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My Lords, we have made some good progress in the area of reporting and transparency. Like other noble Lords, I pay tribute to the Minister for holding meetings outside the Chamber and getting us to talk through with him some of the issues that we have with this part of the Bill. I am pleased to say that I support government Amendment 97, which gives quite a bit more clarity than we had previously on what should be included in the slavery and human trafficking statement.
However, there are still some areas around the subject where we could do with a little more improvement, hence a number of amendments to Clause 52 have been proposed, most of which I broadly support. Although it is not specifically addressed in any of the amendments tabled today, I still struggle with the prospect of a company deciding to face down criticism and continually submitting a statement declaring that it has decided not to examine its supply chain for trafficking and/or slavery. I wish I could say that it is unlikely that any company would do that and that all will swept along by the strong support that so many companies and organisations have demonstrated with regard to Clause 52, but I am afraid that time and again, recently and over a period of time, we have read in the press and seen on our screens too much evidence to the contrary.
I shall make my remarks fairly brief, because the amendments that I am speaking to, Amendments 93 and 94, are largely self-explanatory. Amendment 93 would ensure that government departments and agencies were subject to the same laws as commercial organisations with regard to declaring their actions to support transparency in their supply chains. The amendment is supported both by the British Retail Consortium and by the British Medical Association.
Just to give your Lordships a glimpse of the scale of procurement that is under discussion here, the Government spent a total of £238 billion on the procurement of goods and services in 2013-14. This sum represents approximately one-third of all public spending. Even breaking that down into departments produces substantial figures. For example, if we look at the Ministry of Defence, we see that the Defence Clothing Team, which is part of Defence Equipment and Support spent a total of £64.7 million on uniform and clothing in the financial year 2013-14, which would have put it well within the scope of the £60 million which was one of the figures that have been bandied around as a suggestion for a threshold figure that companies might need to meet to be covered by this clause. That is just spending on clothing.
There is no doubt that the Government have huge buying power and thus are implicated in any number of supply chains which extend around the world. For several years, various campaigners have argued that government should set an example when it comes to good practice in ethical and sustainable sourcing, and we now have an excellent opportunity to make considerable progress.
The social impact of decisions taken by government departments and agencies is no less than that of commercial organisations. Surely it would be difficult to argue that government should be exempt from the laws that it seeks to impose on other organisations similarly involved in the provision of goods and services. It is estimated that the NHS spends in excess of £40 billion per annum on the procurement of goods and services. I mention that specifically because I was struck by the British Medical Association’s briefing, which pointed to,
“an uncomfortable paradox in providing healthcare in the NHS at the expense of workers’ health in its supply chains. There is a risk to the reputation of the NHS through inaction, but conversely the importance and spending power of the NHS presents a real opportunity for it to take a lead in ethical procurement”.
As in other commercial organisations, the supply chains that provide commodities and services to government departments and agencies are global and employ hundreds of thousands of people world wide. If major suppliers of healthcare goods, for example—of uniforms and so on—strove to ensure fair and ethical practices in the manufacture of their products, the potential impact on global supply chains could be substantial.
I would be interested to know from the Minister whether there has been anydiscussion about government procurement in the context of transparency in supply chains. Or perhaps the Government are so confident that they implement sufficiently robust ethical procurement frameworks that they feel they should not be subject to reporting on their supply chains. While giving overall support to transparency in the supply chain legislation, particularly as it applies to supply chains in UK medical goods and imports, the British Medical Association believes that more can be done to ensure that public sector organisations and the small and medium-sized enterprises that supply them take adequate measures to ensure fair and ethical practice in supply chains.
This last point takes me to Amendment 94. By not specifying a threshold for companies included in this provision, Amendment 94 opens up the number and types of organisation which would have to provide information about the steps taken to address the issue of trafficking and slavery in their companies. It also avoids the pitfall of introducing a specific figure, referring instead to established criteria for the measurement of company size. Here I thank the British Retail Consortium which has lent its advice and support to this amendment. I also thank a group of research students from King’s College—Olivia Rosentröm, Helin Laufer, Tim Segessemann and Elisabeth Kömives—who performed a very valuable exercise comparing the California Act on transparency in the supply chain, amendments tabled in the House of Lords in Committee, EU directives and proposed federal legislation in the US. One of the issues that arose was the effectiveness or otherwise of fixing a threshold sum which appears to be somewhat arbitrary.
Amendment 94 provides clarity on the size of business covered and links this to existing and well understood definitions of business sizes, rather than referring arbitrarily to a specific amount, as in the Californian legislation which cites $100 million. Reference to the Companies Act in the amendment provides a clear framework for reporting, based on widely understood due diligence principles which can then be fleshed out in regulation as required. Amendment 94 seeks to include existing definitions of medium and large companies. However, although it supports this amendment, the BMA makes the point that including small and medium-sized companies would ensure that the legislation covers all the companies that supply the NHS, which includes a number of SMEs. The BMA believes that extending the definition of a commercial organisation to SMEs presents an opportunity with the introduction of the public contract regulations which make procurement opportunities within the UK more accessible to smaller businesses.
Another area that would benefit from extending the provision to medium-sized businesses is the fashion industry. There are many companies operating in this sector, as I am sure we are all particularly aware this week with the highly successful London Fashion Week. Yesterday the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Ethics and Sustainability in Fashion held a very interesting and insightful event involving young people, encouraging them to participate in politics by talking about politics through fashion. Time and again participants raised the issue of labour exploitation in the industry and, of course, referred back to the appalling disasters which became all too familiar a year or so ago, particularly in Bangladesh but not exclusively. The supply chain in the fashion industry is particularly long and complex and involves a number of different agencies and actors and there are real concerns that too little is being done to address the problems that evidently exist in the sector. Those young people with whom we have spoken, not only yesterday but over the years, want to know how politicians intend to address this situation. How can the Government make it easier for them to make informed choices about the companies from which they buy their clothes, many of which are in the SME sector?
As I have said, Amendments 93 and 94 both have the backing of the British retail industry and those businesses think that inserting these changes to the Bill would not only make the Bill stronger and more effective but also make it easier for business to comply. They do not see it as more regulation; they see it as smart regulation. The BMA also believes that the definition of a commercial organisation should be extended, as I have already said. If the Minister does not feel able to accept either of these amendments, at the very least it would make sense for the Government to pledge to monitor the effectiveness of Clause 52’s operation in these respects and to undertake to review the size of businesses to be included under the legislation on a regular basis. Of course, there is a consultation exercise already in motion, specifically with regard to the threshold for companies to be included under Clause 52, and I look forward to seeing what the business sector has to say about this in May and beyond that when it reports back. I cannot help but feel that we already have a ready-made measure on the statute book which is clearly understood and deployed. I beg to move.
My Lords, it is a great pleasure to follow my noble friend Lady Young of Hornsey. I strongly support her Amendments 93 and 94 and the government amendments in this group.
Like my noble friend, I thank the Minister for meeting me and other noble Lords and a number of civil society stakeholders earlier this month to discuss transparency in supply chains. Noble Lords will recall that I and the noble Baronesses, Lady Kennedy of Cradley and Lady Mobarik, raised this issue in Committee. I also spoke about it at Second Reading. The Minister kindly said that, unusually following the Committee stage, not only would he have a meeting with colleagues in the House but that he would invite all the interested groups involved in this issue to meet him and the Peers who were able to be there. With the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, and others, we were able to have an extremely helpful and useful discussion.
I welcome the amendments that the Government have tabled for Report, and I believe that they could take us a step closer to delivering effective transparency and accountability on action to eradicate modern slavery from the supply chain. Of course, I hope that this evening the Minister can be enticed to take a few more steps down the road that we have been travelling.
While I welcome and am most grateful for the progress that we have made, there are three areas on which I want to speak and on which I am hopeful we can agree some way forward. My Amendments 97A, 98A and 99A each raise an important outstanding issue that we ought to address before the Bill completes its parliamentary passage if we are to ensure that the supply chain clause works effectively in practice as we all want. It might be helpful to the House if I mentioned that the groups that support these amendments include Amnesty International UK, Anti-Slavery International, CAFOD, the CORE coalition, Dalit Freedom Network UK, the Evangelical Alliance, Focus on Labour Exploitation, the Law Society, Quakers in Britain, Traidcraft, Unseen and War on Want. While I pay tribute to them for the support they have given, I link with them Ruth Chambers, who has done an extraordinary amount of work on this. Sometimes the real heroes and heroines behind legislation are the people who do the hard slog.
I heard today from the Equality and Human Rights Commission and had a chance to have a brief conversation with one of its representatives. It subsequently sent me a statement about this group of amendments and, in particular, Amendment 99A. The commission’s recommendation is to:
“Support Amendment 99A … insofar as it would give the Anti-slavery Commissioner power and sufficient resource to take enforcement action”.
The noble Lord, Lord Judd, raised the issue of resources in earlier debates, and they will be the make or break for this Bill. If resources are not provided, it will not be worth the paper on which it is written, but I am pretty confident that the Government are going to back up the rhetoric in this legislation with the necessary resources. I hope we will hear more about that when Minister comes to reply. The commission also says:
“In our analysis, extending this enforcement power to the Anti-slavery Commissioner would be desirable as it would strengthen his/her role and ensure that enforcement of the duty to prepare a slavery and human trafficking statement could be carried out independently of government. We consider that the Commissioner should be given a range of further powers, including the ability to require the disclosure of data and information, to conduct investigations and inquiries and to hold agencies to account for non-compliance with laws and policies”.
I am sure the Minister will have seen this statement. It was issued only today, and I am glad to be able to draw it to the attention of the House.
Government Amendment 97, as I have mentioned, is welcome as it sets out a number of areas on which slavery and human trafficking statements may include information, but I stress “may” in this context. The amendment does not go so far as to introduce minimum disclosure measures, which are really necessary if we are going to create a sort of equality of arms. As it stands, government Amendment 97 would still leave it entirely optional as to what companies put in their statements.
I listened very carefully to what the Minister said in Committee on this matter and recognise that different types of businesses will face different challenges in relation to their supply chains. It is a perfectly fair point that he has made, but he also indicated that the Government want a level playing field for industry.
This is also something that businesses have called for. Sir Richard Branson, for example, has been supportive, as has Associated British Foods, the parent company of Primark, which I was able to meet in January with my noble friend Lord Patel. I was particularly appreciative of their support. My noble friend Lady Young referred a few moments ago to the tragedy in Bangladesh, and it was partly arising out of what happened there that I felt it would be helpful to have a discussion with Primark. I believe that the wording I have suggested in Amendment 97A strikes an appropriate balance that will allow for some flexibility while ensuring a level playing field between businesses on what they must disclose information about. This will also enable comparison across industry sectors as we will then be able to compare like with like.
One area about which I am particularly disappointed that the Government have not changed their position is the need for a central place in which the slavery and human trafficking statements can be uploaded and scrutinised. This is a very reasonable proposition. My Amendment 98A would introduce a requirement to upload the statements on to a central website maintained by the office of the Independent Anti-slavery Commissioner. Significantly the designate commissioner, Kevin Hyland, is supportive of this idea and I am grateful to him for meeting Ruth Chambers last week to discuss this.
Ensuring that each company uploads its own statement is a light-touch, practical way of spreading the administrative costs so it is onerous neither for business nor for government, but I am aware that the commissioner will have limited resources, so if this amendment is accepted then his budget will need to reflect this new responsibility. Why is this central repository needed? Quite frankly, without it the role that the Minister has described on many occasions for civil society, investors and the media to hold businesses to account for their supply chains—as he wants them to do—will be nigh on impossible to achieve. This is because of the time and the effort which would be needed to be spent just working out website by website which companies had reported and which had not. Then of course there are the difficulties that such stakeholders face in accessing the annual turnover information that would indicate which companies fall within the compliance threshold.
Amendment 98A would also require companies to include within the director’s report a fair summary of the statement and the web address of the full statement. This link to the director’s duties in the Companies Act 2006 would ensure that company directors took this provision seriously, and will help to propel responsibility for tackling slavery and supply chains into the boardroom. It would not be burdensome or costly to have this additional reporting and it reinforces a point that my noble friend Lady Young made in her remarks a few moments ago. It will also draw the slavery and human trafficking statement to the attention of mainstream investors who might otherwise not be aware of it and empower them to ask questions of the company. Making directors responsible for reporting on what the company is doing to eradicate modern slavery will ensure that it is part of core business. Boardroom responsibility will also change the culture of businesses and create an environment of a race to the top, thereby increasing the pace at which slavery is tackled within supply chains. I think this would also be good for UK plc, if I can put it that way, as it would promote better business practices which would in turn lead to better profitability and enable UK businesses to play a more leading and competitive role on the global stage.
On Monday the almost ethereal presence of William Wilberforce was regularly drawn to your Lordships’ attention and he was cited on a number of occasions. It is significant that when William Wilberforce was campaigning for an end, first, to the transatlantic slave trade in 1807, and later to all slavery, some argued that to abandon slavery would be ruinous for UK business interests. Of course, that did not turn out to be the case at all. Indeed, our reputation worldwide was enhanced by the results that the Clapham group was able to bring about as a result of its concerted actions in both our Houses of Parliament.
Finally, Amendment 99A relates to the enforcement and review of the provision. In my view, the current lack of an enforcement measure is the Achilles heel; without that measure some might regard the provision as quite toothless. That becomes even more of a risk if the Bill does not specify any minimum elements, which a company’s slavery and human trafficking statement must cover. I therefore hope that the Minister will be able to commit to a three-year review of the transparency in supply chains provision, and that he will demonstrate how non-compliance will be dealt with in the absence of an enforcement provision.
I recognise that the hour is late, we are getting to the very end of Report on the Bill, and that time is therefore probably against us in achieving everything that I want in these amendments. However, I know how open the Minister has been to continuing dialogue—we are not quite at Third Reading—and at the very minimum I hope that he will feel able to consider some of the points that we have raised this evening and to see if there is anything further that the Government themselves might be able to do between now and when we finally lay the Bill to rest.
My Lords, I will speak to Amendments 95 and 98. I will take Amendment 95 first, because that is a separate matter.
It seems rather odd that the legislation deals exclusively with commercial organisations when one area of business across the UK is within the hands of government departments. The procurement by government departments and government department agencies ought to have the same degree of transparency in their supply chain as commercial organisations do. Otherwise, there might be an advantageous position for government which is not shared by commercial organisations. I was on the pre-legislative scrutiny committee and big businesses such as Sainsbury’s and Primark came to talk to us about wanting a level playing field. We did not discuss government procurement, but if you are to have a level playing field, it should include government. I can understand that it might be difficult to put that into the Bill at this stage, but I would like an assurance from the Government that this is a serious matter that will be reviewed as a matter of some urgency so that, certainly before the end of this year, we can know that all parts of organisations that employ and buy are treated, right down the chain, in exactly the same way.
My second amendment is a very much simpler version of the amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Alton. In principle, I agree with him that we should go some way on this. One of the problems—and I again think of the appalling phrase “level playing field—is that there is no accountability. Amendment 97, in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Bates, is great as far as it goes. However, there is nothing to do if a company chooses to do nothing. As for the Californian legislation, I was told that one of the major American companies put up on its website the splendid phrase: “We propose to do nothing”. Apparently that complied with the Californian requirement. I will not mention the name of the firm because I might get into trouble. The fact is that we do not have any way of requiring some companies to put anything on their website. There may be those around them who would criticise them, but there is nothing to do. At the very least, copies of the statements proposed by the Government should be sent to someone.
I saw the commissioner this week. The noble Lord, Lord Alton, saw him last week. He was a bit apprehensive, I have to say, about the office of the commissioner receiving all these statements. He said that it might be better if somebody else receives them, but he entirely agrees that they should be on somebody’s website. Someone —I shall not mention who—suggested the Home Office website. That is a real possibility, if it were efficiently run. It may be that the commissioner could, in consultation with the Home Office and with commercial organisations, discover some other organisation prepared to create a website to which a statement, under Amendment 97, could be sent, but it needs to be sent somewhere.
We may have to take this in stages. If we can find a website upon which all these statements can be placed, it may be that the next stage—how they are monitored and what happens to those who do not, in fact, comply—will be further legislation. I do not believe that the Bill should go to ping-pong over whether there is effective monitoring and enforcement, but it is essential that the Government look at this as a matter of some urgency, because we need the statements and we need them to be sent somewhere, so that people can read them. Not only do those statements need to be read—no doubt by rivals—and commented on if they are not effective, but, at some time in the future, failure to comply with these government requirements should be capable of being dealt with in a way which is adverse to the company that does not comply. The best way to do that is a matter for the future.
I am making two points. First, the Government must do what commercial organisations do. Secondly, simply to have the statement is not enough: sending it somewhere outside the company’s own website has to be the next step.
My Lords, I, too, support the amendments in this group. I shall speak particularly to Amendments 97A and 98A in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Alton of Liverpool. First, as other noble Lords have said, we must give credit where credit is due. The Government have engaged with the issue of transparency in supply chains and have come a long way on this issue since the Bill was first published. Part 6, on transparency in supply chains, was a welcome addition, as is government Amendment 97. I thank the noble Lord, Lord Bates, for his positive engagement with this issue.
Having minimum criteria in the Bill will not only help business, it will help consumers and civil society. It will also help the Government as, with minimum criteria, there will be clarity about what businesses have to provide, thereby creating the level playing field that good businesses need and deserve. Comparisons between companies will be easier to make, helping consumers and civil society to make choices and to apply the pressure needed to make real change happen—to be catalysts for change. Having minimum criteria in the Bill will help give the Government the transparency and the world-leading legislation that they say they want to achieve, but the word “may” in line 2 of Amendment 97 has to become “must”. As the noble Lord, Lord Alton, sets out in his Amendment 97A, without this change, the amendment setting out the minimum criteria that we all now agree needs to be in the Bill is made less effective. The element of uncertainty remains and the level playing field is gone.
I understand the argument that these are minimums, that we should give flexibility to allow more information to be given, not less, and that we want businesses to be able to report appropriately for their business and circumstances, but the lesson from the application of the Californian legislation is clear. While hundreds of organisations issued statements in line with the Act in California, some did not. Some businesses disclosed meaningless information, some disclosed misleading information and, worst of all, some disclosed that they do nothing, as my noble and learned friend Lady Butler-Sloss said. Some have even ignored the legislation and been completely silent. We do not want that to happen.
Part 6 is not a paper exercise for businesses; it is a serious measure that good businesses will want to engage positively with and on an equal footing with each other. It is not fair that the good businesses that are doing excellent work are being undercut and undermined by the bad. Clauses that allow uncaring businesses to write down in less than 200 words, “We don’t do any of this work, and we don’t intend to start”, like the submission—and I will name the company—from the multinational Krispy Kreme doughnuts in California, have to be tightened. That is why I support Amendment 97A in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Alton, and why I have added my name to Amendment 98A.
As monitoring and enforcement of this part of the Bill is crucial, it is not adequate enough to leave monitoring and enforcement to be fulfilled by consumers and civil society alone. It is the job of government to ensure compliance with its legislation. Therefore, I support the proposition put forward in both Amendment 98A and Amendment 98, in the name of the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss. I was convinced by her argument in Committee that the part of government that should monitor and be responsible for this part of the Bill is the commissioner.
Amendment 98A introduces a requirement for a central government portal where all the annual statements are aggregated online, maintained and overseen by the new commissioner, a role that I understand the commissioner is supportive of. But even if this current commissioner is not supportive of it, we are clearly making legislation for the future, and it should be a role of such a commissioner. Leadership on this issue has to come from government, so the legislation needs to allow for the monitoring, enforcement and review. A government portal will also allow consumers and civil society more easily to fulfil their role of community enforcers. Having one central place that we can all go to to compare businesses, research best practice and analyse reports is simple and practical and an important initiative in our shared fight against slavery and forced labour in supply chains.
Finally, I refer to the last part of Amendment 98A, which will mean the issue of slavery and forced labour will be put on the desk of multinational CEOs around the UK and the world. Many noble Lords in this House have emphasised the need for supply chain transparency to be a corporate responsibility, as it is in the boardrooms of multinationals where real change can be made to happen. Multinational corporations have the power to insist on decent wages and formal contracts for all their workers here and across the world. They have the power to insist on inspection regimes and the power to improve the working conditions of those enslaved by exploitative suppliers. Amendment 98A helps them realise more acutely that they have this power and also encourages them to use it. I support the amendment and hope that the Government will, too.
My Lords, again, I welcome the changes that the Government have made on this issue. Changes is the wrong word because we started with nothing, and with the introduction of the new clause the Government have built on that, which is very welcome. I agree very much with what has been said about public procurement; for us to say, “Do as we say”, when we should be saying, “Do as we do”, is probably all that I have to say on that issue.
I agree, too, about the appropriateness of co-ordination involving in some way the commissioner. I have added my name to the amendment proposed by the noble and learned Baroness on that matter. I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Alton, for raising the issue of enforcement, without which one has nothing. I was struck by the following from a report undertaken by four students at King’s College London, comparing this Bill with the Californian Act and a US federal Bill not yet in effect. The American legislation is far more precise and detailed as to what is required from the organisations that are covered. The students said that,
“the ‘incentivising’ enforcement methods are questionable as to impact and efficiency. Parliament makes companies follow many other rules—why is this one particularly troublesome?”.
Because I would like to thank them properly, I shall repeat their names—but I reassure Hansard that I shall send the spellings. They are Olivia Rosenstrom, Elizabeth Komives, Tim Segessemann and Helin Laufer. They also commented that,
“a clear structure among all companies makes review and comparison a lot easier for both experts and the public”.
Again, that is very insightful. Those young people go straight to the heart of the matter—rather better than I, many times their age, can do.
I have one amendment in this group, which I tabled quite late, on the calculation of turnover. In Clause 52(3) it is provided that,
“an organisation’s total turnover is to be determined in accordance with regulations”.
I think that the word “determined” covers including subsidiaries in the calculation, but it is appropriate to raise the matter at this point so that we can get confirmation. That is certainly the assumption on which the consultation that has recently been published is based. It is obviously appropriate to include subsidiaries’ turnover within the calculation; otherwise it would be easy to avoid the rules by splitting up parts of a business.
I appreciate that the first regulations are now to be subject to the affirmative procedure, but they will be unamendable, as all regulations are, so it seems appropriate for me to air this point now. A commercial organisation, for this purpose, is defined as a body corporate or a partnership. As I understand it, a body corporate does not include its subsidiaries. They are bodies corporate in their own right. So my question—a simple one, I hope—is: is the reference to the determination sufficient to prescribe what is in effect deemed turnover? In other words, is it sufficient to ensure that a body corporate is treated as if it were the group of companies of which it is the parent? Finally, is it planned that the guidance on this subject will cover how companies within a group should each deal with a statement?
My Lords, I support this group of amendments. I, too, welcome government Amendment 97, because we need a framework that people can inhabit flexibly and that sets out the framework very clearly but gives room for manoeuvre.
As for Amendment 98A, the modern tool for transparency is the website. A website is accessible to everybody in a very equal way. The Bill needs to balance two kinds of transparency. We are looking for transparency where there is bad practice—we want to shine a light on the oppression and abuse of people. We are also looking for transparency where there is good practice, especially good business practice in terms of employment and working conditions. We have to get both sides of the transparency issue up and running.
There is a serious point about resourcing the website. If it is located in the office of the Independent Anti-slavery Commissioner, that will give a clear message about what it is for. With a website, we can imagine that if people do not find what they want, or do not think that something has happened after it has gone up, they will send in their requests or their complaints, and that will be a big resourcing task to monitor, to respond to and to manage. Therefore, if it is to be run by the anti-slavery commissioner—I can see the value of that—it will, as others have said, need proper targeted resourcing, having measured the task. There may be other models for providing such a website. Whether one can have some equivalent of the Salvation Army and find someone to designate and manage it, there must be a public space that is accessible to everyone, which looks at what is going on and being achieved, shares good practice and exposes those who are falling short.
My Lords, I rise in support of Amendment 98A of the noble Lord, Lord Alton. If the requirement for those companies in the category whereby they are obliged to prepare and submit a slavery and human trafficking statement for each financial year of the organisation is to be meaningful and effective, a central repository for statements makes infinite sense. The office of the Independent Anti-slavery Commissioner—the commissioner-designate, Kevin Hyland—is fully supportive of this proposal. A central repository for companies to be able to upload a human trafficking and slavery statement would be an effective way in which to assist with monitoring compliance and public accountability, and it is to be welcomed.
In order for leadership in companies to take this seriously, this amendment is important. It would require companies to include a fair summary of the statement and the web address of the full statement to be included within the directors’ report. This would not be unduly onerous for companies. The upside for companies is that such a duty would prove their due diligence and that it is a matter of real ethical concern to them. That makes for a more attractive proposition to investors and encourages a healthy competition to eradicate the blight of modern-day slavery, which can only be a good thing.
I hope that the Minister, my noble friend Lord Bates, who we all know has been working tirelessly on the Bill for many weeks, will be able to accept this amendment. It enjoys cross-party support as well as support from wider civil society and the commissioner-designate.
My Lords, I know that the hour is late but I want to add a minute or two of support for my noble friend’s amendments. I, like many others, spoke of the evils of some supply chains and companies’ responsibilities, but on Report it is not necessary to go into case studies again, as we are now talking about minor amendments.
My noble friends are right: proper reporting is an essential element in the legislative response and should satisfy retailers and consumers at the same time. I am a firm believer in corporate social responsibility, although it is going out of fashion, and greater transparency. Generally, I have been impressed by the extent to which businesses have been ready to accept minimum requirements. Of course there is a balance to be struck, and these amendments respect that balance. Who could quarrel with the amendments of the noble Baroness, Lady Young? Companies will differ in their relationships with the supply chains, but Amendment 97A goes a little further than the Government’s amendment by requiring a statement while retaining some flexibility.
Amendment 98A, to which the right reverend Prelate just spoke confidently, simply requires the statement to be entered on the website. My noble and learned friend disagrees over whether the commissioner-designate is going to want to do all this for himself, but we must include a provision in the Bill that companies have to provide such a statement; we can work out later where the central website will be. The commissioner-designate has already indicated his agreement in principle, and I hope that the Minister will do so, too.
I should like to speak in particular to Amendments 97A and 98A, but that certainly should not be taken as diminishing the importance of the other amendments in this group.
One value of transparency over the actions taken to tackle modern slavery in the supply chain is that it creates a level playing field. I suggest that government Amendment 97, welcome though it obviously is, would still leave it optional as to what companies put in their statement and thus not necessarily achieve the level playing field that is surely required. Ensuring a level playing field between businesses on what kind of information they must disclose will also allow for easier comparisons between businesses, even if they are in different industry sectors.
However, to achieve really effective comparisons, we need the terms of Amendment 98A. This would introduce a requirement to put slavery and human trafficking statements on to a central website maintained by the office of the Independent Anti-slavery Commissioner in order both to facilitate those effective comparisons across companies and sectors and to assist with the monitoring of compliance and public accountability.
The noble Lord, Lord Alton of Liverpool, said that the commissioner-designate is supportive of this, but the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, said he might have lost a degree of enthusiasm, because he might have to do it himself as opposed to somebody else doing it. I am afraid that I have not had a personal meeting with Mr Hyland, so I am unable to add a third version of what his views might be on this particular issue, but it seems as though he is supportive, even though there might be a difference of view as to who should be carrying it out. Without a central site for statements, holding organisations to account will be very difficult, if not impossible, to fulfil. It is surely clear that having that central site where those statements would be is actually quite crucial. That is really one of the things that Amendment 98A is seeking to address.
Amendment 98A would also help ensure boardroom responsibility for the eradication of slavery and human trafficking from corporate supply chains. It would also draw the slavery and human trafficking statement to the attention of mainstream investors who might otherwise not have been aware of it, and enable them to ask questions of the company, which is another form of accountability and another pressure point to take the appropriate action.
Once again, I hope that the Minister will feel able to give a helpful response. Perhaps he might feel able to reflect further before Third Reading on the points that have been made tonight from all around the House, particularly in relation to the two amendments to which I have specifically spoken. In the spirit in which the Minister has been operating up till now—which has, indeed, been highly successful—with the amendments that he has put forward and made, which have been much appreciated around the House, I hope that he might be able to agree to reflect further on this issue before Third Reading.
My Lords, the noble Lord tempts me to go further and I am grateful to him for doing that. I can promise him a full response: whether it is a helpful response will be something that noble Lords will be able to judge at the end. It is quite a large group and there are some new developments and new amendments there about which I want to put some remarks on the record.
I am conscious that on this area, we have had a long journey. I remember a debate initiated by the noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy, on supply chains last year. At that time, when I was answering, we did not even have the politics of the Bill in place, so that was an addition. Of course, as is always the case, one goes back and says to colleagues in government, “If you can just do this, I am sure that that will meet the concerns”, and then, after huffing and puffing, we came forward with Part 6. I totally understand that people want to start making amendments and expounding on that. The noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, is saying that these are relatively small elements but we will consider that as we move through.
I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Alton, for mentioning the helpful meeting that we had on transparency of supply chains provision. We had a two-way meeting on
Perhaps I may say in my contextual remarks that the message has to be received by business that the Government’s approach is that we want it to comply. We do not want to legislate to the nth degree on this but there is a settled will out there that this evil has existed for too long. It is one of the basements in the supply chains of our major companies that we have not visited and the view is now that a light needs to be shone strongly in this area. Of course we wish companies to see that it is in their enlightened self-interest so to do, but the clear message from the Government is that we are watching this and if progress is not made at the required rate, and if it is not taken as seriously as we intend, future Governments will reserve the right to act further to ensure that the issue is tackled appropriately.
Our transparency in supply chains provision is designed to drive real changes in business behaviour by spurring all large businesses to directly address the issue of modern slavery in their supply chains and to compete to demonstrate the most proactive approach. For these changes to be implemented it is crucial that the most senior managers are involved. Government Amendment 97 achieves that aim. It ensures that the most senior people in a business—which I remember the noble Lord, Lord Alton, speaking passionately about in Committee—must take direct responsibility for these statements. For companies, the provision is modelled on the Companies Act and requires that the board approves the statement and that it is signed by a director. There are equivalent provisions for other types of businesses such as partnerships.
In that element there is a crucial role not only for Governments but for the pension funds and the big institutional investors to leverage their weight with boards at AGMs to ensure that this is taken seriously and referred to. We are talking here about a minimum standard but we would like to see people go further. I know that a number of Peers and experts outside government have raised this issue. The amendment will mean that transparency is an issue for the most senior leaders in a business and not only a part of the corporate social responsibility department’s activities.
I have listened carefully to the desire to set out in more detail what companies should include in their statements, to the extent that doing so could make these disclosures easier to write for businesses and easier to assess and compare for the public. That is why government Amendment 97 gives a clear indication to businesses in the Bill about what they should consider including in an effective statement. The amendment introduces a list of six areas of activity that a business may include information about in its slavery and human trafficking statements. The areas include a business’s modern slavery policies, due diligence, risk management, training and key performance indicators used to assess the effectiveness of the action taken. In drawing up this list we have considered our existing engagement with business, international examples such as the legislation in California—which I accept has its shortcomings—and forthcoming legislation such as the 2016 European directive on non-financial reporting. As such, we are confident that the areas of reporting outlined reflect existing best practice and will dovetail well with existing and future commitments. Providing this list on the face of the Bill will help businesses to comply with our provision, by providing a starting point as to what they might include. It will also make it easier for the public to assess and compare company statements, because there will be a clear guide in legislation, setting out what a statement could include.
It is important that companies should still be able to report in a different way if they choose, so this approach remains flexible for those businesses for whom this list of areas may not be appropriate or relevant, or who are trying innovative new approaches to tackling modern slavery. The amendment would make our provision more effective in improving business behaviour, while not imposing a rigid checklist on all businesses. However, we may end up with what the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, referred to regarding corporations in California which offer just a perfunctory statement on their website. It is clear to me that any criteria—any comparator—must enable people to compare those who have not complied by not listing their statements, those who are effectively saying, “We are not taking any action”, and a list of those people who are taking steps and where those references are.
Amendment 99 is consequential on Amendment 97. I shall also be moving Amendment 109. This reflects a recommendation of the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee and enhances parliamentary scrutiny over the detail of the transparency in supply chains provision. It ensures that the regulations introduced to define turnover, when first introduced, would be subject to the affirmative procedure, and therefore to votes in this House and another place. This would ensure that Parliament can consider the proposed definition alongside the regulations to set the turnover threshold, which are already subject to the affirmative procedure.
I am aware that my noble friend Lady Hamwee asked some specific questions on the issue of turnover, which we have talked about. Part of that will be an element of the consultation. Another element will be, of course, that for calculating the threshold in terms of UK law there is a well accepted version as to where group corporate accounts are registered for the purposes of tax. One would expect that understanding of what constitutes a turnover for the purposes of threshold could be included in those regulations and linked effectively across government with other elements.
The noble Baroness, Lady Young, make an excellent point about public sector transparency. My noble friend Lady Hamwee put it very succinctly when she said that it must be do as we do, not do as we say. I think that we get that message. Are we there yet? Probably not absolutely, but in the Modern Slavery Strategy there is a section on page 58 on public sector resilience. Because of the hour, I will not read it into the record, but I commend points 6.29, 6.30 and 6.31 to colleagues. In addition, the Home Office is drafting a clause for our standard terms and conditions on preventing modern slavery and supply chains for all new suppliers. We are seeking to roll out an evaluation question for all new suppliers and guidance for all suppliers across government. That is an essential part of the cross-government strategy. It is absolutely right that we cannot legislate to tell private corporations what they should be doing and not do it ourselves. The numbers are very significant, as the noble Baroness, Lady Young, mentioned.
Amendment 94 seeks to define what level of turnover a business should meet for this transparency provision to apply, and to align that level with the Companies Act 2006. Determining which businesses this provision applies to is clearly an important point of detail, and I am grateful to the noble Baroness for raising it. I am confident that the right approach to such an important issue is to consult thoroughly before making a decision, which is why we embarked on the consultation that I have talked about.
Amendment 94A would specify that the definition of turnover, which will be set out in regulations, may include the turnover of a company’s subsidiaries and franchisees. I support the principle that large companies with huge turnovers should not be able to avoid the provision simply because of the way they are structured. However, this amendment is not necessary to achieve this aim. The power in the Bill is a broad one and so already enables us to include subsidiaries and franchisees in the calculation of an organisation’s total turnover. Indeed, we have been clear in our consultation that we intend to ensure that subsidiaries in a group are included when calculating turnover of a parent company. I am glad the issue of franchisees has been raised today. We will consider the contributions made carefully when defining turnover in our regulations. Our approach will always be guided by the principle that those companies with the resources and purchasing power to take action should be covered, and we will consider the issue of franchises in this light.
Amendment 97A would amend government Amendment 97 to specify that an organisation’s statement must cover the listed areas of information to the extent that doing so is necessary to understand the adequacy of the steps the business has taken. I would like to be clear that, under our provision as it stands, businesses must disclose any steps that they have taken to ensure that their business and supply chains are slavery-free. Therefore, if they have taken any steps that fall within the areas of the information listed in Amendment 97, they will be required to disclose those steps. This subsequent amendment is not therefore needed to ensure that we secure that level of transparency.
In addition, I would have some reservations about using the word “adequacy” in this context. For this provision to work effectively on the ground, it is vital that businesses can understand it. The simplest way is for the duty on businesses to be to report what steps they are taking to ensure that slavery and trafficking are not taking place. Asking companies to make complex decisions about what is “reasonably necessary” to judge the “adequacy” of steps taken could add an unhelpful level of uncertainty.
We want to make sure that even businesses that take extensive action and produce detailed statements are constantly striving to make further improvements. This, rightly, is a focus of my noble friend Lady Mobarik, who brings a great deal of expertise in this area from her background in business. She thoroughly understands this issue, and we have had some helpful conversations about it. This is about creating proper transparency, so that businesses feel under constant pressure to do more. I am confident that our current proposal is the best way to achieve that.
Amendment 98 would require a statement to be sent to the Independent Anti-slavery Commissioner, and Amendment 98A would specifically require the Anti-slavery Commissioner to maintain a website for businesses to upload their slavery and human trafficking statements. There are some issues about compatibility, and I appreciate the desire to see these statements collected in one place so that they are easily accessible and comparable. If we are to have real transparency and harness public pressure effectively, it is vital that these statements are easy to find. That is one of the reasons why, if a business has a website, a link to the statement must be prominently displayed on the business’s page.
Leaving aside for the moment the Independent Anti-slavery Commissioner-designate’s conversation with the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, and the meeting that will doubtless shortly occur with the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, there might be a third answer on that. I am sure that he, like of all us, is willing and keen to accept the principle that the statements ought to be put in one place and made easily searchable and identifiable. However, the question is who will do that and whether the resource will be there to enable them to do it. That is a good thing.
We are holding a two-day tech-camp event on transparency in supply chains in early March that will bring together technology companies, business and NGOs to consider how new technology can help with transparency in supply chains. I do not know whether I am able to say this from the Box, but the officials are not looking in my direction, so I will take a chance: it would seem to me that any noble Lords who would be interested in attending that tech camp looking at the current cutting edge of technology and providing answers to this would be very welcome to come along. I would be very interested in attending it myself.
I am confident that we will find an efficient way of enhancing access to slavery and trafficking statements. This might—but would not necessarily—involve the commissioner. I do not want to pre-judge what the best role for the Government or the commissioner is. It may be that the commissioner decides that he can operate most effectively to help businesses prevent modern slavery offences in their supply chains by encouraging good practice at a more strategic level, rather than at an operational level by collecting the data. Amendment 98A would also oblige those businesses required to produce directors’ reports each year to include a fair summary of their slavery and human trafficking statements and provide a link to their statements in their directors’ reports.
We have been careful in designing this provision not to link the measure to the Companies Act, which applies to a specific set of listed companies. Our provision applies more broadly to businesses operating in the UK. We are keen to create a level playing field between all the businesses that our provision applies to, rather than require some to do more than others. In addition, I have brought forward an amendment to require a director to sign these statements on behalf of all directors following approval by the board, or senior members of a partnership. Therefore, we have already taken steps to ensure that the most senior management in a company takes responsibility for their statements and their actions. I think this is the most effective and least burdensome means of achieving this level of responsibility, which we all want.
Amendment 99A would give more organisations and individuals, including the Independent Anti-slavery Commissioner, the power to bring proceedings for an injunction against companies who fail to comply with this provision. It would also make commercial organisations and every director or partner of a company criminally liable if their business failed to comply. Obviously, we all want to make sure that companies take this issue extremely seriously but I do not think that this kind of stricter enforcement is the right approach. This policy is all about harnessing competition and public pressure to drive improvements in the long term. It is not about businesses meeting minimum requirements in the short term. That long-term element was underscored by the welcome contribution of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Derby.
We are seeking to limit the burden on business to what is necessary to achieve our aims. If a business fails to disclose under this section, there are already two effective forms of redress. First, this would be a clear indication that a major business does not take modern slavery seriously—which I am sure would be of interest to their shareholders, the media and to civil society, as well as to Members of your Lordships’ House. Consumers, investors, civil society and the press will rightly bring pressure to bear. Secondly, under this Bill the Secretary of State is provided with the power to seek an injunction to require the business to comply. If the business fails to comply with an injunction, it will be in contempt of court, which of course has very substantial penalties attached to it.
I took on board the point that was raised about a possible three-year review—I think it was the noble Lord, Lord Alton, who mentioned a triennial review. I think we can go one better than that: it would be a very good section to have in the annual report of the designate Independent Anti-slavery Commissioner. Of course, he is independent and therefore one would hope that—through osmosis—he would see that we might find it helpful to have that in his report. Certainly, it is something we need to monitor very carefully indeed. In that spirit, I hope that noble Lords may feel reassured, particularly the noble Baroness, Lady Young, and that she will withdraw her amendment.
I am grateful to the Minister for the response he has given to my amendments. He will have heard the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, ask him whether, between now and Third Reading, he would look at the matter again. Let us forget some of the fringe or side issues as to where the website should be based and so on, but surely between now and Third Reading the principle of there being a central repository where this information is gathered, which the noble Lord has just accepted during his remarks—for which I was grateful and I appreciated what he said—could easily be clarified. I think that would meet a lot of the anxieties that have been expressed in your Lordships’ House this evening.
The reality is that the caravan moves on and as soon as this legislation has been enacted—and we will all cheer when that happens because it is profoundly important, worthwhile legislation—the pressure will be off to put some of these other things into place. Welcome though reviews, consultations, tech sessions and the rest are, the reality is that we should put in a requirement that there should be a central repository—and I personally wish we could go as far as requiring directors to have a summary of it in their annual reports as well—the principle of which has been accepted by the Minister. Surely we could have an assurance that that could be considered between now and next week.
The only hesitation that I have—normally I like to agree with the noble Lord as far as possible—is on whether we can do it by Third Reading. I really do not know. I will reflect on it and talk. I think it is more important to get the principle there—that we are saying, with all these statements coming together, that clearly they need to be in one place. Whether that is civil society, an NGO, a commissioner or a government body is something that can be sorted out. But the principle is that we want to see these statements in one place so that people can monitor and evaluate them to ensure that the intended action takes place.
I thank the Minister for his comprehensive response to the amendments we have just been considering. I will make three quick points.
I think that we will return to the issue of enforcement. We expect businesses to comply with money-laundering laws, bribery laws and a whole heap of other potentially criminal activities. To me, this is another criminal activity in which a company might be complicit and therefore the statements that they make need to be meaningful, and there will eventually need to be some sort of sanction, I am sure, in the future. But we will see what happens once we come to post-legislative scrutiny and we see how well the Bill actually works.
With regard to turnover and thresholds, it will be interesting to see what comes out of the consultation with business. As to whether or not there will be any consensus, that will be something we will see when that is published. That will be an interesting point because obviously different organisations will have different views on that.
With regard to government procurement, which is probably the thing I feel most strongly about in the two amendments to which I have been speaking, I will have a look at the Modern Slavery Strategy, as the Minister suggests. But statements of intent that are in that kind of paper are not the same as having something in a Bill that makes a very clear statement about what government agencies and the Government themselves should be doing in relation to that.
I will have a think about that, along with others—and I hope the Minister will as well—and in that context, I withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 93 withdrawn.
Amendments 94 to 95 not moved.
Amendment 96 had been withdrawn from the Marshalled List.
Moved by Lord Bates
97: Clause 52, page 39, line 28, at end insert—
“( ) An organisation’s slavery and human trafficking statement may include information about—
(a) the organisation’s structure, its business and its supply chains;
(b) its policies in relation to slavery and human trafficking;
(c) its due diligence processes in relation to slavery and human trafficking in its business and supply chains;
(d) the parts of its business and supply chains where there is a risk of slavery and human trafficking taking place, and the steps it has taken to assess and manage that risk;
(e) its effectiveness in ensuring that slavery and human trafficking is not taking place in its business or supply chains, measured against such performance indicators as it considers appropriate;
(f) the training about slavery and human trafficking available to its staff.
( ) A slavery and human trafficking statement—
(a) if the organisation is a body corporate other than a limited liability partnership, must be approved by the board of directors (or equivalent management body) and signed by a director (or equivalent);
(b) if the organisation is a limited liability partnership, must be approved by the members and signed by a designated member;
(c) if the organisation is a limited partnership registered under the Limited Partnerships Act 1907, must be signed by a general partner;
(d) if the organisation is any other kind of partnership, must be signed by a partner.”
Amendment 97A (to Amendment 97) not moved.
Amendment 97 agreed.
Amendments 98 and 98A not moved.
Moved by Lord Bates
99: Clause 52, page 40, line 1, leave out second “guidance” and insert “further provision”
Amendment 99 agreed.
Amendment 99A not moved.
Amendments 100 and 101
Moved by Lord Bates
100: Clause 52, page 40, line 26, leave out paragraph (ii) and insert— (ii) section 1, 2 or 4 of the Human Trafficking and Exploitation (Criminal Justice and Support for Victims) Act (Northern Ireland) 2015 (c. 2 (N.I.)) (equivalent offences in Northern Ireland),”
101: Clause 52, page 40, line 32, leave out paragraph (v)
Amendments 100 and 101 agreed.
Schedule 4: Minor and consequential amendments
Moved by Baroness Garden of Frognal
102: Schedule 4, page 64, line 6, leave out paragraph (a)
My Lords, prevention is critical to tackling modern slavery. That is why the Bill will introduce slavery and trafficking prevention orders which restrict the activity of individuals who have been convicted of modern slavery offences.
The slavery and trafficking risk order and the slavery and trafficking prevention order will complement the existing serious crime prevention order regime. We want to ensure that law enforcement has all the tools required to prevent and disrupt organised criminals from committing modern slavery offences.
In a limited number of cases, it will be appropriate for the Director of Public Prosecutions and the director of the Serious Fraud Office to seek a serious crime prevention order; for example, where positive requirements are needed to stop a modern slavery offender from causing further harm.
Currently under this Bill, it would not be possible to apply for a serious crime prevention order against those with convictions for the existing trafficking offences. Government Amendment 102 will remedy this and ensure that law enforcement has the flexibility it needs to tackle this abhorrent crime.
Continuing to give law enforcement agencies this flexibility in relation to offences committed before this Bill is passed will help them prevent the horrific abuse and suffering caused by modern slavery offences. I therefore hope that noble Lords will support the amendment. I beg to move.
Amendment 102 agreed.
Amendments 103 to 105
Moved by Lord Bates
103: Schedule 4, page 66, line 2, at end insert—
“15A In section 19(8) of the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 (no order made: reconsideration of case), at the end insert “in relation to it”.
15B In section 20(12) of the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 (no order made: reconsideration of benefit), at the end insert “in relation to it”.”
104: Schedule 4, page 66, line 4, leave out “so far as they relate to such orders” and insert “in relation to it”
105: Schedule 4, page 66, line 6, leave out “so far as they relate to such orders” and insert “in relation to it”
Amendments 103 to 105 agreed.
Clause 55: Regulations
Amendments 106 to 113
Moved by Lord Bates
106: Clause 55, page 41, line 39, at end insert—
“( ) regulations under section 43(8) which remove a public authority from Schedule (Public authorities under a duty to co-operate with the Commissioner) (public authorities under a duty to co-operate with the Commissioner), other than in consequence of the authority having ceased to exist;”
107: Clause 55, page 41, line 41, at end insert—
“( ) regulations under section (Regulations about identifying and supporting victims) (identifying and supporting victims);”
108: Clause 55, page 41, line 41, at end insert—
“( ) regulations under section 51(6) which remove a public authority from section 51(5), other than in consequence of the authority having ceased to exist;”
109: Clause 55, page 41, line 42, at end insert—
“( ) the first regulations under section 52(3) (definition of turnover for purposes of section 52);”
110: Clause 55, page 42, line 1, leave out from “section” to end of line 2 and insert “43(6)—
(a) are subject to the affirmative procedure if they contain provision removing a public authority from Schedule (Public authorities under a duty to co-operate with the Commissioner) (public authorities under a duty to co-operate with the Commissioner), other than in consequence of the authority having ceased to exist;
(b) otherwise, are subject to the negative procedure.”
111: Clause 55, page 42, line 4, leave out “43” and insert “43(7)”
112: Clause 55, page 42, line 7, leave out “43” and insert “43(7)”
113: Clause 55, page 42, line 8, at end insert “, unless they are regulations to which subsection (7B) applies.
(7A) The Department of Justice in Northern Ireland may not make regulations to which subsection (7B) applies unless a draft of the regulations has been laid before, and approved by a resolution of, the Northern Ireland Assembly.
(7B) This subsection applies to regulations under section 43(7) which contain provision removing a public authority from Schedule (Public authorities under a duty to co-operate with the Commissioner) (public authorities under a duty to co-operate with the Commissioner), other than in consequence of the authority having ceased to exist.”
Amendments 106 to 113 agreed.
In the Title
Moved by Lord Bates line 1, leave out from “labour” to “to” in line 2 and insert “and about human trafficking, including provision for the protection of victims;”
My Lords, at the end of a very long session, I rise briefly to move Amendment 114. As the Modern Slavery Strategy makes clear, the Government’s response to modern slavery has victims at its heart. The Bill is an integral part of that response and also has the interests of victims at its heart. That should be reflected in the Title of the Bill, which is the purpose of the amendment.
In proposing this small change to the Title of the Bill, emphasising the importance of victims, I thank all noble Lords who have taken part in this Report stage. I do not think that any of us is retreating from Report entirely unbruised or a little disappointed, but perhaps that is the way of things. The reality is that on the vast majority of issues we are in absolute agreement, and paramount is the necessity of tackling this abhorrent crime and eradicating it from our society, protecting the victims while prosecuting the criminals. I commend the amendment to the House.
My Lords, before I begin, I should declare my interest as a trustee and member of the campaigning organisation Liberty. I support government Amendment 114. As some of your Lordships may remember, I spoke to an amendment proposed in Committee by my noble friend Lord Rosser which put victims at the heart of the Modern Slavery Bill. I remarked then that it was for the humanity of the victims that we should act. Therefore, I am pleased that the Government have seen the necessity of an amendment to the Long Title of the Bill to reflect the fact that the new Act will make provision for the protection of victims.
For far too long, the criminal justice system has failed victims. In the pursuit of other objectives, victims have been seen as afterthought or, worse still, ignored altogether.
It is high time that we put victims at the heart of our justice system and this amendment highlights this by stating that the Modern Slavery Bill is intent on providing the protection and support that victims of trafficking deserve.
The Labour Party has long been calling for improvements to victim care. In December 2013, we established a victims task force to look into the way victims of crimes are treated in the criminal justice system. Just yesterday the group published its report, calling for an end-to-end transformation in the way our institutions deal with victims and outlining 14 recommendations. As a member of that task force, I am pleased that each recommendation empowers victims with specific rights to ensure justice prevails. This perspective should set our standard for how all victims should be treated. This is what the Modern Slavery Bill should aim to achieve because a Bill that puts victims’ interests at its core will also be a Bill that will deliver in terms of law enforcement.
This amendment, although short, will help to deliver the right message both to the evil perpetrators who enslave, traffic and exploit vulnerable people and, more importantly, to the victims who so often feel voiceless and powerless. The much-needed improvements which the Government have conceded since the beginning of the passage of this Bill have enabled us to champion the rights of victims and to strengthen their hand when having to go through the criminal justice system. Once again, I welcome Amendment 114 as a step in the right direction on a long journey we have ahead of us to adequately protect and enshrine the rights and protections that victims require.
I am very grateful for the noble Baroness’ support for this amendment and for her words, which I totally agree with. I pay tribute as well to her work on behalf of victims. I am delighted that we have secured her support for this.
Amendment 114 agreed.