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

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 9:30 pm on 25th February 2015.

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Photo of Baroness Lawrence of Clarendon Baroness Lawrence of Clarendon Labour 9:30 pm, 25th February 2015

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.