Modern Slavery Bill — Report (2nd Day) (Continued)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 9:00 pm on 25th February 2015.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Baroness Hamwee Baroness Hamwee Liberal Democrat 9:00 pm, 25th February 2015

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?