Clause 30 - Cross-border enforcement

Modern Slavery Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 3:45 pm on 9 September 2014.

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Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Photo of David Crausby David Crausby Labour, Bolton North East

With this it will be convenient to discuss clause 31 stand part.

Photo of David Hanson David Hanson Shadow Minister (Home Affairs)

With clause 30 we are back to the old chestnut that the hon. Member for Foyle and I mined earlier on the Bill’s impact on Scotland and Northern Ireland. Clause 30 will give the Secretary of State the power to

“amend section 29(1) so as to add or remove from the list of orders in that section any relevant UK order.”

“Relevant UK order” means

“an order under the law of Scotland or Northern Ireland which appears to the Secretary of State to be equivalent or similar” to the orders we are discussing today.

The Scottish Parliament is considering similar orders to those in the Bill—it may have already put them in place—and Lord Morrow intends to introduce something similar in the Northern Ireland Assembly. Will the Minister update the Committee on the progress of the orders in the Scottish Parliament and the Northern  Ireland Assembly? That would help the Committee understand how we are to achieve UK-wide coverage on these matters for as long as we still have a UK, which I hope is a long time.

Photo of Karen Bradley Karen Bradley The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department

Modern slavery is a cross-border issue, so we must ensure that the UK has a joined-up approach to prevent these horrific crimes. That important principle is not only reflected in the Government’s approach but was shown in the pre-legislative scrutiny Committee’s report, which highlighted the fact that

“modern slavery straddles borders without respect for jurisdiction: the UK government must work closely with the devolved institutions as they produce their own legislative responses.”

Clause 30 reflects that principle. It will enable the Secretary of State to add or remove any relevant UK order to the list of orders in clause 29 that would constitute an offence if breached in England and Wales. The Government have worked closely with the devolved Administrations on tackling modern slavery, and will ensure that similar reciprocal measures are in place so that orders made in England and Wales can be enforced throughout the UK. Both Scotland and Northern Ireland are introducing legislation on modern slavery that offers such an opportunity.

If Scotland or Northern Ireland pass legislation to introduce orders similar to the slavery and trafficking prevention and risk orders, the Secretary of State will be able to ensure that breaches of those orders are criminal offences in England and Wales. That will mean that individuals who pose a risk can be managed effectively across the UK. For example, if an individual was made subject to an order in one of the devolved Administrations and then moved to London, the risk they posed could be managed through enforcing the original order.

The Government recognise that making changes through regulations under the clause would broaden the offence in clause 29(1). The Bill therefore provides for the regulations to be subject to the affirmative resolution procedure in order to provide the appropriate level of parliamentary scrutiny.

Clause 31 ensures that the court proceedings for the determination of applications for orders against children and young people under part 2 of the Bill are managed appropriately. It sets out certain circumstances—essentially, whether it is in a young person’s interest—in which rules of court may allow a youth court to deal with a person aged 18 or over in respect of applications for slavery and trafficking prevention and risk orders.

First, the clause provides that the rules of court may allow the youth court to give permission for it to hear an application against a person aged 18 or over when an application has also been made against a person under 18 and the youth court thinks that it would be in the interests of justice for the applications to be heard together. Secondly, rules of court may set out how to deal with cases against a person who is under 18 but reaches the age of 18 during the proceedings. The rules of court may set out the circumstances in which the proceedings may or must remain with the youth court and also make provision for transfers to an adult magistrates court, where that is the appropriate response. I hope that the Committee will support the inclusion of both clauses in the Bill.

Photo of Michael Connarty Michael Connarty Labour, Linlithgow and East Falkirk

We are on the cusp of a political change in the United Kingdom. Whether we get a yes or no vote on 18 September, if we continue as we are I think we will eventually end up with a yes vote, because I do not think that the Scottish people want to continue with what they sometimes see as a role of subservience to the laws of the rest of the UK. Despite people’s lack of understanding, I believe that Scotland does have a social structure and set of moral aspirations that are different from those held by many of the people who appear to accept the way we do things through the UK in England.

I hope that Scotland will one day take a decision to take the kind of approach that was taken in Italy. International criminal organisations are massively international and flexible, and they do not recognise Governments, borders or politics. The only way to deal with the mafia was to pass a law such that suspicion meant that a person was immediately beyond the pale, their assets were seized and their ability to carry out criminal transactions was halted because it was their assets that gave them power. If anyone would like to study the mafia battles, which included, of course, the killing of quite a few prominent judges—it was a very violent organisation as well as being very large, with links to America and many of the drug-producing countries of the world—they will see that the only way to deal with that kind of organisation was to say, “If you are suspected, you are immediately removed, particularly in asset terms.” Nothing in the Bill takes that stance. I would hope that some courage might be shown in a debate in Scotland and that that would be the stance, because it is the only way to deal with it.

I have been to the Serious Organised Crime Agency and seen the model it has created of international criminality in people trafficking, which is like a multi-dimensional, multi-layered spaceship to look at because it is so tortuous. To deal with that, we have to unplug it from its power source, which is money and assets. It is money that makes those people tick and function. The orders are useful, but they will not deal with the problem. Is the Minister willing, in cross-border enforcement and the meek, mild-mannered approach to crime that I see in England and Wales, to take a lead from Scotland? Is she willing to take the lead from a country with a different moral stance and approach?

I read the provision as one that will be enacted in reverse, in the sense that Scotland will be expected to line up with the orders and not show the way. I would hope that it would show the way and the UK would follow. There is a lack of vision in the English approach. It is unfortunate, but I do not think they are offering to take a lead from another country and bring a much bolder approach to English law to tackle that massive criminal organisation that exploits children and other people in society.

Photo of Karen Bradley Karen Bradley The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department 4:00, 9 September 2014

I do not wish to repeat our earlier discussion about the role of the devolved Administrations, nor do I wish to dictate to those devolved Administrations. Scotland and Northern Ireland are working on their own modern slavery offences, and I look forward to seeing them and working with them to ensure that we can tackle the problem together.

Question putand agreed to .

Clause 30 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 31 ordered to stand part of the Bill.