Modern Slavery (Victim Support) Bill [HL] - Second Reading

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 2:30 pm on 8th September 2017.

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Photo of Lord Prescott Lord Prescott Labour 2:30 pm, 8th September 2017

My Lords, I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord McColl, on his Bill, which would extend the rights and compensation for those suffering under modern slavery. It is right and proper. Indeed, I could not say anything else, since I was a Member of Parliament for Hull for 40 years, following in the footsteps of William Wilberforce, who passed anti-slavery legislation through this Parliament.

However, I hope that the noble Lord will not mind, since this is an extension of our national law, if I take it into the context of the international framework, which is having some influence on mass migration in our world, which leads almost to the acts of slavery about which he talked so eloquently. I want to talk about that international framework against the background of my experience. I will particularly refer to environment legislation which, while geared to deal with the climate change problem, has consequences in developing countries which lead to people taking desperate means to find a job somewhere else. That is understandable and we see it on the television every day.

As the Council of Europe rapporteur, I deal with climate change and have been dealing with it since 1997 when, as Deputy Prime Minister, I led the negotiations for the successful Kyoto agreement. That set the global architecture. Since then, we have had the Paris agreement, which established a national policy under which all countries are committed to a national target to cut carbon. Where it fails, I think, is in the completion of a new concept that I have developed within the Council of Europe and in UN climate change negotiations of a commitment to a national registry system.

I will explain that. Basically, it means that we have a subnational concept. We have the international framework and the national framework, but more can be done to assist in the environmental problem and the migration that comes from it by acting between developed and developing countries. I call it a subnational agreement, which means that you can make an agreement at a lower level, not necessarily having to find national or international agreement, but working within that framework. You could call them regional agreements if you like, but, it is the same business. It is where two parts of the global economy work together, one a developed country and one a developing country, to use the expertise in one area to help similar areas in other developing countries.

I can think of two examples based on what we learned in the Humber from the development of the Humber estuary. Estuarial development affects many developing countries, so our expertise, whether in fishing, trade, nuclear power or renewable energy—now with Siemens and wind power—can be used to help developing countries meet their low-carbon targets. We have made two agreements, which involve the universities, the local authorities, public and private industry getting together at the subregional level to see how we can help those countries to develop. One is between Hull and Morocco, which is an agrarian economy, although it has a lot of renewable power as well. We have helped Morocco develop its agriculture industry, make water savings of 30% and reduce its carbon output. That is a legitimate target for it. The second, which we are most excited about, is with Ghana. Ghana now has a connection with Hull, and the River Volta now has an estuarial development. The River Volta is 200 miles long, with 100 villages on it, and we have suggested that if they develop the estuarial economy, we will provide the boats, built in Hull, we will provide the finance and develop the commercial contact between the villages, which is important to help them to develop their economy—which is crucial—in a low-carbon way. Indeed, we are quite proud of that, and we are working very hard to achieve it. The first boat has gone—we call it the medical boat, because it enables villagers to contact the medical centre by a boat that is built in Hull. The rest of the fleet, which we are financing and developing, will help to develop the commercial economy and reduce carbon. This was referred to by Kofi Annan, the former Secretary-General of the UN, at a conference in Hull on Saturday, when he said that this was one of the most important developments and that,

“estuarial development on the Humber with similar regions in Africa”,

is a pioneering, subnational co-operation. That is exactly what it is and that is what we can do more of. It needs to be in the national and international framework.

In Hull we are a pioneering city—we are proud of that, and we have a summit on slavery taking place in two weeks’ time. We lead the world in that; it is important that we follow new initiatives in a co-operative way to do something about the mass migration that leads to slavery.