University President, Professor De Meyer; Professor Kirpal Singh; Your Excellencies, Distinguished Guests: I am honoured to have been invited to deliver the Wee Kim Wee Lecture – not least because of his own belief that education is central the cultivation of good citizenship. And where better to deliver such a lecture than at Singapore Management University – which like the university where I hold a chair, Liverpool John Moores, is a modern civic university? And when better than to consider some of these questions than at the end of a week in which Singapore has been commemorating the memory of its founding father, Lee Kwan Yew.
When Dr.Singh asked me to take as my subject “Education for Citizenship” he asked me to do so in the context of a world which is being convulsed by violence and conflict and disfigured by intolerance and civic disaggregation – such a contrast to one of Singapore’s, and Lee Kwan Yew’s, central achievements.
In the UK – and it is true in other jurisdictions – there has been a run of confidence in national institutions. Banks have seen their reputations tarnished by deliberate mis-selling and the financial crisis; the media by phone hacking; Parliament by falsified expense claims; many aspects of social and economic life in turmoil. Trust in our institutions has been badly damaged and is in need of renewal.
Henry David Thoreau once asked: “How can you expect the birds to sing when their groves are cut down.” By educating for citizenship we will be planting new trees from which the birds will once again sing. All societies and institutions are in constant need of renewal and regeneration.
Singapore is renowned for its meritocracy – but meritocracies must always guard against leaders becoming a detached elite. A fundamental principle of democratic leadership is to serve those whom you have been entrusted to lead. Educating for citizenship must inspire a new generation imbued with the concept servant leadership capable of renewing institutions and the vibrancy of society.
Dr.Singh reminded me of the time when we routinely taught every child something which we called “civics”, when we saw education as being about a preparation for life, not just for work.
It was a British Member of Parliament, Sir William Curtis, who, at the end of the eighteenth century, used the phrase “the three Rs” – reading, writing and arithmetic – to emphasise the basic skills which every individual needs to be employable or to access higher levels of education.
The idea has even earlier origins. In the fifth century Saint Augustine in his “Confessions” noted that “For those first lessons, reading, writing and arithmetic, I thought as great a burden and penalty as any Greek.” Winston Churchill famously admitted that learning Latin had for him been a burden – saying that he saw little purpose in learning how to address a table in six different ways.
Education can, indeed, become a burden or a penalty if it degenerates into an obsession with memorising vocabulary or merely understanding quadratic equations.
Charles Dickens captured the futility of this kind of education in his classic novel, Hard Times. His fictional teacher, Thomas Gradgrind never sees education as being about values or about the deepening of a man’s mind but tells us “Now, what I want is Facts. Teach these boys and girls nothing but Facts. Facts alone are wanted in life. Plant nothing else, and root out everything else. You can only form the minds of reasoning animals upon Facts; nothing else will ever be of any service to them.”
But is a world of the “three Rs” and an education based merely on the regurgitation of facts – a world of numbers and memorised rote learning – enough?
In Dickens’ fictionalised account, Gradgrind creates a world devoid of humanity, compassion, or gentle intellectual inquiry and fails both as a teacher and as a father – seeing his own son becoming a thief.
Contrast Gradgrind’s view of education with that of the first words of the Confucian classic, “The Great Learning”, where it is said “The way of great learning consists in manifesting one’s bright virtue, consists in loving the people, consists in stopping in perfect goodness.”
Or contrast a Gradgrind education with John Henry Newman’s description of what a university should be: “It is a seat of wisdom, a light of the world, a minister of the faith, an alma mater of the rising generation. It is this and a great deal more.”
Newman listed the intellectual virtues as “good sense, sobriety of thought, reasonableness, candour, self-command and steadfastness of view.” In the “knowledge economy” where there is less time for learning for its own sake, we must be careful not to replace Gradgrind’s narrow vision with our own equally narrow one.
Once the mind has been formed and the intellect has been connected with the foundational principles, a modern civic education must surely have something to say about how we inter-act with our fellow citizens and the world in which we live.
Instead of merely educating for facts, we must, therefore educate for virtue: educate for citizenship. What do I mean by this?
An education for citizenship would enable young people, in particular, to reach beyond academic attainment alone – to think, enquire, debate and understand how decisions will affect their lives and the future of their nation and the world.
If we educate young people for citizenship we will need to lay before them potential ethical dilemmas, moral conundrums, technological and scientific challenges, the rapidly changing pace of living; world crises – ranging from hunger, to the use of violence and terror, to global warming, to the exploitation of finite resources.
A civic education must, above all, underline the moral significance of self-knowledge – enabling us to see ourselves as agents in the way we live and affect others. We need citizens who embrace the idea of ethical responsibility for their individual and collective actions.
This kind of education will be the antidote to intolerance and barbarism; the antidote to ignorance.
It was C.S.Lewis who warned against educators who “make men without chests”, who cease to be educators and become what he calls “conditioners”. He said that “The task of modern education is not to cut down jungles but to irrigate deserts. The right defence against false sentiments is to inculcate just sentiments. By starving the sensibility of our pupils we only make them easier prey to the propagandist when he comes.”
In a characteristically blunt turn of phrase Lewis says that through our hollowed-out education system we treat our children like “geldings. We bid them be fruitful only to neuter them.” But it needn’t be like this.
Matthew Arnold – poet, educationalist and son of Thomas Arnold, the famous Victorian headmaster – passionately believed that education should ensure that students have access to “the best which has been said and thought” and never simply be focused on the mercantile needs of an industrial State: “The aim and office of instruction… is to enable a man to know himself and the world… To know himself, a man must know the capabilities and performances of the human spirit… [which is] the value of the humanities… but it is also a vital and formative knowledge to know the world, the laws which govern nature, and man as a part of nature.” So, self knowledge and knowledge of what is expected of you in playing your part in society is central.
In contemporary terms this surely requires a compact between educationalists, commerce and the State to produce graduates who connect with the wider needs of society. This is especially true now that there is mass participation in university education. By educating for citizenship we will also be providing better graduates for business and employers and in forming agents for change. Contrast the following two world views.
Nelson Mandela, having been incarcerated for 27 years, correctly observed that “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world”.
Elsewhere in Africa, in Nigeria, where elections have been underway this weekend, Boko Haram – which means eradicate Western education – also understands the power of education – which is why they abduct young girls to deny them an education and, in cold blood, murder sleeping student in their dormitories.
No one better understands the power of education, and more courageously articulates the first of those two world views, than the youngest Nobel laureate, Pakistan’s Malala Yousafzai, whom the Taliban tried to murder after Malala spoke up for the right of girls to receive an education. As Malala says: One child, one teacher, one book, one pen can change the world.”
How right is the old Chinese proverb which states that if you want to plant for one season, you should plant a seed; if you want to plant for ten years, you should plant a tree; but if you want to plant for life, you should give a young man or woman an education.
I passionately believe that; and believe that a rounded education will go beyond the mantra of reading, writing and arithmetic or the formulaic facts of Thomas Gradgrind.
Let me explain what I mean by suggesting a different formulation of another three Rs: Respect, Rights and Responsibilities.
1 First, Respect:
Education, and formation of the masses, must enrich the intellect, cultivate virtues and good tendencies, and engender a spontaneous uprightness of the will, shape instincts and conscience, and steer us towards respect for one another, especially respect for divergent beliefs and diversity – principles familiar to any Singaporean.
I was struck by, and agree with something which Chiam See Tong said while he was a member of the Singapore Parliament:
“The most important thing is that you have to respect an individual, whether he’s got six Cs or six As and whether he’s a brain surgeon or a dustman. I think we should give him the same respect. If you don’t give respect to your own citizens, I think you condemn them forever.”
But should respect trump all other considerations?
In 1644 John Milton, in the Areopagitica wrote: “Give me the liberty to know, to utter, and to argue freely according to conscience.” A passionate defence of free speech but nothing here about respect.
Free speech – and the right to argue according to conscience – is something to be greatly prized. People have died for the right to free speech but no right, including this one, can exist in a vacuum and without a suitable respect for another person’s beliefs or culture. If we always have the importance of respect in mind we will achieve better balance – and balance must always be struck.
All freedoms must be tempered by mutual respect – which is why hate-speak or the ridiculing, for instance, of deeply held religious beliefs can be become inflammatory and offensive – and, as we saw in Paris, may have fatal consequences.
Whipping up hated against minorities or against people who are simply different from you will inevitably disrupt the harmony and good order of society. Equally, imprisoning a young man for expressing on his Facebook site that he does not believe in God – as happened in Indonesia – is wholly disproportionate. Once again, a correct balance has not been struck.
If we are to be truly responsible citizens then, whatever our outlook, our beliefs, our profession or job, at all costs we must avoid a clash of blind fundamentalism, what Matthew Arnold, in his poem, “Dover Beach” described as a place “where ignorant armies clash by night.”
All of which underlines why, to avoid ignorance, and to ensure that our consciences are formed in a manner which enables us to make prudential judgements, we need appropriate forms of education.
At the heart of what we teach must be a respect for others and for law, and the placing of fetters on the unbounded autonomy of the individual, what Edmund Burke described as “order that keeps things fast in their place”. This must be a part of the formation of every citizen. Educating for citizenship will cultivate respect for the dignity of difference.
But can this be done in the school room or university lecture theatre alone?
There is an old African proverb that – it needs everyone including, our educational institutions, the family, religious and secular leaders. Everyone is born into a network of relationships – beginning with the family – and this is a partnership which must spread across generations.
The African concept of Ubuntu – which is sometime translated as “humanity towards others” – might well inform the sort of questions which the whole tribe should be asking itself about what it stands for; and whether right balances are being struck.
What sort of questions, then, might we be asking ourselves? Here are a few that have been suggested.
Do we respect one another; do we respect our parents and families; do we respect our civic institutions; do we respect those who are different – perhaps for reasons of race, religion, class, gender or orientation?
How do we ensure that vulnerable groups are not made more vulnerable or stigmatised – especially engendering respect for people with disabilities or the elderly?
Do we respect the finite resources entrusted to us?
Do we use them in a sustainable way?
Do we respect our environment – from the streets and neighbourhoods where we live to respect for the natural world?
Do we actually bother to ask what creates respectful and good communities?
Do we understand the importance of respectful relationships in sustaining society?
And do we ask how can we strengthen that which is local and unleash the power of creative citizenship?
How might we use the markets and our economies to re-order priorities, to reduce the sense of alienation, to encourage mutual respect?
Are we going to turn our fire on the weapons of mass consumption, our addiction to hedonism, materialism and affluent barbarism?
The Jewish sage Hillel was right when he said: “If I am not for myself, who will be? But if I am only for myself, what am I?”
Or, as Dr.Seet I Mee said in 2011: “Life is not just about shoes and mobile phones.”
Are we only for ourselves; just for our possessions? Or are we educated to ask ourselves how we will use our gifts, our wealth, our time, in an outpouring for the common good?
Do we appreciate the privileges and liberties which we enjoy and how do we create a tolerant, inclusive and respectful civil society.
It was Edmund Burke who once observed: “It is easy to give power, but difficult to give wisdom.” How, then, can a civic education help in cultivating wisdom and virtue? How can it help us strike an appropriate balance between respecting others whilst seeking to uphold our own rights? And what do we mean by rights – the second of my three “Rs”?
In modern politics the language of rights and choice has become a mantra. In “After Virtue” Alasdair MacIntyre demolishes the idea that rights themselves can replace the richer language of personal and civic virtue.
Civil society has become uncivil as modern citizenship has been perceived in terms of rights alone. An exaggerated emphasis on rights shorn of duties breaks a delicate balance and creates a chronically disordered society.
John Stuart Mill saw rights as a scaffold erected by society, on which we can hang the things which permit human and societal development. The contrary view of rights is that they are not created by law but that they exist for themselves and that the law simply places them on a legal footing. This argument can be circular and, rather than arguing about the origins of rights, we would be better served by simply identifying the rights which best serve us – and which best serve the common good.
In educating for citizenship I would frame the debate about rights in the context of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights – and which had its genesis in the experiences of the concentration camps of Nazi Germany and atrocities committed here in the East at the hands of their allies.
During the Second World War the Allies adopted four basic war aims: freedom from fear; freedom from want; freedom of speech and freedom of religion. Article 18, which uphold the right to believe, to change belief, or not to believe, is honoured in its breach but this “orphaned right” desperately needs to be upheld in areas of conflict the world over.
The 1948 Declaration was the first global expression of rights to which every human being is entitled – 30 Articles which adumbrates the right to life, and rights of conscience, freedom of speech, religious liberty and many others.
Many of the Articles have subsequently been incorporated in international treaties, national constitutions, and many diverse legal instruments – and form the bedrock of organisations such as the Council of Europe and the Commonwealth.
The Charter of the United Nations “reaffirmed faith in fundamental human rights, and the dignity and worth of the human person.” The Charter required its signatories to promote “universal respect for, and observance of, human rights and fundamental freedoms for all without distinction as to race, sex, language or religion.”
Like civil society at a local community level or at national level, imperfect institutions like the United Nations will only ever be as good as their component parts – but all of them are indispensable to good order.
One of the UN’s greatest Secretary Generals, Dag Hammarskjold said “The UN wasn’t founded to take mankind to paradise but rather to save humanity from hell.”
Hammarskjold understood the fine balance which must always be struck between the rights we cherish and our commensurate civic obligations as citizens:
“The health and strength of a community depends on every citizen’s felling of solidarity with other citizens and on their willingness in the name of this solidarity to shoulder their part of the burdens and responsibilities of the community. The same is, of course, true of humanity as a whole.”
Humanity as a whole, through the small platoons of civil society – starting with the family – must learn the art of shouldering their responsibilities.
Whether we are talking about our duties to our family and neighbours or our duty as nations, we need to teach and assert that with every right comes a responsibility, a duty and an obligation. So, in moving from rights to the third of my the “Rs” I would argue that rights must be balanced by responsibilities.
Aristotle believed that the requirements for a “good” city, a “good” society or a “good” person all stemmed from the belief that we are all “social animals” – and interdependent: “not solitary pieces in a game of chequers”. It is for each of us to work out what responsibilites this places on us as we try to discover what it means to be fully human and in deciding how we cultivate a common life together. But that is also where education and formation is so fundamental.
Do we teach citizens to balance claimed rights by embracing our responsibilities, our duties, our obligations to one another? Do we teach them to play their part – not to opt out.
Cicero, in his work “On Duty” said that “the whole glory of virtue is in activity”. What was true for the Romans is true, also, for us: by actively participating in voluntary organisations, charities, philanthropy – an example of which we saw here at the outset of this evening’s lecture – and civil society – in the small platoons – we learn a practical wisdom and in doing so we become better, more virtuous people.
In 2005, a formidable American academic, Mary Ann Glendon coined the pithy phrase ‘Traditions in Turmoil’ as the title for her analysis of the jettisoning of the ties which bind and the abandonment of duties.
Consider for a moment the consequences of discarding values and virtues once taught by parents and re-enforced by educationalist and by civil society, and simply replacing them with the flaccid language of rights and entitlements.
If we are to educate for citizenship, we need a richer language of responsibilities, duties and obligations – a language which comes with the privilege of sharing in the common life of a nation or community. Educating for citizenship is educating us to know ourselves. Let me give a couple of examples.
Singapore has always had strict laws, strongly enforced, against corruption. That is to be admired.
But beyond being told that corruption, stealing or lying is wrong, we also need to know what it is about them that makes them unacceptable. Rules must genuinely serve the development of judgement.As G.K.Chesterton once remarked: To have a right to do a thing is not at all the same as to be right in doing it” – we need the judgement to know the difference.
Or, take science. All of us celebrate the extraordinary achievements of science – but we know that a scientist devoid of ethics, just like an entrepreneur devoid of a sense of responsibility to his employees, consumers, or shareholders, can become a danger to us all.
If I can paraphrase Albert Einstein, science that is devoid of ethics is lame; but, equally, ethics or philosophy without an understanding of science is blind.
Science – just like commerce – must be guided by a civic sense of working for all, not just for oneself.
Einstein asserted that misuse of science could only be countered “by those who are thoroughly imbued with the aspiration toward truth and understanding. …I cannot conceive of a genuine scientist without that profound faith.”
It is a sobering thought that more than half of the participants at Hitler’s 1942 Wannsee Conference, which planned what was called “the final solution to the Jewish question” – that is the extermination and murder of Europe’s Jewish people – were either medical practitioners or in receipt of other academic doctorates. Nazi collaborators included a cast of scientists, doctors, judges, lawyers, philosophers and academics. It’s very easy to be corrupted.
Manifestly, science operating in an ethical void carries huge risks for any society. The writer, H. G. Wells, understood what would happen if we fail to appreciate the role of education in fostering a civilised society, where personal civic responsibility is cultivated in each person, insisting that “Maintaining civilisation is a constant race between education and catastrophe”.
To avoid catastrophe, then, we must educate and always educate for virtue, for virtuous citizenship. This principle must be applied across the piece – always encouraging us to ask the right questions about what we are doing and our motive for doing it.
Making money and enjoying it, for instance is clearly not in itself wrong – but has it become an end in itself?
A civic education would encourage us to consider the role of individual and corporate philanthropy, the duty to support the widow, the orphan, the disadvantaged. It would encourage us to develop and examine our conscience. It was Socrates who said that an unexamined life is not worth living.
If we were to educate for citizenship we would enshrine the responsibilities of each person: to live peaceably; to participate in civic institutions and the processes of local and national government; to contribute to the resourcing of commonly beneficial institutions; to acquire knowledge and to encourage the pursuit of knowledge in children; to learn respect for the needs of others; to behave ethically; and to appreciate how legitimate rights have been acquired; to cherish them; and to lear how to strike balances.
We would cultivate a respect for customs, laws and institutions which serve the common good and harmony of society; we would cultivate a belief in the supreme importance of the rule of law; we would share our stories and shared histories and memorialise the lives which bequeathed our liberties; and we would cultivate a reverence for the impulses and altruistic outpouring which can accompany the religious faiths which animate billions of people throughout the world.
But beyond these three Rs of Respect, Rights and Responsibilities, what more might we say – especially about educating for virtue?
What are some of the origins of these ideas?
In the West, Aristotle’s ancient virtues continue to inform the debate about how we educate for good ethics and good citizenship. They are:
These ideas, along with Judaeo-Christian ideals – faith hope and charity – are captured by Thomas Aquinas and continue to inform both religious and secular discourse.
In the East, Aristotle’s belief in the promotion of personal virtue sits well alongside the Confucian concept of ren: “compassion” or “loving others.” For Confucius, such concern for others is demonstrated through the practice of forms of The Golden Rule:
“What you do not wish for yourself, do not do to others;”
“Since you yourself desire standing then help others achieve it; since you yourself desire success then help others attain it.”
Like Christ he teaches that such altruism can be accomplished only by those who have learned self-discipline.
He also says that “To put the world right in order, we must first put the nation in order; to put the nation in order, we must first put the family in order; to put the family in order, we must first cultivate our personal life; we must first set our hearts right” – a pretty good prospectus for any educator.
If we are to be educated active citizens who wish to serve the common good we must begin with ourselves As Ghandi says: “You must be the change you want to see in the world”
Equally, in many places the Holy Qur’an makes it clear that everyone will be responsible for their own deed – and held accountable for what they did – an “upright society” beginning with the individual.
And the Buddha reminds us of the responsibility each of us has, to choose our words carefully and to recognise the effect that they and our actions have on wider society: “Whatever words we utter should be chosen with care, for people will hear them and be influence by them for good or ill.”
The dasa-raja-dhamma sets out the basic framework of Buddhist ethics for those who govern and captures these ideas in ten words: 1 Dāna (charity); 2. Sīla (morality); 3. Pariccāga (altruism); 4. Ājjava (honesty); 5. Maddava (gentleness) 6. Tapa (self controlling; 7. Akkodha (non-anger); —8. Avihimsa (non-violence); 9. Khanti (forbearance); and 10. Avirodhana (uprightness)
And, from a humanist perspective, such virtues are well represented by the life and actions of nelson Mandela, who said “Our human compassion binds us the one to the other – not in pity or patronizingly, but as human beings who have learnt how to turn our common suffering into hope for the future.”
The virtues on which these ideas are based are acquired by practice. They are internal qualities perfecting the interior persona and, thus deeply affecting society as a whole. But they do not happen by accident; they have to be inculcated.
As I come to the end let me draw these thoughts about respect, rights and responsibilities together and reflect brieflky on some of the consequences when we fail to educate for citizenship.
If such indispensable civic virtues – which united East and West – are not passed from generation to generation, civic sinews will begin to deteriorate and atrophy. Let me remind you of a few manifestations of our disaggregated and dysfunctional society in the West.
During the height of the 2011 riots in Britain it was sickening to see a bleeding boy, attacked and robbed by those who first appeared to have come to his aid; or the 67-year-old killed because he tried to prevent arson; or the 11-year-old brought before the courts and convicted because, along with thousands of other looters, he exploited the breakdown in law and order.
Beyond our shock and anger we must also ask ourselves some deeper questions about the kind of society we have created and the kind of society which we want it to be. If we do not attend to the root problems, far worse will visit us in the future.
These same questions face all developed societies but let me briefly conclude by pointing to some of the consequences for my own country, the United Kingdom, in failing to educate for citizenship; failing to synthesise these 3 Rs of respect, rights and responsibilities.
I said our responsibilities begin with our children and our families. Britain is a country where family breakdown and the abandonment of children has led to 800,000 children having no contact with their fathers. In 2014 the Relationships Foundation estimated the economic cost of family breakdown at £46 billion.
The human costs are incalculable.
In 2014 there were 68,840 “looked after” children in care. One in ten children is severely neglected in childhood. In 2013 934,600 youngsters – aged 10-17 – were convicted of a crime.
According to the Children’s Society, 100,000 children run away from home every year. In 2012/13 14,863 children called Childline about suicide. Since it was founded in 1986, it has counselled more than a million children.
More than 140,000 people try to commit suicide every year – many of them young. Suicide accounts for 20 per cent of all deaths among young people aged 15 to 24.
Toxic loneliness leads to depression, despair and worse.
Last year, Samaritans answered 4.6 million calls from people in despair, which is one call every seven seconds. Also last year, 29.4 million anti-depressants were dispensed, which is a 334 % increase since 1985 at a cost to the National Health Service of £338 million.
The twenty first century is fast becoming a century of toxic loneliness – and any number of computer terminals and virtual reality friends on social networking sites are no substitute for human commerce and human kindness. The levels of loneliness, despair and depression are the backdrop against which we are living.
An estimated 1 million elderly people do not see a friend or neighbour during an average week; 7 million people are now living alone in Great Britain – entirely unprecedented in our history. 26% of households comprising just one and on present trends by 2016 36% of all homes will be inhabited by a single person.
Many families and communities face indebtedness on an unparalleled scale. Total personal debt in the UK has reached £1.43 trillion – not far short of the level of national debt ($1.47 trillion). Indebtedness on this scale is “intergenerational theft” and is unsustainable. It is also a reflection of our failure to educate for citizenship – both in terms of individual as well as collective responsibility.
To reverse these sort of trends will involve more than the General election now underway in the UK. It will require the renewal of our battered and compromised institutions and require us to reassess how we see ourselves as citizens and how we see our obligations and duties, our responsibilities as well as our rights. This will need our practical actions as well as a different way of thinking.
Although, during my time in the House of Commons I was not a member of her political party, I agreed with Margaret Thatcher’s observation, while she was Prime Minister, that: “We are not in politics to ignore people’s worries: we are in politics to deal with them”
Over seventy years ago, Prime Minister Winston Churchill, having described the fall of Singapore as “the worst disaster and largest capitulation in British history” would weep when he saw the destruction of the East End of London by Nazi bombardment.
Perhaps, in this context of the litany of indicators which provide the contours of our social ecology, we should shed a few tears ourselves. And to put the maladies right will require the wisdom and the actions of the whole tribe.
Churchill understood the importance of drawing a whole nation around a common cause: ‘All the great things are simple, and many can be expressed in a single word: freedom, justice, honour, duty, mercy, hope’.
These are all words which our society needs today.
It is sometimes said that the best time to plant a tree is twenty years ago but that the second-best time is now. We can despair at the civic deficit or we can do something about it. And civic education is the key. As to how we teach it. I’m with the American writer, Mark Twain, who said that “Education is not the filling a bucket but the lighting of a fire.”
Let’s not turn it merely into dry as dust studies of constitutions or Bills of Rights. Educating for citizenship is not a spectator sport or the preserve of a few well-meaning academics or specialists. It is the concern of us all and should be experienced as well as taught. Citizenship awards, like those promoted by my university in Liverpool, “service learning”, community endeavour all have their part to play – along with systematic teaching, across many different subjects, about what is expected of the citizen in a democratic society: about the formation of men and women for others.
When she was completing her tour of duty in London, a former Chinese Ambassador, Madam Fu Ying, told me that one of the memories which she would always treasure was when a young boy called Isaac, walked from his home in Wales to present a cheque for money he had raised for the earthquake disaster victims in Sichuan: “An ambassador will never forget that” she said. For me, it was an example of a young man who had been educated in what it truly means to be a citizen.
Let me end now with a story from ancient China about a man named Bian. Some of you will doubtless know the story already.
One day Bian found a large stone. It was actually an unpolished piece of the precious and highly valued stone, jade.
Bian was so excited by his discovery that he resolved to present the unpolished stone as a gift to the Emperor of China.
Unfortunately for Bian, when he received it the Emperor saw nothing except a large stone with its rough and disfigured surfaces.
Believing that Bian was trying to make a fool of him the Emperor angrily ordered Bian’s left foot to be amputated.
The Emperor died and Bian tried again – presenting the large stone to the new Emperor. Once again, the potentate reacted angrily, and seeing only the exterior of the unpolished stone, he ordered that Bian’s right foot should also be amputated.
Now a third emperor ascended the throne. The cruelly mutilated Bian asked to be brought to the Palace. For three days and nights he lay outside, clenching the jade in his arms.
This new emperor, exasperated but also intrigued, sent one of his courtiers to investigate and then ordered that the stone be polished to see what it concealed. This was when they discovered a stunning and beautiful jade hidden beneath the rough and ugly exterior.
A failure to cultivate what I have called the three Rs of Respect, Rights and Responsibilities will disfigure our society, just as Bian, in this tale, was disfigured.
By contrast, if we commit ourselves to educate for citizenship we, too, will be rewarded with a beautiful jade. We simply need to commit ourselves to do it.
Thank you again for inviting me to address you at SMU.
David Alton (Lord Alton of Liverpool) is Professor of Citizenship at Liverpool John Moores University and is Director of their Roscoe Foundation for Citizenship
Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB): My Lords, like the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, I would like to make a number of points about Motion A1, which my noble friend has laid before your Lordships’ House. In doing so, let me say first to my noble and learned friend Lady Butler-Sloss that she has been involved in the drafting of this legislation, as she said, even before it was presented as a Bill. However, on Report I passed an article to my noble friend Lord Hylton that he had written in 1996, and which I had kept, about the importance of safeguarding domestic migrant workers. No one has done more in your Lordships’ House than my noble friend Lord Hylton to champion their cause. That is why the noble Lord, Lord Bates, was right to pay tribute to him.
Although this risks becoming like a mutual admiration society, I join with the noble Baroness, Lady Royall, in congratulating the Minister on the exemplary way that he has handled the Bill. It has, throughout, been a bipartisan Bill—the Opposition have played a huge part in it, as have people from all Benches in your Lordships’ House—and a bicameral Bill, with a lot of interaction between both Houses. The right honourable Member for Birkenhead, Frank Field—we all wish him well as he recovers from his recent
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heart attack—chaired that important committee on the draft Bill. He is right to emphasise the totality of this Bill.
There is no one in your Lordships’ House, including my noble friend, who will put this Bill at risk in any way whatever, but making a good Bill even better is surely what Parliament is all about. We have made this provision better. I will come back to that in a moment, but it is worth pointing out that supply chain transparency, which my noble and learned friend referred to, was not even in the Bill after the pre-legislative scrutiny stage in another place; it was incorporated on the Floor of the House. Similarly, there was no provision in the Bill on domestic migrant labour when it began to go through its stages. We have been improving it as we have proceeded. The Minister will correct me, but I think in Committee and on Report—I was able to take part in all stages of the Bill—around 100 amendments, many of them emanating from the Government after the discussions we had in the meetings that the noble Lord organised for us, were incorporated into the Bill. That is why it is already so much better than when it began.
I take issue a little with my noble and learned friend. It is the job of parliamentarians to be here until Parliament is dissolved. We have not got to the last gasp; this is not Custer’s last stand, as she put it. I certainly do not regard people laying amendments before your Lordships’ House and giving them proper consideration, as we are doing, as blackmail. I think it unreasonable to suggest that. I ask the Government this in that context: why is it that an amendment that was incorporated on domestic migrant labour about a week ago in another place has taken so long to come back to your Lordships’ House? Why is it here on the penultimate day? Why could it not have been here on Monday, for instance, allowing for more consideration if time is really the issue?
As the noble Baroness, Lady Royall, rightly said, there is plenty of time for this to go to another place tonight. I have served in one or other of these Houses for the last 36 years. As the noble Baroness said, I remember the so-called wash-ups where we were here all night long dealing with things going between the two Houses until we got it right. Often, we got it much better as a consequence. I think back to the LASPO legislation. I moved an amendment concerning the legal aid provisions for people who had contracted mesothelioma. Your Lordships, across the House, were good enough to support it and it ping-ponged back and forth between both Houses. On the third time of asking, the Government relented and modified the legislation. That is our duty as parliamentarians: to seek as much as we can get and to recognise the moment when no more can be gained. I am sure that my noble friend, who has been in your Lordships’ House for a lot longer than I have been, will be able to remind your Lordships of plenty of such precedents. If we are here tomorrow again debating an amendment and the Commons decide that they do not wish to modify Motion A but wish to persist with it, then we will no doubt hear from the noble Lord what he wishes to do.
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I turn briefly to the substance of the amendment. Until we incorporated this new clause, the Bill contained nothing whatever to address the tying of migrant domestic workers to their employers. On two occasions in the last three weeks I have met domestic migrant workers on Cromwell Green, and I know that other Members of your Lordships’ House have done so too. They were brought here by the Kalayaan charity, which the noble Baroness referred to. They told me that when news of the vote in your Lordships’ House on my noble friend’s amendment was announced, a young woman called Marissa Begonia, herself a domestic worker and co-ordinator of the self-help group Justice 4 Domestic Workers, described how she received texts from workers asking her, “Am I free now?”. Unfortunately, of course, the answer is “Not yet”. However, I recognise that the Minister has gone some way today, particularly in what he said about the review, but that review can now take place anyway, regardless of what we decide regarding this amendment. These things are not mutually exclusive.
In a nutshell, the government amendment does not provide additional protections against exploitation. Once someone is trafficked, it forces them to go to the police without any guarantee of protection before they do so. One employment agency told me that it would not place someone on a six-month visa with no hope of renewal. As the noble Baroness, Lady Royall, said, there is a real risk that it could drive people underground—again, with no access to things such as legal aid.
My noble friend’s amendment merely asks for the most basic of protections, and they are threefold: first, to change employer but remain restricted to domestic work in one household; secondly, if in full-time work as a migrant domestic worker in a private household, the option to apply to renew the visa; and, thirdly, in instances of slavery, a three-month visa to allow the workers to look for decent work. Without these kinds of provisions, we leave in place a system found repeatedly during almost three years to facilitate exploitation, including trafficking of migrant domestic workers.
Many workers coming to Kalayaan describe how they have “sacrificed” themselves for the well-being of their wider family. They do not self-protect in the way that someone with more choices would expect. Many explain that they are prepared to put up with practically any amount of mistreatment if they can provide for their children and ensure that the same will not happen to them.
In 2009, the Home Affairs Select Committee, in its inquiry into trafficking, said that the visa issue was,
“the single most important issue in preventing the forced labour and trafficking of such workers”.
No one is so naive—I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Bates—to suggest or imagine that the exploitation of domestic workers would be abolished by such minimal protections, but they would certainly be an improvement on the current situation. The Minister referred to the anti-slavery commissioner designate, Kevin Hyland, and said that he did not feel that this went far enough. Well, he is right about that, so let us at least go as far
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as these amendments and as far as we can by regulation in due course, but let us do as much as we can for the moment.
When the Minister comes to reply, can he say whether the measures might include provisions—maybe as a result of the review—for annual inspections, for checks with the Inland Revenue to ensure that employers have registered and are making reasonable levels of contributions, and for annual meetings between the worker and a trusted authority? All those will be crucial. I believe that my noble friend is right to have laid this amendment before your Lordships’ House and I do not think that it is a question of this being Custer’s last stand. I hope that, from my noble friend’s point of view and because of all the things that he has done in raising this issue in the past, we will continue to give him our support if he chooses to press the matter to a Division.
We Must Send the Maldivian Regime a Clear, Unambiguous and Robust Message: Their Behaviour Is Unacceptable
Miscarriages of justice occur throughout the world, but few are as blatant and outrageous as the trial and thirteen-year prison sentence inflicted on the former president of the Maldives, Mohamed Nasheed.
Best known for its luxurious tourist resorts, pristine beaches and glistening sapphire-blue ocean, the Maldives is currently facing a human rights crisis and the destruction of its nascent democracy.
Seven years ago, the Maldives was held up as a rare example of a Muslim-majority country which made a peaceful, seemingly stable transition from authoritarian rule to multi-party democracy. Mr Nasheed, who led the struggle for democracy for almost two decades and spent many years in prison, solitary confinement and house arrest, defeated Asia’s longest serving dictator Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, who had ruled for thirty years, in the country’s first democratic elections in 2008. A transition to democracy which was begun by reformist ministers in the final years of Mr Gayoom’s rule appeared to have been successful.
That lasted for just under four years. In 2012 allies of Mr Gayoom struck back in a coup d’etat, forcing Mr Nasheed to resign the presidency. He was surrounded by mutinying police and soldiers, and threatened with death if he did not step down.
The following year fresh elections were held, but when Mr Nasheed was once again ahead in the first round, the regime cancelled the election and called for a re-run.
Several months later, Mr Nasheed just failed to win an outright majority in the first round, and was narrowly defeated in the second round by Mr Gayoom’s brother, Abdullah Yameen. The Gayoom family is now back in power, his brother as president, his daughter as Foreign Minister, and the old man manoeuvring behind the scenes.
Mr Nasheed is a graduate of Liverpool John Moores University, where I hold the chair as Professor of Citizenship and hosted a Roscoe Lecture delivered by the former High Commissioner for the Maldives, Dr Farah Faizal, after she resigned in protest at the overthrow of Mr Nasheed.
Throughout his ordeal, he has shown extraordinary good grace. Despite irregularities, he accepted the election result in 2013, in the interests of ‘stability’, and vowed to serve as leader of the opposition. Yet the regime has shown itself determined to get Mr Nasheed out of the way – for good. And so they seized on an incident from the final months of his presidency, and pressed charges.
Mr Nasheed was accused of “abducting” a judge, Abdulla Mohamed and charged under terrorism laws. Two such accusations against the Maldives’ symbol of non-violent democracy are in themselves absurd. Assassination threats have been made against his family and there are fears for his life.
During his presidency, Mr Nasheed tried to reform the judiciary but, consisting of Mr Gayoom’s appointees, he came up against vested interests. When allegations of corruption and misconduct were made against Judge Mohamed, the government tried to take action – but again the judiciary closed ranks. Judge Mohamed was accused of repeatedly acquitting known criminals, including murderers, who immediately re-offended, and thus was deemed to be a threat to national security. The Defence Minister ordered his arrest.
Mr Nasheed’s trial was an extraordinary farce. He was manhandled by the police, violently dragged into court, his shirt ripped, his arm injured. He appeared in a sling, but was denied medical treatment. For much of his trial, conducted late at night, he was refused access to legal representation. Two of the judges hearing the case provided witness statements for the prosecution. One of the judges already has a criminal record. The court refused to hear Mr Nasheed’s defence witnesses. Prosecution witnesses were allegedly coached by the police. It resembled the trial in Alice in Wonderland.
Upon hearing the verdict and sentence, on his twenty-first wedding anniversary, Mr Nasheed responded with typical courage and conviction. He called on Maldivians to take the streets, peacefully, in protest, and to begin a new movement to challenge the dictatorship. But he also displayed a remarkable absence of bitterness. “In this time of profound injustice, I harbour no hatred,” he told the court. “And to those who seek to destroy me, I say: I wish upon you good grace and blessings. I wish for good blessings upon us all, in this world and the next.” Comparisons with Nelson Mandela or Aung San Suu Kyi are deserved.
In new rules rushed in just before Mr Nasheed’s trial, an appeal must be lodged within ten days of sentencing. Mr Nasheed filed an appeal against his arrest, which the High Court was due to hear just two days after he had been sentenced. Yet the court insisted on a closed session, which Mr Nasheed rightly refused. Now, in the latest blow to due process, the Criminal Court only released the summary of the trial proceedings two days before the deadline for lodging an appeal against his sentence. They have still not released the full record of the proceedings, which are required for an appeal to be heard. His legal team have described this as “an obstruction” of his right to appeal.
Such a gross miscarriage of justice cannot go unchallenged by the international community. As an MDP spokesperson put it: “Democracy is dead in the Maldives. In its place, we have thuggish authoritarian rule.” Hundreds of Maldivians have been peacefully protesting every night in recent days – at least 120 of whom have been arrested and charged with “terrorism”. Police and criminal gangs have violently attacked peaceful demonstrations. there are also fears for Nasheed’s safety and that of his wife – following assassination threats.
The international community has started to speak out. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has expressed concern about the “hasty and apparently unfair trial”, while the UN Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers has said the trial makes a “mockery” of the Maldivian Constitution.
It is clear that Mr Gayoom’s regime does not respond to soft diplomacy. It is therefore time to speak to the regime in language it will understand, hitting it where it hurts: in its wallet. Targeted sanctions are needed. The European Union should freeze the assets of senior regime officials and their crony backers. A travel ban should be imposed on senior regime leaders. And a carefully targeted tourism boycott, aimed at resorts owned by regime associates, is needed. Sir Richard Branson has already called for such a boycott, and others should join that call.
Democracy, justice and human rights cannot be trampled on with such impunity in a country which had previously made such progress towards these values. This is a Commonwealth country and, given the Commonwealth Charter’s commitment to the rule of law, democracy and human rights, the Commonwealth has a particular responsibility to engage directly. If necessary, the Maldives should be suspended from the Commonwealth. Mr Nasheed should be nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. It is in all our interests to send the Maldivian regime a clear, unambiguous and robust message: their behaviour is unacceptable. Mr Nasheed must be released, the charges dropped and the democratic process restored.
At the very minimum, President Abdullah Yameen Gayoom could allay fears for the safety and well being of Mohammed Nasheed and his family by allowing them to leave the Maldives and travel to a country, such as the United Kingdom, where their safety could be guaranteed. In the longer term this might also permit some form of reconciliation, dialogue, and the restitution of due processes of law and democracy.
Ibind unto myself today The strong Name of the Trinity, By invocation of the same, The Three in One and One in Three.
Ibind this day to me for ever. By power of faith, Christ’s incarnation; His baptism in the Jordan river; His death on Cross for my salvation; His bursting from the spicèd tomb; His riding up the heavenly way; His coming at the day of doom;* I bind unto myself today.
I bind unto myself the power Of the great love of the cherubim; The sweet ‘well done’ in judgment hour, The service of the seraphim, Confessors’ faith, Apostles’ word, The Patriarchs’ prayers, the Prophets’ scrolls, All good deeds done unto the Lord, And purity of virgin souls.
Ibind unto myself today The virtues of the starlit heaven, The glorious sun’s life-giving ray, The whiteness of the moon at even, The flashing of the lightning free, The whirling wind’s tempestuous shocks, The stable earth, the deep salt sea, Around the old eternal rocks.
I bind unto myself today The power of God to hold and lead, His eye to watch, His might to stay, His ear to hearken to my need. The wisdom of my God to teach, His hand to guide, His shield to ward, The word of God to give me speech, His heavenly host to be my guard.
Against the demon snares of sin, The vice that gives temptation force, The natural lusts that war within, The hostile men that mar my course; Or few or many, far or nigh, In every place and in all hours, Against their fierce hostility, I bind to me these holy powers.
Against all Satan’s spells and wiles, Against false words of heresy, Against the knowledge that defiles, Against the heart’s idolatry, Against the wizard’s evil craft, Against the death wound and the burning, The choking wave and the poisoned shaft, Protect me, Christ, till Thy returning.
Christ be with me, Christ within me, Christ behind me, Christ before me, Christ beside me, Christ to win me, Christ to comfort and restore me. Christ beneath me, Christ above me, Christ in quiet, Christ in danger, Christ in hearts of all that love me, Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.
I bind unto myself the Name, The strong Name of the Trinity; By invocation of the same. The Three in One, and One in Three, Of Whom all nature hath creation, Eternal Father, Spirit, Word: Praise to the Lord of my salvation,
Salvation is of Christ the Lord.
Originally posted on :
For more on Croagh Patrick also see “Pilgrim Ways” (Chapter beginning at page 82)
Mountain tops – from Sinai to Tabor – along with the remote places and wildernesses have always been associated with numinous and significant spiritual experiences. Mountains can seem lonely, isolated or insurmountable, hostile for some but, for others, places of refuge. Our language is littered with idioms and expressions that invoke the imagery of mountains – faith moving mountains, mountains out of molehills, Mohammed coming to the mountain, and the rest.
The physical experience of climbing a mountain is accompanied by a commensurate spiritual experience as we set our sights on the high place where God is. In climbing we can both look down and back, considering where we were before: perhaps seeing it as a low place. On gaining the summit we may be rewarded by panoramic views and glimpse life’s bigger picture.
“(11A) The Secretary of State may by regulations appoint an organisation or an individual to collate slavery and human trafficking statements, and to maintain a website on which to publish those statements in a form in which the published data is searchable by members of the public without charge.”
Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB): My Lords, in introducing Amendments 3 and 6 to Clauses 54 and 57, which are based on Amendments 97A, 98A and 99A which we discussed on Report, I am grateful to my noble friend Lady Young of Hornsey, the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Derby and the noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy of Cradley, for adding their names and to other noble Lords in all parts of the House for the support they have expressed for the principles in these amendments at all stages, not least the noble Baroness, Lady Mobarik, on the government Benches, and my noble friend Lord Sandwich, who spoke at earlier stages of the Bill on the issues raised in these amendments.
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I start by reiterating the welcome I gave in Committee and on Report for Part 6, which is undoubtedly a major step forward in ensuring that supply chains are not being infiltrated by modern slavery. I return to the issue that I raised at Second Reading, in Committee and on Report and, indeed, through public correspondence in the correspondence columns of the Times. Noble Lords may have seen some of the letters that were signed by several Members of your Lordships’ House. At every stage of our proceedings when I have raised the issue, the Minister, the noble Lord, Lord Bates, has been most attentive and very generous with his time in listening to suggestions on how this part of the Bill might be improved and strengthened. I join others in echoing the remarks made on the previous group of amendments by the noble Lord, Lord McColl, who said how grateful we have all been for the way in which the Minister has engaged. I hope that we will see that again today when he comes to respond to these amendments, although I recognise that the way in which government works may well mean that he has perhaps not been able to gain the support of other arms of government. In those circumstances, only Parliament itself can make the decision, make the pace and ensure that if it believes that the principles in this amendment are worth incorporating, that is done.
These two amendments would allow, through regulation, for a central website to be established on which the slavery reports of businesses may be lodged. This has not only been supported by noble Lords; it has been consistently asked for by civil society groups, which have so much experience of working with businesses on supply chains. I was delighted to receive support from Amnesty International UK, Anti-Slavery International, CAFOD, the CORE coalition, Dalit Freedom Network UK, the Evangelical Alliance, Focus on Labour Exploitation, the Law Society, Quakers in Britain, Traidcraft, Unseen and War on Want. I am also grateful for the letter I received from the Equality and Human Rights Commission, which supported the principles outlined in the earlier Amendment 99A and reflected in the amendment today.
Without the incorporation of a central repository for slavery and human trafficking statements, the role that the Minister outlined on Report for civil society, investors, consumers and other agencies in holding big business to account would be very difficult, if not nigh on impossible, to fulfil. Just reflect for a moment on the substantial obstacles to accessing annual turnover information that indicates the companies that fall within the compliance threshold, let alone the vast number of different websites that would have to be trawled through, and it is patently obvious why a central repository must be established.
The successful basis of any measure intended to increase transparency is the ability of the public to access information, and as the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Derby said last week on Report,
“the modern tool for transparency is the website”.—[
, 25/2/15; col. 1741.]
Doubts were expressed on Report about whether the proposal for a central website enjoys the full support of Kevin Hyland, the designate Independent Anti-slavery
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Commissioner. I am glad to be able to tell your Lordships that, since Report, Mr Hyland has written me. These are his words:
“I can confirm I fully support the suggestion of a website as the central repository for reports as suggested by yourself and other noble Lords”.
He adds that without such a site and adequate resourcing of it,
“it will be unlikely to achieve the objective”,
but the creation of such a,
“repository with the right resource would, I believe, make a very positive difference”.
On Report, I also cited the highly responsible companies, some of which I met. The noble Lord, Lord Patel, and I met Primark. We also heard from Associated British Foods, and I know that some of your Lordships have heard from Sir Richard Branson and businessmen such as John Studzinski of Blackstone, who have argued for more transparency and equitable arrangements, so this is not a trivial matter. If we are serious about supply chains and tackling modern day slavery at source, our new commissioner says that this will “make a positive difference”, and I believe he is right.
Experience from overseas supports this judgment. Many noble Lords have been contacted by some of the groups involved in the implementation of the California Transparency in Supply Chains Act of 2010. They urge us to learn from their experience that people need to know which companies are required to comply with the law and that an official website to which companies upload their reports will be beneficial.
In a letter to the Minister, the Californian organisation Not For Sale said that the failure in California to create a centralised repository has made it,
“difficult to know which companies need to comply with the law, and which do not”.
In another letter, the Californian Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking say that the failure to make a provision of this sort has weakened the effectiveness of their legislation. Let us not make the same mistake.
On Monday this week, British church leaders also expressed their support for this provision, and 11 of them signed a letter in the Daily Telegraph urging the Government to incorporate into this Bill the principle of a central body to which businesses can report on what they are doing to eradicate slavery from their supply chains. Yesterday I was contacted by the Ethical Trading Initiative to express its support for this measure in general and for a central website in particular, which it regards as essential to achieving a level playing field. As noble Lords will be aware, the initiative is a coalition of major UK companies, trade unions and non-governmental organisations, including many familiar high street names that would be required to comply with this measure. It is worth hearing what they say:
“We would like to express our strong support for Clause 54 to ensure that a relevant government department or agency is appointed and resourced to publish a full list of all companies that are required to publish their statements on modern slavery in an accessible central website so that effective monitoring and accountability can be assured. We believe this would go a long way to levelling the playing field for ethical and responsible businesses, ensuring that they are not undercut by unscrupulous companies that operate under the radar of public scrutiny. We would
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also like to know that this will be monitored and updated regularly and that the quality of information provided by companies is evaluated against established criteria”.
To this long list of supporters I would like to add the Minister himself, as on Report he accepted the principle, saying that,
“we want to see these statements in one place so that people can monitor and evaluate them to ensure that the intended action takes place”.—[
, 25/2/15; col. 1750.]
However, sometimes, as we all know, Ministers, however good they are—and we have been fortunate in having one of the very best Ministers in the Government dealing with this Bill—are circumscribed by the limitations imposed by other departments whose officials may have other priorities. On such occasions, Parliament may need to insist on its own priorities, and we have a chance to do that today.
In conclusion, these amendments have attracted widespread support. They are necessary to enable full and meaningful public scrutiny under the transparency measure, and they will allow time for detailed questions on the resourcing and practicalities to be fully discussed before the regulations are made. I beg to move.
Baroness Kennedy of Cradley (Lab): My Lords, I speak in support of Amendments 3 and 6 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Alton of Liverpool, to which I have added my name. I very much hope that they will get the Government’s support today, as there is much on which we all agree regarding this issue. There is agreement across the House that civil society is critical to the success of this part of the Bill, and there is agreement that we expect civil society to review the statements and add pressure where pressure is due. We want the amendments—we need them, even—in order to be able to scrutinise, analyse, and where necessary challenge, business; and, importantly, to praise businesses for the steps they take to eradicate slavery in their supply chains. If we want businesses to fulfil that role, we need to facilitate their doing so, and Amendments 3 and 6 would do that.
I have seen calculations that estimate that if the threshold figure of more than £60 million is used, more than 10,000 businesses will be obliged to produce a statement. If that is the case, it is absolutely inconceivable that civil society, businesses, which want to learn from each other, or indeed the Government, who want to ensure compliance with their legislation, will be able to review 10,000 statements without the use of technology. Technology gives us the power to access information and bring about real change, which is the intention behind this part of the Bill and behind the statements. Let technology do the hard administrative work and be the engine that really drives forward supply chain transparency. Those involved in the California Act recognised that there was a gap in their legislation. We should listen and learn from their experience and not repeat their mistakes. As the noble Lord, Lord Alton of Liverpool, said, this is an enabling amendment that allows the technology and the responsible organisation or individual in the future to be decided by regulation.
In conclusion, we have to harness the power that technology can give us to increase transparent supply chains and drive change. I hope that the Government will support the amendment.
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The Lord Bishop of Derby: My Lords, I support these amendments and thank the noble Lord, Lord Alton, for his leadership. I associate myself with the remarks of the noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy, about websites and technology.
I have had the privilege of being in conversation with the Minister about the importance of this legislation and what we are trying to achieve for our country as a mark to the world: that is, helping business to develop and change its culture, and to take responsibility for good practice. Of course, the discipline of using a website will enable businesses to be accountable to their investors, their consumers and their shareholders in a transparent and open space. That will encourage good business practice and help the businesses that have fallen short to be challenged. Therefore, this very sensible and practical suggestion will not only help the Bill to achieve its objectives but will help the culture of business to change in a positive way and make the employment of people in slavery less likely.
I want to make a couple of other small points. Amendment 3 includes the word “may”. Therefore, it is inviting the Minister to agree to this direction of travel as a priority to deliver what we all want to achieve through the Bill. This has been a long journey and we have learnt a great deal on it. As other noble Lords have said, we have been extremely grateful for the way in which the Minister has listened, negotiated and developed the Bill appropriately when persuasion has been there. I think that that process will go on. The website will provide for learning to go on and, with practice, to develop.
My final point is that last week, in talking about the Gangmasters Licensing Authority, we were reminded that organisations like that were able to access proceeds of crime to help fund the work. If we need to find a way of funding a website, which could be quite labour-intensive in answering all the niggly questions to which people expect a reply, the proceeds of crime might be a proper place from which resourcing might be found.
Baroness Young of Hornsey (CB): My Lords, I support the amendment moved by my noble friend Lord Alton. The Minister has referred several times to the California Act during the passage of this Bill. In both Houses it has often been cited as a sort of reference point or a benchmark. We should learn from that experience. As has already been said, the Californians are saying that this is the one aspect that they regret having missed out on. They see the work embodied in the two amendments as an essential tool. The essence of this part of the Bill is transparency. We cannot have full transparency without information and knowledge.
As I said at earlier stages, many young people in particular, in the wake of disasters in the clothing industry such as Rana Plaza, are keen to know about the provenance of their clothing. As my noble friend Lord Alton has already noted, the internet is a key tool, and many young people—and some older people, too—use social media to communicate about companies they see as not upholding their values. Pressure from consumers is something that the Government have said they are keen on. It is a way of holding businesses to account and a way of ensuring that they think about their reputations and how to protect them.
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Therefore, consumers have some power. However, while I argue that it is not solely down to consumers to keep a check on unscrupulous businesses, I accept that they have a role to play. Without the requisite knowledge and information it is hard to play any kind of role at all.
How could such a role be played without the kind of centralised information, the potential for which this amendment allows the Secretary of State to explore? Who, apart from specialist researchers, would even know which companies met the threshold for inclusion under the Bill, let alone find the required statements from those companies that would enable them to make their choices? I wish we could say that all companies are so concerned about reputational damage that they act in ethical and sustainable ways, but unfortunately they do not. That is one of the reasons why we need the Bill. Good businesses have said that transparency is an aid for them, not a burden. Given the widespread support for this measure in the House, from business, NGOs and, indeed consumers, I hope that the Minister, who, as everybody has said, has been so helpful in not just listening to what we have had to say but in acting on so many of the concerns expressed here and elsewhere, will take this opportunity to respond positively to the amendment and help the Government to become genuine world leaders on this aspect of the Bill.
Baroness Butler-Sloss: My Lords, I strongly support Part 6 of the Bill but, as the Minister knows very well, there is quite a big gap. If businesses are to produce reports, there is no point in having them if they are looked at only by their own people. They need to be subject to independent and transparent scrutiny. That has to go somewhere. It seems absolutely clear that there has to be a central, independent website.
During the Select Committee, a number of big businesses came to talk to us and made it clear that they wanted level playing fields. Like the noble Lord, Lord Alton, I have been talking to big businesses recently which are very interested in and supportive of the idea of a website. I actually suggested to two big businesses to which I spoke—I will not refer to them by name because it would be unfair—that they, with other big businesses in the UK, might put forward the money to put up a website. So it would be not a government website but an independent one, and the businesses that want a level playing field should be prepared to pay for it. According to the sort of companies I have been talking to, it should be a very large sum of money.
I see this as something that might take some time, and the ethical trading organisation is one that it might very well work through, because it is involved with so many companies. It may be sensible for the Government to say, “Would you like to get big business?”. My idea was not thrown out as absolutely ridiculous. What companies were saying to me was, “We have to think about it”. So I am very aware that this would take some time, but it is important that, within a relatively short time, we have that transparency so that the companies which will be part of this system can have their reports scrutinised.
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It seems to me that, if the Government are prepared to accept in principle that they should look at a website —and, preferably, get someone else to pay for it—and they think in principle that this is what should happen, it should not be necessary to have it in primary legislation. It should be either by regulation or set up through government agencies or by government pressure on independent companies. So I support the principle and very much hope that it is not necessary to take this further.
Lord Young of Norwood Green (Lab): My Lords, I declare an interest as the ex-vice-chair of the Ethical Trading Initiative. I have spent a good few years of my life discussing with companies, trade unions and NGOs the complexities of supply chains. The noble Lord, Lord Alton, spoke of the positive endorsement of the Ethical Trading Initiative, and I hope that the Minister will be able to respond positively.
Although I agree with most of what the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, said, I did not quite agree with the conclusion. It is a principle that is worth including in the Bill because we have to recognise that all these companies are on a journey. The complexities of global supply chains, which stretch far and wide, are not easy to monitor by any means. We know what happens when it goes wrong, as we saw in Rana Plaza in Bangladesh. That is just one example of many. There are lots of other examples where, unfortunately, bonded labour and child labour exist in supply chains. There is cross-party support for this amendment and there is absolutely no doubt about its importance. I, too, congratulate the Minister, who has displayed good diplomacy and a willingness to help to ensure that we make this Bill as strong and as effective as we can. This is a key part of the effectiveness of the Bill.
Surely what we are hoping to do in creating a website like this is “encourager les autres”, as they say— my French is not very good but it means to encourage the others. We want people to say, “Here are the examples of best practice. Here is what every company ought to be aspiring to do”.
I will not take up any further time because so many, such as my noble friend behind me, have made all the key technical points. I look forward to the Minister’s response.
Baroness Hamwee (LD): I certainly took from the Minister’s long and careful response to the amendments on this clause at the previous stage that he entirely took the points that are being made today. He said that all of us are willing and keen to accept the principle that the statements ought to be put in one place and made easily searchable and identifiable. I take it from that and from other comments that this is something that the Government are working on.
The Minister then mentioned a two-day tech-camp. Frankly, that sounds terrifying, but I wonder whether he has any news of that. He issued a generous invitation to Members of the House to attend it. I am not sure whether I would be up to it myself, but it sounds as though it holds the seeds for taking this matter forward and I hope that he can give us a little more news.
The Earl of Sandwich (CB): My Lords, Third Reading is an occasion for tributes and I hope that the Minister is not too embarrassed to receive all these tributes.
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He has worked very passionately on the Bill and I congratulate him. We are asking a very small step of the Minister today. I mentioned this before. It was a small step then and remains small, although, even so, it may be the biggest step that he takes today.
My noble friend has put all the arguments so succinctly that I will not rehearse them. I add only one particular point, which is that I personally would not like to see the voluntary sector carrying the load of this responsibility. The way that the amendment is worded is very gentle. It states:
“The Secretary of State may by regulations appoint”.
It does not actually say that it has to be a government agency. That is the interesting thing about the amendment—it takes us just a very small step further.
I mentioned to the Minister at a private meeting that the situation of the groceries adjudicator may be a parallel to look at, but I would not want to wait for consultation. I do not agree with my noble and learned friend that we have to wait longer for that. I think that the House will decide today in favour of the amendment unless the Minister has something else.
Baroness Mobarik (Con): My Lords, I, too, add my name in support of the noble Lord’s amendment, which I believe will be helpful to both businesses and consumers. I am particularly pleased to note that the business community, through the Ethical Trading Initiative, has expressed its support. I echo what it said about the need for a level playing field. I am proud of what we have achieved on the Bill and I am committed to the journey that we have begun, so I very much hope that my noble friend will feel able to accept the amendment.
Lord Rosser: I will make one or two brief comments. I certainly do not want to repeat all the powerful arguments that have been put forward in support of these two amendments. But to reiterate what the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, said a moment or two ago, this is an enabling power for the Secretary of State. The amendment states “may by regulations”. It does not say “must”, and it does not specify who should be appointed. It simply says,
“appoint an organisation or an individual”.
I would have hoped that the Minister would feel able to go down this road, since it does not make a very specific commitment but it gives a positive indication of the direction in which we should be going.
It is heartening to hear from the noble Lord, Lord Alton of Liverpool, that Mr Hyland is in favour of what is proposed in the amendment and has described it as being “able to make a positive difference”. I think that that was the wording that was used. I would only conclude by reiterating what the Minister himself said on Report. He said:
“I think it is more important to get the principle there—that we are saying, with all these statements coming together, that clearly they need to be in one place. Whether that is civil society, an NGO, a commissioner or a government body is something that can be sorted out. But the principle is that we want to see these statements in one place so that people can monitor and evaluate them to ensure that the intended action takes place”.—[Official Report, 25/2/15; col. 1750.]
I really cannot see the difficulty with this amendment, since it achieves precisely the thing that the Minister said that he and the Government want to achieve.
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Lord Bates: First, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Alton —I think I want to thank him—for his amendment. In essence, it is like a number of these things. As the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, accurately surmised, we are more or less on the same page. The question is: do we at this stage want to have this written on the page, or do we want to leave it to something that we will come to a little later?
I sometimes get the sense—it might just be the Whip’s instinct in me—that people are preparing to take a run at testing the opinion of the House and they are galloping up the runway. I urge the noble Lord to bear with me a little while, while I try to set out what we are doing. I am putting on the record some things which I have not been able to put on the record before, but I am seeking to go further. I just ask him to keep an open mind as to whether at the end of this stage I have managed to convince him that, should he choose to withdraw, he will be withdrawing further down the path to where we all want to be at the end.
One of the key elements that we have here is another consultation going on at present about these very things. It is worth mentioning, because I genuinely want to flag it up and say that NGOs, companies and organisations —the Ethical Trading Initiative—would be people whom we would want to engage actively with this consultation, which was a concession; it was something which we said we would do in response to concerns raised in your Lordships’ House. We launched the consultation and it is open until 7 May. Question 13 on the consultation specifically asks:
“What would good practice look like … ?”.
When we deal with the publication of these statements, we hope that all the comments made here will be taken into that consultation, as well as the remarks which have been made about people who have been arguing passionately about this long before the clause was in the Bill. The noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy, led a very constructive debate on supply chains when the clause was not even a twinkle in the Home Office eye at that stage. It is in the Bill now and we are talking about how to make it work.
Much as I love the state of California, I find it an astounding gap that the home of Silicon Valley could not fathom out a way to create a website to consolidate all these statements in one place and make it easily searchable. That is a bit of a concern. One would think there would be lots of local companies—without naming any—which might be perfectly capable of doing that.
My noble friend Lady Hamwee asked me to report back on what had happened to the tech camp. It is actually just finishing and it is another element that I want to put in here. It was an initiative put forward by the Home Office in response to the precise question that the noble Lord put in his amendment. We set up the tech camp with the Home Office, Unseen, a charity which works with many trafficked people, and Deloitte consulting, which does a lot of work in the technology field. They have had two days looking at what solutions might exist in technology to enable this collation to take place very effectively. I cannot provide a read-out from the tech camp because it is meant to finish about now in St Paul’s in the City, although given that they are technical whizz-kids they probably clocked
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off a couple of hours ago. I certainly undertake to give noble Lords a read-out from that important gathering.
I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Alton, for soliciting from Kevin Hyland the commitment of support that he has given. That is helpful. He is the Independent Anti-slavery Commissioner-designate, and we cannot therefore direct him to do things, but he is suggesting he might have a role. Of course the point here is that everybody is in principle in favour of doing this, but not until they know what will be involved. A key point, as mentioned by the noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy, is where the threshold is drawn for how many companies we will be talking about. Will it be tens of thousands or thousands? How many will we be dealing with? That will obviously impact on people’s views.
I will put some comments on the record that I hope will help. It is important that we focus on the problem we are trying to solve—finding the best way for people to find and compare statements, whether that involves a central website or not. As we all know, technology is constantly evolving, improving and finding new solutions to old problems. As such, I am not yet convinced that a centrally controlled website established by legislation—the point the noble and learned Baroness made—would represent the most dynamic or effective way of increasing transparency and solving this problem in the long term.
For example, it might be that some kind of search engine or online comparison tool provides a more efficient means of finding and comparing statements. Internet platforms that draw information straight from the companies’ home websites would mean that the information could be verified more easily and that businesses could ensure that it was always up to date. The last thing we want is misinformation circulating about businesses on a second website, or an expensive and time-consuming process of validation to ensure that false or out-of-date statements are not being uploaded to a central website.
I ask my noble friend to record in particular that this is not to rule out a central website. I just think we should keep an open mind about how best to provide this service to investors, campaigners and the general public. To that end, we are taking action. Even since last week, in response to contributions, we have had the tech camp. As I explained on Report last week, this two-day event has brought together a number of different NGOs and technology companies. We are using this opportunity to talk directly to technology companies and to some of the businesses that will be producing these statements to determine the best options. I am pleased to say that discussions have already highlighted a number of interesting ideas which we want to pursue with the businesses as quickly as we can. These developments are really promising but simply do not require a legislative basis.
I reassure the noble Lord that the Government will be behind an effective solution to this issue, making sure it is easy to compare statements and working with partners to facilitate the true transparency that we all want. We can use the statutory guidance to tackle any steps needed to facilitate a solution and ensure that statements are as freely and as widely available as
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possible. Doing this through guidance will mean that we can regularly update and refresh it to reflect technological change and ensure our best practice recommendations stay alive to future innovation.
As the House knows, we are currently consulting on that guidance, as I already mentioned. Although I entirely appreciate the sentiment behind the amendment, it does not take us any further than the powers that are already there for the Home Secretary, once this Bill is passed. Additionally, the Home Secretary can, if she wishes, allocate funds and appoint administratively a person within the Home Office to run a central website if that proves to be the right solution. The Home Secretary could also support, financially, an NGO or other external provider to provide a website, through providing technical support, funding or referring to it in the statutory guidance.
These debates have helped to ensure that the Government are focused on working with NGOs and businesses to develop an effective solution. The amendment does not provide for placing any new duties on businesses, so it would add nothing substantive to the Bill. Given the comments I have made about the capability that the Home Secretary has, the ongoing consultation and my clear statements on behalf of the Government expressing a desire to see these collected in one place, I ask whether this might be the reassurance that the noble Lord seeks, enabling him to withdraw his amendment and work with us to ensure that we bring this important innovation to fruition.
Lord Alton of Liverpool: My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for the way he has addressed the issue. Whatever the outcome today, I will of course work with him, as I have done all the way through on this issue as we have considered these proceedings. The noble Lord, Lord Young of Norwood Green, gave us part of an old French saying about encouraging others. I think the first part of that saying is that you should shoot a few admirals to encourage the others—certain noble Lords are not here at the moment, so nobody will take that personally.
It is certainly not my desire that we should shoot this Minister—indeed any Minister, but not this one in particular. As I said in my opening remarks, the noble Lord, Lord Bates, has been exemplary in the way that he has dealt with the House throughout all our proceedings. He is a fine example to other Ministers in piloting legislation through your Lordships’ House. He has offered us today a consultation which is under way, the “tech camp”, which the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, referred to earlier—which is welcome—and more guidance. In a way, at the end, he pointed to the difference that stands between us: whether something should be in the Bill—a point alluded to by my noble and learned friend Lady Butler-Sloss—or whether it should be purely discretionary. As the noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy of Cradley, pointed out, this is actually a discretionary amendment, because it allows for regulation and says, as the right reverend Prelate pointed out, “may” not “must”. It will be there for the Secretary of State to use. Therefore it is not prescriptive in any great sense.
The noble Lord has told us that we should wait for a consultation, but I cannot think of an organisation—and I cited many in my opening remarks—that we would
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consult about this proposal that has not already come out in favour of a central repository which should be available to prevent people from having to trawl across the internet to find individual companies. How on earth is anybody going to do that? Who will know who makes the threshold required in this legislation and who does not?
The noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy, and my noble friend Lady Young said that we should learn from experience. The Californian experience has been cited here. If only they had their time again. It is not about the inability of people in Silicon Valley, as the Minister said, to construct a website. It is quite the reverse. It was the failure of legislators to place a requirement in their legislation that such a central website should be provided, so there would be a repository where everyone meeting the threshold would have to place an account of what they were doing to combat modern-day slavery and human trafficking. There are moments when Parliament needs to help Ministers out and this is one of them. I therefore beg to test the opinion of the House.
Division on Amendment 3
Contents 205; Not-Contents 232.
Amendment 3 disagreed.
Originally posted on :
Modern Day Slavery and Human Trafficking – update on the latest amendments and debates on the Modern Day Slavery Bill
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Fiona Bruce MP
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