All 1 Debates between Baroness D'Souza and Lord Warner

Modern Slavery Bill

Debate between Baroness D'Souza and Lord Warner
Monday 8th December 2014

(9 years, 6 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Warner Portrait Lord Warner (Lab)
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My Lords, I rise to move Amendment 66 and speak to Amendment 68 in this group. I am pleased to see that the noble Lord, Lord Bates, has been in his place for some time. No doubt he will have noted the warm words given to his colleagues from another department about the concessions granted during consideration of the Consumer Rights Bill in this House. I am sure that he will want to be no less able to receive such tributes from us all at the end of this particular Bill.

Amendment 66 would remove subsections (1) and (2) of Clause 41 and replace them with a broader, more ambitious and clearer description of the functions of the anti-slavery commissioner. These changes are more in keeping with the advice in the report of the Joint Committee on the draft Bill, of which I was a member, based on the evidence that we received. We received a very large amount of evidence on this issue, particularly from those rapporteurs and quasi-commissioners in other countries with long experience of working in this sphere.

My Amendment 66 proposes that the wording of the Joint Committee’s own draft Bill, at Clause 33(1) on page 28 of the Joint Committee’s report, should be used in place of the Government’s approach. Amendment 68 elaborates that role internationally and in terms of partnership working. There is a fundamental difference between the Joint Committee’s view of the anti-slavery commissioner’s role and that of the Government. As the Home Office Minister told us rather graphically in oral evidence—captured in paragraph 156 of the committee’s report for those who wish to see it in all its glory—the commissioner was intended to be,

“the person who put the rocket up the law enforcement agencies”.

Thankfully, she did not go into more detail on how that might be done.

The Joint Committee’s approach was to define the role rather less colourfully but more broadly. Based on the evidence from overseas, particularly that from the highly effective Dutch and Finnish national rapporteurs, we saw the commisioner’s role as covering what we called the three Ps of combating modern slavery: prevention, protection and prosecution. To these we added a fourth P: partnership. As we said on page 84 of our report:

“It is essential that the Commissioner is empowered to work with national and international partners and to promote and facilitate domestic and international collaboration on the part of others”.

My Amendment 66 is broadly drawn and enables the commissioner to undertake the four Ps that I have mentioned. My Amendment 68 makes the international dimension explicit and makes clear that the commissioner is not restricted to the enforcement agencies as to where he distributes his “rockets”, to borrow Karen Bradley’s terminology.

I recognise that this more widely drawn role may well not commend itself to Home Office Ministers and officials. However, I would ask them to go back and read, or reread, the evidence given to the Joint Committee from experienced overseas equivalent commissioners. The unanimity of view among those witnesses was astonishing. Perhaps I may give the House a few examples from that evidence specifically on the importance of the role of embracing protection of victims. The US Ambassador-at-Large to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, Luis CdeBaca, emphasised the indivisibility of protection, prosecution and prevention. The Dutch rapporteur said:

“Protecting victims and prosecuting criminals are two sides of the same coin”.

These witnesses found it strange that we should be going to all the trouble of fashioning a Modern Slavery Bill and then appointing an anti-slavery commissioner with such a narrow remit. The Modern Slavery Bill evidence review has recommended that the commissioner should,

“represent and give a voice to the concerns and best interests of victims and survivors of modern slavery”.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees concurred.

Despite this evidence, the Home Secretary has chosen to draw the remit narrowly in the present draft of Clause 41. Even though the victims are mentioned in Clause 41(1)(b), it is only in terms of “identification”. There is nothing about their protection in the commissioner’s role, as the Joint Committee clearly recommended in paragraph 160 of its report. As we said there: this,

“is fundamental to achieving the Government’s aim of improved law enforcement”.

If the commissioner is to be given a wider role, as the amendments in this group all propose, he clearly has to have the freedom to decide the priority for his work within the budget available to him and to expect his reports to be available promptly to Parliament. That is why we had what I suggest was the forceful discussion on his independence during our previous Committee day, and why I and others will be challenging the Home Secretary’s control in the next group of amendments. These groups of amendments are all of a piece; they are all about the independence of this commissioner including a wide brief that will enable him to help the country to combat trafficking and exploitation of victims, both here and abroad. The Home Secretary really has to think again on these issues if she wants the kind of world-class Act which she claims will result from this Bill to be a reality. I beg to move.

Baroness D'Souza Portrait The Lord Speaker (Baroness D’Souza)
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If this amendment is agreed to, Amendments 66A to 67ZAA cannot be called by reason of pre-emption.