Modern Slavery Bill — Second Reading (Continued)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 7:57 pm on 17th November 2014.

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Photo of Lord Judd Lord Judd Labour 7:57 pm, 17th November 2014

My Lords, it is always good to follow the noble Earl. Earlier in the debate, the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Derby, in one of his characteristically thoughtful contributions to our deliberations, spoke about how he wished we would talk more of safeguarding and get this concept more deeply rooted into our community. I am very much with him, but wonder whether he could have a little coalition with me in saying that that should go alongside support and solidarity. It often strikes me that people in the midst of the experiences which we have been hearing about and describing are going through a nightmare. They have never had decent human relations; they often do not know what it is to have a reliable friend; they have certainly never had the experience of being loved. Getting the legislation right will solve nothing in itself; it is the spirit and motivation and the values which operate within the legislation which will ensure that we are really tackling the issue as we should.

This cannot be separated from the context in which the problems we are discussing arise. They arise in a society in which there is too much talk of market without the ethics that must underlie any meaningful, socially justifiable market system. A market without ethics is, in itself, highly dangerous and relevant to the issue of trafficking. It is about the prevailing characteristic of greed in our society and the concept of instant satisfaction. This is partly aided and abetted by the rapid development of information technology. Everything is instantaneous, everybody wants instant satisfaction and, therefore, they do not stop to think.

This brings us to the importance of the context of social education in which young people, but not only young people, are beginning to understand their responsibilities. As the noble Lord, Lord Luke, so rightly said, all this happens because there is a demand. I do not advocate that young men—or men of any age—rush off to prostitutes. But how often do people who use a prostitute—I employ the word “use” deliberately—have any thought about the story behind that prostitute and what they may be aiding and abetting? There must be a development of social responsibility and social education.

In his remarks, the noble Earl referred to non-governmental organisations. As noble Lords will know, I have spent a great deal of my life in non-governmental organisations. In this sphere, we are extremely fortunate to have the non-governmental organisations from which we have been hearing. They speak with the authority of engagement. They have high-quality people thinking about the issues, and not just academically: they are thinking about them in the context of the work that they are doing with real people in real situations. It would be very unwise of us not to listen to what they have to say.

In reading the evidence that has been coming to me, I have been struck that there is no antipathy towards the Bill at all from the NGOs. They welcome it as a step forward. Their concern is to strengthen it and give more effect to its intentions. That is what this is about. It is a highly constructive operation. We should listen to them and not be ashamed to bring their perspectives into the argument. That is what I will do for a moment or two before I complete my own observations.

An organisation called the Anti Trafficking Monitoring Group brings together a number of these organisations with intimate experience of the issues. It talks about the importance of:

“Inclusion of a duty on public authorities to identify and assist victims

Inclusion of the minimum standards for protection and support

Provision for the establishment of the”,

national referral mechanism,

“and the key principles which underpin it, including the principle of non-discrimination and the right to recourse against erroneous decision-making”,

and that there should be:

“Inclusion of protection provisions for migrant domestic workers on the Overseas Domestic Workers visa”.

At a minimum, the group argues for,

“the right to change employer and to apply to renew their visa while in full time employment as a domestic worker”.

Then there is the whole issue of children, and there is no shortage of charities and voluntary agencies with great insight and experience in that area. UNICEF UK makes its case strongly. It is very much supported, again, by the Refugee Children’s Consortium, which brings together a number of organisations working in this sphere. I want to share for a moment the very specific priorities of the Refugee Children’s Consortium. It believes that,

“a specific offence of child exploitation and trafficking”,

should be included in the Bill to,

“recognise the particular vulnerability of children, both those trafficked within and to the UK, as well as the fact that they cannot legally consent to any form of exploitation”.

The consortium continues:

“The Bill should include a statutory principle of non-prosecution”,

and be,

“amended to include legal powers for child trafficking advocates”.

The consortium believes that,

“advocates should be allocated to all separated migrant children”,

and that,

“the current clause on age assessment is unclear and should be redrafted to ensure these assessments do not take place by default. Legal aid should be restored for victims of trafficking and slavery”.

There is strong feeling, too, on the issue of the commissioner. There is a feeling that the commissioner must be independent in order to be effective. He should:

“Be independent from the government to freely decide activities, hire staff and control the office budget … Oversee victim assistance measures including the statutory child protection response for child victims … Have statutory powers to collect and request data and information on trafficking from a wide range of statutory non-statutory bodies … Monitor trends and assess the impact of policies and legislation relevant to trafficking… Hold inquiries”,

and must be able to “Report directly to Parliament”.

These are issues about which we will hear a great deal from the NGOs in Committee and we need to take them very seriously. But I want to end by underlining what my noble friend Lady Goudie just said, because it is terribly important. There is the whole issue of the supply chain. All the NGOs feel that if we are taking the Bill seriously, we cannot give too much priority to scrutinising the whole issue of the supply chain, ensuring that there are effective measures in place to call to justice those who abuse it.