(1) The Secretary of State may by order amend section 3 of the Gangmasters (Licensing) Act 2004 to include other areas of work where the Secretary of State believes abuse and exploitation of workers or modern slavery or trafficking may be taking place.
(2) An order under subsection (1) may not be made unless a draft of the Statutory Instrument containing it has been laid before each House of Parliament and been approved by a resolution in each House.”—(Mr Hanson.)
Brought up, and read the First time.
With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:
New clause 16—Accommodation operated by gangmasters—
‘(1) The Secretary of State shall within one year of this Act being passed bring forward regulations to require gangmasters providing, or soliciting a third party to provide, accommodation to a worker to—
(a) agree and keep of a copy of a tenancy agreement with the worker;
(b) provide and keep copies of receipts for any rent paid by the worker to them; and
(c) keep a rent book recording rent due and paid.
(2) In section 7 of the Gangmaster (Licensing) Act 2004 after subsection (5) insert—
“(6) It shall be a condition of holding a license under this section that the gangmaster provide on request to the Authority or a local authority the documents required under regulations made under section (Accommodation operated by Gangmasters) of the Modern Slavery Act 2014.”
(3) The Authority and police shall have the right of inspection of tenancy agreements held by letting agencies where there are reasonable grounds to suspect a number of properties are let or sub-let by the same individual to multiple workers.”
New clause 17—Gangmasters: offences, financial transactions—
In the Gangmaster Licensing Act 2004 after section 13 (Offences: payments to or by gangmasters) insert—
“13A Offences: gangmasters, financial transactions
(1) This section applies to a person who is acting as a gangmaster in respect of a worker (“W”).
(2) The person commits an offence if whilst acting as set out in subsection (1) they make a payment to W that is not made either—
(a) by a cheque which under section 81A of the Bills of Exchange Act 1882 is not transferable, or
(b) by an electronic transfer of funds (authorised by credit or debit card or otherwise), or
(3) The person commits an offence if—
(a) whilst making a payment to W in respect of work they do not keep a record of the payment and the hours worked for which the payment is due, or
(b) if they do not produce such a record when required to by either the Gangmasters Licensing Authority or the police.
(4) The Secretary of State may by regulations amend subsection (2) to permit other methods of payment.
(5) In this section making a payment includes payment in kind (with goods or services).
(6) If a gangmaster pays a worker in breach of subsection (2), each of the following is guilty of an offence—
(a) the gangmaster;
(b) if the payment is made with the knowledge of the person to whom the gangmaster is supplying W, that person; and
(c) any person who makes the payment acting for the gangmaster.
(7) It is a defence for a person within subsection (4)(a) or (b) who is charged with an offence under this section to prove that the person—
(a) made arrangements to ensure that the payment was not made in breach of subsection (1), and
(b) took all reasonable steps to ensure that those arrangements were complied with.
(8) A person guilty of an offence under this section is liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding level 5 on the standard scale.”
New clause 18—Provision of fixed penalty notices for gangmasters—
‘(1) The Gangmasters (Licensing) Act 2004 is amended as follows.
(2) In section 12 (Offences: acting as a gangmaster, being in possession of false documents etc.) after subsection (4) insert—
“(4A) The Secretary of State may by regulations make provision for fixed monetary penalties to be applied for an offence under this Act where—
(a) the offence is of a lower level of severity, and
(b) slavery, servitude and forced or compulsory labour is not a contributory factor in the offence.
(4B) Regulations made under subsection (4A) shall be made by statutory instrument and may not be made unless laid before in draft and agreed by both Houses of Parliament.””
New clause 19—Investigation of modern slavery offences by Gangmasters Licensing Authority—
‘(1) In section 1 (The Gangmasters Licensing Authority) after “holding licences under this Act,” insert—
“(c) investigate offences under section 1 of the Modern Slavery Act 2014, and related offences of fraud, where those offences involve gangmasters,
(d) investigate offences under section 1 of the Modern Slavery Act 2014, and related offences of fraud, where those offences are alleged to have been committed by a person licensed under this Act, whether or not the offence was committed in their capacity as a gangmaster,”
(2) The Secretary of State may by regulations confer powers on the Gangmasters Licensing Authority in order to investigate offences under this Act.
(3) Regulations under subsection (2) shall include provision to require financial institutions to disclose details of financial holdings to the Gangmasters Licensing Authority or the police in pursuit of an investigation of an offence under this Act.
(4) Regulations under this section shall be made by statutory instrument and may not be made unless they have been laid before in draft, and approved by, both Houses of Parliament.”
New clause 2—Protection from slavery from overseas domestic workers—
‘(1) All overseas and domestic workers, including those working for staff of diplomatic missions, shall be entitled to—
(a) change their employer (but not work sector) while in the United Kingdom;
(b) renew their domestic worker or diplomatic domestic worker visa for a period up to 12 months as long as they remain in employment and are able to support themselves adequately without recourse to public funds; and
(c) a three month temporary visa permitting them to live in the United Kingdom for the purposes of seeking alternative employment as an overseas domestic worker where there is evidence that the worker has been a victim of modern slavery.”
New clause 6—Procuring sex for payment—
‘(1) A person commits an offence under this section if he or she procures sexual intercourse or any other sexual act, whether for himself or for another person, in return for payment.
(2) A “payment” includes—
(a) payment that is promised or is given or promised by another person; and
(b) provision of non-financial benefits, including, but not limited to, drugs or alcohol.”
New clause 7—Strategy on assistance and support for exiting prostitution—
The Secretary of State shall, at least once in every year, publish a strategy to ensure that a programmes of assistance and support is made available to a person who wishes to leave prostitution.”
New clause 22—Prostitution and sexual exploitation—
‘(1) The Secretary of State must undertake a review of the links between prostitution and human trafficking and sexual exploitation in England and Wales.
(2) The review under subsection (1) must consider—
(a) the extent to which the current legislation governing prostitution in England and Wales acts as an effective deterrent to demand for sexual services from exploited persons;
(b) the extent to which the current legislation governing prostitution in England and Wales enables effective enforcement action against those trafficking people for sexual exploitation; and
(c) the extent to which alternative legal frameworks for governing prostitution adopted by other countries within the European Union, including Northern Ireland, have been effective at reducing sexual exploitation and the number of people trafficked for the purpose of sexual exploitation.
(3) The review under subsection (1) must be completed and a copy must be laid before Parliament within six months of Royal Assent.”
New clause 23—Consultation on prostitution, sexual exploitation and trafficking—
‘(1) The Secretary of State must initiate a statutory consultation on the introduction of legislation prohibiting the procurement of sex for payment.
(2) The consultation in subsection (1) must seek to ascertain the degree to which the prohibition of sex for payment would—
(a) reduce the number of people sexually exploited in England and Wales;
(b) reduce demand for sexual services from sexually exploited persons in England and Wales;
(c) reduce the number of people trafficked into England and Wales for the purposes of sexual exploitation.
(3) In undertaking the consultation in subsection (1) the Secretary of State must—
(a) seek the views of those who work with trafficked and exploited persons in England and Wales;
(b) seek the views of the Director of Public Prosecutions and the Association of Chief Police Officers; and
(c) allow submissions from members of the public.
(4) The consultation must be completed and a summary of the results laid before Parliament within six months of the date of Royal Assent.”
Amendment 1, page 45, line 21, at end insert—
‘(10) Omit section 1”
New clause 1 and the other amendments in this group address a wide range of issues that are linked by the terminology of exploitation but cover different aspects of concern. They include my suggestions on gangmasters; comments and suggestions on the same topic by Stephen Barclay; how we deal with overseas domestic workers; and a wide ranging group of amendments on how we deal with the sensitive, difficult and challenging issue of prostitution. I will cover a number of issues, and I hope I do justice to them and set out the official Opposition’s position.
New clause 1 revisits an issue that we discussed intensely in Committee: the role of the Gangmasters Licensing Authority. We considered a number of things to do with extending the role of that authority, and in the light of those discussions the new clause simply establishes that
“The Secretary of State may by order amend section 3 of the Gangmasters (Licensing) Act 2004” to include other areas of work should a future Secretary of State determine that exploitation, modern slavery or trafficking was taking place. It gives the Secretary of State power to do that by order, rather than having to introduce new legislation.
The Minister said:
“The case has not been made for extending the GLA’s remit at this stage beyond the core areas the Act sought to address.”––[Official Report, Modern Slavery Public Bill Committee,
She has recently undertaken a review into gangmasters legislation, and determined that there should be no extension of its remit. I am saying—I hope Karen Lumley will take heed of this—that new clause 1 simply gives power to the Secretary of State to extend that remit, should they seek to do so. Were I to be Minister in a few months’ time, I would want to consider extending the scope of the gangmasters legislation because widespread views from trade unions, charities and academics suggest that many people are underpaid or exploited in areas not covered by current legislation.
As I understand it—forgive me if I have the wrong end of the stick—new clause 1 is simply to make it easier should a future Minister determine that it is necessary to widen the scope of section 3 of the 2004 Act. Will the shadow Minister give the House some indication as to what difference that would make in terms of time scale and bringing forward that legislation?
I will address the hon. Gentleman’s points in the course of my remarks.
You will know, Madam Deputy Speaker, that my hon. Friend Jim Sheridan introduced legislation on gangmasters in 2004. I pay tribute to him, because that is effective legislation. It has protected workers in three key sectors—agriculture, shellfish collection and horticulture. It has done something all hon. Members should be proud of: it has driven out poor standards, protected work forces, and ensured that we do not undercut legitimate workers in those sectors.
“There is no change to the remit or funding of the agency”,
yet there is ample evidence that the agency should have its work extended, particularly following the Joint Committee on the Draft Modern Slavery Bill, on which a number of hon. Members present in the House served. The Committee considered a number of issues in detail, including the role of the Gangmasters Licensing Authority. In paragraph 189 of its report, the Committee states:
“There was consensus from our witnesses over the excellent reputation of the GLA…the GLA has been held in high regard as an example of good practice.”
In paragraph 190, it states:
“We heard from the Authority itself that there are limitations to what the GLA can currently do. Its Chief Executive, Paul Broadbent, told us that the GLA’s underpinning legislation was ‘good up to a point’, but did not provide for the GLA to carry out what he described as ‘hot pursuit’”.
The Committee said:
“Several witnesses made the case for widening the industrial remit of the GLA to other sectors where forced labour is prevalent”,
“The weight of evidence we received suggested that expanding the GLA’s powers and industrial remit would yield positive results.”
The Committee was comprised of Members of both Houses from all parties, but the TUC report, “Hard Work, Hidden Lives” concluded:
“The GLA needs to be extended to hospitality, construction and catering as these are usually small businesses that are open to abuse.”
Oxfam, which hon. Members will agree is a well-respected charity, has said:
“Gangmasters have diversified into sectors beyond the reach of the GLA where there is less regulation of labour standards.”
It concluded that
“the GLA’s remit must immediately be extended to the sectors of construction, hospitality, and…care”.
When breaches by a gangmaster operating in a regulated sector such as agriculture are found by the GLA, would it be reasonable to assume that that same gangmaster operating in the hospitality sector is carrying out the same abuses, which therefore deserve to be investigated?
The hon. Gentleman puts his finger on the point the Opposition made in Committee. Gangmasters are diversifying. They are moving into horticulture, catering and the care homes sector. I do not want to ruin his reputation, but the amendments he has tabled have the Opposition’s support, because he has indicated that measures can be taken to tighten up how we operate the current gangmaster legislation.
In his original Bill, my hon. Friend the Member for Paisley and Renfrewshire North sought to protect people who are exploited, but such legislation is also about supporting legitimate businesses working in those sectors who find themselves being undercut by people who are operating sharp practices. What is good for the horticulture, agriculture or shellfish collection sectors should be good for other sectors, such as care homes and construction. New clause 1 does not specify that, but simply says that the Minister has the power to extend legislation. I hope we can give her the power and make the case, both up to the election and I hope in my case beyond it, for introducing changes to improve how the legislation operates.
One reason why the Government have resisted such a measure is the view of the Secretary of State for Defence, who, as a Minister in the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills felt that we would be adding additional red tape. Aside from the fact that targeting criminals who abuse people is not the sort of problem on which the deregulation challenge should focus, does the right hon. Gentleman agree that going after those people is not red tape, because many of the large businesses would welcome the fact that they are not being undercut by those abusing the market?
The hon. Gentleman sits on the Government Benches, so I am not sure it is in order for us to agree again. The British Retail Consortium supported our proposals in Committee. This is not some kind of mystical issue; this will help to protect the work force, stop undercutting and protect legitimate businesses working in specific areas. What is good for the three sectors currently covered should be good for others too.
“Many have called for extending the authority…of the GLA to cover all industries where there is known risk of exploitation and forced labour associated with labour providers. The evidence from the JRF’s programme points to the same recommendation.”
In Committee, I prayed in aid Andrew Boff, who is not a member of my party but the Mayor of London’s representative and deputy. In a report on slavery in London, he recommended strongly the extension of gangmaster legislation. That is very important, because we need to send a very strong signal on exploitation.
An answer to a recent parliamentary question revealed that the number of criminal investigations under the current gangmaster legislation has dropped from a high point of 134 in 2011, to 76 in 2013 and 65 to date in 2014. This information has come to light since the Public Bill Committee last sat. The Minister said in Committee that this was a growing problem. I would welcome her view on why the number of investigations into gangmaster activity has dropped over the four-year period.
The National Crime Agency, the general secretary of the Union of Construction, Allied Trades and Technicians, the Serious Organised Crime Agency, the leader of the Conservative group on the London Assembly, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, the British Retail Consortium and the Ethical Trading Initiative have all said we should consider extending gangmaster legislation. New clause 1 would give the Minister the chance to do that speedily. I pressed her on this in and outside Committee. With due respect to her talent as a Minister, I do not think she has made an effective case for why we cannot extend it to the areas suggested by me and the hon. Member for North East Cambridgeshire.
I think there is a general consensus outside the House that exploitation is exploitation, be it in relation to shellfish or care work. We therefore need to look at this in an effective way. This is not, dare I say, a fly-by-night issue for the hon. Gentleman. He has pursued it over many months. His amendments do not deal directly with the matters addressed in new clause 1, but we sat on a Bill some time ago in the mists of this Parliament and he raised the same issues then. He has a real opportunity to ensure that his amendments enhance the 2004 legislation and build on the work of my hon. Friend the Member for Paisley and Renfrewshire North. He has our support, and if he wants to use that on his election address in due course I am sure that will be even better for him.
New clause 2 addresses protection from slavery for overseas domestic workers. The previous Government put in place a regime for migrant domestic workers who accompanied employers to the UK. The current Government changed the regime in April 2012. Overseas domestic worker visa holders are now tied to their original employer and the visa is not renewable beyond its initial six-month duration. We have had two-and-a-half years of the new regime since April 2012, and there is real concern that it has been detrimental to domestic workers and is causing real challenges in the system that need to be considered.
That is my view—I am open and honest about it—but it is shared by the Joint Committee that scrutinised the Bill, including Members in their places today who supported recommendations on a cross-party basis. Andrew Boff, the Conservative leader of the London assembly, is of that view, too. In his report on human trafficking, he said:
“I don’t think it intends to be, but the Government is actually licensing modern-day slavery… through their changes to tie a visa to an employer.”
There is cross-party support for the Government to review the issues covered by new clause 2. In agreement are a Joint Committee of both Houses of Parliament, comprising and dominated by Government members, the leader of the Conservative group on the London assembly, along with many organisations interested in this topic from outside the House—notably Kalayaan, which carried out a study on the impact of the Government’s proposals.
Kalayaan has thrown up some really concerning figures. Between
The Joint Committee recommended in its draft Bill that we return to the position of April 2012—prior to the changes the Government made. That proposal was put in Committee, and there was a tie with nine votes to nine votes. Members of the governing party voted with other members of the Committee; some Members did not, which was their choice; some Members supported the draft Bill’s recommendations and voted against them in Committee, which was their choice. I believe, however, that there is a real consensus on ensuring that this issue is looked at in the other place. I hope the Government will consider it further. New clause 2 provides an opportunity to do so.
Let me move on from new clauses 1 and 2 to the other contentious and wide-ranging issue suggested by this group of amendments. My hon. Friend Fiona Mactaggart raised this initially in Committee—the issues of how to deal with sex workers and prostitution and of how prostitution should be dealt with by society as a whole. My hon. Friend will undoubtedly speak to her new clauses. MPs do not need to look far into their inboxes to realise that a range of views are being expressed, including by the all-party group chaired by my hon. Friend Gavin Shuker. My hon. Friend John McDonnell has also filtered through a range of issues for Members to consider. People have different views about how to deal with this.
Let me put it on the record from the outset, however, that all the different views focus on the fact that there are around 80,000 people, mainly women and girls, involved in prostitution today. Nobody can deny that many of these workers carry out this work voluntarily, yet a lot of them are involved in sexual slavery, having got here through different routes. They are often pimped by people they know and can be trafficked by organised gangs. They are often extremely vulnerable, having been abused in the past. About 95% of women in street prostitution have problematic drug use; over half of women involved in prostitution in the UK have been raped and/or sexually assaulted; and the vast majority of those assaults are committed by people who have purchased sex from them.
According to recent statistics, there has been a recent and rapid increase in the number of non-British women selling sex on street in a significant number of London boroughs. There are real concerns about trafficked women being exploited in on-street as well as off-street prostitution and about the fact that this exploitation is now being controlled and organised by criminal gangs. This is a real issue that the House needs to address.
A number of solutions have been proposed. The Nordic model, which is effectively the basis of the proposals from my hon. Friend the Member for Slough, looks at how we diminish street prostitution—particularly by making it an offence for people to buy sex. One argument put forward is that street prostitution has diminished by half and that the number of brothel businesses is also diminishing, or certainly has not increased. There is evidence of the flow of human trafficking having been slowed in Sweden because of that. In Norway there is evidence that that is contributing to the reduction in demand for and volume of prostitution. But we do not have to look far into our email inboxes to know that there are very strong views from people involved in the trade that that potential model and others could lead to further violence against those who are involved in the industry and/or to driving prostitution underground.
The Opposition have tabled new clause 22, which seeks to place upon the Government a legal responsibility to undertake a review of these issues in detail. We are seeking to deal with this matter effectively. We have said that within six months of Royal Assent the Government should look at all the discussion points that are before us today. The review would investigate the extent to which current legislation governing prostitution in England and Wales acts as an effective deterrent to demand for sexual services from exploited persons. It would look at the extent to which current legislation governing prostitution in England and Wales enables effective enforcement action against trafficking people and sexual exploitation, and at the very points made by my hon. Friend the Member for Slough in her amendments today: the legal frameworks for governing prostitution adopted by other countries within the EU, including Northern Ireland. The review would look at the examples of Sweden and of Norway to help inform the debate.
All of us will have different experiences in our constituencies about the impact and challenges of this problem and I am not intending to come to conclusions today. The purpose of new clause 22, effectively, is to give a spur to a wider discussion on the topic. I hope that the Minister can look at it in that way because there are strong views on how we deal with the issue. It is important to have a proper debate.
I just want absolute clarity. The review in new clause 22, which I support, is a review before legislation, not after, so I am somewhat confused by subsection (3).
This Bill. The purpose is to lay a legally binding commitment upon the Minister to produce a report that takes account of whatever views are expressed in the debate today, but also of the views of the all-party group of my hon. Friend the Member for Luton South, of my hon. Friend the Member for Slough and of the points raised by my hon. Friend John McDonnell in many emails. The real issue is how this House approaches the issue of prostitution. Now is the time for a review of the legislation.
The right hon. Gentleman was a Minister and may well have been involved in introducing in 2009 the criminalising of the purchase of sex from someone subjected to force. Evidence suggests that that has not been particularly effective. Will the right hon. Gentleman comment on that and on whether the evidence from it takes us any further?
As ever, having had a ministerial career in the last Government, I have form on these issues. In 2008-09, when I was the Minister, my hon. Friend the Member for Slough presented proposals in Committee that were similar to those that she has presented on this occasion, and the Government did not accept them. We look and we learn, and a new issue is now evolving. I think it fair to say that there is a greater involvement of criminal gangs in trafficking people for prostitution than there has ever been before.
The purpose of our new clause is simply to make the Secretary of State legally responsible for producing a review within six months. Six months from Royal Assent will mean something between the middle and the end of next year. The evidence enabling the next incoming Government to make judgments will already have been gathered, so that they—not me, and not the present Minister—can make those judgments on the basis of a full review.
I do not think that we made a financial assessment of the value of the trade when I was a Minister. I know that it is being discussed currently, as part of other discussions relating to the Treasury’s contributions to Europe.
I do not want to be diverted, because we have only a short time available. I have tried to compress the material for a long series of debates into a fairly short contribution. Let me now sum up that contribution. New clause 22 concerns a review, and it commits the Government to nothing other than that review. There is a real case for extending the gangmaster legislation; new clause 1 simply gives the Secretary of State the power to do that, which I hope she will welcome. I was pleased to hear the comments of Stephen Barclay. I think it important for us to revert to the April 2012 position in regard to overseas domestic workers for a number of reasons. I also think it important to stimulate a debate on the issues of prostitution and sexual exploitation, without reaching any conclusions yet, and that has been possible today through new clause 22.
I commend all three of our new clauses to the Minister. I hope that she will be able to deliver a positive response, but—as ever, Mr Speaker, you will have expected me to say this—in the event of her not doing so, I should like at least to reflect on the possibility of testing the House’s opinion in due course.
I want to develop the theme of how we can make prosecution and enforcement quicker and easier. I am aware that a number of Members who wanted to speak earlier have not yet been able to do so, and I shall therefore keep my remarks short.
I want to speak about new clauses 16, 17, 18 and 19. Let me begin with new clause 16. At present, it is very difficult for police in areas such as Wisbech in my constituency to identify houses in multiple occupation. The presence of 20-odd people in a two-storey house often does not meet the legal definition of an HMO. One of the ways in which we can make life easier for the local police is to give them clearer powers and rights to inspect letting agencies, and require gangmasters to keep records in the form of rent books and tenancy agreements. At present, when there is a breach of a tenancy agreement, it falls to the tenant to bring a private prosecution. How realistic is that? How realistic is it to expect someone who has been trafficked, who does not speak English and who does not understand the law to bring a private prosecution against his landlord?
We need to make it quicker, easier and therefore cheaper for the police to identify concentrations of HMOs. They need to be able to go into those houses, establish whether the law relating to, for instance, rent books is being adhered to, and take action if necessary. That will necessitate rights of access to the records of letting agents, and a requirement that the Gangmasters Licensing Authority can then use for leverage in relation to gangmasters.
New clause 17 seeks to build on the lessons this House can learn from scrap metal merchants being forbidden from taking cash payments and asks how we can create an audit trail for financial investigators in terms of the known abuse around the minimum wage legislation and the way people are being paid. At present wage slips will often simply show that someone was on for one day—it could have been seven hours, it could have been 12 hours—and when payments are made, they are made in cash. Straight away, deductions are taken for accommodation and for vehicles, so the abused worker never actually receives that money. Often they are told when they come into the country that they are not allowed a bank account. Obviously that is erroneous information, but they do not know otherwise. New clause 17 therefore addresses how we can make it easier for the police to follow the money—follow that audit trail—so that once money goes into an account, it is with the worker and it becomes harder for the rogue gangmaster to deduct it at source, which is what currently happens.
New clause 18’s provision is, I fear, almost a well-worn theme. I had a debate on it in Westminster Hall in 2012 and 2013. The measure was being blocked by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, although I was told privately that the Department for Environment,
Food and Rural Affairs was supporting it. The reality is that the Gangmasters Licensing Authority does not have the full range of tools available. It has draconian penalties available in terms of criminal sanctions, but they are almost never used because the standard of proof is high and the amount of time required is extensive.
To put this in context, do Members know how many inspectors the GLA currently has? It has 35 for the whole country. There is one covering the whole of Cambridgeshire and Lincolnshire. An inspector could spend their entire time just driving around my constituency, never mind the rest of the county and the two counties combined. The LGA has 35 inspectors and a budget of £4 million. We need only think about how much a supermarket makes in a week to see how well resourced the GLA is.
Tesco has some serious questions to answer in terms of its supply chain and the way some of its operations have been conducted. I do not want to return to the earlier debate, but if one looks at some of the difficulties Tesco is having in terms of its profit warnings, one wonders how accurate some of its statements on its website might be, especially given its statements on other areas.
My point is we need to make it easier for the GLA, at a time when it is resource-constrained, to take enforcement action. One of those ways is to hit rogue gangmasters in the pocket, through civil fines. There is a lower evidential requirement for that and it is quicker and cheaper, and we should be facilitating that. I hope the move of the GLA from DEFRA into the Home Office gives more clout within Whitehall for this long-overdue change.
New clause 19 addresses what happens when a gangmaster is found abusing workers in one sector. The shadow Minister touched on that in his opening remarks. It is illogical that where someone is operating in one sector or industry illegally, we seem to assume that that sinner is suddenly a saint in another sector. The additional costs of the extra 1 million temporary workers currently within the unregulated sector would place a huge burden on the GLA, so I am sympathetic to the Minister in terms of the constraints on extending into the unregulated sector, but we need to make that easier. Where a gangmaster has been shown to be rogue in one sector, that is the gateway through which we can make a foray into the unregulated activity of that specific gangmaster, not of the whole unregulated industry.
This is a very good Bill that will make a huge difference in constituencies such as mine and it signals the Government’s intent in this area. When the Minister responds, I hope she will consider the operational difficulties faced by the police and the GLA in particular, and bring forward measures that make their job easier, quicker and cheaper, and therefore more likely to be achieved.
I rise to speak to new clauses 6 and 7 and amendment 1, which have been tabled in my name. In doing so, I want to focus on an issue that is the driver for a great deal of the exploitation and human trafficking in Britain today. Before I do that, however, I want to thank the Minister for her relatively helpful letter on the issue of domestic servitude, which is one of the matters being addressed in the Bill. I drew to her attention the case of a young woman who had been forced to use employment law in order to be paid. I remain shocked that the police did not take notice of that case or prosecute her exploiter. The reality is that domestic servitude does not, on the whole, involve big organised gangs, although they are often the ones that bring the people to the UK in the first place. It is within domestic settings that people are grotesquely abused, and unless we help those victims to help themselves, as the new clause proposed by my right hon. Friend Mr Hanson would do, we will continue to see an increase in that kind of trafficking.
The main reason that I am on my feet is that I have tabled two new clauses and an amendment on prostitution. The real experience of prostituted women—it is overwhelmingly women who are affected—is that they are the target of police action against prostitution. Most of them started as children, and they have often been groomed into prostitution by exploitative gangs, by pimps or by people who are trying to up the profits of their drug dealing.
The statistics are intensely disputed. Frankly, I believe that, on this issue, what people get out of their research is what they believed when they went into it. However, there are a number of facts that no one disputes. First, prostituted women are much more likely to be raped than other women. Something like 75% of women in street prostitution in London report having been raped. Secondly, nobody disputes the fact that prostituted women are much more likely to be murdered than other women. Some studies suggest that a prostituted woman runs a 40 times greater risk of being murdered, usually by a client, than a woman of a similar age in another profession.
Let us be clear: this is not about a choice of career. I have yet to meet the girl who wants to grow up to be a prostitute or the mother who looks forward to her daughter’s future as a prostitute. I do not believe that we should call it sex work; it is exploitation. Across the House, we should be working to reduce this form of exploitation. The national referral mechanism shows that, of all the people that it found in trafficking and modern slavery, 40% of those victims were in prostitution, as were 60% of all the women involved.
This is a serious issue and it needs to be dealt with. So how are we going to deal with it? What works? Does legalising prostitution work? Are there models that show that prostitution can be wonderfully regulated and hugely safe? People cite the decriminalised model in New Zealand, yet there are still reports of massive numbers of rapes and violence against prostituted women there. Prostitution is legal in the Netherlands and Germany, yet it is at record levels in those countries and involves grotesque exploitation. Germany has 10 times as many prostituted women as Sweden, per head of population. Clearly, that way is not working. It is striking how many countries have been convinced—as I have—that Sweden’s way is the best that has been found so far. That is what I have tried to do in my new clauses. They aim to prosecute the men who seek to purchase sex; to stop prosecuting the women who are soliciting—there are other offences on women and I hope that if these proposals get through, the other place would remove the other ways in which prostituted women are the target of policing; and to ask the Home Office to support women who want to exit prostitution.
I am involved in a charity that provides housing for formerly prostituted women who are trying to leave prostitution, and I remember a letter that we received from one of our tenants. It said, “This is the first time in my life that I have control over who comes through my front door.” Until then her life had always been run by other people; she had had to service men and had no control over her life, and that is overwhelmingly the experience of women in prostitution. I sought to change that through the change I conceded to in the Policing and Crime Act 2009, where an amendment said that women were subject to exploitation if a man sought to pay for sexual services from them and he would be committing an offence. In the first year of that being law there were 49 prosecutions—I was a bit disappointed because I did not think that was very many—with the men being found guilty in 43 cases. The following year there were 17 prosecutions, with 12 guilty verdicts, and the year after there were nine prosecutions, with six guilty verdicts. When we ask the police why that is, they say, “Oh it is really hard, because the definition of “exploitation” means it isn’t a simple offence to prosecute.” That is one reason why I tabled these provisions: we want simpler offences to prosecute, as we want to help the police to do their job.
If we take that approach, we need to talk to the Crown Prosecution Service about the advice it gives to the police on what constitutes exploitation. The CPS advice on this offence says that it is something that happens in premises: it happens in brothels. The problem is that if the police are dealing with a raid on a brothel where the exploitation that we have been talking about is going on, they want the johns to be witnesses. That is a perfectly sensible thing for the police to want to do, instead of using the strict liability offence and therefore making the men likely to be more silent.
I really believe that the Nordic model will make the difference. It has also been shown that Norway followed Sweden, Iceland followed suit and Canada has also just done so. I welcome the recent decision in Northern Ireland to introduce a similar arrangement. Other countries are following the Nordic model because it works. I am not yet convinced that we are going to pass my new clauses today. I did not push this matter to a vote in Committee, because I do not believe we should suddenly turn that small minority of men—every piece of research also says that most men do not buy sex—who think that what they are doing is perfectly legal into criminals without engaging them in knowing the changes we plan to make. I did not want to have a vote in Committee; I wanted to have a vote here.
I slightly pity the Minister, because Norman Baker was supposed to be doing this and he has run away. However, she will do it better than he would, so I am kind of relieved. I invite her to welcome the proposal made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Delyn for a review. There is the risk in any review that it will merely reflect the prejudices of the people who have gone before. However, those of us on the inquiry set up by my hon. Friend Gavin Shuker saw how convincing those women who had been prostituted and who were trying to leave were, how hard it is to leave, and how the way in which we currently police prostitution does not assist them. It took the deaths of five women in Ipswich to change the way the police approached this matter in that city. We should change how the police approach this matter everywhere. We should see prostitution as a problem not of badly behaved women but of men who pay to own those women’s bodies. It is vile exploitation and a form of modern slavery that we should end.
I am persuaded that more Members will support new clause 22 than supported my proposed new clauses 6 and 7. I hope to persuade the Minister to support it too. All it says is: let us find convincing evidence for what we should do. I spend a lot of time arguing with people on the media who disagree with me, who say that I have got my facts wrong and who cite conflicting research. Let us invest Government money in getting the research right and in hearing the victims of this exploitation, and then decide whether we will follow all those countries which, having done that, conclude that the Nordic model is the right one. We should stop prosecuting women and start prosecuting the men who pay for them.
I wish to comment on new clause 2. This Bill is unique in that it is one piece of Home Office legislation that I warmly welcome. None the less, I was disappointed to find that it did not include any provisions relating to the protection of overseas domestic workers.
Since becoming an MP 11 years ago, I have had many constituency cases involving overseas domestic workers who have managed to escape an abusive or exploitative employer and who were seeking protection. Those women had been made prisoners; their passports had been stolen and they had been made to work extremely long hours for very little pay and with no time off.
In April 2012, the Government changed the rules so that domestic workers would no longer be able to change employer. Instead they have a tied visa, which links their immigration status to their employer. The evidence collected by Kalayaan indicates that the result of the new visas has been an increase in abuse and exploitation. I understand that the Minister disputes those figures, but her own proposals will not address the problem that Kalayaan raises.
Given the levels and types of abuse that are experienced by overseas domestic workers, we should view this Bill as the opportune vehicle to provide extra protection, as it goes to the very heart of protecting victims of modern slavery. There was an extremely short debate on this matter right at the end of the Committee stage. The Minister said then that reintroducing the right to change employers was not the answer to preventing abuse. It was very difficult for us to explore all the issues because we were right up against time. The Minister then showed us a new information card that will be given to overseas domestic workers, and since then she has sent me a draft revised standard template contract, for which I am very grateful. However, I am not convinced that these steps, while welcome, will be enough on their own to prevent abuse while the tied visa system is still in place. This is not a one-or-the-other issue. I accept the Minister’s argument that abuse undoubtedly also took place before the change in the visa system, but I am not convinced that merely giving people more advice will be enough. We need to tackle the tied visa system, which seems to have made the problem worse.
Some 78% of domestic workers who have arrived on a tied visa and then sought assistance from Kalayaan have reported that their passport was confiscated by their employer. What is to stop that same employer from taking the information card as well? Moreover, given that many will not have access to a phone, how are they supposed to dial the numbers on the card, assuming that the card is even in a language that they can read in the first place?
In Committee, the Minister criticised the robustness of Kalayaan's figures. It should be remembered that Kalayaan is an extremely small organisation, with very limited resources.
Let me make myself clear. I do not dispute Kalayaan’s figures. I was merely pointing out that there was evidence of abuse both before and after the tie of the visa. I therefore believe that we need to tackle the root cause of that abuse and not merely look at the tie on the visa. I do not dispute the figures that Kalayaan has put out.
That is a helpful clarification. I agree with the Minister that we have to tackle the root cause of the abuse. I simply think that we need to do both. I am not sure that the solutions that the Minister has suggested will be enough on their own. I wonder whether I could persuade the Minister, especially as Kalayaan is such a small organisation, to consider collecting more data on overseas domestic workers. We know that abuse exists, and it would be helpful in our debates to have more accurate tracking of what happens. It may be that only the Government have the resources to fund such research.
One of the other protections that the Government introduced along with the tied visa was a provision that domestic workers had to have been with their employer for at least one year in the country from which they arrived. One of the issues here is what checks are in place to ensure that the domestic worker was not being abused in the country they have come from. In the past two weeks, Human Rights Watch has produced a report on migrant domestic workers in the United Arab Emirates, and it makes for extremely grim reading. Ministers argue that the new contracts will protect against this, but, given that many domestic workers do not speak English, will they even know what they are signing?
I accept that there was abuse under the old visa system, but the new visas introduced as part of a raft of measures in an attempt to look tough on immigration do not appear to have made the situation any better. Indeed, the evidence suggests that they have made things worse because they have left abused domestic workers with no means of escape. I urge the Government to take this opportunity to improve the protection for domestic workers, and if new clause 2 is pushed to a vote, I will support it.
Order. A significant number of colleagues still seek to contribute. There is no formal time limit—we are in a Report stage—but perhaps colleagues will have some regard to the interests of their colleagues.
I commend new clause 22. We need the review that it proposes and a thorough investigation of the links between human trafficking, prostitution and exploitation. It seems to me that that is the only way we will change the minds of the legislators and the wider public to bring about some of the changes that my hon. Friend Fiona Mactaggart suggests.
Any trade that can be estimated to be worth £130 million a year should command our attention. We should look to understand it fully, with the purpose of undermining and collapsing it. That is what we are here for, and what we should do.
Finally, I want to mention Juliet, a young woman who currently resides in my constituency. She is supported by the asylum charity Restore. She fled here from Nigeria to escape slavery, brutality and a forced marriage, and she fell into the hands of traffickers and ended up working in a brothel in this country. The Home Office, sadly, intends to deal with that by sending Juliet back to Nigeria. We need to smash the link in this trade altogether, and we have to tackle a situation that punishes the victims while the traffickers carry on their trade and the clients who make that trade viable are largely unaffected by the misery that they generate and perpetrate. New clause 22 would make a good contribution to that and help this Bill achieve some of the aims that most of us here back.
As you know, Mr Speaker, I am standing down at the end of this Parliament, so I hope that I am allowed to say a few things. I rise to support the new clauses tabled by my hon. Friend Stephen Barclay. I would give a piece of advice to the talent spotters on our Front Bench. He is becoming an extremely good Member of Parliament and they should harness that by putting him into a ministerial position so that he can be useful—not, of course, to stifle that dangerous streak of independence.
At the time I thought that it was appropriate, Mr Speaker, but I fear that your opportunities have since vanished.
There is no fool like an old fool, and I am afraid that I felt a little like that in supporting—sincerely—the amendments tabled by Fiona Mactaggart. I say that not because I disagree with the sentiment; we have heard so much about modern slavery and become so immersed in the issue that, as Steve McCabe said, when we meet the victims, so many of whom are involved in the sex trade, there is a real feeling that the demand must somehow be curbed. However, I am not sure that this Bill is the right place to do that.
That issue seems to have stirred up a hornets’ nest and taken up valuable time on Report, and unfortunately, because of the timing—it would be wrong, of course, to complain about the selection—we have not been able to discuss everything. We are discussing something that I think is slightly out of scope. I am almost tempted to agree with the Opposition Front Benchers on that. I am not sure that we should necessarily start it at this point. It is something that I will be observing from whatever job I do after leaving this place—in the car park at Tesco or wherever. It is a very important debate about prostitution and it cannot be ignored, but there are two sides to the argument, and I know that even the hon. Members for Slough and for Hayes and Harlington (John McDonnell) take slightly different views on it. It is an important discussion that we must have.
When I have previously voted against my party, I was normally also voting against the Labour party, which was in government at the time. In other words, I was part of a tiny minority, which I think is a safe position to be in—the hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington has tutored me well in how to rebel. In many respects the issue of overseas domestic workers, and therefore new clause 2, does not need to be covered in the Bill, because it is a matter of policy. Were I still in a ministerial position, I know that that is how I would explain it to colleagues, saying that this is not the time to deal with the matter. However, I have met too many victims to be able to say that it is a matter for another day. I understand why the Government brought that in, and it was a laudable reason: they thought that it would help the situation. Unfortunately, that appears not to be the case and there is a knock-on effect that is not helping those poor, innocent people from overseas.
As a result, I do not think that there will be much success. Unfortunately, the way the political debate on immigration is going at the moment—an important debate, but one in which we must be careful not to become extreme—I do not expect the Government to do a great deal about it this side of an election, if I am honest. I hear what my hon. Friend the Minister is doing, and there are some other things that can help. However, if it comes to a vote, regrettably—oh so regrettably—I shall march into the Lobby with the comrades on the other side of the House.
Before I do so, I want to thank many people. As my right hon. Friend Mr Hanson said, I had the privilege of introducing the private Member’s Bill that became the Gangmasters (Licensing) Act 2004. I was greatly supported in that by a number of individuals and organisations, none more so that my own union, Unite, which was absolutely terrific in giving me the support and research that I needed to try to get the Bill through. The National Farmers Union was also extremely helpful in getting it through and in championing the ethical trading initiatives that were around at the time.
One individual who was particularly helpful during that period was the then Member for Morecambe and Lunesdale, Geraldine Smith, who was extremely supportive in helping me as regards what happened to the cockle pickers. Another individual who was greatly supportive was the then national secretary of the Transport and General Workers Union, now my hon. Friend Jack Dromey, who offered his experience in trying to get the Bill through. Also very helpful and supportive were the legal gangmasters—the guys who operated on a legal basis—because they had operated in a legal field while the other people were undermining them by trying to get labour at cheap prices.
Some organisations, I have to say, were dragged to the negotiations by their fingernails—namely, the major retailers, who really did not want to get involved in this and wanted to exploit the farmers who were engaged in the industry. The farmers were getting a very bad deal from the major retailers, so we made sure that the retailers played ball.
To correct a fact about the gangmasters legislation, the myth is that it was drawn up in response to the tragedy of the Morecambe bay cockle pickers, but in fact it was introduced before that unfortunate incident because Unite had already experienced the inequities that were happening in the construction industry, the care industry, and so on. That is why the Bill was launched some months before the dreadful situation surrounding the Chinese cockle pickers.
Nevertheless, what happened to the cockle pickers was the catalyst in getting support for the Bill. Just imagine, if you will, that you are on a cold, sandy beach surrounded by water that is coming to drown you, you cannot speak English, and there is no one there to take any responsibility for you. All that was left for these people was to use their mobile phones to phone home to China to tell their relatives that they were in the process of dying. The gangmasters who took them on did nothing to help them. That is why the gangmasters Bill was a good and effective piece of legislation, and even now, as we speak, it has the potential to be even better and more effective.
Everything that my hon. Friend said about the struggle that he had to convince a number of organisations at the time is true. Does he know that on
There is no doubt in my mind whatsoever that the legislation must be extended.
We introduced the gangmasters legislation under a Labour Government, and I have to say that it was extremely difficult to try to convince Ministers that it was the right way to go. We decided to go with it as it stood in terms of the shellfish and agricultural industries, arguing that it should subsequently be extended to other sectors, and the Government said that we could extend it if it worked. In my view, it did work, and we set up the Gangmasters Licensing Authority. Prior to that, the gangmasters never paid any tax or national insurance, and neither did the exploited workers. The GLA cleaned its face: it got people to pay income tax and the workers to pay national insurance. In effect, it was a self-funding process. If that rationale were extended to take in construction and the service and hospitality sectors, I think the GLA would be a more effective organisation. The Modern Slavery Bill could have sought to prevent exploitation of forced labour by expanding the remit of the GLA.
Constituents complain about migrant workers moving into their towns, cities and communities and taking their jobs. Immigration was a big issue in the past and it is an even bigger issue now in terms of the exploitation of migrant workers. That is what causes the tensions in this country’s towns and cities. The GLA would make sure that people coming in to work in the fields or in construction were legitimate, trained workers with the necessary skills. More importantly, it would make sure that they paid their tax and received the benefits that flow from that.
The only proactive labour inspectorate that aims to identify and prevent exploitation and trafficking for the purposes of modern slavery is the Independent Labour Organisation, which supports the approach I have outlined. Unfortunately, since 2010 the resources and remit of the GLA have all been reduced, but there is support for Labour’s proposal in new clause 1 for the GLA to cover other areas of work.
At around the same time as the death of the cockle pickers in Morecambe bay, agricultural workers were particularly at risk; indeed, they were exploited. We took many early morning trips with the inspectorate to see for ourselves where those people were living and the kinds of conditions they were working in, some of which were absolutely atrocious.
There are further ways in which the Bill could be improved. I think that relocating the GLA to the Home Office has impacted on its primary function. In my opinion, it should be reinstated as a non-departmental public body under the Department for Work and Pensions. The GLA should have the role of enforcing payment of outstanding wages owed to exploited workers through repayment orders. Migrant workers in the UK should be protected by employment law, regardless of their immigration status.
There is no doubt whatsoever that if Members were to visit construction sites these days, they would see that some of the workers cannot even speak English or understand the health and safety regulations posted at the sites. They are, therefore, a danger not only to themselves, but to others. Construction sites are extremely dangerous places to work and, unfortunately, some unscrupulous employers are happy to exploit workers by paying them low wages, and without assessing the skills they may or may not have. Friction is caused in our communities when indigenous people see migrant workers being exploited by gangmasters and big corporate organisations making lots of money at their expense.
I have no doubt whatsoever not only that our proposal to extend the GLA’s remit to other sectors of employment is long overdue, but that it will eventually pay for itself and, therefore, not be a burden on the Government. I ask colleagues to forget the red tape challenge and to consider people’s lives.
I will speak very briefly, but I want to commend the Government and my hon. Friend the Minister on bringing in this important Bill.
I vividly remember, more than two years ago, that some of the members of the Southampton Stop the Traffik group came to my constituency surgery to explain in detail some of the problems associated with people trafficking and modern-day slavery in the city and the wider area. When I mentioned those problems to other constituents, they found it shocking and could not believe that it was happening in somewhere like Romsey. One key problem we face in tackling the scourge of slavery is that in many cases it is out of sight, and therefore very much out of mind.
I have absolutely no intention of being partisan on this issue. As a member of the Public Bill Committee, what came across very clearly to me was the massive consensus for having something on the statute book. It has taken a long time to get to this point—I know that previous Governments wanted to act—and there is a sense of pride that the current Government have brought forward legislation.
It is absolutely imperative to have a law that is practical and pragmatic, that will work and be enforceable, and that does not prescribe too tightly the roles of local authorities and of the anti-slavery commissioner in tackling the problem. We need such flexibility, because you can bet your bottom dollar that those involved in this illegal trade will also be flexible in seeking to find ways around new legislation. I therefore want the role of the anti-slavery commissioner to be able to adapt as time goes on, much as the role of police and crime commissioners is evolving in our counties. As their role evolves, so the anti-slavery commissioner’s role should be truly inventive and of critical importance. The Government are absolutely right to institute that role, but it must be given sufficient flexibility to allow it to develop over time.
We are really short of time in this debate, so I apologise for taking more, Madam Deputy Speaker. If there are any talent spotters on the Government Front Bench, I think Sir John Randall has an excellent role in the other place.
I chair the Public and Commercial Services Union parliamentary group—we are writing to the Gangmasters Licensing Authority about the new clauses in this group—but let me say that we have now gone beyond the stage at which we can continue to will the objectives without willing the means. Adequate staff and resources are needed to ensure that the GLA is effective.
To turn briefly to the new clauses and the amendment tabled in relation to prostitution, I apologise to all Members of the House for inundating them with briefings over the past 48 hours. I am very sorry, but this debate came up in a hurry, and it was important to give people the chance to express their views. I have always respected my hon. Friend Fiona Mactaggart, who is very well intentioned. I support new clause 7 because developing a strategy is critical, and amendment 1, which is the decriminalisation amendment, but I am fundamentally opposed to new clause 6, because it is worrying, counter-productive and dangerous. New clause 22 would give us the opportunity and enough time to undertake a proper review.
I know that sex work is abhorrent for some Members. I must say that in the years since I convened some of the first meetings of the Ipswich Safety First campaign in this House, after five women were killed there, I have met a number of men and women who were not coerced into sex work and do not want their livelihoods to be curtailed by the proposed criminalisation of their clients. It is true that I have met many others who entered prostitution to overcome economic disadvantage—they suffered in poverty to enable them to pay the rent and put food on the table for their children—but that has been made worse by welfare benefit cuts, escalating housing costs and energy bills. The answer is not to criminalise any of their activities, but to tackle the underlying cause by not cutting welfare benefits and ensuring people have an affordable roof over their heads and giving them access to decent, paid employment.
The whole issue has focused on the idea that by stopping the supply of clients, prostitution will somehow disappear, as will all the exploitation, trafficking and violent abuse. The Swedish model has been suggested as an example, but there was absolutely overwhelming opposition to it in the briefings that I have circulated. Those briefings have come from charities such as Scot-Pep—the Scottish Prostitutes Education Project—which is funded by the state; the Royal College of Nursing, the nurses themselves; and the Global Network of Sex Work Projects, which is another Government-funded organisation to get women and others off the game, that nevertheless says that the Swedish model would be counter-productive.
The Home Office has commissioned academic research, and I have circulated a letter from 30 academics from universities around the country that basically says that the proposed legislation is dangerous. We must listen to sex workers: the English Collective of Prostitutes, the Sex Worker Open University, the Harlots collective, the International Committee on the Rights of Sex Workers in Europe—flamboyant names, but they represent sex workers, and all are opposed to the criminalisation of clients.
I will come straight to that point, but let me go through the other organisations we have listened to: lawyers, human rights bodies such as Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and UN Aid, and even the women’s institute down in Hampshire—I warn hon. Members never to cross the women’s institute anywhere—as well as members of the Ipswich Safety First coalition who dealt with the deaths those years ago.
What is the consensus? It is that there is no evidence that criminalising clients as in the Swedish legislation reduces the number of either clients or sex workers. I could quote at length—time we have not got—from the Swedish Government’s report that demonstrates that there is no correlation between the legislation they introduced and a reduction in numbers of clients or sex workers.
That was one survey where men who were asked, “Do you pay for sex, because you could be prosecuted for it?” naturally said no. The evidence has been challenged. The other part of the consensus concerns the argument that other Governments are now acting and following the Swedish model, but South Africa has rejected it, and Scotland rejected it because measures on kerb crawling were introduced. In France, the Senate has rejected that model on the basis that sex workers will be put at risk. There are even threats of legal action in Canada on the issue of the safety and security of sex workers.
The other consensus that has come from these organisations is that not only do such measures not work, they actually cause harm. We know that because we undertook research through the Home Office in 2005-06. What did it say? Sex workers themselves were saying, “It means that we never have time to check out the clients in advance. We are rushed and pushed to the margins of society as a result, which does us harm.”
There are alternatives. I do not recognise the view on the implementation of decriminalisation in New Zealand mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Slough, because all the research says that it is working. Who says that we should look at decriminalisation? The World Health Organisation, UN Women and UNAIDS. I circulated a letter from Nigel Richardson, who is not just a lawyer who represents sex workers but also acts as a judge. He says that we can tackle abuse and sexual exploitation with existing laws.
I appeal to the House not to rush to legislate on such a contested issue where there is such conflicting research, evidence and views. New clause 22 would provide a way through as it would enable us to undertake the necessary research, consult, bring forward proposals, and legislate if necessary. I want to include in that consultation the New Zealand model and full decriminalisation. I am not in favour of legalisation; I am in favour of full decriminalisation. On that basis we should listen to those with experience. I convened some meetings with the Safety First coalition to brief Members on what it had done. It invested money in the individuals—£7,000 a prostitute—and it got people out of prostitution by investing money, not by decriminalising them.
Reverend Andrew Dotchin was a founder member of the Safety First coalition. He states:
“I strongly oppose clauses on prostitution in the Modern Slavery Bill, which would make the purchase of sex illegal. Criminalising clients does not stop prostitution, nor does it stop the criminalisation of women. It drives prostitution further underground, making it more dangerous and stigmatising for women.”
I fully support the Reverend Andrew Dotchin in his views.
If I had longer I would list a huge number of women’s organisations, campaign groups and those dealing with the issue that the Bill is supposed to be addressing—human trafficking—that support dealing with demand for prostitution, as that is also a way of dealing with demand for modern slavery. We have dealt with demand in terms of the transparency of supply chains and have sought to deal with the demand for cheap goods that are linked to modern slavery. Similarly, we should deal with the demand linked to trafficking, which includes prostitution.
The collectives and campaign groups make a big noise, but I want to speak up for the voiceless. Those who I saw in my 20 years’ experience of prostitution—I hasten to add that I was a criminal defence solicitor—in the cells at Haringey magistrates court were sad and pathetic in the true sense. They were usually exploited and abused, and usually addicted to drugs. More often than not, they were no doubt trafficked. I want to speak up for them—those people who sadly commodified their bodies. Yes, we need to do more than legislate. We need to deal with the issue of sex culturally and put it properly in the context of mutual love and relationships, rather than it involving commodifying a body for gratification.
We are concerned about that, but the Bill is about modern slavery, and we should not dismiss the link between the demand for prostitution and trafficking. We recognised that in 2009 and crossed the Rubicon—we recognised the principle of legislating to criminalise people paying for sex when people are subject to force. We need to consider how we evaluate that. At the end of the day, without addressing the factors that drive demand for trafficking, including trafficking for exploitation, we will struggle to achieve our ultimate goal of eliminating modern slavery in this country.
I am grateful to right hon. and hon. Members for tabling measures and speaking in this debate, which covers three extremely important subjects: the role of the Gangmasters Licensing Authority, abuse of overseas domestic workers and prostitution. Given the time available and volume of the debate, I will do my best to address the points that have been made, but I hope Members will forgive me if I do not cover absolutely everything.
First, on the remit and powers of the Gangmasters Licensing Authority, I am grateful for the opportunity to restate that the Government are determined to tackle labour exploitation effectively. As I said in Committee when a similar amendment was tabled, I am sympathetic to Members’ concerns. The GLA does good work in tackling harmful activity within a limited remit, focusing on areas that are potentially vulnerable to exploitation. My mind is not closed to changes to improve how it works—far from it.
The Government support the protections in place for all workers, whichever sector they work in, including minimum wage legislation—we have strengthened the national minimum wage inspections team and quadrupled the maximum fine. The amendments suggest a number of ways in which to change the GLA’s powers and remit.
If my right hon. Friend will allow me to continue my comments, I will speak first about new clause 1. The new clause would open the way for the GLA’s remit to be extended to any area of work or sector, which would be a much broader role than its current territory. I have concerns about such a broad role, which I want to put in the context of the Government’s plans to ensure that the GLA delivers its critical role.
The GLA is both a licensing and an enforcement body. We need to make progress on both fronts. Licensing can be a blunt instrument in that it affects the compliant business and the rogue gangmaster alike. If a licensing regime is not targeted at known risk factors, it will not provide effective underpinning for enforcement. Therefore, simply extending the current licensing regime into new sectors would not of itself improve efforts to tackle exploitative employers who flout the law.
I want a GLA with a strong anti-slavery and worker exploitation focus that will support the Government’s broader strategy on modern slavery. That will be best achieved by developing an approach that builds on the GLA’s excellent work. Mr Hanson mentioned that the number of GLA investigations had declined over time. I want to put it on the record that, over time, the GLA has undertaken a reduced number of investigations, but they have been more complex and have focused more effectively on serious and organised crime. That reflects a targeted and risk-based enforcement approach.
We can do more to increase the GLA’s reach and effectiveness. We are working with the GLA in three main areas: through the better business compliance partnerships, the review of licensing standards, and work on the supply chain. I do not have time to go through those points in detail.
Looking ahead, the GLA is well placed to tackle the serious worker exploitation that lies between the more technical compliance offences investigated by HMRC and the serious and organised crime addressed by the National Crime Agency. We will consider how to introduce more effective and targeted enforcement action by the GLA. We will also consider changes to the GLA to support its greater role in addressing exploitation. However, we believe this requires a more considered analysis of the types of changes required than simply changing the law today. I believe we should continue the hard work with the GLA rather than simply assuming that the answer is to extend the remit of the GLA beyond the core areas set out in the 2004 Act, as envisaged in the new clause. I therefore hope that the right hon. Member for Delyn feels able to withdraw it.
On the amendments tabled by my hon. Friend Stephen Barclay, he has made some very good points and I would like to discuss many of them with him outside the Chamber. New clause 16 would require formal tenancy agreements where a gangmaster provides accommodation for workers. I reassure him that the GLA already addresses this risk. The current suite of GLA licensing standards already imposes requirements on gangmasters who provide accommodation. Specifically, licensing standards 4.1 and 4.2 require a licence holder who provides, or effectively provides, accommodation to ensure that the property is safe for the occupants. A licence is required by the local authority, for example if it is a licensable house of multiple occupation. This is a critical standard for the GLA, so failure to meet the criteria will mean that a licence application is refused or a licence already issued will be revoked.
There are also existing legal requirements affecting the relationship between tenant and landlord. I believe that these, together with the GLA’s licensing standards, provide strong protection for workers. However, I have considered the amendment in detail and I will ask the GLA to consider adding a tenancy agreement to the documents to be provided to demonstrate compliance with the licensing standard as part of its forthcoming review. In doing so, I also wish to ensure that we are balancing protection from exploitation with our desire to reduce bureaucracy for small businesses.
I thank the Minister for that reassurance and I will not be pressing the amendments to a Division. As part of those discussions, may I flag up an area that Anthony Steen has highlighted and which we did not come on to today? What happens when people come out of the shelters after 45 days? What measures might be put in place on that, and is it something on which we could have further discussions?
That is a point for the review of the national referral mechanism. The interim report of that review has been issued and the final report will be issued shortly. If my hon. Friend would allow it, we could perhaps discuss this outside the Chamber; I am sure that that would be helpful to both of us.
On overseas domestic workers and new clause 2, I welcome the opportunity to reaffirm the Government’s commitment to protecting individuals who have come to the UK on domestic worker visas. I know that Members feel strongly about this. The Government, and I personally, share their commitment to ensure that no individual in this country is subjected to abuse and exploitation. Holding anyone in modern slavery is totally unacceptable. Overseas domestic workers, like anyone else, deserve protection as well as support and help if abuse takes place. The Bill will give that protection to all victims regardless of who they are, why they are in the UK, for whom they are working or their visa arrangements. We already have a range of measures in place to protect overseas domestic workers and we are intent on strengthening them further.
It is very important that overseas domestic workers know their rights in the UK and where they can seek help. The House will be pleased to know that a pilot is now under way to hand out very simple and easy-to-understand information cards on arrival to the UK, in addition to the information already provided with the visa. I absolutely understand and sympathise with the intention behind new clause 2, but, as I said in Committee, I do not believe it is the solution to those cases where an overseas domestic worker suffers ill treatment in the UK.
I pay tribute to the work of the voluntary sector in supporting domestic workers who have been the subject of abuse or poor working conditions, including that of Kalayaan, which both supports individuals and campaigns on their behalf. One case of abuse is one too many and some of the treatment reported by Kalayaan is absolutely appalling. However, without in any way minimising the distress those individuals have gone through, it is important to remember that those reports are based on a very small number of cases and represent a small proportion of those in the country with an overseas domestic worker visa.
Kalayaan’s figures are based on 120 overseas domestic workers issued with visas after April 2012 who approached it for help over a two-year period. During the same period, more than 30,000 visas were issued. Home Office internal management information suggests that between May 2009 and July 2014, there were 213 confirmed cases of trafficking for domestic servitude involving non-EU nationals. Of these, only 41, or less than 20%, were linked to the overseas domestic worker visa—an average of eight per year.
Focusing on the visa risks obscuring the main issue, which is protecting those at risk of domestic servitude. Our key concern should be that victims understand that they will be believed, that they will receive support and that the perpetrators will be brought to justice. Before the changes in April 2012, the ability to change employer did not prevent instances of abuse and poor treatment, and we have seen no evidence that instances of abuse of those here on overseas domestic worker visas have increased since the right to change employer was removed. Moreover, even while there was a right to change employer, there were still complaints of abuse and poor treatment.
The important point is that we should not be tackling this problem through one, albeit relatively simple, response. We need to look at the underlying problem and tackle it. My right hon. Friend Sir John Randall made an important point when he said that much of this could be tackled and dealt with through policy changes. That is what I am working on.
In the limited time available, I shall deal with the issue of prostitution.
The debate on prostitution has seen a number of polarised positions, which shows the difficulty of the issue. The major problem is that there is no agreed shared evidence base. In the light of that, I commend to the Minister the report by the all-party group on prostitution and the global sex grade, “Shifting the Burden”, which looks at the matter in detail and supports the amendment proposed by the Opposition Front-Bench team.
I thank the hon. Gentleman for his contribution. I know he wanted to get into the debate, which is why I gave way to him. He plays an important role in this policy area. I pay tribute to him and to Fiona Mactaggart for her tireless campaigning on the issue of prostitution.
The Minister will be aware of legislation going through the Northern Ireland Assembly at this moment. Fiona Mactaggart tabled new clauses 6 and 7, which she is not going to press, but there is also new clause 22. I urge the House to support that new clause, which would provide a way forward. Will the Minister take into account the issues brought forward through legislative change in the Northern Ireland Assembly?
I also thank the hon. Gentleman for his comments. I discussed this issue with David Ford, the Justice Minister in Northern Ireland, a couple of weeks ago. We spoke about the Modern Slavery Bill, and I am cognisant of the work being done there.
It is clear that there are very polarised views on this issue. The subject of prostitution raises strong feelings, and it is good that we have had the chance to debate it. It is important to remember, however, that this is a Bill to tackle the heinous and horrendous crime of modern slavery, and I want to continue to focus the Bill on modern slavery. I am concerned that any of the amendments relating to prostitution could distract from the important work that the Government are doing. I will reflect on today’s contributions, but I am afraid that I cannot accept the amendments. We need to make sure that the Modern Slavery Bill is focused, targeted and gets on the statute book.
I shall take the remaining minute and a half simply to make the point that the authoritarian, moralistic and un-evidenced potential catastrophe that presents itself as new clause 6 must be opposed. In proposing these provisions, Fiona Mactaggart complained about the fact that she got on television programmes and then found that her statistics were under dispute. That is hardly surprising, because all the academic evidence is on the other side of the argument.
No, I will not. It takes the scion of a couple of baronetcies with the education of Cheltenham Ladies’ college to produce such a moralistic sense that can define sex work as exploitation—without ever having listened to the sex workers themselves. It is a pity, given the trouble John McDonnell took to draw attention to this group of people, that the hon. Lady did not take the trouble to listen to them. Had she done so, I cannot believe that she would have come to this view because the unintended consequence of her proposal would be to put the people whom she is trying to help in peril. That is a serious mistake.
Question accordingly negatived.
Proceedings interrupted (Programme Order, this day).
The Deputy Speaker put forthwith the Questions necessary for the disposal of the business to be concluded at that time (
New Clause 2
Protection from slavery from overseas domestic workers
‘(1) All overseas and domestic workers, including those working for staff of diplomatic missions, shall be entitled to—
(a) change their employer (but not work sector) while in the United Kingdom;
(b) renew their domestic worker or diplomatic domestic worker visa for a period up to 12 months as long as they remain in employment and are able to support themselves adequately without recourse to public funds; and
(c) a three month temporary visa permitting them to live in the United Kingdom for the purposes of seeking alternative employment as an overseas domestic worker where there is evidence that the worker has been a victim of modern slavery.”—(Mr Hanson.)
Question put, That the clause be added to the Bill.
The House divided:
Ayes 234, Noes 288.