New Clause 22 — Prostitution and sexual exploitation

Oral Answers to Questions — Treasury – in the House of Commons at 6:13 pm on 4 November 2014.

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Votes in this debate

‘(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.”—(Mr Hanson.)

Brought up.

Question put, That the clause be added to the Bill.

The House divided:

Ayes 229, Noes 283.

Division number 72 Treasury — New Clause 22 — Prostitution and sexual exploitation

Aye: 229 MPs

No: 283 MPs

Aye: A-Z by last name


No: A-Z by last name


Question accordingly negatived.


That Clause 13 be transferred to end of line 15 on page 26.

That Clause No. 13 be divided into two clauses, the first (Enforcement powers in relation to ships: England and Wales) to consist of subsections (1) to (7) and the second (Interpretation of Part 2A) to consist of subsections (8) and (9).

That Schedule 1 be transferred to end of line 25 on page 38. —(Karen Bradley.)

Third Reading

Photo of Theresa May Theresa May The Secretary of State for the Home Department 6:36, 4 November 2014

I beg to move, That the Bill be now read the Third time.

The injustice and suffering experienced by victims of modern slavery is often difficult to comprehend: young girls raped, beaten and passed from abuser to abuser so that they can be sexually exploited for profit;
vulnerable men tricked into long hours of hard labour before being locked away in cold sheds or run-down caravans;
people made to work in fields, in factories and on fishing vessels;
women forced into prostitution;
children forced into a life of crime;
and domestic workers imprisoned and made to work all hours of the day and night for little or no pay. Those are the harsh realities of modern day slavery, and those are the crimes taking place not in the distant past, but in towns, cities and villages in Britain today.

That is why this Modern Slavery Bill—the first of its kind in Europe—is so important. It sends out a powerful message about our intent to be at the forefront of this fight and to end this trade in human misery. It will ensure that we can effectively prosecute perpetrators, properly punish offenders and help prevent more crimes from taking place in the first place. But most importantly, it will enhance protection and support for the victims of these appalling crimes. Furthermore, in a measure that goes further than any other similar legislation in the world, it will encourage businesses to make sure that supply chains for goods and services sold in the UK are not tarnished by slavery.

Members on both sides of the House have contributed enormously to the Bill, and today we have heard further lively and constructive debate. I thank all those who have played a role in shaping the Bill. In particular, I thank all those who played a part in Committee for their valuable contributions. All those who contributed in Committee and at other stages in the Bill’s passage through the House have ensured that we will have effective legislation to deal with offenders and protect victims. I thank the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, my hon. Friend Karen Bradley, in particular, for not only her tireless work but for her passionate commitment to this issue.

I think that the Bill has been greatly improved by its passage through this House, demonstrating the value of parliamentary scrutiny. I pay tribute to the members of the pre-legislative scrutiny Committee, particularly Mr Field, who chaired the Committee, and whose unstinting dedication to the issue has been truly admirable. The Committee held an intensive and thorough inquiry and produced a report that led to significant improvements in the Bill.

I have always been clear that victims must be at the heart of everything we do, and it is imperative that they get the help and support they need and deserve. I commissioned the detailed review of the national referral mechanism to ensure that we provide effective care and support and that all agencies work together in the best interests of victims. The review will be published shortly, and the Government are currently re-tendering the victims care contract. It is also why I put in place a trial scheme of child trafficking advocates so that child victims’ voices are heard and they receive the support and assistance they need in relation to the social care, immigration and criminal justice systems.

Photo of Sarah Champion Sarah Champion Labour, Rotherham

I am listening to the Secretary of State with interest. I am pleased to hear that she is putting victims at the very centre of the Bill. Why, then, did the Government turn down Labour’s amendment to make child exploitation part of the Bill?

Photo of Theresa May Theresa May The Secretary of State for the Home Department

I say to the hon. Lady, who was, I believe, a member of the Bill Committee and has obviously been working on this with others, that we looked at the issue of child exploitation and took a lot of advice on it. The worry was that if it were referenced in the Bill in the way suggested, that could lead to certain actions and activities falling within the description of child exploitation that were never intended to be part of the Bill. In short, I am afraid that the law of unintended consequences would have kicked in and a disbenefit would have resulted from having that aspect in the Bill.

However, as the hon. Lady knows, we have brought together various offences and made some changes to them in order to clarify some of the issues. There has been genuine debate, in Committee and throughout the stages in this Chamber, on the various issues in the Bill, and I think it is, in a number of aspects, a better Bill as a result. We have responded on the issue of supply chains. We have added the new provision on the statutory defence for victims of modern slavery who are compelled to commit crimes. That includes substantial safeguards against abuse but would not apply to a number of serious offences—mainly violent and sexual offences, as set out in the Bill.

The Bill extends to all modern slavery victims existing provisions that help victims of trafficking to gain access to special measures in court. I hope that that will give victims the confidence to come forward and give evidence.

Photo of Edward Garnier Edward Garnier Conservative, Harborough

Will my right hon. Friend take time over the next few days to have a look at the record of this afternoon’s debates? I spoke about exploitation by brainwashing. Although that is not yet in the Bill, I hope that at some stage she and her team will consider the inclusion of some sort of offence along those lines. Will she also take this opportunity to mention Mr Anthony Steen, our former colleague, whose work outside Parliament has done a great deal to push this agenda forward?

Photo of Theresa May Theresa May The Secretary of State for the Home Department

I thank my hon. and learned Friend. I recognise that we were not able to respond to the specific points that he raised, and my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary or I will write to him about those.

I am indeed happy to pay tribute to the work that has been done by Anthony Steen, who, for a period of time, was my special envoy and produced a number of reports. He went to a number of countries to look at how they were dealing with this issue, and he was able to bring that experience back and help to inform us in dealing with the Bill.

This Bill will stand alongside our wider programme of work to tackle modern slavery nationally and internationally. It is an important step, but if it is to be implemented effectively we need concerted effort from all those involved. That is why we will publish a comprehensive strategy to tackle modern slavery that will complement the legislative framework that we are putting in place.

Photo of David Burrowes David Burrowes Conservative, Enfield, Southgate

May I put on record my thanks to the Under-Secretary, who withstood and responded to robust challenge and scrutiny in Committee? We have a Bill that is fit for purpose and will no doubt be strengthened further as it goes through the rest of its parliamentary stages. I commend her for her passion and dedication.

The amendment that provides that the anti-slavery commissioner is independent is a welcome addition to the Bill. Will the fact that they are now explicitly independent under the Bill affect the selection process, which I understand has already started with the advertising of the position?

Photo of Theresa May Theresa May The Secretary of State for the Home Department

It was always the intention that the anti-slavery commissioner would be independent and that does not affect the selection process. A number of posts under the purview of Government are made by appointment. In my own area, for example, they are appointed by the Home Secretary. I assure my hon. Friend that those individuals remain fiercely independent in the work that they do. For example, I do not think that anybody has ever suggested that the appointment by the Home Secretary of the chief inspector of borders and immigration leads to him being anything other than extremely independent in his reports.

I want to mention one other aspect. I am clear that we must strengthen our law enforcement response. I have made tackling modern slavery a priority for the National Crime Agency and we are working with international law enforcement agencies to target organised criminal gangs. The UK is leading a group of international law enforcement chiefs, the Santa Marta group, which will strengthen and co-ordinate our response to modern slavery internationally. The members of the Santa Marta group will meet again in London in December.

As I have said, modern slavery is an appalling crime that crushes lives and strips people of their dignity. More than 200 years ago, this House passed historic legislation to make the slave trade illegal. Sadly, the fight against slavery is not at an end. This Bill will ensure that we can continue that fight against the slave drivers and traffickers, and release innocent people from slavery and servitude so that they can be returned to freedom. I commend this Bill to the House.

Photo of Yvette Cooper Yvette Cooper Shadow Home Secretary 6:46, 4 November 2014

This is an important Bill, which we support, but it does not go far enough. The Home Secretary was right to talk about the horrors of modern slavery, but she was too complacent about how far the Bill will go in acting as a solution to those problems. Time and again, she has turned down the opportunity to strengthen the Bill. So much more could be done—and I hope it will —before it returns to us from the other place.

I thank my right hon. Friend Mr Hanson and my hon. Friend Diana Johnson for scrutinising the Bill on behalf of the Opposition. I also thank all members who served on the Committee and the members of the cross-party Joint Committee, including my hon. Friends the Members for Slough (Fiona Mactaggart) and for Linlithgow and East Falkirk (Michael Connarty), my right hon. Friend Mr Field and the right hon. Members for Uxbridge and South Ruislip (Sir John Randall), for Meriden (Mrs Spelman) and for Hazel Grove (Sir Andrew Stunell), who have continued to improve the Bill and argue for the changes required.

The horrors of modern slavery in the 21st century are still with us and the Home Secretary is right to raise such concerns about them. Victims include children forced into servitude or to tend cannabis farms; grown men exploited and held in dreadful, inhuman conditions, labouring under gangs; and women raped, beaten and pimped into prostitution. They are trafficked by gangs across borders or around the country, used and abused, their basic humanity denied.

The Home Secretary is right to say that action is needed to introduce a Bill that builds on the work not only of Anthony Totnes, but of the previous Government, who criminalised trafficking in 2003, introduced the new offence of forced labour, slavery or servitude in 2009 and created the national referral mechanism and the UK Human Trafficking Centre. It is also right to introduce new offences, a new commissioner and the new civil orders. However, if this Bill is such a powerful signal and a chance to lead the world, it should also be chance to go so much further.

The former Member for Totnes, Anthony Steen, has said that the Bill in its current form is a “lost opportunity”:

“The bill is wholly and exclusively about law enforcement—but it shouldn’t be enforcement-based, it should be victim-based. We have majored on the wrong thing. It is positive in the sense that it is an entirely new initiative, but is it going to do anything?”

That is the challenge from Anthony Totnes to all of us, and we should seize the opportunity to go further.

Photo of John Randall John Randall Conservative, Uxbridge and South Ruislip

I hope the right hon. Lady realises that it is Anthony Steen, not Anthony Totnes. The quotation she cites relates to an early stage of the Bill and I know, because I am in constant touch with Anthony Steen, that, although there are some things to be addressed, that view was from some time ago.

Photo of Yvette Cooper Yvette Cooper Shadow Home Secretary

The right hon. Gentleman has taken a great interest in this subject and he did an immense amount of work on the Joint Committee. I thank him for his clarification. It shows that I still have the unfortunate habit, which we can so easily fall into in this place, of naming people by their constituencies, rather than by their surnames. I reiterate my tribute to—

Photo of Yvette Cooper Yvette Cooper Shadow Home Secretary

Yes, I reiterate my tribute to John Uxbridge, and to the former Member for Totnes, Anthony Steen, whom we all hold in high regard. The trouble is that the Bill has not changed very much during its passage. There have been some significant and welcome changes, but it still does not go far enough.

On law enforcement, the main offences at the heart of the Bill, particularly in clause 2, are not strong or simple enough to ensure that we can prosecute the criminals who drive this evil trade. It is such a shame that the Government have not listened to all those calling for separate offences of trafficking and exploitation, and for separate offences for children. We know that the law fails to protect children, and this is an opportunity to strengthen the law through a separate offence of child exploitation. I really hope that the other place will take that chance. I urge the Home Secretary to give this matter further consideration and I urge the Government to respond in the other place.

Photo of Jim Shannon Jim Shannon Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Health), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Transport), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Human Rights)

Last year, 2,744 people were trafficked across the United Kingdom, of whom 602 were children. Is the right hon. Lady aware of the legislative change made in Northern Ireland on human trafficking and exploitation? The legislation sets in place terminology and change that could be a precedent for the rest of the United Kingdom. Does she think that that is worth considering?

Photo of Yvette Cooper Yvette Cooper Shadow Home Secretary

The hon. Gentleman is right. We know that the issue crosses borders and exists in different areas, so we should look at such legislation. We all know that the most vulnerable people who are so abused by this evil trade are children, so we should do as much as we possibly can to ensure that they get the additional protection they need and deserve. That is why the Government should really look at this again.

We welcome some of the changes that the Government have started to make on supply chains. We hope that they will go further—we will look at the details of their proposals—because none of us should ever tolerate the seafood on our supermarket shelves or the fashion clothes on our rails being stained with the sweat and blood of slaves overseas, and our companies should never participate in that kind of slavery.

Why do the Government not go further and help domestic workers? Their visa reforms have made things worse, trapping more domestic workers into slavery. Why will they not admit that they have got things wrong and look at that again? Why will they not do more to help victims—the most important thing of all—through guardians, strengthened referral mechanisms and the anti-slavery commissioner? We hope that the other place will consider what more can be done to improve support for victims. Why do the Government not look further at the links between trafficking and prostitution, which also drive the evil trade?

Rarely has a Bill had such overwhelming support from Members on both sides of the House, but also caused so much frustration. It could go further, and it could do more. There can be no half-measures. This is about stopping evil people committing terrible crimes, ending the enslavement, abuse and degradation of modern-day slavery, and defending the rights of liberty and freedom that we in this country have championed for so long. Let us hear the words of one victim:

“I was trafficked. I was fooled. I was deceived”— with someone—

“forcing me to work on the streets, beating me up, force feeding me and turning me into someone with no mind of my own. Death too often felt like my only way to escape…but I am a survivor. I have a new life but I am haunted by the faces of those who used me”.

For such victims and survivors, we must do more.

Photo of John Randall John Randall Conservative, Uxbridge and South Ruislip 6:53, 4 November 2014

I want quickly to congratulate the Home Secretary, the Home Office and the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, my hon. Friend Karen Bradley, as well as all those with whom I have served on a variety of Committees on this subject, in which I am now totally immersed. Of course we could always go further, but I think that we have gone a huge way, and a lot further than we thought we would get. There is an opportunity at the end of the building, but we must not waste it, because with an election coming up, time is not on our side.

If we are to get more traffickers behind bars, we must concentrate—and these are the words that really matter—on victims, victims, victims. That is the key to it all. We must also utilise the vast skills, expertise and good will of non-governmental organisations and civil society. Many of the victims are frightened of Governments and law enforcement and we must recognise that what victims are used to in their own countries is not necessarily the same as they experience here.

As I am shortly to leave this place, I think the one thing that I can be sure of is that this was the finest hour in all my time here.

Photo of Jim Shannon Jim Shannon Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Health), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Transport), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Human Rights) 6:54, 4 November 2014

I have a couple of quick points but I shall try to leave time for other Members. I did not get a chance to contribute on Second Reading, so I wish to mention the clear case for the Northern Ireland Assembly and the suggestions made by Yvette Cooper in new clause 22. That sets an example for the rest of the United Kingdom and should be part of how the Bill proceeds. We also want the anti-slavery commissioner to be introduced.

Let me put into perspective the importance of what happened in the Northern Ireland Assembly in the recent Human Trafficking and Exploitation (Further Provisions and Support for Victims) Bill. With the exception of 10 Assembly Members, Members across the Chamber supported the Bill—they cannot agree on welfare reform, but they can agree on that Bill, which I thought was interesting.

One point that was mentioned—although perhaps not as much as I would have hoped—is the fact that it is not always foreign citizens who are trafficked. Some British citizens in the United Kingdom are being trafficked—men for labour and girls for sex. Another issue that I hope will be considered at a later stage concerns students, some of whom have been forced into the sex trade as the best way to pay their student fees. Such issues cannot be ignored by the House and those outside it, and we must consider the effect on students and those who are forced by unscrupulous people—pimps—who are prepared to pay up to 100% of their tuition fees. Although new clause 22 may not have been supported by the House tonight, there will be chances in another place to do that, and when the Bill comes back we will get it right.

Photo of Andrew Stunell Andrew Stunell Liberal Democrat, Hazel Grove 6:55, 4 November 2014

I will leave time, I hope, for Mr Field.

We have moved a long way during the passage of the Bill, and I welcome every step. We are very near to having a world-class Bill, but we are not there yet. I hope that the Home Secretary will read the debate and listen to what was said about the Gangmaster Licensing Authority in particular, and about exploitation as a separate offence. There is still considerable work to do, but I commend the ministerial team for their work, the way they have listened, and the way this Bill has progressed through the House.

Photo of Frank Field Frank Field Labour, Birkenhead 6:56, 4 November 2014

I underscore that last comment, which is immensely important. This has been the most open conversation on a Bill that I have experienced in my time in the House.

Fifteen months ago there was no talk of this Bill, and tonight there are a few scratchy comments about whether it could be an even better world-class Bill—it will be when it leaves the other place. There are three tasks to do, and they are the difficult tasks as opposed to getting a world-class Bill. One is about victims, and that immensely difficult task will take time and resources. There is also the question of how we educate a new consumer movement, so that consumers enforce the Bill by refusing to touch goods and services made by slaves. The Secretary of State will have a world-class Bill, so I hope she will take it to the Commonwealth and enliven that body. Many of the supply routes to this country for slavery are from Commonwealth countries. Since the overthrow of apartheid, the Commonwealth has lacked a huge moral task with which to get involved, and I think this issue will be that. I thank the Home Secretary for her openness. Some of the concessions that she made, such as on supply chains, are ones that she wanted to give anyway.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read the Third time and passed.