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

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 3:16 pm on 8th September 2017.

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Photo of Lord Elton Lord Elton Conservative 3:16 pm, 8th September 2017

I hope that I will help the noble Lord avoid that embarrassment by keeping my remarks very short, as I expect others will. I was reluctant to take part in this debate when I was asked to do so, because I thought I did not know enough about it. Then I started thinking about the situation in which these unfortunate victims find themselves and I find it impossible to stay out of the fray and not to say what a marvellous job my noble friend has done in bringing this forward and remark on the extreme thoroughness of his introductory speech, which could actually stand on its own. However, since then I have heard a great deal more.

Yesterday I sat through a two and a half hour debate on overcrowding in prisons and cheekily spoke in the four minute gap—in my case it was an 18-second gap—to point out that this was all very marvellous, but actually it was the second problem, and if we solved the first problem we would not need to deal with criminals if we stopped them becoming criminals. The noble Lord, Lord Prescott, has said exactly the same thing more elegantly—and far more entertainingly and forcefully—than I did on this subject: tackle the difficulty at its roots and, as a globe, we can solve it as an international situation.

In the meantime, my noble friend’s intervention is timely and necessary: people fall through. It is the machinery that is wrong, as I understand it. Even the Home Office rules themselves point out that:

“There is no automatic grant of leave to remain if there is a finding of fact that a person is a victim of human trafficking or slavery, servitude and forced or compulsory labour”.

They say that nobody actually has a duty to protect them. Then we find that the duty to get DLR after a decision rests with the police. It was really shocking to hear from the anti-slavery commissioner, in his evidence to the House of Commons Work and Pensions Committee, that some police forces and police officers did not even know that it was up to them to make the DLR application.

At this point I recall my long-term interest in policing, as an ex-Police Minister, and ask again whether the sale of Bramshill College, the closure of the police staff college some years ago, shows yet another lack of consistency in police staffing—which I use in the military sense, staff officering. This has gone by the board because there is now no central development of uniform practice throughout our police forces. That is a relevant question, which should be asked on every occasion when such lacunae arise.

I think this question has already been raised but I ask the Minister to confirm whether or not the criteria for—I cannot remember the phrase—special personal circumstances agreed in the Council of Europe convention to which we are bound by signature are actually satisfied by our arrangement for the treatment of those people. I think the convention is called COLETA for short.

I reaffirm my enthusiasm for the Bill. I do not want to display my lack of knowledge of the total circumstances. There is a cry for compassion for people who have been snatched, tricked, seduced or kidnapped out of their way of life, however unsatisfactory, which at least was stable and in their home territory and among people who spoke their language, and find themselves here with no common language, common experience or knowledge of how to apply for help. Compassion cries out loudly and I am so glad to hear that the diocese of Derby is rising to the occasion. I shall inquire in my own diocese what we are doing.