Motion N1 (as an amendment to Motion N)

Nationality and Borders Bill - Commons Amendments – in the House of Lords at 9:45 pm on 4th April 2022.

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Baroness Hamwee:

Moved by Baroness Hamwee

At end insert “and do propose Amendments 22B, 22C, 22D, 22E and 22F in lieu—

22B: Clause 49, page 55, line 42, after second “person” insert “or persons”

22C: Clause 49, page 56, line 31, leave out “negative” and insert “affirmative”

22D: Clause 50, page 56, line 46, at end insert—“(2A) An assessment under subsection (1) shall be conducted in accordance with guidance published by the Secretary of State, and the guidance must provide that a designated person must take into account all relevant information available from all available sources.”

22E: Clause 51, page 57, line 10, at end insert—“(1A) An independent advisory board shall advise in respect of the regulations, and the Secretary of State must have due regard to the board’s advice. (1B) The board shall comprise experts in relevant disciplines, including nominees of relevant medical, dental and scientific professional bodies.(1C) The board shall give ethical advice and scientific advice for the purposes of subsection (3).”

22F: Clause 52, page 58, line 15, after “conduct” insert “or contribute to”

Photo of Baroness Hamwee Baroness Hamwee Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Immigration), Chair, Justice and Home Affairs Committee, Chair, Justice and Home Affairs Committee

My Lords, these amendments concern age assessments. The noble Baroness, Lady Neuberger, moved the amendment at the previous stage and apologises that she cannot be here today. We had a very helpful briefing from the noble Baroness, Lady Black of Strome—who I think for this purpose would term herself Professor Dame Sue Black—the interim chair of the interim scientific advisory committee. I thank the Minister for his letter listing the interim members and their positions, which of course indicate their disciplines. The amendments today flow from that meeting.

The Minister referred to mitigating risk. Of course, we understand that there is risk attached to assessing an age wrongly, but the most controversial part of the provisions in the Bill regards ionising radiation from X-rays, about which the British Dental Association has expressed particular concern. There are both ethical and scientific criteria in play here. The Commons said that our original amendments were not necessary, but, as I understand it, “not necessary” means, “Don’t worry, because current practice is good”. One of the difficulties with statutory provisions, as proposed here, is when they stand alone and you cannot look at other legislation which constrains them, if I can put it that way.

I assumed that the Minister would give assurances of the type that he has already referred to; indeed, I gave him notice by email earlier today and was grateful for the response from the Bill team. But without at all impugning the Minister’s integrity, it is important to hear from the Dispatch Box. I am always reluctant to accept that the best way to approach these matters is to seek assurances, when one really wants to see them in legislation, but I have been persuaded that this would be the best thing to do this evening.

What I have been concerned about and have asked for assurances on is that the Age Estimation Science Advisory Committee should include independent experts from across a range of fields reflecting, as the Minister said, “a range of possible biological evaluation methods”. Members of the current interim body include those with dental and dental-related expertise, but, personally, I would like to see a paediatric dentist on the list. I would like to see the regulations require the approval of the professional bodies which are so concerned. The Bill team responded to me that the regulations are a matter for government, “considering the challenges to the current age assessment process”. But that takes this issue into what are political matters, which is also part of the concern.

I also put it to the Minister that, as Sue Black told us, triangulation of different views and assessments would be brought together for a final assessment. It is important to involve professionals from very different disciplines, including those not represented on a scientific committee. I have mentioned ethics, and I would mention psychology as well. I am told that triangulation and my reference to an ethicist is part of existing practice, but I am seeking assurances for the future. It may be trite, but it is true that one can take absolutely at face value everything that is said about current practice—but the current Government will not always be the Government. One does not know what may happen in the future. It is harder to change legislation than it is to change practice, which is why one goes for the changes in legislation.

I also asked the Minister—I do not think he has covered this—about the benefit of the doubt given to the claimant, which we were told is existing practice. Again, one would like to see a legislative basis for this. I hope that the Minister can add to the assurances he has given on this and on other matters that other noble Lords—particularly the noble Baroness, Lady Lister, and the right reverend Prelate, who have been much involved with this issue—may raise. If so, I am not minded to divide the House.

I know that I may not speak after the movers—I think it is only the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, moving the other amendments in this group—and I can speak only once on Part 5, so, rather rapidly, I will say that we on these Benches are concerned that Part 5 is a really retrograde step in our response to modern slavery. That view has not changed during the passage of this Bill, nor has our view that Clause 62 is particularly pernicious—nor our view that slavery has no place in a Bill on borders and nationality. As with asylum, there is an important element of seeking protection from the state as distinct from prosecution and other treatment by the state. Nor has our view changed that if, as we understand it, legislation on slavery is coming, then that is the place for any changes—not here, out of context.

We will support Motion Q1 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, which is an alternative to Clause 62, with its answer to what the threat is to public order and putting the response in the context of the trafficking convention. We have always supported the noble Lord, Lord McColl, in his valiant, persistent and right campaign regarding support for victims of modern slavery and trafficking, and we will do so again tonight. We support Motion S1, in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, narrowing the scope of the new clause on victims under the age of 18, responding to the reason that the amendment is not workable. I beg to move Motion N1.

Photo of Lord McColl of Dulwich Lord McColl of Dulwich Conservative 10:00 pm, 4th April 2022

My Lords, I am speaking to Motion R1, which I will press to a vote because I am extremely disappointed that the progress made in this House on Part 5 has been undone in the other place. We must keep striving to ensure that victims of modern slavery are properly identified and supported. I am grateful for support across the House in passing my original Amendment 26. When Amendment 26 left this House, it would have provided 12 months’ statutory support to confirmed victims in England and Wales and leave to remain for those who needed it across the UK to access long-term support. In that moment, there was a glimmer of hope that victims would finally receive the vital support that evidence has shown they need. Needless to say, the hope that this support will be provided is growing increasingly faint and I am deeply disappointed that the Government have still not taken steps to put it on a statutory footing.

While it is my firm belief that support and leave to remain must go together, your Lordships will see that I have unpackaged my original amendment. I have tabled only one amendment in lieu, Amendment 26B, to provide 12 months’ statutory support to confirmed victims in England and Wales. This is not because issues of leave to remain are not important: quite the opposite. Leave to remain is critical for victims who need it to access support for their recovery. I have unpacked the two only to assist the Government in making good on their commitments to provide support. The Government are already halfway there through the assurance that we have heard reiterated multiple times in both Houses that confirmed victims in England and Wales will receive a minimum of 12 months’ support.

I have said it before; putting this in guidance is not enough. We must finish the job and put this in the Bill. The Government have said that guidance will provide flexibility. This misses the point entirely. The evidence provided by front-line workers on the need to provide at least 12 months’ support to all confirmed victims is falling on deaf ears. Of course support will rightfully be tailored to the individual, but the point stands that victims need a minimum of 12 months to begin to work through their trauma and come to terms with their exploitation.

If we support victims, they will be in a stronger position to support investigations. This will increase convictions of this heinous crime and send out a message to those criminals that they will not get away with this exploitation. The Government have continually said that leave to remain will be considered on a case-by-case basis. I am concerned that they are continuing to wriggle out of their promise to provide support in their arguments for not providing leave to remain.

That is why I have disentangled the two, to ensure that these excuses can no longer be made. Regrettably, in rejecting Amendment 26, the other place has reinstated original Clause 64, in which discretionary leave to remain criteria are narrower than the current guidance. This is truly a case of one step forward, two steps back. I would be grateful if the Minister could make a statement on the recent Court of Appeal ruling and how this will impact future decision-making on leave to remain to ensure that it is in line with the European trafficking convention. Can he also increase transparency by committing to publish statistics on leave to remain decisions for victims of modern slavery?

I will return to issues of leave to remain in the future but, for now, I urge your Lordships and those in the other place to hear what victims need on long-term support and to act accordingly to ensure they receive it by supporting Amendment 26B.

Photo of Baroness Lister of Burtersett Baroness Lister of Burtersett Labour

My Lords, I will speak to Motion N1. I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, for tabling Amendments 22B to 22F. I simply seek some assurances from the Minister on behalf of the British Dental Association, the Royal College of Nursing and the Refugee and Migrant Children’s Consortium.

First, when the noble Baroness, Lady Neuberger, sought the opinion of the House on Report, she noted that

“we need to know more about the ethical response”.—[Official Report, 8/3/22; col. 1285.]

I and others raised concerns voiced by the BMA, the BDA and others that to use dental X-rays in particular where there is no clinical justification is unethical. Yet neither in Committee nor on Report did the Minister really address this concern. Can he please do so now and provide some reassurance to these bodies and to us?

Secondly, following on from what the Minister said, can he provide an assurance that the statutory guidance will continue to make it clear that there must be reason to doubt an age claim before any age assessment is made?

Thirdly, will the Government seek and publish the agreement of the relevant medical bodies before any scientific method is approved for use? I was partially reassured by the meeting the noble Baroness referred to with the interim chair of the Age Estimation Science Advisory Committee, but it is still important that formal agreement is sought from the relevant medical bodies. Can he confirm that the Minister accepts the interim committee’s recommendation that scientific advice should be used to decide whether a claimed age is possible rather than specify what that age is? Will the same principle apply to the holistic decision made in any age assessment?

With reference to the committee—this echoes what the noble Baroness said—in the Commons the Minister agreed to take away the call for it to include a practising dentist. Is the Minister in a position to give a commitment on that point today?

Finally, can the Minister provide some reassurance with regard to the insistence on the use of Home Office social workers? That has caused considerable concern among members of the consortium given their record hitherto, which has been found wanting by the courts. The lack of independence is even more worrying given Wendy Williams’s update on the Windrush Lessons Learned Review, which suggests that progress in reforming Home Office culture has some way to go. Her report says:

“I have seen limited evidence that a compassionate approach is being embedded consistently across the department”— that is, the Home Office. Is it surprising that there is considerable suspicion of the lack of independence in what is proposed?

Photo of Lord Alton of Liverpool Lord Alton of Liverpool Crossbench

My Lord, as a trustee of the Arise Foundation, a charity that works with people who are victims of human trafficking or modern-day slavery, I have certainly seen at first hand some of the examples that the noble Lord, Lord McColl, outlined to the House tonight. Indeed, in Committee and on Report I was privileged to be a signatory to the amendments that he laid before your Lordships’ House. This evening I will briefly support Amendment 26B, because I believe that he is right that guidance alone is not enough and that something has to be placed on a statutory basis.

I also agree with what the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, said in her remarks about Part 5. It has no place in this Bill at all. It should not be in this Bill—it should have been exorcised much earlier. I think all of us have a great sense of regret that it is still there this evening, even more so when we consider that there is a new Act of Parliament waiting in the wings—we are going to get new legislation on this issue. How much better it would be if we did what the noble Lord, Lord Horam, said to us earlier this evening and went through the normal process of consultation with the equivalent of Green Papers and White Papers, and saw the debates we have been having on this part of the legislation as something to prepare us for that legislation when it is laid before your Lordships’ House. It is putting the cart before the horse. The Government have said in their most recent Bill fact sheet on modern-day slavery that they recognise that

“victims of modern slavery may have had periods of high vulnerability and … multiple, complex needs” or

“experience multiple forms of exploitation at different points in time”.

If that is so—I believe it is—we need the amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord McColl.

Photo of Lord Morrow Lord Morrow DUP

My Lords, I too rise this evening to speak in support of the Motion in the name of the noble Lord, Lord McColl. I fully supported his Amendment 26 last month and will continue to support him in his work to ensure that victims of modern slavery are given the practical care they need to begin to recover from their abuse.

I am pleased to support his Amendment 26B in lieu, as it is similar to a provision agreed by the Northern Ireland Assembly a few weeks ago to give confirmed victims long-term support. I am proud to say that the Assembly is once again leading the way—it does not always do that—on support for victims, as it did in 2015 when my Private Member’s Bill became the first comprehensive human trafficking legislation in any region of the United Kingdom.

As the noble Lord, Lord McColl, rightly pointed out, this proposal for long-term support in England and Wales is not a new commitment that the Government do not support. They have made it clear they do—but they are not willing to go beyond guidance. I urge the Minister to reconsider. I hope the Government will support the noble Lord’s amendment and not see England and Wales fall behind again.

I put on record my disappointment that the Government have not been willing to move on leave to remain for victims who are not British citizens and who do not have secure immigration status. The intention of Amendment 26 was that victims who are eligible for long-term support would be given temporary leave to remain to ensure that they could remain in the UK to access this support to help them recover from their exploitation, to prevent their retrafficking, and for them to co-operate with police and prosecutors. The need for that leave to remain has come into even clearer focus for victims in Northern Ireland who will now be able to get longer-term support but might not be able to remain in the country to receive it. I hope your Lordships’ House will return to this issue and not forget the needs of victims of exploitation for security and certainty for their recovery. In the meantime, I shall support the noble Lord’s amendment if it is pressed this evening.

Photo of Lord Harris of Haringey Lord Harris of Haringey Labour 10:15 pm, 4th April 2022

My Lords, I intervene briefly in support of the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, and the remarks made by my noble friend Lady Lister. In doing so, I declare my interest as chair of the General Dental Council. In that capacity, I had a meeting with the British Dental Association earlier today, not specifically about this issue, but the British Dental Association is still very exercised by it.

I again pursue an issue I raised on Report, to which I have not seen a satisfactory response: the precise terms under which consent will be known to exist in respect of certain scientific procedures being carried out. For example, if there is to be a dental X-ray, will freely given consent be obtained from the individuals concerned? By “freely given” I mean not under duress. The reality is that young people who are fearful of not having their rights accepted are hardly likely to give their consent willingly. Can the Minister tell us exactly how we can be reassured that that consent will be freely given and that it will genuinely be the case that if somebody does not give consent that will not be in some way held against them elsewhere? The reason why this matters is that for a professional, whether a dental professional or any other professional, to carry out a medical procedure, including a dental X-ray, without that free consent is unethical and against all professional standards. It is an extremely important point.

Can we also have clarity about whether it will always be an appropriate professional who will carry out the necessary scientific assessment? If, for example, someone employed by the Home Office or some other agency carries out an X-ray or whatever without being an appropriate professional, that is a criminal offence. I would really like clarity on whether the Government have thought through these ethical and professional issues in terms of these clauses and in rejecting the amendment passed by your Lordships’ House that was moved on Report by the noble Baroness, Lady Neuberger.

Photo of Lord Coaker Lord Coaker Shadow Spokesperson (Defence), Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs), Opposition Whip (Lords)

My Lords, before I move on to Part 5, I will speak briefly to Motion N1 on Part 4 and age assessments. I support the concerns raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, and supported by my noble friend Lady Lister. I pay tribute to them for their work on this issue.

In the Commons, the Conservative MP Peter Aldous raised the concerns we have just heard of the British Dental Association on ethical, health and accuracy grounds about using X-rays for age assessment purposes. In response, the Minister could not even give a commitment that a dentist would be included on the planned oversight committee for the policy, as my noble friend Lady Lister has just pointed out. It seems to me that what is being asked is perfectly reasonable and moderate: that before a method is approved as somehow being scientific, advice is taken by experts in the field. It is remarkable that these concerns have to be raised.

I will concentrate my remarks on Part 5, but first I declare my interest as a research fellow at the University of Nottingham’s Rights Lab, and as a trustee of the Human Trafficking Foundation.

I hope that noble Lords will forgive me for pointing out, as the noble Lord, Lord Alton, and the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, have done, that it is quite remarkable that a series of changes to the modern slavery legislation is included in an immigration Act. That is unbelievable. I say to Conservative Members, indeed to all Members of this House, that the Modern Slavery Act 2015—I got it out and read it again—is a signpost piece of legislation of which we are all proud, and one of the legacies of Prime Minister Theresa May.

Throughout our debates and in the amendments that we are debating now, we are trying to improve a piece of legislation that should not be in here—but, having said that, we will try to improve it. For example, the House voted to remove Clause 58 in its entirety from the Bill. There was recognition of the dangers of penalising a victim for not meeting a deadline to disclose information. It can be difficult for a victim to even recognise themselves as a victim, let alone to process and communicate that trauma to a deadline.

The Bill provides that credibility will not be damaged where a person has a good reason for late compliance, but we struggled throughout the Bill to get certainty on what counts as a good reason. It was our belief that the authorities should not be instructed to consider a victim’s credibility damaged because they might have disclosed information about what they had been subject to—human trafficking, exploitation or modern slavery—a little late.

Therefore, we strongly welcome the step taken by the Government today to exempt at least child victims from this clause; we welcome the amendment that the Minister has just brought before us. I recognise that the Government have listened to some of the concerns raised and have moved some way on this issue. We are grateful to them for that. For that reason, we will not seek to vote again on Clause 58 today, since we have narrowed our focus to, as the Minister pointed out, key issues where there is still need for further movement from the Government.

This leads us to Motions S and S1, which focus in greater detail on child victims of trafficking. We are talking about children here, and my Amendment 27B would put in the Bill that the best interests of the child must be primary in all decisions about child victims. I do not understand why that is not a reasonable thing to include in the Bill. Also, it would not allow slavery and trafficking notices to be served on a victim under the age of 18. You could have a child of 12 or 13, or even younger, being given an information notice to be complied with—not late notice now; they will not be penalised for that—and being required to present an information notice about the circumstances of their trafficking. It is ridiculous that we are asking children to do that.

My amendment would also exempts children from restrictions under Clauses 61 and 62, so that they have access to additional recovery periods if they are re-trafficked and are not covered by public order provisions. It would provide that child victims can have leave to remain, to give them time to access support as well as supporting prosecutions against their traffickers. Finally, it would ensure that the burden of proof for a child victim to enter the NRM is not heightened by the Bill, so that no extra barriers are put in place to a child victim being recognised by the system.

It is worth pointing out again that child victims constituted 43% of the referrals to the NRM. That is what we are talking about—nearly a majority of those referred to the NRM were children. The Office for National Statistics says that, in the UK, 24,675 children have been referred to the NRM since 2009—a frankly unbelievable figure. That is why it is so important that, although the Government have moved on this, there must be more done to protect children and child victims of trafficking.

Our original Amendment 27 provided that a trafficking notice could not be served where a person had experienced exploitation while they were under 18. In the Commons, the Minister, Tom Pursglove, said when a trafficking notice was served on a person the precise timeline or date of their exploitation would not be known, so it would not be possible to exempt people based on when their exploitation took place. In light of that, we have amended subsection (2) of our proposed new clause to specify that a trafficking notice cannot be served on a person under the age of 18. In these cases, there is no question that the exploitation took place while this person was a child, because they are still under 18 years of age.

Another argument put forward by the Minister in the Commons is that our clause provides protection for children yet not for other victims. Of course, we are seeking to provide specific protection for children; that is the responsible way to make law. It is crucial to recognise that the Government have now moved to exempt children in respect of Clause 58 so that, as I have said, they will not be penalised. That is important for two reasons. I am hugely grateful to the Minister for the concession; it also shows that the Government now accept that in certain cases it is right to recognise child victims for what they are—exploited, traumatised children—and to exempt them from the provisions of this part. We do that in every area of law; we provide differently for children than for adults. It is important that we do the same with respect to modern slavery; we are asking the Government for further concessions on that.

It is most important that we resolve the part relating to Motions Q and Q1 as well. The anti-slavery commissioner has said that the Government’s proposals make it harder to prosecute people traffickers. The Government recognise that it is common for victims to be criminally exploited and so have a criminal record as part of their exploitation. Our replacement for Clause 62 therefore seeks to protect children and adults—all victims of slavery—against being penalised for having been at some point criminally exploited.

The key issue raised by Ministers about our original amendment is that it did not provide a definition of who could be considered a threat to public order. So, our Amendment 25B provides that a person is considered a threat if they have been convicted of a terrorism offence; it also requires the Secretary of State to consult within a year on whether further offences listed under Schedule 4 to the Modern Slavery Act should be added to this definition. In other words, we have made an important concession in that we understand the need for a definition and that the Home Office is debating what that definition should be. Rather than hold up the Bill, let us have a situation where, within one year of this Act coming into force, the Government must come forward with a consultation on whether a person convicted of any offence listed in Schedule 4 to the Modern Slavery Act 2015, other than a terrorism offence, should be considered as presenting

“an immediate, genuine, present and serious threat to public order”.

We have tried to be reasonable, but we say to the Government again that excluding victims of trafficking from the NRM on the basis that at some point they have had a minor conviction for a crime does not recognise the reality of the situation in which these victims find themselves.

To conclude on this, I say to the Minister that if he were a victim of slavery, he, like me, would in many instances be forced into criminal action. As it stands, the Bill will penalise those people and prevent them from getting the support that should be given to them under the NRM. That is not acceptable. It is not in the spirit of the Modern Slavery Act, nor what the Government themselves would want to happen.

Finally, on the amendment from the noble Lord, Lord McColl, I pay tribute to the noble Lord for the work that he has done on this over so many years. It is an important amendment; frankly, it is disappointing and unbelievable that the Government have not accepted his effort to ensure that people get the support they deserve for 12 months. I hope that your Lordships will support the noble Lord, Lord McColl, as we will, if it comes to a Division.

Photo of Lord Stewart of Dirleton Lord Stewart of Dirleton The Advocate-General for Scotland

With that exhortation from behind me ringing in my ears, I step forward to address the points made by noble Lords from across the House in a further interesting and wide-ranging debate. I will touch first on age assessment.

It is important to stress at the outset that the purpose of setting up a scientific advisory committee is that the Government should receive guidance from it. The consideration of what scientific methods of age assessment should be used, if any, is at the preliminary stage. The Government propose to be guided by the body which has been set up on an interim basis to provide them with advice. The Government are not seeking to compel any member of any profession to take part in any practice which offends that person’s ethical sensibilities, whether individually or as a member of a scientific or professional body. No compulsion can be contemplated as a means of obliging anyone to carry out a particular step.

The noble Lord, Lord Harris of Haringey, raised the issue of the identity of personnel carrying out particular steps, and I assure him from the Dispatch Box that only an appropriately qualified person would be asked to carry out the sort of testing that he discussed which, reflecting his specific area of expertise, related to dentistry.

I do not at this stage give any undertaking as to the constituent members of the committee which, as your Lordships have heard, is set up at the moment on an interim basis. However, it is very much in the way in which such bodies of learned people carry out their work that they will call for additional evidence and support from people skilled in specific disciplines where they feel there is any gap in their expertise which might properly be filled.

Reference was made by two noble Baronesses who participated in this debate to the meeting, in which I participated, with the noble Baroness, Lady Black, the interim head of the interim committee which has been set up. I invite the House to reflect on a number of aspects of the discussion we had with the noble Baroness which, for the benefit of Members who were not present at that electronic discussion, I will now précis. There are anxious discussions being carried out by professionals and academics within the committee, who compass this wide range of academic and professional disciplines, about what may be appropriate to carry out as—I gratefully adopt the phrase used by noble Baroness, Lady Black—a triangulation of methodologies in relation to the critical assessment of the age of a young person, where that is contested or where there is reasonable ground to believe that the age offered is inaccurate.

I interrupt myself to answer a point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Lister of Burtersett. Yes, the parameters within which a decision will be taken are those set out at that meeting. There is no attempt to say that any one method can arrive with any degree of certainty at a specific age, whether expressed in years or months. As the noble Baroness suggested to the House, the matter is whether the scientific expertise can place a person so that the claimed age is possible. I am happy to assure the noble Baroness on that basis.

Noble Lords will also recollect that, in the context of that discussion, the noble Baroness, Lady Black, brought out certain matters which we have discussed in this House at earlier stages. I stress that she pointed out that the very prolongation of testing and interviews under the current regime—perhaps “testing” is the wrong word; “assessment” might be better when referring to Merton-compliant procedures, which your Lordships may well recollect from previous stages and which relate to a series of interviews—and repeated rehearsal of information that might be of a sensitive character and might oblige the person to relate traumatic events, is itself a source of harm. The scientific methodology that the Government have tasked this interim committee to look into is anticipated as serving two functions: to provide for that triangulation of methodologies, and to provide—as I have said on previous occasions to your Lordships—additional information to assist in that difficult process which currently falls exclusively upon the shoulders of social workers. It is not, and has never been argued as being, a means by which some value or accuracy can be ascribed to scientific testing, which we acknowledge it does not have.

None the less, as I have said, these methodologies are used in other places in Europe. Their use is widespread, and the United Kingdom is unusual in not using them. Given the nature of the problems that we face and the nature of the trauma from which people may be escaping—and which may be caused by the mere fact of having to rehearse events earlier in their lives—we consider it incumbent upon us to do what we can to shorten that process, at all times acknowledging the overriding importance of fairness to the persons involved.

I am not in a position to commit to there being a member of any specific profession on the committee, whether in its interim iteration or later on. However, as I said earlier, in the way of these things, it will be for the committee to call for additional expertise to support its working and to allow it to provide conclusions—

Photo of Baroness Lister of Burtersett Baroness Lister of Burtersett Labour

I think that we are going backwards because, in the Commons, the Minister said that he would take away this point and look into it, but now the noble and learned Lord seems to be saying that it is enough to be able to call on expertise from outside. Can he take this away and think a bit further about the membership of the committee, including dentists?

Photo of Lord Stewart of Dirleton Lord Stewart of Dirleton The Advocate-General for Scotland

I am grateful to the noble Baroness and was not aware of the remarks to which she referred. If the Minister in the other place has given an undertaking that he will go away and think about it, I will certainly row back from what I said—that it would be more of a matter of leaving it to the committee to say. If an undertaking has been given to revisit the matter, I am happy to depart from what I have said already.

We recognise the strength of feeling in the House about these matters. In particular, we recognise the strength of feeling about the ethical questions that arise out of the application of scientific techniques from which no therapeutic value flows directly—as was said at earlier stages in the debate. However, I repeat that our intention is to be guided by the views of the scientific committee which has been established. For that reason, at this stage, we cannot support the amendments, and we stand by the clauses which we have already tabled for the reasons I have set out.

On the matter of modern slavery, I will consider together Motions P, Q, R and S. I begin by commending to your Lordships’ House the government amendment that will exempt the credibility provisions in this part of the Bill from people who were under 18 at the time when they were most recently served with a slavery or trafficking information notice. But I say again that we cannot accept amendments to other clauses in this part. It is vital, I submit, that we are able to withhold the protections afforded by the national referral mechanism from dangerous individuals. I will not rehearse what I said in my opening submission about the manner in which the amendment as framed restricts too narrowly our scope for investigation. I consider it is not appropriate for me to make any concession to the noble Lord on this point, recognising though I do the principled basis upon which he has addressed the House, at this stage and previously in our deliberations.

With the utmost respect to my noble friend Lord McColl of Dulwich, we consider that the provision of a minimum of 12 months’ appropriate, tailored support to all those who receive a positive conclusive grounds decision and are in need of specific support is appropriate; it is “tailored” in the sense that it is directed to the individual facts and circumstances of the person in question. We do not think his amendment, as with that tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, is necessary.

On the verge of resuming my seat, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, for doing us the courtesy of contacting us by email and submitting a list of questions, which she went over in the course of her speech. I am greatly obliged to her for taking that step, which has enabled me to curtail my submissions at this stage still further.

Photo of Baroness Hamwee Baroness Hamwee Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Immigration), Chair, Justice and Home Affairs Committee, Chair, Justice and Home Affairs Committee

My Lords, with regard to the questions around age assessment, and particularly the role of a dentist in all of this, the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, said it is remarkable that these concerns have to be raised. I would say it is remarkable that they have had to be raised again. There was the exchange in the Commons—I will come to that in a moment—and after the Commons debate on the Lords amendments, I asked about this, not on the Floor of the House; I have not heard.

In the debate in the Commons, in reply to a question about whether the process would include a practising dentist, the Minister, Tom Pursglove, said:

“I know that he has discussed this issue with the Home Secretary separately”—

I had forgotten that. He continued:

“I am not in a position to give … a firm undertaking today, but we will certainly take away and consider that particular point, and perhaps we could remain in contact on it.”—[Official Report, Commons, 22/3/22; cols. 264-65.]

As we have not heard any sort of assurance, I assume that this has not progressed any further.

The noble and learned Lord the Minister made the point that the Government do not appoint a body, interim or otherwise, of such illustrious people without listening to it. Government advisers have been known to have their advice ignored or dismissed. However, very reluctantly, I will not press this, so I beg leave to withdraw the Motion.

Motion N1 withdrawn.

Motion N agreed.