Clause 48 - Identification of potential victims of slavery or human trafficking

Part of Nationality and Borders Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 9:25 am on 2 November 2021.

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Photo of Stuart McDonald Stuart McDonald Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Home Affairs) 9:25, 2 November 2021

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship again, Sir Roger. Last week, I was speculating about how long the Immigration Minister might be in post, but I was still shocked. Seriously, we all pass on our best wishes to him for a speedy recovery. I congratulate the Lord Commissioner of Her Majesty’s Treasury, the hon. Member for Calder Valley, on his temporary promotion.

On the whole, we have stayed out of debates on the clause, despite having lots of sympathy for what the shadow Minister, the hon. Member for Halifax, has been saying. The clause largely applies only to England and Wales—distinct legislation is in place in Scotland and Northern Ireland. However, one part of the clause amends the “Interpretation” section of the 2015 Act and that does extend to Scotland and Northern Ireland. With the amendment, we are just posing some questions for the Minister. I appreciate that it is not easy for him to answer in these circumstances, so anything in writing afterwards would be more than acceptable.

Under the 2015 Act “victim of slavery” and “victim of human trafficking” are defined as applying to people who are victims of those respective crimes in the first couple of sections of that part of the legislation. That seemed a logical, straightforward and consistent way of doing things—define the criminal offences and then set out support regimes for victims of those offences. I have heard no complaint that that definition causes problems, but clauses 48 and 57 of the Bill—to which my amendments relate—will use a different definition of modern slavery.

The new definitions do not totally supplant the existing definitions of victims of modern slavery or trafficking in the 2015 Act, but they add a new and potentially different definition for the purposes of identification and support of the victims. The question therefore arises as to why we should have one definition of a victim for some purposes, but another for the purposes of identifying those to be supported? If there is to be a different definition, why is it not on the face of the Bill? Why is it, somewhat bizarrely, left to the Secretary of State to define in regulations what must be two of the most fundamental concepts for the purposes of this part of the Bill?

We do not know how the Secretary of State will use the powers, so that is another question for the Minister: what is the intention? It could be that she wants to be generous and to adopt a wider definition for the purposes of identifying and supporting victims and survivors. In line with other provisions of the Bill, however, it could be that she wants to be more restrictive and to confine the category of people who can get support to a much narrower group. If Parliament really wants to be back in control, it should not be allowing the Government to pass legislation such as this. I simply ask the Minister for an explanation as to why it has been done in this way.