Modern Slavery Bill — Second Reading (Continued)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 6:26 pm on 17th November 2014.

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Photo of Lord Crisp Lord Crisp Crossbench 6:26 pm, 17th November 2014

My Lords, I am delighted to be able to speak after the noble Baroness, Lady Mobarik, and to congratulate her on behalf of the whole House on her excellent speech. I did not know her before today, but when I did my research, I found what your Lordships have already heard—that she is a passionate champion of business and of social cohesion. This is two-way. As she has said elsewhere, businesses can be immensely more effective through a better understanding of the communities they serve—locally, nationally and globally. She has demonstrated that. In line with that commitment, the noble Baroness is a prominent member of the CBI in Scotland and has done a lot of work with a number of charities within the country. She also plays a global role, including as chair of the Pakistan-Britain Trade and Investment Forum.

I also found a statement which I think will resonate with your Lordships’ House. The noble Baroness says that she,

“believes that, although globalization brings us ever closer in some ways, in others it creates an ever-widening gulf making it incumbent on all of us to try to help bring about positive change, in eradicating poverty and bridging the gap between people of different faiths and cultures”.

That is what she talked about in her speech today, and it is entirely appropriate that her maiden speech should be about business and also about global issues. In congratulating her once again on her speech, I look forward to many more such contributions in future.

Turning to the Bill, like others, I very much welcome it and I congratulate noble Lords and others who have put in so much hard work to get us where we are today, with a very effective Bill in front of us. A great deal has been achieved. I also applaud the ambition to be world-class, but there is more to do to make sure that that is realised. I note the point made by my noble and learned friend, Lady Butler-Sloss, that we do not want to overelaborate the Bill; that is practical advice and recognises that this is new ground and there is much to learn. We will not get everything right first time. For that reason, I entirely support the point just made by my noble friend Lord Alton about the need to return to this in a few years’ time to review what has actually happened.

Bearing that in mind, I want to raise just a few issues. The first is on the supply chain. I have read letters about the great willingness of British business to engage with this exercise—the noble Baroness, Lady Mobarik, just reminded us of that—but there are also those who are unwilling to engage. There is a key role here for public and consumer scrutiny. To enable that, key requirements in the report that businesses will produce each year need to be specified in the Bill. That will allow for some monitoring, at least at the level of collating and sharing the information, as proposed by my noble friend Lord Alton, so that we can see what is happening across the country, not only to see the good and bad things but to promote good practice, because this area is developing as we speak.

This may be envisaged as the role of the commissioner and is perhaps something that the Minister could come back to.

Turning to victims, and particularly to children, I would like to understand better at what stage in the process child trafficking advocates will be appointed. It is very important whether or not this is early on in the process and whether it covers many children or only a few. I particularly want to raise the question of what they or others can do to ensure that there is long-term support for victims. This is not, by any means, a short-term matter for children. In this context the noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, and others have drawn out the point that there is exploitation that is not covered by this Bill and that many children need support. It points to an appalling gap in care support for exploited and neglected young people in our society.

There are, as noble Lords know, many hidden things happening in our streets and towns. I say this from having recently visited Kids Company here in London and heard some appalling stories there. Support for victims long after the period of abuse or exploitation is very important and we need to discuss it further during the development of this Bill. I also echo the remarks of the noble Baroness, Lady Chisholm, in her excellent speech, about the importance—not just for children but also for adults—of helping victims to become survivors. This is about long-term recovery, and more help is needed.

On the commissioner’s role, I agree with others that it needs to be broadened. The role will develop through experience but it is important that it starts more broadly than is written at the moment, in order to allow the commissioner to develop the role that will best work in practice for all the stakeholders. Obviously, in the light of what I have already said, I believe that there is an important role for the commissioner in monitoring and in victim support, and that his or her role—his in the first case—should not be limited to the legal aspects but should also include thinking about the long-term impact on our society.

I also pick up the point about international issues and the importance that the commissioner potentially has as an international player—linking with others, sharing and learning. In this I echo what my noble friend Lady Cox said. If this is going to be a world-leading Bill it needs to have a proper global perspective. Not just the commissioner but others need to be engaged in the global debate and global influence. How will this be achieved? I liked my noble friend Lady Cox’s suggestions and I look forward to the response to them in due course, and to further debate about this widening international role.

Finally, I look forward to the Bill continuing to be improved and ultimately to it helping to improve the lives of many people around the world.