My Lords, I too thank the noble Lord, Lord McColl, for his persistence and inspiration in keeping this on the agenda and bringing this Bill before us today.
I declare a number of interests. I was on the Select Committee that helped to craft the legislation, which was a good foundation—but all the evidence shows, and some of us realised this at the time, that it needs to be developed with further investment, as we learned from victims and the adjustments of the police and other statutory authorities. I declare an interest, too, as chairman of the advisory panel of the Independent Anti-slavery Commissioner, to whom the noble Lord, Lord McColl, referred and who is doing some amazing work, helping us to see where the foundations can be strengthened and developed.
The noble Lord, Lord Prescott, has pointed to the fact that this is a perfect storm in the number of vulnerable and desperate people who are attracted and often tricked into coming to our country and into slavery. We have to push back upstream, as the saying goes—and it is great to hear what is happening in Hull. Next Monday, the Independent Anti-slavery Commissioner will release a report after he was asked by the Government to visit Vietnam and look at the relationships with cultures from which people are exported into slavery and to provide contacts for people to return. He is also looking at how economies can be developed to encounter this storm of vulnerable people.
We have heard how the Independent Anti-slavery Commissioner has been working with the Work and Pensions Committee, making suggestions to the Government about the NRM. All this is evidence based and putting victims at the centre, which is what this Bill is about and why I think it is the next obvious step for us to take.
My third declaration is that I am involved with the Clewer initiative with the Church of England and other partners, which is being launched formally on
Second Reading is about matters of principle, and I want to highlight two or three principles that are important to consider and invite the Minister to reflect on them with us in looking at the proposals before us. The first is about numbers. The Minister in the other place has recognised that the numbers quoted are grossly inadequate. We are looking at a vast problem affecting almost every community; even in rural Derbyshire we discover evidence of people in slavery. So the resource implications will be huge, and we have to face that. How will we resource the needs of victims as we improve our ability to identify them, pushing back against crime and helping them to recover?
The key principle that I want your Lordships to think about is recovery. This is not just about rescuing people—it is recovery. I have had the sad privilege of meeting and working with a number of victims: women who have been raped 10 times a day, who asked for drugs to save them from the pain; people in domestic servitude, who sleep on the floor and are on call 24/7, trapped in a house; and 16 or 20 men in the city of Derby, living in a two-up, two-down house with one bathroom, a bus to work and a bus back, who have £5 a week to spend and whose passports have been confiscated. We meet people like that, from whom the very humanity has been knocked out. They are broken and their ability to think of themselves as human beings is very weak indeed.
The crime works and is such a successful business because they are good at recruiting people who are vulnerable anyway: those who are homeless or who have emotional or mental health problems. This is why resourcing is so important. People in that state do not just need a quick system—at the NRM we are realising that we need more time, resource and benefit cover—they also need loving, basically, and that is really hard to do. One thing the Clewer initiative is about is finding how people can voluntarily go the extra mile and step up. In my diocese, we provide support for the police with premises for interviews. Our Mothers’ Union puts together toiletries to give to people to make them feel that their body is worth caring for. We try to provide volunteers to sit with victims and to provide accommodation, with the Red Cross and others, when the system is creaking and people are falling between the cracks.
I invite the Minister to help us think about this. There are enormous resource implications and there has to be a judgment about how it is to be delivered. How are we going to balance asking the statutory authorities and the benefit system to do what they can in the right timeframe to give people a chance to rediscover their humanity? How are we—especially the Government in their guidance to statutory bodies—going to encourage partnership with things like the Clewer initiative and other voluntary and faith groups, which can provide such a precious extra dimension by saying to people, “You are a person”; “You can be loved”; “You can have a future”? They can go the extra mile when technical resources are often constrained. I hope the Minister will help us reflect on how the voluntary and faith sectors can partner with statutory provision to provide much better resources for recovery.