the victim is at the heart of the Government’s approach to tackling modern slavery. Given the importance of ensuring appropriate assistance and support for victims, I entirely understand the sentiment behind this amendment and I believe I can put on the record some remarks today which will give the noble Lord and the House reassurance on this issue. The Government are fully committed to meeting our international obligations in respect of support for victims. In fact, we provide more than the minimum set out in our international obligations. I want to be clear about the intention of the new enabling power in respect of identifying and supporting victims which is that any regulations made under this clause will be fully in line with our international obligations.
The amendment also raises the important issue of the monitoring and auditing of standards of care, which the noble Baroness, Lady Howe, mentioned. Standards of care are integral to the victim care contract and the lead contractor—currently the Salvation Army—will ensure that it and any subcontractor comply with the requirements set out in the contract. These include safe accommodation, access to interpretation services, which the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, asked me to repeat, and all other international obligations relating to support provisions. All service providers must be registered with the Care Quality Commission, which monitors, inspects and regulates care services to ensure that they provide people with safe, effective and high-quality care based on their needs and encourages providers to make improvements.
We want to see further improvements in identification and support of victims. That is why we are piloting the transformational recommendations of the national referral mechanism review to ensure that we get it right. It is also why we have committed to a formal public consultation to develop statutory guidance, under Clause 49, on victim identification and support. This will ensure that non-governmental organisations and others with expertise can help the Government to further improve the identification and support of victims.
I have some specific concerns. Given the period of major change that the NRM is currently going through, I would caution against specifying what the regulations must contain before the results of the pilots and the consultation on the guidance have helped us to frame future regulations. I also have concerns about the potential implications of the wording of the amendment, which could, for example, arguably conflict with the UK’s current policy of providing discretionary leave to victims where they are supporting a police investigation under our international obligations.
The regulations will be subject to the affirmative procedure, so Parliament will have an opportunity to comment on them before they are passed. Given that we have already come a long way on the issue by including an enabling power in the Bill and given the assurances I have provided about our international obligations, I ask my noble friend to reflect further on his amendment.
I will just deal with a couple of other issues. The first one is the point made by the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, who asked whether the regulations will include information about our international obligations. The answer is, yes, the regulations will include the international obligations we have discussed, including the type of victim support set out in the Council of Europe conventions. To distil this down to a fine point, which my noble friend was eager to ensure: when the guidance comes forward in statutory form, will it spell out what is going to be provided? I can say unequivocally that the answer to that is yes. That is reinforced on page 62 of the Modern Slavery Strategy document. It is further cross-referenced in the NRM review, which on page 38 makes many recommendations about the nature of the identification and support which should be given for this. The Government have stated categorically that we support in principle all the recommendations which have been made in the NRM review.
I am grateful to my noble friend for seeking those reassurances. I hope that he will see that we have been genuine in our desire to find a way in which we can address his concerns. We have not been able to do it by accepting this amendment, but I hope that the additional words which I have been able to put on the record from the Dispatch Box today will give him the reassurance he seeks and enable him to withdraw his amendment.
I thank all noble Lords for their contributions, not only on this occasion but over many months. I thank the Minister for coming some way to allay our worries. I am very grateful to him for all the trouble he has taken and for the very gracious way in which he has coped with the conduct of this Bill. I thank him very much and beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 2 withdrawn.
Clause 54: Transparency in supply chains etc
3: Clause 54, page 42, line 44, at end insert—
“(11A) The Secretary of State may by regulations appoint an organisation or an individual to collate slavery and human trafficking statements, and to maintain a website on which to publish those statements in a form in which the published data is searchable by members of the public without charge.”
My Lords, in introducing Amendments 3 and 6 to Clauses 54 and 57, which are based on Amendments 97A, 98A and 99A which we discussed on Report, I am grateful to my noble friend Lady Young of Hornsey, the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Derby and the noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy of Cradley, for adding their names and to other noble Lords in all parts of the House for the support they have expressed for the principles in these amendments at all stages, not least the noble Baroness, Lady Mobarik, on the government Benches, and my noble friend Lord Sandwich, who spoke at earlier stages of the Bill on the issues raised in these amendments.
I start by reiterating the welcome I gave in Committee and on Report for Part 6, which is undoubtedly a major step forward in ensuring that supply chains are not being infiltrated by modern slavery. I return to the issue that I raised at Second Reading, in Committee and on Report and, indeed, through public correspondence in the correspondence columns of the Times. Noble Lords may have seen some of the letters that were signed by several Members of your Lordships’ House. At every stage of our proceedings when I have raised the issue, the Minister, the noble Lord, Lord Bates, has been most attentive and very generous with his time in listening to suggestions on how this part of the Bill might be improved and strengthened. I join others in echoing the remarks made on the previous group of amendments by the noble Lord, Lord McColl, who said how grateful we have all been for the way in which the Minister has engaged. I hope that we will see that again today when he comes to respond to these amendments, although I recognise that the way in which government works may well mean that he has perhaps not been able to gain the support of other arms of government. In those circumstances, only Parliament itself can make the decision, make the pace and ensure that if it believes that the principles in this amendment are worth incorporating, that is done.
These two amendments would allow, through regulation, for a central website to be established on which the slavery reports of businesses may be lodged. This has not only been supported by noble Lords; it has been consistently asked for by civil society groups, which have so much experience of working with businesses on supply chains. I was delighted to receive support from Amnesty International UK, Anti-Slavery International, CAFOD, the CORE coalition, Dalit Freedom Network UK, the Evangelical Alliance, Focus on Labour Exploitation, the Law Society, Quakers in Britain, Traidcraft, Unseen and War on Want. I am also grateful for the letter I received from the Equality and Human Rights Commission, which supported the principles outlined in the earlier Amendment 99A and reflected in the amendment today.
Without the incorporation of a central repository for slavery and human trafficking statements, the role that the Minister outlined on Report for civil society, investors, consumers and other agencies in holding big business to account would be very difficult, if not nigh on impossible, to fulfil. Just reflect for a moment on the substantial obstacles to accessing annual turnover information that indicates the companies that fall within the compliance threshold, let alone the vast number of different websites that would have to be trawled through, and it is patently obvious why a central repository must be established.
The successful basis of any measure intended to increase transparency is the ability of the public to access information, and as the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Derby said last week on Report,
“the modern tool for transparency is the website”.—[Official Report, 25/2/15; col. 1741.]
Doubts were expressed on Report about whether the proposal for a central website enjoys the full support of Kevin Hyland, the designate Independent Anti-slavery Commissioner. I am glad to be able to tell your Lordships that, since Report, Mr Hyland has written me. These are his words:
“I can confirm I fully support the suggestion of a website as the central repository for reports as suggested by yourself and other noble Lords”.
He adds that without such a site and adequate resourcing of it,
“it will be unlikely to achieve the objective”,
but the creation of such a,
“repository with the right resource would, I believe, make a very positive difference”.
On Report, I also cited the highly responsible companies, some of which I met. The noble Lord, Lord Patel, and I met Primark. We also heard from Associated British Foods, and I know that some of your Lordships have heard from Sir Richard Branson and businessmen such as John Studzinski of Blackstone, who have argued for more transparency and equitable arrangements, so this is not a trivial matter. If we are serious about supply chains and tackling modern day slavery at source, our new commissioner says that this will “make a positive difference”, and I believe he is right.
Experience from overseas supports this judgment. Many noble Lords have been contacted by some of the groups involved in the implementation of the California Transparency in Supply Chains Act of 2010. They urge us to learn from their experience that people need to know which companies are required to comply with the law and that an official website to which companies upload their reports will be beneficial.
In a letter to the Minister, the Californian organisation Not For Sale said that the failure in California to create a centralised repository has made it,
“difficult to know which companies need to comply with the law, and which do not”.
In another letter, the Californian Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking says that the failure to make a provision of this sort has weakened the effectiveness of their legislation. Let us not make the same mistake.
On Monday this week, British church leaders also expressed their support for this provision, and 11 of them signed a letter in the Daily Telegraph urging the Government to incorporate into this Bill the principle of a central body to which businesses can report on what they are doing to eradicate slavery from their supply chains. Yesterday I was contacted by the Ethical Trading Initiative to express its support for this measure in general and for a central website in particular, which it regards as essential to achieving a level playing field. As noble Lords will be aware, the initiative is a coalition of major UK companies, trade unions and non-governmental organisations, including many familiar high street names that would be required to comply with this measure. It is worth hearing what they say:
“We would like to express our strong support for Clause 54 to ensure that a relevant government department or agency is appointed and resourced to publish a full list of all companies that are required to publish their statements on modern slavery in an accessible central website so that effective monitoring and accountability can be assured. We believe this would go a long way to levelling the playing field for ethical and responsible businesses, ensuring that they are not undercut by unscrupulous companies that operate under the radar of public scrutiny. We would also like to know that this will be monitored and updated regularly and that the quality of information provided by companies is evaluated against established criteria”.
To this long list of supporters I would like to add the Minister himself, as on Report he accepted the principle, saying that,
“we want to see these statements in one place so that people can monitor and evaluate them to ensure that the intended action takes place”.—[Official Report, 25/2/15; col. 1750.]
However, sometimes, as we all know, Ministers, however good they are—and we have been fortunate in having one of the very best Ministers in the Government dealing with this Bill—are circumscribed by the limitations imposed by other departments whose officials may have other priorities. On such occasions, Parliament may need to insist on its own priorities, and we have a chance to do that today.
In conclusion, these amendments have attracted widespread support. They are necessary to enable full and meaningful public scrutiny under the transparency measure, and they will allow time for detailed questions on the resourcing and practicalities to be fully discussed before the regulations are made. I beg to move.
My Lords, I speak in support of Amendments 3 and 6 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Alton of Liverpool, to which I have added my name. I very much hope that they will get the Government’s support today, as there is much on which we all agree regarding this issue. There is agreement across the House that civil society is critical to the success of this part of the Bill, and there is agreement that we expect civil society to review the statements and add pressure where pressure is due. We want the amendments—we need them, even—in order to be able to scrutinise, analyse, and where necessary challenge, business; and, importantly, to praise businesses for the steps they take to eradicate slavery in their supply chains. If we want businesses to fulfil that role, we need to facilitate their doing so, and Amendments 3 and 6 would do that.
I have seen calculations that estimate that if the threshold figure of more than £60 million is used, more than 10,000 businesses will be obliged to produce a statement. If that is the case, it is absolutely inconceivable that civil society, businesses, which want to learn from each other, or indeed the Government, who want to ensure compliance with their legislation, will be able to review 10,000 statements without the use of technology. Technology gives us the power to access information and bring about real change, which is the intention behind this part of the Bill and behind the statements. Let technology do the hard administrative work and be the engine that really drives forward supply chain transparency. Those involved in the California Act recognised that there was a gap in their legislation. We should listen and learn from their experience and not repeat their mistakes. As the noble Lord, Lord Alton of Liverpool, said, this is an enabling amendment that allows the technology and the responsible organisation or individual in the future to be decided by regulation.
In conclusion, we have to harness the power that technology can give us to increase transparent supply chains and drive change. I hope that the Government will support the amendment.
My Lords, I support these amendments and thank the noble Lord, Lord Alton, for his leadership. I associate myself with the remarks of the noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy, about websites and technology.
I have had the privilege of being in conversation with the Minister about the importance of this legislation and what we are trying to achieve for our country as a mark to the world: that is, helping business to develop and change its culture, and to take responsibility for good practice. Of course, the discipline of using a website will enable businesses to be accountable to their investors, their consumers and their shareholders in a transparent and open space. That will encourage good business practice and help the businesses that have fallen short to be challenged. Therefore, this very sensible and practical suggestion will not only help the Bill to achieve its objectives but will help the culture of business to change in a positive way and make the employment of people in slavery less likely.
I want to make a couple of other small points. Amendment 3 includes the word “may”. Therefore, it is inviting the Minister to agree to this direction of travel as a priority to deliver what we all want to achieve through the Bill. This has been a long journey and we have learnt a great deal on it. As other noble Lords have said, we have been extremely grateful for the way in which the Minister has listened, negotiated and developed the Bill appropriately when persuasion has been there. I think that that process will go on. The website will provide for learning to go on and, with practice, to develop.
My final point is that last week, in talking about the Gangmasters Licensing Authority, we were reminded that organisations like that were able to access proceeds of crime to help fund the work. If we need to find a way of funding a website, which could be quite labour-intensive in answering all the niggly questions to which people expect a reply, the proceeds of crime might be a proper place from which resourcing might be found.
My Lords, I support the amendment moved by my noble friend Lord Alton. The Minister has referred several times to the California Act during the passage of this Bill. In both Houses it has often been cited as a sort of reference point or a benchmark. We should learn from that experience. As has already been said, the Californians are saying that this is the one aspect that they regret having missed out on. They see the work embodied in the two amendments as an essential tool. The essence of this part of the Bill is transparency. We cannot have full transparency without information and knowledge.
As I said at earlier stages, many young people in particular, in the wake of disasters in the clothing industry such as Rana Plaza, are keen to know about the provenance of their clothing. As my noble friend Lord Alton has already noted, the internet is a key tool, and many young people—and some older people, too—use social media to communicate about companies they see as not upholding their values. Pressure from consumers is something that the Government have said they are keen on. It is a way of holding businesses to account and a way of ensuring that they think about their reputations and how to protect them. Therefore, consumers have some power. However, while I argue that it is not solely down to consumers to keep a check on unscrupulous businesses, I accept that they have a role to play. Without the requisite knowledge and information it is hard to play any kind of role at all.
How could such a role be played without the kind of centralised information, the potential for which this amendment allows the Secretary of State to explore? Who, apart from specialist researchers, would even know which companies met the threshold for inclusion under the Bill, let alone find the required statements from those companies that would enable them to make their choices? I wish we could say that all companies are so concerned about reputational damage that they act in ethical and sustainable ways, but unfortunately they do not. That is one of the reasons why we need the Bill. Good businesses have said that transparency is an aid for them, not a burden. Given the widespread support for this measure in the House, from business, NGOs and, indeed consumers, I hope that the Minister, who, as everybody has said, has been so helpful in not just listening to what we have had to say but in acting on so many of the concerns expressed here and elsewhere, will take this opportunity to respond positively to the amendment and help the Government to become genuine world leaders on this aspect of the Bill.
My Lords, I strongly support Part 6 of the Bill but, as the Minister knows very well, there is quite a big gap. If businesses are to produce reports, there is no point in having them if they are looked at only by their own people. They need to be subject to independent and transparent scrutiny. That has to go somewhere. It seems absolutely clear that there has to be a central, independent website.
During the Select Committee, a number of big businesses came to talk to us and made it clear that they wanted level playing fields. Like the noble Lord, Lord Alton, I have been talking to big businesses recently which are very interested in and supportive of the idea of a website. I actually suggested to two big businesses to which I spoke—I will not refer to them by name because it would be unfair—that they, with other big businesses in the UK, might put forward the money to put up a website. So it would be not a government website but an independent one, and the businesses that want a level playing field should be prepared to pay for it. According to the sort of companies I have been talking to, it should be a very large sum of money.
I see this as something that might take some time, and the ethical trading organisation is one that it might very well work through, because it is involved with so many companies. It may be sensible for the Government to say, “Would you like to get big business?”. My idea was not thrown out as absolutely ridiculous. What companies were saying to me was, “We have to think about it”. So I am very aware that this would take some time, but it is important that, within a relatively short time, we have that transparency so that the companies which will be part of this system can have their reports scrutinised.
It seems to me that, if the Government are prepared to accept in principle that they should look at a website —and, preferably, get someone else to pay for it—and they think in principle that this is what should happen, it should not be necessary to have it in primary legislation. It should be either by regulation or set up through government agencies or by government pressure on independent companies. So I support the principle and very much hope that it is not necessary to take this further.
My Lords, I declare an interest as the ex-vice-chair of the Ethical Trading Initiative. I have spent a good few years of my life discussing with companies, trade unions and NGOs the complexities of supply chains. The noble Lord, Lord Alton, spoke of the positive endorsement of the Ethical Trading Initiative, and I hope that the Minister will be able to respond positively.
Although I agree with most of what the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, said, I did not quite agree with the conclusion. It is a principle that is worth including in the Bill because we have to recognise that all these companies are on a journey. The complexities of global supply chains, which stretch far and wide, are not easy to monitor by any means. We know what happens when it goes wrong, as we saw in Rana Plaza in Bangladesh. That is just one example of many. There are lots of other examples where, unfortunately, bonded labour and child labour exist in supply chains. There is cross-party support for this amendment and there is absolutely no doubt about its importance. I, too, congratulate the Minister, who has displayed good diplomacy and a willingness to help to ensure that we make this Bill as strong and as effective as we can. This is a key part of the effectiveness of the Bill.
Surely what we are hoping to do in creating a website like this is “encourager les autres”, as they say— my French is not very good but it means to encourage the others. We want people to say, “Here are the examples of best practice. Here is what every company ought to be aspiring to do”.
I will not take up any further time because so many, such as my noble friend behind me, have made all the key technical points. I look forward to the Minister’s response.
I certainly took from the Minister’s long and careful response to the amendments on this clause at the previous stage that he entirely took the points that are being made today. He said that all of us are willing and keen to accept the principle that the statements ought to be put in one place and made easily searchable and identifiable. I take it from that and from other comments that this is something that the Government are working on.
The Minister then mentioned a two-day tech-camp. Frankly, that sounds terrifying, but I wonder whether he has any news of that. He issued a generous invitation to Members of the House to attend it. I am not sure whether I would be up to it myself, but it sounds as though it holds the seeds for taking this matter forward and I hope that he can give us a little more news.
My Lords, Third Reading is an occasion for tributes and I hope that the Minister is not too embarrassed to receive all these tributes. He has worked very passionately on the Bill and I congratulate him. We are asking a very small step of the Minister today. I mentioned this before. It was a small step then and remains small, although, even so, it may be the biggest step that he takes today.
My noble friend has put all the arguments so succinctly that I will not rehearse them. I add only one particular point, which is that I personally would not like to see the voluntary sector carrying the load of this responsibility. The way that the amendment is worded is very gentle. It states:
“The Secretary of State may by regulations appoint”.
It does not actually say that it has to be a government agency. That is the interesting thing about the amendment—it takes us just a very small step further.
I mentioned to the Minister at a private meeting that the situation of the groceries adjudicator may be a parallel to look at, but I would not want to wait for consultation. I do not agree with my noble and learned friend that we have to wait longer for that. I think that the House will decide today in favour of the amendment unless the Minister has something else.
My Lords, I, too, add my name in support of the noble Lord’s amendment, which I believe will be helpful to both businesses and consumers. I am particularly pleased to note that the business community, through the Ethical Trading Initiative, has expressed its support. I echo what it said about the need for a level playing field. I am proud of what we have achieved on the Bill and I am committed to the journey that we have begun, so I very much hope that my noble friend will feel able to accept the amendment.
I will make one or two brief comments. I certainly do not want to repeat all the powerful arguments that have been put forward in support of these two amendments. But to reiterate what the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, said a moment or two ago, this is an enabling power for the Secretary of State. The amendment states “may by regulations”. It does not say “must”, and it does not specify who should be appointed. It simply says,
“appoint an organisation or an individual”.
I would have hoped that the Minister would feel able to go down this road, since it does not make a very specific commitment but it gives a positive indication of the direction in which we should be going.
It is heartening to hear from the noble Lord, Lord Alton of Liverpool, that Mr Hyland is in favour of what is proposed in the amendment and has described it as being “able to make a positive difference”. I think that that was the wording that was used. I would only conclude by reiterating what the Minister himself said on Report. He said:
“I think it is more important to get the principle there—that we are saying, with all these statements coming together, that clearly they need to be in one place. Whether that is civil society, an NGO, a commissioner or a government body is something that can be sorted out. But the principle is that we want to see these statements in one place so that people can monitor and evaluate them to ensure that the intended action takes place”.—[Official Report, 25/2/15; col. 1750.]
I really cannot see the difficulty with this amendment, since it achieves precisely the thing that the Minister said that he and the Government want to achieve.
First, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Alton —I think I want to thank him—for his amendment. In essence, it is like a number of these things. As the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, accurately surmised, we are more or less on the same page. The question is: do we at this stage want to have this written on the page, or do we want to leave it to something that we will come to a little later?
I sometimes get the sense—it might just be the Whip’s instinct in me—that people are preparing to take a run at testing the opinion of the House and they are galloping up the runway. I urge the noble Lord to bear with me a little while, while I try to set out what we are doing. I am putting on the record some things which I have not been able to put on the record before, but I am seeking to go further. I just ask him to keep an open mind as to whether at the end of this stage I have managed to convince him that, should he choose to withdraw, he will be withdrawing further down the path to where we all want to be at the end.
One of the key elements that we have here is another consultation going on at present about these very things. It is worth mentioning, because I genuinely want to flag it up and say that NGOs, companies and organisations —the Ethical Trading Initiative—would be people whom we would want to engage actively with this consultation, which was a concession; it was something which we said we would do in response to concerns raised in your Lordships’ House. We launched the consultation and it is open until 7 May. Question 13 on the consultation specifically asks:
“What would good practice look like … ?”.
When we deal with the publication of these statements, we hope that all the comments made here will be taken into that consultation, as well as the remarks which have been made about people who have been arguing passionately about this long before the clause was in the Bill. The noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy, led a very constructive debate on supply chains when the clause was not even a twinkle in the Home Office eye at that stage. It is in the Bill now and we are talking about how to make it work.
Much as I love the state of California, I find it an astounding gap that the home of Silicon Valley could not fathom out a way to create a website to consolidate all these statements in one place and make it easily searchable. That is a bit of a concern. One would think there would be lots of local companies—without naming any—which might be perfectly capable of doing that.
My noble friend Lady Hamwee asked me to report back on what had happened to the tech camp. It is actually just finishing and it is another element that I want to put in here. It was an initiative put forward by the Home Office in response to the precise question that the noble Lord put in his amendment. We set up the tech camp with the Home Office, Unseen, a charity which works with many trafficked people, and Deloitte consulting, which does a lot of work in the technology field. They have had two days looking at what solutions might exist in technology to enable this collation to take place very effectively. I cannot provide a read-out from the tech camp because it is meant to finish about now in St Paul’s in the City, although given that they are technical whizz-kids they probably clocked off a couple of hours ago. I certainly undertake to give noble Lords a read-out from that important gathering.
I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Alton, for soliciting from Kevin Hyland the commitment of support that he has given. That is helpful. He is the Independent Anti-slavery Commissioner-designate, and we cannot therefore direct him to do things, but he is suggesting he might have a role. Of course the point here is that everybody is in principle in favour of doing this, but not until they know what will be involved. A key point, as mentioned by the noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy, is where the threshold is drawn for how many companies we will be talking about. Will it be tens of thousands or thousands? How many will we be dealing with? That will obviously impact on people’s views.
I will put some comments on the record that I hope will help. It is important that we focus on the problem we are trying to solve—finding the best way for people to find and compare statements, whether that involves a central website or not. As we all know, technology is constantly evolving, improving and finding new solutions to old problems. As such, I am not yet convinced that a centrally controlled website established by legislation—the point the noble and learned Baroness made—would represent the most dynamic or effective way of increasing transparency and solving this problem in the long term.
For example, it might be that some kind of search engine or online comparison tool provides a more efficient means of finding and comparing statements. Internet platforms that draw information straight from the companies’ home websites would mean that the information could be verified more easily and that businesses could ensure that it was always up to date. The last thing we want is misinformation circulating about businesses on a second website, or an expensive and time-consuming process of validation to ensure that false or out-of-date statements are not being uploaded to a central website.
I ask my noble friend to record in particular that this is not to rule out a central website. I just think we should keep an open mind about how best to provide this service to investors, campaigners and the general public. To that end, we are taking action. Even since last week, in response to contributions, we have had the tech camp. As I explained on Report last week, this two-day event has brought together a number of different NGOs and technology companies. We are using this opportunity to talk directly to technology companies and to some of the businesses that will be producing these statements to determine the best options. I am pleased to say that discussions have already highlighted a number of interesting ideas which we want to pursue with the businesses as quickly as we can. These developments are really promising but simply do not require a legislative basis.
I reassure the noble Lord that the Government will be behind an effective solution to this issue, making sure it is easy to compare statements and working with partners to facilitate the true transparency that we all want. We can use the statutory guidance to tackle any steps needed to facilitate a solution and ensure that statements are as freely and as widely available as possible. Doing this through guidance will mean that we can regularly update and refresh it to reflect technological change and ensure our best practice recommendations stay alive to future innovation.
As the House knows, we are currently consulting on that guidance, as I already mentioned. Although I entirely appreciate the sentiment behind the amendment, it does not take us any further than the powers that are already there for the Home Secretary, once this Bill is passed. Additionally, the Home Secretary can, if she wishes, allocate funds and appoint administratively a person within the Home Office to run a central website if that proves to be the right solution. The Home Secretary could also support, financially, an NGO or other external provider to provide a website, through providing technical support, funding or referring to it in the statutory guidance.
These debates have helped to ensure that the Government are focused on working with NGOs and businesses to develop an effective solution. The amendment does not provide for placing any new duties on businesses, so it would add nothing substantive to the Bill. Given the comments I have made about the capability that the Home Secretary has, the ongoing consultation and my clear statements on behalf of the Government expressing a desire to see these collected in one place, I ask whether this might be the reassurance that the noble Lord seeks, enabling him to withdraw his amendment and work with us to ensure that we bring this important innovation to fruition.
My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for the way he has addressed the issue. Whatever the outcome today, I will of course work with him, as I have done all the way through on this issue as we have considered these proceedings. The noble Lord, Lord Young of Norwood Green, gave us part of an old French saying about encouraging others. I think the first part of that saying is that you should shoot a few admirals to encourage the others—certain noble Lords are not here at the moment, so nobody will take that personally.
It is certainly not my desire that we should shoot this Minister—indeed any Minister, but not this one in particular. As I said in my opening remarks, the noble Lord, Lord Bates, has been exemplary in the way that he has dealt with the House throughout all our proceedings. He is a fine example to other Ministers in piloting legislation through your Lordships’ House. He has offered us today a consultation which is under way, the “tech camp”, which the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, referred to earlier—which is welcome—and more guidance. In a way, at the end, he pointed to the difference that stands between us: whether something should be in the Bill—a point alluded to by my noble and learned friend Lady Butler-Sloss—or whether it should be purely discretionary. As the noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy of Cradley, pointed out, this is actually a discretionary amendment, because it allows for regulation and says, as the right reverend Prelate pointed out, “may” not “must”. It will be there for the Secretary of State to use. Therefore it is not prescriptive in any great sense.
The noble Lord has told us that we should wait for a consultation, but I cannot think of an organisation—and I cited many in my opening remarks—that we would consult about this proposal that has not already come out in favour of a central repository which should be available to prevent people from having to trawl across the internet to find individual companies. How on earth is anybody going to do that? Who will know who makes the threshold required in this legislation and who does not?
The noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy, and my noble friend Lady Young said that we should learn from experience. The Californian experience has been cited here. If only they had their time again. It is not about the inability of people in Silicon Valley, as the Minister said, to construct a website. It is quite the reverse. It was the failure of legislators to place a requirement in their legislation that such a central website should be provided, so there would be a repository where everyone meeting the threshold would have to place an account of what they were doing to combat modern-day slavery and human trafficking. There are moments when Parliament needs to help Ministers out and this is one of them. I therefore beg to test the opinion of the House.
4: Before Clause 55, insert the following new Clause—
“Gangmasters Licensing Authority
The Secretary of State must—(a) before the end of the period of 12 months beginning with the day on which this Act is passed, publish a paper on the role of the Gangmasters Licensing Authority, and(b) consult such representative bodies and other persons as the Secretary of State considers appropriate about the matters dealt with by that paper.”
My Lords, this amendment inserts a new clause before Clause 55. I thank noble Lords for the excellent debates that we have had on the Gangmasters Licensing Authority during the passage of the Bill, as well as the important discussions that we had outside the Chamber ahead of Report. I welcome the support expressed in this House for the vital work undertaken by the GLA—the Gangmasters Licensing Authority, that is. It is obvious that there is a shared interest right across the House in increasing the GLA’s effectiveness and indeed that of all the agencies engaged in the fight against worker mistreatment.
On Report last week, I welcomed the spirit—no pun intended—of the proposal from the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Derby, which was supported by the noble Lord, Lord Alton of Liverpool, and the noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy of Cradley. I highlight that my concerns about it were of a technical nature; as in the previous group, there is no difference over the principle that we want to see in the Bill. I said that I would look again at this before Third Reading, and I have done so; the government amendment reflects our revised thoughts on the issue. It commits the Government to publishing a consultation paper on the role and responsibilities of the GLA within one year of the Bill being passed. This amendment achieves several important things, including a full public consultation on the role of the GLA, which will be placed in the context of the wider landscape of organisations fighting worker mistreatment. It provides for an evidence-based approach to further improving the role of the GLA in tackling abuse of workers. In addition, this new clause places this commitment to a consultation in legislation, meaning that a future Government must live up to the commitments that have been made during the passage of this Bill and ensure there is an urgent focus on the work of the GLA at the start of the next Parliament.
I believe that a clause on the work of the GLA in this Bill reflects the concerns expressed through pre-legislative scrutiny, debates in another place and in this House. All through the passage of this Bill, there has been a common view that we need to focus on getting the role of the GLA right, and this amendment reflects that clearly in the Bill. Through this full public consultation, we will be able to take proper account of the activity of other organisations devoted to tackling serious crime and protecting workers and make sure that, in whatever we do, we avoid creating duplication and overlaps between agencies, thus avoiding wasting time and money which could be better used than in allowing the perpetrators of mistreatment of workers potentially to escape scrutiny. Preparatory work on the consultation document will start immediately so that it can be published as soon as possible in the next Parliament.
I know that some noble Lords have supported the idea of an enabling provision to allow extension of the GLA remit by secondary legislation. Our assessment is that would not achieve its main purpose of avoiding the need for further primary legislation should a decision be taken to extend the GLA remit. We have not, therefore, focused the government amendment in this area. Any significant change to the GLA would be likely to require both reform of the Gangmasters Licensing Act 2004 and substantive changes to wider primary legislation related to how the labour market is regulated, such as the Employment Agencies Act 1973. A focus on how the remit of the GLA is set out in legislation in isolation fails to consider the need to make sure that our legislation provide for a coherent enforcement landscape that can be used by the police, the National Crime Agency, HMRC, the Employment Agency Standards Inspectorate and others.
I assure the House that the Government welcome and share the commitment expressed in this House to considering how best the GLA can tackle and punish those that abuse, coerce and mistreat their workers. Our proposal for a full and speedy public consultation reflects that commitment.
I add one other thing, on the subject of consultation. I know that we have had many consultations, but that in itself is part of the strategy. The more that we engage with organisations and individuals about different aspects of how this Bill is going to work in practice, the more awareness there will be of the problem and of the new, robust legislative landscape that is there to tackle this abuse. I hope that noble Lords will support this amendment to ensure a comprehensive consultation. Again, I particularly thank the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Derby for his work in this important area.
My Lords, I thank the Minister. This is another excellent example of listening, learning and working together and taking seriously what was said at Report. On Monday, I was privileged to be at the GLA national conference, which was in Derby, where the Minister, Karen Bradley, who I see is present, was the keynote speaker. I was privileged to speak, along with the new independent commissioner designate. The GLA is alive and well and thinking creatively, but it will be very important for it to use its expertise in a targeted way and negotiate how that expertise is employed alongside other inspectorates. I welcome this proposal.
At the event on Monday, there was the launch of an academy by Derby University in partnership with the GLA to help businesses to learn good practice at a professional benchmarked standard to enable them to comply with the spirit and direction of the Bill and for there to be proper professional training of those employed in businesses to administer supply chains and employment.
The GLA is fulfilling all the expectations that it raised with the Select Committee and Members of this House. It is very important that we undertake this work. I am grateful that the amendment contains the word “must” because it is important to do this scoping out and I thank the Minister for tabling it.
My Lords, I have no problem with the amendment but have picked up a concern that, although it is in line with much that has been done already, it possibly raises the whole question of the GLA. A future Government might come in and say, “We have had this consultation and perhaps the GLA is not the right way forward”. I do not know whether the Minister has heard that comment before but it would be helpful if he could give some reassurance on the record that this could not be a consequence of the consultation and this amendment.
The comment that I wanted to make was in line with that made by the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich. I appreciate that the Minister can talk only about the intentions of this Government and not those of a future Government. The amendment refers to publishing,
“a paper on the role of the Gangmasters Licensing Authority”.
Will the Minister assure us that the Government are not looking to extend the role of the GLA into other new and very different areas such as crime control or anything to do with border security, but that they will consider whether to extend its existing remit and resources to enable it to continue to fulfil the very successful role that it plays in labour inspection, enforcement and standards? There must surely be a need to concentrate on its core functions and perhaps extend the area in which it carries them out given that it is highly successful at achieving those core functions which are crucial in the fight against modern slavery.
My Lords, I am grateful to the right reverend Prelate for welcoming this amendment. I again thank him for his work in this area. In answer to the point made by the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, the consultation will look across all aspects of the GLA’s work and will consider how it can make an effective contribution to tackling worker exploitation through asking questions about how we can improve the way that it gathers and shares intelligence with other agencies and the way that it interacts with other agencies. The consultation will also examine possible changes to its enforcement activity and powers as well as to its licensing functions. Given that that is the intent, I certainly think that the scenarios outlined by the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, would not arise. We are talking about the mistreatment and exploitation of workers. The GLA performs excellently in its present role and we are seeking to ascertain whether, given this new piece of legislation, it can play a part in supporting the work of tackling exploitation. I hope that I have reassured the noble Earl.
Amendment 4 agreed.
Clause 57: Regulations
5: Clause 57, page 44, line 33, at end insert—
“( ) regulations under section 43(9) which contain the provision mentioned in section 43(10) (modification of section 43 in its application to public authority added to Schedule 3);”
Amendment 5 agreed.
Amendment 6 not moved.
Amendments 7 and 8
7: Clause 57, page 45, line 7, at end insert “, or
(ii) the provision mentioned in section 43(10) (modification of section 43 in its application to public authority added to Schedule 3);”
8: Clause 57, page 45, line 22, at end insert “, or
(b) the provision mentioned in section 43(10) (modification of section 43 in its application to public authority added to Schedule 3).”
Amendments 7 and 8 agreed.
My Lords, the new advice from the Procedure Committee is that it is at this stage, in moving that the Bill do now pass, that we make some traditional remarks marking the end of this stage. I want to take that opportunity.
To start naming particular individuals is perhaps invidious, since so many have engaged in this process. This has been a genuine cross-party effort. All sides of the House, including the Cross Benches, have played an incredibly important role. That also includes the Bishops’ Benches—they have played a very important role in shaping this legislation.
In all the legislation I have ever been involved in, this has perhaps been one of the most significant. Procedurally it has been one of the best for Parliament. I am delighted to see the Minister for Modern Slavery at the Bar of the House. It is appropriate that she is there. When the Bill was published it went through pre-legislative scrutiny. It was then republished. It was taken through a substantive series of Committee stages in the other place, where amendments were made. It then came to your Lordships’ House where it has been engaged with again. The amendment that I just passed, Amendment 8, was the 100th government amendment that we have made to the Bill in the House of Lords. That is a tribute not only to the deep passion that we all share on this issue, but to the thoroughness with which we have engaged.
From my point of view, I thank in particular my noble friend Lady Garden for her support through this process. I thank members of the Bill team, who have done such a tremendous job. We have put them through an incredible pace. The number of letters, bilateral meetings, interested Peers’ meetings and telephone calls that we have had has put a tremendous strain on them. I am very conscious of that, but they have performed their role perfectly in support of our discussions in your Lordships’ House.
I take great pride in this Bill. It was more than 200 years ago, as the noble Lord, Lord Alton, often refers to, that legislation abolishing slavery was passed by this House. It was this country that took a lead in the world to produce legislation to bring about that effect. What we have done in our work is of a similar magnitude and similarly groundbreaking. It needs to send a message to the victims that we are here and will provide them with support, and to those who are perpetrating this evil crime that there are powers, capabilities and institutions that are now on their case in tackling their inhumanity to other human beings. With that, I beg to move.
I thank the Minister for his very kind comments. I, too, add my appreciation for the work that both he and the noble Baroness, Lady Garden, have done. I express my thanks to the members of the Bill team. Whether with 100 government amendments they ended up in a state of despair, I do not know, but if they did they never showed it and we are extremely grateful.
I also express appreciation from these Benches to all noble Lords who have taken part in our discussions, whether from a political party, the Cross Benches or the Bishops’ Bench. We have had numerous meetings which have all been extremely helpful. They have certainly all been extremely good-natured and conducted on all sides with a view to trying to resolve any differences of view and to come up with solutions that have been acceptable to us all. I also thank those organisations and individuals who have provided advice and briefings. I am sure we have found them all very useful and helpful. Whether or not we have always taken the road that the advice suggested is another matter, but we appreciated receiving it.
This Bill has been interesting because at heart it has not been a party-political issue. We have all been trying to achieve the same objective. We may have had slightly different views as to how that objective should be achieved, but nevertheless this Bill has avoided some of the rancour that can go with highly party-political issues. As the Minister has said, at the end of the day we have achieved real progress on behalf of the victims of modern slavery and I am sure this Bill and its terms will be much appreciated by all those concerned for what it will achieve.
The Minister said there had been 100 government amendments. They were obviously put down in part as a result of the patience, good nature and willingness to listen of the noble Lord, Lord Bates, and the noble Baroness, Lady Garden, which has been widely commented on in this House and widely appreciated. Of course, in so doing, the Minister has denied us the excitement and thrill of a number of votes, but in view of the outcome of the last one, perhaps that is just as well.
My Lords, from the Liberal Democrat Benches I also thank all those who have already been mentioned. It is only so as not to be tedious that I will not go through the list again but my thanks are sincere.
This has been such a good example of how Parliament can work well across parties, with people of no parties and with organisations outside this House, as the noble Lord said. I have been particularly struck, which I am sure is in no small part thanks to the efforts of both Minsters present, that even at this last stage, with the last of the substantive amendments on the Gangmasters Licensing Authority, the Minister came forward with an amendment which he did not need to make. I do not think there would have been complaints. We would have taken the good faith of what he had said about the work that the Government were going to be doing on this. I know that he will agree that this is the end of the beginning rather than anything further, including at a personal level. I do not know whether the Bill team has counted up for him the number of commitments to extra meetings that he has made following the passing of what will soon be an Act but I know that we will all want to continue to be involved in making sure that the Bill, as implemented, fulfils its promises.
My Lords, I want to very briefly say from these Benches what a privilege it has been to participate. My colleague, the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury, had to get special permission for me to sit on the Select Committee. It has been a wonderful opportunity for the church to contribute and, through me, for the voluntary sector to be involved both with the crafting of the legislation and with working further afield on grass-roots responses and the wider cultural and learning changes that need to happen in our society. I also want to say a final “thank you” to the Minister whose leadership of this whole process has been exemplary, as other colleagues have said.
Bill passed and returned to the Commons with amendments.