House of Lords Debate: October 19th 2015
Modern Slavery Act 2015 (Transparency in Supply Chains) Regulations 2015
Motion to Approve
Moved by Lord Bates
That the draft regulations laid before the House on 7 September be approved.
Relevant document: 4th Report from the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments
The Minister of State, Home Office (Lord Bates) (Con): My Lords, I beg to move that the draft Modern Slavery Act 2015 (Transparency in Supply Chains) Regulations 2015, which were laid before this House on 7 September, be approved.
The Modern Slavery Act 2015 includes a ground-breaking transparency in supply chains provision. Once commenced, this provision will require all commercial organisations that carry out business in the UK and are above a certain turnover threshold to disclose what steps they have taken to ensure that their own business and supply chains are slavery-free.
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Many businesses are already taking action to prevent modern slavery but the legislation will encourage business to do more and create a virtual race to the top. Requiring commercial organisations to be transparent about the activity they are undertaking will give the public, consumers and investors the information they need to make informed decisions about whom they do business with and where they shop.
Recognising the importance of the provision in the Modern Slavery Act, we decided to consult on whom the provision should apply to. The Government have always wanted to create a level playing field between businesses with the resources and purchasing power to take action, while at the same time avoiding placing any undue burdens on smaller businesses. The regulations before this House today set the threshold determining which businesses need to comply.
Between February and May 2015, the Government held a formal consultation on the threshold level and the content of statutory guidance for businesses. The consultation generated over 180 responses from a range of businesses, business groups, trade bodies and NGOs. It asked respondents for their views on the level of turnover threshold and they overwhelmingly supported setting the threshold at £36 million. Many respondents noted that setting the threshold at that figure would align with the definition of a large company in the Companies Act 2006, providing clarity and consistency for businesses.
Having listened to businesses and their representative groups carefully, the Government have determined that the transparency provision should apply to all commercial organisations with a total turnover of £36 million or more per year. The Government believe that setting the turnover threshold at this level is ambitious and creates the broadest level playing field for those businesses affected.
These regulations also specify how the total turnover of a commercial organisation should be defined for the purposes of this provision. It is calculated as the turnover of that organisation and the turnover of any of its subsidiary undertakings. This means that in calculating their total turnover, parent companies will have to include the turnover of all their subsidiaries when considering whether this provision applies.
The Government are determined to ensure that this important provision works effectively on the ground in the long term. That is why these regulations also require the Secretary of State to publish at least once every five years a report that sets out the objectives of these regulations, and assesses the extent to which these objectives are being achieved and whether they remain appropriate. This will ensure that the provision remains relevant and effective for businesses tackling modern slavery risks in the future.
The UK is the first country in the world to introduce such transparency in supply chains legislation in relation to modern slavery. This ambitious legislation will help to ensure that UK consumers do not unwittingly drive demand for modern slavery anywhere in the world and that the UK is recognised as a world leader in this area.
For this ground-breaking legislation to work effectively, it is vital that it applies to the right businesses—those with the resources and purchasing power to effect real
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change—and that it is kept under close review. These regulations will ensure that that is so, and I commend them to the House.
Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB): My Lords, in welcoming the Minister’s speech to the House tonight, I will ask some questions and make a couple of observations about the regulations.
I will start by drawing the Minister’s attention to Regulation 4(2)(c), which suggests that the objectives in the provision,
“could be achieved with a system that imposes less regulation”.
I wonder whether the phrase “a system that requires more effective regulation” would have been better. Perhaps the Minister might spell out the difference between less regulation and effective regulation.
Secondly, can the Minister say why the regulations do not provide more specific guidance to the Secretary of State on the timescale for publishing the report? While the draft regulations stipulate,
“at intervals not exceeding five years”,
more frequent reporting could uncover issues that need to be addressed to enable the provision to have its intended effect.
Thirdly, I understand that the independent review of the overseas domestic worker visa, which was committed to in Committee during the passage of the Modern Slavery Act, is now being carried out by James Ewins and was due to report to the Home Secretary in mid-July. The report has been delayed, and I understand that it is now expected in mid-November. It is important to have that in time for our debate in your Lordships’ House on the Immigration Bill. Can the Minister give us some clarity on that?
The Modern Slavery Act 2015 enjoyed all-party support and is, as I think we all agree, a very good start in combating modern-day slavery and trafficking. The Government have placed a great deal of emphasis on the role of the Independent Anti-slavery Commissioner; perhaps the Minister will confirm that some £350,000 has been set aside to support his office this year. When spelling out the sums of money involved, perhaps the Minister could also say what resources are being made available by his department to non-governmental organisations that support vulnerable people who are trafficked—sometimes over several years if they are to be helped to avoid the siren voices of their traffickers.
The House will not be surprised to learn that I want to return to an issue which I raised at Third Reading on 4 March of this year—at col. 230—when introducing Amendments 3 and 6 to Clauses 54 and 57 during the passage of the Modern Slavery Act. Those amendments, on which I divided the House and which I had raised on Second Reading, in Committee and on Report, would have required the Secretary of State to make regulations to appoint an organisation or an individual to collate slavery and human trafficking statements and to maintain a website—a repository—on which to publish those statements, in a form searchable by members of the public without charge.
The proposal was supported not only by many noble Lords from all parts of your Lordships’ House. It has been consistently asked for by civil society
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groups, which have so much experience of working with businesses on supply chains, including Amnesty International, Anti-Slavery International, CAFOD, the CORE coalition, the Dalit Freedom Network, the Evangelical Alliance, Focus on Labour Exploitation, the Law Society, Quakers in Britain, Traidcraft, Unseen,War on Want and the Equality and Human Rights Commission. I argued that without the incorporation of a central repository for slavery and human trafficking statements, it would be very difficult—if not nigh impossible—for civil society, investors, consumers and other agencies to hold big business to account.
Consider for a moment the substantial obstacles to accessing annual turnover information which indicates those 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. One estimate was that if the threshold figure of more than £60 million had been used, more than 12,000 businesses would be obliged to produce a statement. The Minister has said to the House this evening that the threshold is now being set at £36 million. When he replies, I would be grateful if he said what he anticipates will be the number of businesses affected by that threshold; however, it will be a large number of businesses. The site would enable easy filing for business with secure verification of reports, so that spoof reports cannot be submitted. Businesses would not find themselves in the invidious position of not knowing whether they should be on that site. It must be a robust database with scalable secure storage, as over time there will be a growing number of reports to be stored, sorted and compared. This year-on-year comparison will enable clear evidence that the reports are iterative and that progress is being made year on year by businesses in combating modern slavery in their operations around the globe.
During the passage of the legislation, some noble Lords tried to cast doubt on whether the proposal for a central website enjoyed the full support of Kevin Hyland, the Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner. He wrote to me, stating:
“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 said that without such a website and adequate resources,
“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”.
Experience from overseas supports his judgment. Groups involved in the implementation of the California Transparency in Supply Chains Act of 2010 urged the House to learn from their experience. The Californian organisation Not For Sale says that the American failure to create a central repository of information has made it,
“difficult to know which companies need to comply with the law, and which do not”.
A coalition of major UK companies, trade unions and non-governmental organisations—including many familiar high street names—that would be required to
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comply with this measure supports this proposal. They say that they strongly support a published 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”.
The Minister himself said on Report that he accepted the principle, stating 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.]
Therefore, my question to him is: why are we not moving towards that by regulation? Is the Home Office doing it without regulation? How much progress has been made since the House divided on this issue? At the time, the Minister said,
“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?”
Well, we are still here, at a later stage, and I would be grateful if the Minister told us how much longer we have to wait. At the time, in urging patience, he said that we should await the outcome of the consultation with the Ethical Trading Initiative. He said that the consultation 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”.
“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”.—[Official Report, 4/3/15; col. 237-38.]
I welcomed that at the time and I welcome the sentiment again this evening. But I told the House then, and I repeat, that although the Minister told us that we should wait for the consultation, I cannot think of an organisation—and I cited many—that we would consult about this proposal that has not already come out in favour of a central repository, which should be available to prevent people having to trawl across the internet to find individual companies.
In conclusion, developing a central repository and website for annual statements on slavery and human trafficking as part of the transparency measures in the Modern Slavery Act will enable easy access to all reports in one place, rather than needing to search perhaps 12,000 websites. It is vital that this be a neutral site, but it must be run by an anti-trafficking charity, as opposed to a commercial organisation, in order to give credibility. The site would not be passing judgment on the quality of reports but would be a publicly and fully searchable database of reports, enabling comparisons between companies or sectors, and over time could analyse what is being reported—that is, actions in a particular country or across a sector of business, and potentially, in due course, by product. It would also be able to highlight companies that are not in compliance with the legislation.
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Creating a repository will more effectively fulfil the Home Secretary’s stated desire that civil society and consumers drive the impact of transparency in supply chain reporting, as there will be one central place to read the reports. I look forward to hearing from the Minister about the outcome of the consultation and when such a repository will be established. Tonight is a rare opportunity to press the Minister further on these points. I think he was expecting this issue to be raised, so we look forward to hearing from him.
The Earl of Sandwich (CB): My Lords, I supported my noble friend’s original amendment on the question of monitoring, and I will return to that in a moment. Whether we should go as far as the website and central information, I still am not certain in my own mind.
Having looked through the original consultation and the Government’s response, I am very impressed by the detailed work that has been done on this issue. It is rather a contrast with the Energy Bill, where the Government were castigated for bringing everything in at the last minute. I think that the whole process of pre-legislative scrutiny and consultation on the Modern Slavery Bill has been a model. I believe that the Government are genuinely behind this legislation, especially the Minister, who has shown commitment over many years, including his Nike research in China, his links with Gateshead and Traidcraft and his promise to consult widely following the Bill. This is where my noble friend’s amendment is very relevant. We are delighted that he has come up with the regulation, and I warmly welcome the decision to go for the lower threshold. This was the clear view of the respondents and I am glad to see also that companies will be given some flexibility on the form of the statement. So we are proceeding gradually in the right direction.
This does not mean that I have no misgivings. The first one is about monitoring. I notice that under section J of the impact assessment, the Government undertake to engage with businesses for a further 12 months after commencement. However, it seems that this will be only a limited assessment about reporting requirements and whether organisations have any difficulty in providing information. What about the monitoring of performance by the companies themselves after 12 months? Who is going to assess whether the companies have adequately researched their own supply chains to the point where they can revise earlier statements? I suspect that much of the monitoring will fall to civil society.
I remember the discussion under Section 54 on 10 December, when the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, questioned the Minister very closely on the amount of information that would be required from a company to enable civil society, for example, to make a judgment. This is an important point because it might be easy for a company to make very brief statements with so little content that the Government and NGOs would hardly be able to question them.
Presumably the Government will be involved after the 12-month period. Will they create a forum involving the NGOs, or will the anti-slavery commissioner, Mr Hyland, be involved in the process? I see that he has just published his impressive strategic plan: his
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workload is formidable. I know that he works with the NGOs a lot but surely he will have to stick primarily to policing and law enforcement and will not have the extra time that is required.
If the aim of the regulations and the Act is to,
“ensure there is no modern slavery in … supply chains”,
“aid the detection and elimination of modern slavery”,
surely a lot more needs to be done in the direction that my noble friend has mentioned than publishing what could be very limited information.
Finally, I ask the Minister whether charities are covered by the regulations. Section 54 of the Act refers to a “commercial organisation”, but the Explanatory Memorandum to the regulations says at paragraph 10.1:
“The impact on … charities or voluntary bodies is small”.
Perhaps he could clarify this point, because there are charities with substantial overseas trading interests.
Baroness Hamwee (LD): My Lords, this is indeed a significant statutory instrument. Whether it will fulfil its potential depends on its implementation and the practice that is adopted by organisations, as well as the response by the public. Like other speakers, I think that the content of the statements is more important than the process, and inevitably the statutory instrument is focused on the process.
Actions beyond the legislation—the statute and the statutory instrument—will be important. Like other noble Lords, the first point that I wrote down related to monitoring and whether there would be a central repository and a website to cover what may be, according to the impact assessment, 17,000 or 11,000 companies—a number of figures are given. It seems to me that the demand for that was reflected in the responses to the consultation, as reported on the Home Office website. This is not just for citizens, NGOs, civil society or indeed government to check and to hold companies to account; surely the repository, or depository, also has a function in spreading good practice and disseminating information about methodologies. The responses to the consultation seemed to show a need on the part of companies for assistance in how to identify slavery. The section on supply chains in the commissioner’s strategy, to which the noble Earl has just referred, under the heading “How will we know that the response is improving?”, says:
“Best-practice models of business and supply chain transparency to be established and widely adopted”.
Clearly there is a lot of work to be done in this area, so the guidance on how to do it is important. We are told that this is to be,
“published to coincide with the duty coming into force”,
which, I understand, will be in October. Can the Minister help the House as to whether the guidance will be published before then? Surely if a duty is in effect, one needs to know beforehand how to comply with that duty in the way that, I hope, the guidance will cover.
I note, too, that transitional provisions are to be developed, and I wonder whether the Minister can explain what that means. The first point that occurred to me on this was that the duty comes into effect in
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October, but how does that relate to any given company’s financial year? Presumably that will be a basis for making a statement and an assessment. The Government must have thought through whether, for instance, the duty will apply to a report only after there has been a full financial year of experience. I may be barking up the wrong tree here but if the Minister can help the House on what is anticipated in the transitional arrangements, it would be useful.
The responses asked whether the provisions could apply to companies below the threshold. I assume that there is no reason why not. In our debates on the Bill, we talked about the reputational benefits of providing statements.
More widely—I do not know whether the Minister can answer this—what sense does the Home Office have of a buy-in of enthusiasm for this process, for instance among institutional investors? During the progress of the Bill, we talked about the position that shareholders have and the influence that they may have on companies, so the institutions, as the biggest shareholders generally, will be in an important position. I used a search engine to see what was being said about this subject and found that a number of City lawyers and accountants are including advice on the subject in their newsletters, but it will be the shareholders—and the concern not to upset shareholders—that will be central to the operation of this measure.
The noble Lord, Lord Alton, referred to the effectiveness of these arrangements. In that connection, I noted that the impact assessment seems to deal with the regulatory burden, not with the costs of the investigation leading to the content of the statement. Checking that there is no slavery in the chain is the objective, despite the get-out of the “no statement”, so it seemed to me that there was a danger that the impact assessment might be sending an inappropriate message.
I was interested, too, that quite a lot of respondents disagreed with providing key performance indicators—not a majority by any means, but the indicators are referred to in the legislation and they are important because they will show trends. We are talking here about not just snapshots but trends. I do not know whether the Minister can say anything about that.
Almost finally, we have heard about the requirements on the Home Secretary to report. Is there an intention to report more frequently than the statutory minimum? And finally—this matter was raised by the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, during the passage of the Bill—can the Minister tell us what the Government are doing to check on their own procurement?
Lord Kennedy of Southwark (Lab): My Lords, first, I generally welcome these regulations but have a few concerns. I am delighted that they have appeared before your Lordships’ House as close as we could get to Anti-Slavery Day, which was yesterday. Slavery and human trafficking are appalling crimes. Estimates have suggested that anything up to 13,000 people who are victims of modern slavery could be living here in the UK, and the Walk Free Foundation has estimated that there are 35.8 million people in modern slavery throughout the world. Those are appalling figures.
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During the passage of the then Modern Slavery Bill through your Lordships’ House, many examples were given of multinational businesses using very long and complicated supply chains across the world, which, due to their nature, can sometimes allow slavery to thrive. The regulations before us require companies with a turnover of £36 million or more to produce a statement that sets out the steps that the organisation has taken during the year to ensure that slavery and human trafficking are not taking place in any of its supply chains or in any of its own businesses, or a statement that the organisation has taken no steps at all. The statements must be published on the organisation’s website with a link in a prominent place on the home page of the website.
I am pleased that following the consultation the Government opted to include within this legislation companies with a minimum annual turnover of £36 million and that they did not go for a maximum threshold as a possible option. It was also clear from the consultation exercise that this figure was supported by most—more than 70%—of the people consulted. Like the noble Lord, Lord Alton, I noted that the Home Secretary has to produce a report. Regulation 4(2)(c) refers to “the extent to which” the objectives,
“could be achieved with a system that imposes less regulation”.
I would have preferred something that referred to more effective regulation rather than the word “less”. This is such an important issue that “less” lays the wrong emphasis on the regulation.
The Home Secretary is required to publish a report within five years of the regulations becoming law and thereafter every five years. Five years seems a terribly long time. We should have more frequent reporting—say every two or three years—which would enable us to more quickly identify issues that need to be addressed. This would ensure that the regulations are having their intended effect rather than to having to wait for just one chance in every Parliament.
The point made by the noble Lord, Lord Bates, about allowing consumers to make informed choices is very important. During the passage of the Bill through your Lordships’ House, the question of whether a website should be maintained where details of company statements could be kept in one place was discussed. Again, the noble Lord, Lord Alton, raised this point. However, the Government were not persuaded as to the merits of the proposal, which is most disappointing. Perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Bates, could tell us whether he intends to keep that proposal under review. Could he also tell the House what his view would be if the Independent Anti-slavery Commissioner decided to set up such a website—if, of course, he had the necessary funds to do so? There is concern that it is going to be very difficult, if not impossible, to keep track of all these company statements when there is not a simple reference point or repository to go to.
Could the noble Lord also tell the House whether in any published guidance there will be some explanation of what the company statement should look like and what it should cover, or will it be up to each individual company to put down whatever if feels like?
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Page 19 of the impact assessment refers to engaging with business through,
“informal consultations and ongoing engagement”.
Can the noble Lord tell the House a little more about this?
Finally, I notice that post-legislative scrutiny will take place between three to five years after the Bill became an Act. Does the noble Lord, Lord Bates, think that we need the first report to the Home Secretary before we get into that position?
On these Benches we generally welcome these regulations, as we welcome the Act—we have been in the same place on many points—but this is such an important issue that it needs to be reviewed carefully to avoid unintended consequences. I hope the noble Lord will come back to us and tell us what the Government are going to do in the future.
Lord Bates: I thank all noble Lords who have spoken in this debate and welcome the noble Lord, Lord Kennedy, to his new role and responsibilities. He has shown a great interest in the area of modern slavery for some time and we look forward to continuing that discussion. He is right to say that this has been—certainly in my time in both Houses—model legislation in the way that it had pre-legislative scrutiny before the Bill was published. It is interesting that the original Bill was published without a clause on the supply chain. That came later between two stages. There have been a number of commitments to review and consultations which have led to that role. When we consulted on the range it varied from £100 million to £60 million, and the noble Lord is right to state what we have come forward with. During those debates there was a little suspicion in some quarters of the House as to whether it would be under £100 million but it has come down on the side of £36 million, which is the right level.
This is new legislation—a new initiative that we are undertaking—so all aspects of it have to be constantly under review to see how it is being introduced and how it is working. I will come to specific questions but I particularly wish to make reference to the question raised by the noble Lord, Lord Kennedy. The noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, referred to the Independent Anti-slavery Commissioner and his priorities. He produced his strategic plan for 2015-17 last week and it sets out clearly what he aims to do. His first priority of course—it is important to put this on record in the context of a debate on the supply chain, although we all want to do more in every area—is the identification and care of victims. We all felt that that should be his priority. The supply chain is important. It comes in at number 4 in the section on what he intends to do to promote awareness of these new obligations on businesses. There is also an element which runs on from that about international co-operation. It is a crucial element. We are leading the way in the international community and we want this to help us build relationships with other organisations and to encourage them to have similar regulations in place.
I turn now to the specific points, but not in the order in which they were made. The noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, asked about the transitional provisions
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and whether the company will need to report only up until the end of the full financial year. When we commence this transparency and supply chain provision, we will include a transition provision so that the first organisations required to comply will be those whose financial year ends on or after 31 March 2016. This will ensure that all organisations have sufficient time to consider the new provision and the statutory guidance before publishing their first statement. A follow-on from that was to say how long after that period they will have to file that report; the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, referred to this. We anticipate that a period of six months should be sufficient.
The noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, asked whether this provision applied to charities, universities and other organisations. The organisation will be caught if it engages in commercial activities irrespective of the purpose and whether profits are made. Ultimately it will be for the individual organisations to take legal advice, consider whether they meet the requirements of the Act and determine whether they need to comply. I have touched upon the transitional arrangements.
As to whether guidance will be published before October to coincide with the duty coming into force, our intention is to publish guidance at the same time as we bring this provision into force, which we expect to be next week, subject to approval of these regulations.
The noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, asked what buy-in has been detected in the Home Office from institutional investors. A wide range of businesses and investors called for this legislation to be introduced. This included a prominent campaign led by a range of major investment firms, which wrote letters on a number of occasions calling for transparency in supply chain legislation. These include Rathbones Investments, BNP Paribas Investors, Pardes and Aviva Investors. We are therefore confident that investors welcome this provision and will provide more information. In fact, during the debate the most effective voices to be heard by organisations will be from their own shareholders. It is for institutional investors—whether they be trade unions or other investors—to make sure their voice is heard at annual general meetings. We know from experience in some areas—for example, female representation among non-executive directors on boards—that that very powerful voice has been heard. We hope that institutional investors will ensure that the voice is heard and that companies will give an adequate response.
The noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, asked whether the Home Secretary intends to report more frequently than the statutory minimum infills. The regulations set out,
“before the end of a period of five years”.
Of course, “before the end” can be open-ended but it is certainly worth putting in a limit. While the requirement is to report only once every five years, if the Home Office receives clear evidence that the regulations are not achieving their objectives at an earlier point, we will of course consider conducting a formal review at an earlier stage.
I think that the message needs to go out to business that we are commencing this in a way which, while I do not want to use the term “light touch”, tries to work with businesses to get their supply chains in
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order. But the clear message is that we expect action to be taken, and if it is not taken it is of course open to this or future Governments to come forward with further measures for consideration.
I was asked what HMG were doing about their own procurement. The transparency provision was specifically designed with the private sector in mind. The Government are of course subject to parliamentary scrutiny and freedom of information requests in terms of their duties, but this is a key element. We have a cross-government procurement policy so that modern slavery considerations become a key part of procurement processes. I believe that imminently, if not already, a question relating to the compliance of supply chains with the Act and the regulations is being inserted into that policy.
The noble Earl asked about the role of the Independent Anti-slavery Commissioner. His remit includes promoting good practice in the prevention, detection, investigation and prosecution of modern slavery offences, which includes encouraging good practice among businesses to prevent slavery from occurring in their supply chains. The whole point is that the anti-slavery commissioner is independent, which is another change that was made in the process of the legislation. We cannot instruct him on what to do, but the Home Secretary will ensure that she listens carefully to his recommendations and requests.
The noble Lord, Lord Alton, raised a number of points, one of which was echoed by the noble Lord, Lord Kennedy: why is there a reference in Regulation 4(2)(c) to “less regulation” rather than more effective regulation? The reference to “less regulation” reflects the standard-view terminology applicable to all business regulations. It reflects the fact that these regulations are from a Government who have as one of their aims a deregulatory culture. We have committees and processes that scrutinise what we do to ensure that what we put forward is consistent with the wider government approach. In any event, the review of these regulations will seek to ensure that they remain effective.
The noble Lord also asked when James Ewins’s report would be published. He has asked for more time to complete his work, but we expect Mr Ewins to publish his report on migrant domestic workers around mid-November, and we have made a commitment that we would seek to come forward with actions in that area by the end of the year. If that is not correct—
Lord Alton of Liverpool: I am grateful to the Minister for giving way. He will know that organisations like Kalayaan gave evidence to Members of your Lordships’ House when we were debating these issues, and he will recall that my noble friend Lord Hylton and I divided the House on this question. I hope that we will have the opportunity to have, first, briefing sessions with the Minister when the report is available so that proper discussion can continue to take place. Secondly, I hope that at some point there will be a chance either in the House or in Committee to have a debate before any final decisions are taken. I wonder if the noble Lord is able to give some assurances on the process of how the issue of domestic migrant labour will be taken forward.
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Lord Bates: I thank the noble Lord for his questions. We have not made a commitment on that, but I can certainly give a commitment that I will reflect on what he has said about how we should handle the report once it is received and I will come back to him.
The key element in a number of contributions was about the central repository for these forms. The Government are not launching an online repository. However, we are aware of a number of proposals from third parties who have suggested that they could develop a website to host these statements and help people search for businesses and compare them. In California the non-governmental organisation Know The Chain has set up a website that allows the public to see which companies have complied with the legislation. The UK could adopt a similar approach to support a transparency provision. In essence, we believe that this is something that it would be valuable to have, but it is for civil society, not for government, to actually maintain the repository.
We were asked how many businesses it was likely that this would apply to. Of course, applying the threshold at the lower level captures more businesses, and according to the Mint Global database as set out in the impact assessment, 17,257 businesses will be involved.
The Earl of Sandwich: Can the noble Lord clarify whether the commissioner has any role in this? It is quite an undertaking to leave it entirely to the voluntary sector.
Lord Bates: In the strategy which he published, the commissioner did not say that he felt that it was for him to do this. He did not express that as a view and he set out other priorities. Of course, whatever the sums are that he has to work with, we know that many demands will be made on those resources, and he wishes to target them in a particular way. I am aware that discussions are going on with third-party organisations which might be willing to step forward in this area, but we feel that it is not something for the Government themselves.
Lord Alton of Liverpool: Again, I am grateful to the noble Lord. Could he clarify what he means by civil society and third-party organisations? In my earlier remarks I was careful to distinguish between commercial organisations and, say, universities, charities and NGOs. I would be perfectly happy about any of those, but I would have some reservations about commercial organisations, which could have some direct vested interest and might not inspire the same confidence as what we might loosely call third sector groups would. Can the noble Lord explain what he means by the civil society groups which are in discussion with the Home Office at the present time?
Lord Bates: They might be better described as non-governmental groups. It could be that private sector groups or even charitable organisations are interested in putting this together. All I am saying is that there is possibly an interest out there, but the key
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element for the purpose of these regulations is twofold. First, we recognise that it would be of interest, but we should remember that the whole purpose of insisting that this was not in a published, hard-copy annual report and accounts but was a statement on a website is that such a statement is searchable. A number of people, organisations and NGOs took part in the consultation and have shown a real, forensic interest in how people are doing, and they will be able to search those. That sort of social media activism, which we see so much of in many areas, could be brought to bear in order to shine a light in this particular area. That might be more effective than simply, as it were, designating one particular organisation to take responsibility for it.
Lord Kennedy of Southwark: The noble Lord is absolutely right. We will have the company statements on the company website, but the only issue with the central repository, of course, is that if you have 7,000 to 10,000 companies, it will be difficult if they are not all in one place. I think that there has been some movement from the Minister tonight, but can he explain why he thinks that this should not be done by government? Why should it be left to civil society or a third-party organisation? It is an important point and it seems to be the missing part in all this.
Baroness Hamwee: My Lords, I wonder if I could add to that, because it is part of the same question. I am sure that the Minister does not mean it in this way, but the more it is said that this is not a matter for government, the more one worries about how the Home Secretary is going to fulfil her duties in keeping the matter under review if she does not have that facility available to her. The information is very much a matter for government and therefore the Government must have an interest in ensuring that it is easily accessible.
Lord Berkeley of Knighton (CB): In order to save the Minister from popping up and down like a jack-in-the-box, perhaps I may add one point which may help my noble friend Lord Alton. If by civil society one were able to define that by ruling out commercial interests, that would go a long way towards meeting the point being made.
Lord Bates: I am grateful for all those points. Let us remember that as this Act went through we debated whether it should be a statutory responsibility to do this or whether it should be something on which the Government should take the lead. The Act has come through in its present form. I hear the voices saying that all these points are needed. If an organisation does not file its statement on its website for the financial year, on or after 31 March, there are remedies set out in the Act as to what can happen as a result of that. Therefore, this is a very serious statement, but it is an added tool for people to use.
For example, many times we have seen stories in the press about practices in the supply chains of organisations. Now, to go along with those investigations in the press, there would be an ability for them to say, “Well,
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of course, this is what the said company said on its own website about its supply chain”. People can then draw an additional conclusion from that statement.
We are moving further down this route. These are early days and we will need to see how it comes about. Guidance will be published, on which we have consulted extensively. It will provide further information about what should be done and how it should be presented. However, we are where we said we would be when we passed the Act and we should allow these regulations to come into force so that it can be seen to work and can be evaluated after a period of examination. I beg to move.
Huffington Post December 19th 2014
Stocking Up for Christmas: Tackling Slavery in Our Supply Chains
Posted: 19/12/2014 18:23 GMT Updated: 19/12/2014 18:59 GMT
As usual, the approach to Christmas is marked by many challenging and contradictory messages vying for our attention.
There’s the oldest message that seeks to remind us of the origins of Christmas, emphasising peace and goodwill.
Then there’s the message from retailers who every year move the starting blocks further forward to gain an advantage over their competitors.
Another insists that Christmas should emphasise sharing, through the giving and receiving of presents.
The reality of “Christmas present” is that many of our gifts will have been produced by people in other countries. What is less well known and deeply shocking is that some of these people are victims of modern slavery. This practice that we hoped had been consigned to “Christmas past” is very much alive today.
Anti-trafficking group Walk Free has just released a frightening estimate that there are more than 35 million victims of the slavery worldwide – including those in forced labour.
There are numerous examples illustrating the global nature of the problem. The US Department of State calculates that more than 109,000 children in the Ivory Coast’s cocoa industry work under the worst forms of child labour.
Anti-Slavery International’s research has uncovered the routine use of forced labour of girls and young women in the spinning mills and garment factories of five Indian clothing manufacturers, previously linked to major Western clothing brands.
Earlier this year, a Guardian investigation revealed how workers in Thailand are subject to appalling violence in the supply chains of seafood products sold by major US, British and other European retailers.
This country is not immune; the Home Office estimates that up to 13,000 people are victims of forced labour in the UK alone.
The Modern Slavery Bill is currently making its way through Parliament. Peers from all parties have been working with civil society, business and investor groups to ensure that the Bill includes effective measures to tackle slavery in the supply chains of large companies in the UK.
At Committee Stage we tabled an amendment to achieve this and to build on the Government’s welcome acceptance of the principle. Our amendment includes specific requirements for all big companies operating in the UK to report on what they are doing to tackle slavery within their supply chains.
In the New Year when Parliament resumes we will continue to maintain the pressure on Government to include the right details in the Bill so that when we prepare for “Christmas future”, we can make informed decisions about our purchases in the knowledge that we are not contributing to modern slavery and forced labour here and around the world.
The Committee Stage of the Modern Slavery Bill: December 1st 2014
Creating a Provision for the Protection of Children on the Face of the Bill
Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB): Before the noble Baroness goes any further, I wish to reinforce the point that she made. She referred to the work that she has done with the Metropolitan Police. I suspect that she will have seen the debate in another place that took place on 4 September. I will cite the quotation given during that debate from a chief inspector of the Metropolitan Police who pointed out the flaws of the current proposals from a prosecution perspective. These were his words:
“If I was reading this from a lay perspective, I would not read into this Bill that a child begging, or using children to obtain fraud which is to their detriment, or putting a child out on the street to steal for sometimes 12 to 18 hours a day is trafficking and exploitation”.
Is that not the main thrust of the argument of the noble Baroness and why, between now and Report, we need to take very seriously the amendment that she has moved?
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Baroness Doocey: I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Alton, for that interjection, which is very timely and demonstrates clearly the points I am trying to make.
Providing Protection for Domestic Migrant workers
Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB): My Lords, I would very much like to support my noble friend Lord Hylton, and I follow the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, in his support for Amendments 28 and 95. The noble Lord, Lord Rosser, has rightly reminded us that when we get to Amendment 94 there will be a chance to have a wider debate about the whole question of the overseas domestic worker visa.
Many of us would say that the subject of denying someone the right to go to an employment tribunal—that is what my noble friend’s Amendment 28 specifically deals with—is a sort of curtain-raiser to the debate that will come later. Enabling migrant domestic workers to change employer, to apply to renew their visa annually if in full-time employment, and to have the right to go to an employment tribunal, would be a significant step towards preventing abuses against migrant domestic workers, including forced labour for their employers, and would enable them to seek redress without fearing deportation from the United Kingdom.
My noble friend Lord Hylton has a long and honourable record of raising this question for all the years that I have been in your Lordships’ House, so it comes as no surprise to me that he has tabled these
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amendments. He is not, of course, alone in raising this question. Amnesty International UK, the Anti Trafficking and Labour Exploitation Unit, the Anti-Trafficking Monitoring Group, Human Rights Watch, the Immigration Law Practitioners’ Association, Kalayaan and Liberty are among those who support moves in this direction.
Evidence since the introduction of the tied ODW visa in 2012 demonstrates how the current tied visa system facilitates the abuse of migrant domestic workers in the UK and therefore undermines the objectives of this timely and very welcome Bill and the Government’s efforts to fight modern slavery. Because of its deleterious effects, the 2012 decision, whether it was made wittingly or otherwise, is something we need to return to in the course of our deliberations, to see what we can do about it.
The Joint Committee on the draft Modern Slavery Bill identified the 2012 policy as having,
“unintentionally strengthened the hand of the slave master against the victim of slavery”,
“Tying migrant domestic workers to their employer institutionalises their abuse”.
The Joint Committee on Human Rights reported that it,
“regards the removal of the right of an Overseas Domestic Worker to change employer as a backward step in the protection of migrant domestic workers, particularly as the pre-2012 regime had been cited internationally as good practice, and recommends that the Bill be amended to reverse the relevant changes to the Immigration Rules and to reinstate the pre-2012 protections in the Bill”.
We have heard a great deal already today about the importance of having what my noble and learned friend Lady Butler-Sloss described earlier as flagship legislation. I know that it is the Government’s wish that this should be seen as an international gold standard piece of legislation that others will be able to imitate, and that they hope it would be capable of implementation worldwide. But that is in doubt unless we put right this defect that was incorporated into our legislation. I recognise that it may not be possible to do that today, but I hope that when the noble Baroness replies to the debate she will indicate to my noble friend that we will continue to discuss this issue to see what we can do to remedy something that was done in 2012 and has, wittingly or unwittingly, brought about these consequences. One of those consequences is, as is highlighted in Amendment 28, that people are prevented from having access to employment tribunals.
Using the Proceeds of Crime to Create a Fund to Support Victims of Trafficking, the Agencies which work to Protect Victims and to fund the work of the Police and others working to deter and prosecute those responsible for Trafficking
Moved by Lord Alton of Liverpool
32: After Clause 7, insert the following new Clause—
“Proceeds of crime: MSV Fund
(1) The Secretary of State shall by regulations establish the Modern Slavery Victims’ Fund (“MSV Fund”) to receive and distribute the proceeds referred to under subsection (2) which have been recovered under a confiscation order, where that order is made in respect of a person who has been convicted of an offence under section 1, 2 or 4.
(2) The MSV Fund shall receive no less than 50 per cent of any money recovered under a confiscation order.
(3) Subject to subsection (4), the proceeds referred to under subsection (2) shall be distributed by the MSV Fund as follows—
(a) 50 per cent of the proceeds shall be distributed as compensation to the person or persons identified as victims of slavery or victims of human trafficking;
(b) 25 per cent of the proceeds shall be distributed to the charities or other organisations listed in the regulations, which provide services, assistance, support and protection to victims of slavery and victims of human trafficking; and
(c) 25 per cent of the proceeds shall be distributed to the organisations listed in the regulations, whose purpose is to prevent slavery, servitude and forced or compulsory labour or to help to investigate or prosecute people who commit offences under this Act.
(4) For the purposes of any distribution under subsection (3)—
(a) for victims of slavery or victims of human trafficking under paragraph (a), the monies paid—
(i) shall be distributed equally between those persons who have been directly identified as the victims of slavery or victims of human trafficking to whom the conviction referred to under subsection (1) relates; and
(ii) shall not be reduced or diminished by reference to any other compensation that such person or persons may receive from other sources,
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(b) for the charities and organisations referred to in paragraphs (b) and (c), the monies paid shall be distributed equally between those charities and organisations.
(5) The regulations referred to in subsection (1) shall provide rules determining the composition, management and financial accountability of the MSV Fund together with such other provisions that the Secretary of State may consider necessary for the exercise of its functions.
(6) The Secretary of State must appoint the Commissioner as a member of the management board of the MSV Fund.
(7) Before making any regulations under this section the Secretary of State shall consult such persons as he thinks fit.
(8) Regulations under this section shall not be made unless a draft of them has been laid before and approved by a resolution of each House of Parliament.
(9) In this section—
“the Assets Recovery Agency” means the Agency referred to in section 1 of the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002;
“the Commissioner” means the Independent Anti-slavery Commissioner appointed under section 40;
“confiscation order” means a confiscation order under section 6 of the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002.”
Lord Alton of Liverpool: My Lords, Amendment 32 stands in my name and that of my noble friends Lady Cox, of Queensbury, and Lord Hylton. I thank them for their support for the amendment. I also thank the Public Bill Office of your Lordships’ House, which gave me a lot of help with the drafting of the amendment. The purpose of the amendment is to give the Secretary of State power by regulation to,
“establish the Modern Slavery Victims’ Fund (“MSV Fund”) to receive and distribute the proceeds referred to under subsection (2) which have been recovered under a confiscation order, where that order is made in respect of a person who has been convicted of an offence under section 1, 2 or 4”.
If the amendment were to be incorporated in the legislation, it would enable the MSV fund to receive,
“no less than 50 per cent of any money recovered under a confiscation order. Subject to subsection (4), the proceeds referred to under subsection (2)”,
would then be distributed by the fund, with 50% of the proceeds given as compensation to victims, 25% distributed to the charities and other organisations listed in the regulations, and 25% distributed to the organisations whose purpose is to prevent slavery. I would have in mind, obviously, the police, but also others such as the Independent Anti-slavery Commissioner.
Modern slavery is very profitable. The International Labour Organization estimates annual profits from slavery to be around $150 billion a year. For example, a child trafficked and forced to pickpocket on the streets of London can, according to Anti-Slavery International, bring traffickers yields of £5,000 to £10,000 every month. Modern slavery is a high-profit, low-risk crime. Most of those involved escape justice and, even where there is a conviction, asset seizure is often considered too late in the process so the perpetrator has had a chance to move their assets elsewhere. Even where confiscation is made as part of the criminal proceedings, compensation is very rarely ordered.
The amendment would address this by bringing confiscation of assets and compensation to the very heart of the Bill and, in doing this, it would be similar to the United States anti-trafficking legislation. Confiscation has the effect of hitting the perpetrators where it hurts and its deterrent effect is potentially
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more significant than the threat of a long prison sentence, which can easily be avoided by entering a plea bargain. As the average prison sentence for modern slavery offences has been relatively low— around five and a half years—unless the perpetrator is stripped of their assets they can come out of prison and enjoy a luxurious life, while victims continue to suffer.
Restorative justice is also a function of compensation for victims and is the key to this amendment. By awarding damages to the victim, their suffering is acknowledged in a way that convicting the perpetrator rarely achieves. Victims who act as witnesses are of course often re-traumatized in the process. Furthermore, compensation gives victims stability and a chance to rebuild their lives. For example, one victim who was compensated has invested the compensation to pay for university education and is now pursuing a law degree.
I first raised the possibility of using confiscated assets to help victims and deter traffickers in 2002, during the passage of the Proceeds of Crime Bill. I argued that there were simply insufficient resources to adequately address a crime which, too often, was out of sight and out of mind. Yet even then, the United Nations had identified people trafficking as the fastest growing facet of organised crime and the third largest source of profit for organised crime, after the trafficking of drugs and firearms. At the time, the Government admitted:
“At present there is no specific offence of trafficking in human beings and so no data exist about the confiscation of assets of those engaged in this practice”.—[Official Report, 18/6/02; col. WA 70.]
My 2002 amendment called for the proceeds of trafficking to be channelled into the support of victims and the resourcing of a strategy to tackle this scourge at source. Supporting the amendments then and the use of confiscated assets to hit the traffickers where it hurts, the late Lord Wilberforce, a Law Lord and a descendant of William Wilberforce, described trafficking as,
“a pervasive crime committed in all kinds of areas by all kinds of people. It must be dealt with by a great variety of authorities”—
I repeat, a great variety of authorities—
“and police forces all over the country, many of which have no idea of the nature of the crime or the remedies available to deal with it”.—[
, 25/6/02; col. 1225.]
Since 2002, the Government have been persuaded to develop the principle of confiscating assets which have been accumulated through the pursuit of crime. I strongly welcome this but it would help this debate if the Minister could describe what has been the experience of the Proceeds of Crime Act to date. It has been suggested that there may already be as much as £2 billion in uncollected POCA fines, so whether or not there is a dedicated dispersal fund, as the amendment would require, it would be helpful to know how the Government intend to improve the collection rate and what their estimate is of the sums currently outstanding.
Addressing Pope Francis at a Vatican conference on human trafficking held in April this year in Rome the Home Secretary, the right honourable Theresa May MP, said:
“Our efforts must also focus on going after the profits of those involved, and compensating victims with seized assets”.
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The Bill itself recognises that the first call on seized assets should be to provide reparation to the victims of the modern slavery offence. Where there are seized funds left over, the Government say that they will benefit criminal justice agencies through the existing asset recovery incentivisation scheme. ARIS has the objective of providing all operational partners who use the asset recovery powers in the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 with incentives to pursue asset recovery as a contribution to the overall objective of reducing crime and delivering justice. It is not, however, specifically targeted at tackling human trafficking and modern slavery. However, that scheme is not on a statutory footing, although some of the moneys distributed under ARIS are used to fund improvements in asset recovery capabilities and on community projects, and I welcome that. This amendment would create a statutory scheme.
Around £80 million was returned to operational partners from ARIS in 2013-14. The Minister might like to say how much of that money is used specifically to deter and bring to justice the perpetrators of modern slavery. I would also be grateful if he would quantify what he believes will be necessary to fund this ambitious legislation, otherwise it risks becoming yet another declamatory law which sounds good but can make little difference. Will he say how much money will be set aside to support this legislation? We all recall the Climate Change Act 2008, which imposed what was called a “legally binding obligation” for reduction of 80% of greenhouse gas by 2050. It was never made clear how it was to be done, who was to be held to account if this target was not realised and what punishments there would be.
The Child Poverty Act 2010 was not much better, requiring the elimination of child poverty by 2020. If the Bill is not to be added to the list of declamatory legislation which has inadequate resources attached to it to ensure its enforcement, we need to insist on ways of providing adequate resources. Although the Minister says that the Government are unconvinced about the need to ring-fence these assets for this dedicated use, he has indicated his willingness to discuss the amendment and said, in a letter to me:
“There is a great deal of common ground between us on the principles of how seized assets should be used, in terms of using the funds raised to compensate victims and support law enforcement agencies”.
I welcome that greatly.
The Government tend to suggest that the police is the agency which needs to be funded to bring perpetrators to justice. Of course, there is a lot in that argument. However, as the late Lord Wilberforce recognised, a great variety of authorities need to be involved and many, along with the police, are completely underresourced. At Second Reading, I highlighted the position of the Gangmasters Licensing Authority, established in 2006 in the aftermath of the tragic death of 23 Chinese cockle-pickers who died in Morecambe Bay, part of a criminal racket exploiting workers all over England, and estimated to funnel £1 million per day back to China.
In 2013, Professor Gary Craig of Durham University, working with the Wilberforce Institute for the study of Slavery and Emancipation and the Joseph Rowntree
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Forced Labour in the United Kingdom
, a report which specifically said that the GLA was insufficiently resourced. The report found that:
“The scope of the GLA should be extended to cover all sectors using labour providers and greater resources should be available for the GLA to be able to fulfil its role effectively”.
The three-year study draws on data from legal, policy and regulatory bodies and calls for the Government to reconsider some key policies and take a broader view of the problem. The report also found that:
“Monitoring for severe labour exploitation is generally weak and needs to be strengthened”.
Professor Craig, who is professor of community development and social justice, says that workplace enforcement agencies are now doing fewer inspections, becoming focused on only the most serious offences rather than tackling all types of serious labour exploitation. Commenting on the scale of the problem he says:
“Criminal activity of this nature is difficult to monitor, but conservative estimates are that there are currently at least several thousand cases of forced labour in the UK and 880,000 across the European Union”,
and that those trafficked for labour exploitation would soon exceed those trafficked for sexual exploitation.
I turn to the need for public education, something which many noble Lords have raised today and which the Government acknowledge the need for. No one has said how that would be resourced. Professor Craig remarks that there is a “real problem” getting people to acknowledge not only that slavery exists in the UK, but that, as his research suggests, there may be upwards of 10,000 people at any one time in conditions which we would class as modern slavery. I noticed over the weekend that the BBC added another 3,000 to that number.
In addition to recommending the extension of the mandate of the GLA, providing powers of arrest and investigation, Professor Craig argues that the GLA should be able to keep fines to fund its work, adding that the resources directed to the GLA are totally inadequate. If the dedicated fund specified in the amendment were created, it could be used to extend the mandate and work of the GLA and other agencies involved in this most serious of crimes. The Independent Anti-slavery Commissioner, Kevin Hyland, has also said in an interview in the Sunday Times that the resources needed should be raised as a result of using the confiscated assets of funds that have been seized.
Sometimes Ministers, instructed by the Treasury, raise the old bogey that Governments do not support the use of hypothecated funds, and that revenues must be directed to the Treasury for subsequent allocation. That is manifestly not true, and even the Bill itself accepts the principle that some of the funds will be specifically used to address the challenge of modern slavery and human trafficking—the Home Secretary said so. There are plenty of precedents, from the fossil fuel levy to the levy on the pig industry to eradicate Aujeszky’s disease, that have created levies or funds to tackle specific hypothecated challenges. If we can hypothecate funds for pigs, surely we can do the same thing for humans.
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To reiterate and conclude: the amendment takes a moderate, incremental approach. The fund would receive no less than 50% of any money recovered under a confiscation order; 50% of the proceeds would then be used to support the victims, 25% distributed to those charities and agencies combating slavery and 25% to those organisations preventing, investigating or prosecuting those responsible. Under the terms of the amendment, the Independent Anti-slavery Commissioner would serve on the management board of the fund, which itself would be established by the Home Secretary by regulation.
I accept that there may be better formulae to determine the shape of the fund and its administration, and the amendment is not designed to be definitive. It is an attempt to create a scaffold to ensure that adequate resources are made available to fund what the Government described as world-class legislation, and to force those who have profited from this evil to pay for measures to combat it, to support victims and to bring the perpetrators to justice. I beg to move.
Lord Alton of Liverpool: I am grateful to the Minister. As a young Member of another place, I was once given the quite good advice always to beware Ministers
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when they are promising reviews, but in this case the Minister has said that the review is already under way. I am very grateful to him for saying that. He says that it is going to report in December. Will that be in time for us to be able to come back on Report acting on the outcome of the review? What is his estimate of the timetable?
Lord Bates: In the matter of the timetable and in many other matters I am grateful to have the Chief Whip, my noble friend Lord Taylor, on the Bench beside me. He has signalled his assent to the suggestion that this may be something where the report will be published, in all likelihood, before Report. Therefore, there will be an opportunity to revisit it then.
I should also say, as I have found the note, that the current distribution of the scheme provides that 50% of the proceeds go to the Home Office; 18.75% to investigation agencies; 18.75% to prosecution agencies; and 12.5% to HM Courts and Tribunal Service, which enforces the orders. That is the current distribution. I hope that is helpful.
Lord Alton of Liverpool: The noble Lord has been incredibly helpful to the Committee. It is very late and I do not intend to detain the Committee for long now. I simply want to thank my noble and learned friend, and thank the noble Lord, Lord Warner, for putting his argument so effectively. He is right that we have to generate the funds in the first place to provide the pots in order to do the things that the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, and my noble friend Lord Hylton all recognise need to be done. Indeed, the Minister himself has recognised that the principle behind this is not a bad one and is worth looking at further. He has engaged with the arguments in his usual courteous and characteristically helpful way. I am extremely grateful to him at this stage. We will see what the review holds and will keep open the possibility of coming back on Report if his noble friend is able to timetable events to ensure that the chronology works out that way. Having said that, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment standing in my name.
Amendment 32 withdrawn.
December 10th 2014.
Domestic Migrant Workers
Lord Alton of Liverpool: My Lords, with her customary clarity, passion and eloquence, my noble friend Lady Cox has set out the arguments for Amendment 94, to which I am a signatory and which other noble Lords support, too. I was very struck in the representations we received about this amendment by what was said by the Trades Union Congress. It supported the recommendations of the Joint Committee and particularly highlighted paragraphs 224, 225 and 227, to which I shall come in a moment.
Before referring to those paragraphs in detail I will simply make the point that a reinstatement of the position that my noble friend has described, the pre-2012 position, is what we should look towards; the one that was originally enacted in 1988, with very good reason. Her amendment also concentrates our mind towards those who are in domestic service attached to diplomats. We have heard from my noble friend Lord Sandwich and others during the course of these proceedings and during other debates about the particular circumstances that such workers often find themselves in.
Returning to the Joint Committee, it is worth the Government looking again at what the Joint Committee had to say. In paragraph 224, it said:
“The difficulties faced by this group of workers appear to have been compounded by changes made to Immigration Rules in 2012 which had the net effect of removing their right to change employer, and thus denying them one means of removal from an abusive situation”.
In paragraph 225, it said:
“Evidence we received challenges the assumption that such mechanisms provide adequate protection … Tying migrant domestic workers to their employer institutionalises their abuse; it is slavery and is therefore incongruous with our aim to act decisively to protect the victims of modern slavery”.
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Paragraph 227 states:
“We recommend the Home Office reverse the changes to the Overseas Domestic Worker Visa. This would at the very least allow organisations and agencies to remove a worker from an abusive employment situation immediately. It would also enable the abuse to be reported to the police without fear that the victim would be deported as a result. This in turn would facilitate the prosecution of modern slavery offences”.
I do not think one can do better than to rehearse those arguments from the Joint Committee because it clearly looked at this issue in some detail and everything that is in my noble friend’s amendment would give statutory provision to what it said.
I was also struck by my noble friend’s comment about what happened in another place. David Hanson MP moved an amendment similar to the amendment moved by my noble friend. As she said, it was narrowly defeated in Committee on a Division only after the chair added his vote to the no votes—so opinion in another place is clearly divided. That is another good reason why we should revisit this issue.
Sadly, the Government have so far declined to accept the Joint Committee’s recommendations and have claimed that existing and planned measures will be sufficient to protect migrant domestic workers. They have put significant emphasis on the fact that theoretically all overseas domestic workers have the protection of UK employment law while working in the UK. While in theory that may be so, and in theory they can take a case against an employer to an employment tribunal, in reality and in practice that right is denied to domestic workers on a tied visa. In addition to barriers, such as cuts to legal aid, which we have already referred to, if they want to avoid breaching the Immigration Rules, tied domestic workers must take a case against their employer while remaining in that employer’s home. It is totally unrealistic for these workers to take any kind of legal action against an employer who has potentially trafficked them, exploited them and denied them their most basic rights while still living with their home.
The noble Baroness referred to the charity Kalayaan. It told me that of the 120 domestic workers that it had registered on the tied visa system in the two years since the April 2012 changes, fewer than five had taken an employment case and none had gone to a tribunal. Domestic workers often report to organisations such as Kalayaan that their employers confiscate their mobile phones or refuse them permission to make calls during working hours, which can be excessively long, thereby ensuring that they cannot access services such as ACAS.
I asked for an example to illustrate the situation, and I will briefly mention it. It is a case study of a young woman called Nerita. She was brought to the UK by her employer to work in their private household. She explained that she came from a poor family in south India and her husband, children and elderly parents are dependent on her remittances for their support. This is a very important point. If someone is dependent on the money that you are sending them, that plays into all the emotional arguments and the blackmail that can be used against people in that situation.
An agency found Nerita work with a family who lived in the Middle East. She described having to borrow the agency fee from various relatives. It took
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over a year to save the money on her meagre salary to repay the loan. She accompanied her employer to this country in 2014. Her conditions of employment changed little when she came to the UK. She worked seven days a week from 7 am until midnight. She was not permitted to leave the employer’s home unaccompanied. Her passport was taken from her when she started working for them and was never returned to her. She slept on a small mattress in the children’s room. Her salary was the equivalent of £150 a month while she was in the Middle East, but she was not paid at all during her time in the UK.
She described being regularly verbally abused by her employer. She was told that she should not speak because she was a servant. The employer also threatened to send Nerita back to India. Nerita speaks very little English and was not aware of the terms and conditions of her visa. Her family’s situation in India is desperate and she was distressed to learn that as she had come to the UK on a tied visa she could work only with the employer who brought to the UK—and then only for a maximum of six months. When she asked for Kalayaan’s support in getting her passport back, it had to explain that involving the police—the point referred to a few moments ago by the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee—would almost certainly result in her being detained and her passport being confiscated until she left the UK. Kalayaan has spoken to Nerita about referral to the national referral mechanism, which we discussed earlier on, as a victim of trafficking. However, that would provide only short-term support for this very vulnerable woman. As she came to the UK on the tied overseas domestic worker visa, she will not get the justice she deserves. That is why we should support Amendment 94 in the name of my noble friend.
Lord Alton of Liverpool: My Lords, I support noble Lords who have spoken in favour of these amendments, moved and spoken to so ably by my noble and learned friend Lady Butler-Sloss and the noble Baroness, Lady Royall.
At Second Reading, and indeed in the debate on my Amendment 32 about the proceeds of crime and creating a victims’ fund that could be used to resource the authorities that are involved in trying to police trafficking, I referred to the tragedy that occurred in Morecambe Bay, which led to the initiative of the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, in helping to create this authority. Noble Lords will remember that 23 Chinese men and women drowned in Morecambe Bay, having been taken there by gangmasters in order to go cockle-picking. A local fisherman, Harold Benson, said at the time that what happened was,
“not only awful beyond words—it was absolutely avoidable”.
However, the lessons of Morecambe Bay have not been fully learnt. As we consider this legislation, which provides us with the only vehicle to tackle these kinds of issues—it is timely, it is good legislation and it is an opportunity—the question for the House is: is there more that needs to be done? At Second Reading, I referred to academic work that has been done at the University of Durham, which identified not only the need to extend the mandate of the Gangmasters Licensing Authority but the need for more resources. In 2011, 30 miles away from Morecambe Bay, in the River Ribble—not far from where I live—17 cockle-pickers of eastern European origin had to be rescued when they were in precisely the same situation as those in Morecambe Bay. We have not overcome the problem. We have set up an authority to deal with it but we have not adequately resourced that authority or put sufficient powers into its hands.
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Indeed, when I looked at the figures, I was struck by the fact that only 37 people are employed by the authority and they have to cover the whole of Great Britain. Between 2011 and 2014 its budget was cut by some 17% and in 2013—I asked for the numbers of convictions—only seven people had been convicted. That does not fill me with great confidence that it is able to do the job that it was asked by Parliament to do. The authority is a wonderful creation. It has been given reasonable powers but they need to be extended. It certainly needs more resources.
This enabling provision, which my noble and learned friend referred to as being a modest amendment, would provide Ministers with the necessary belt and braces in the future to do more as and when the authority feels it wishes to. Not to put such a provision in the Bill will lead, as my noble and learned friend said, to the messiness of having to come back to Parliament. As the noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy of The Shaws, told us, it would require parliamentary time. That seems to be the wrong way to go about this. We have the opportunity here to put something into the legislation that would give the Government the ability to act, and it is an opportunity we should seize.
Supply Chain Transparency and Post Legislative Scrutiny
Moved by Lord Alton of Liverpool
98: After Clause 51, insert the following new Clause—
“Slavery and human trafficking statements
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(1) For each financial year, a commercial organisation within subsection (2) must prepare a slavery and human trafficking statement.
(2) A commercial organisation is within this subsection if it—
(a) supplies goods or services, and
(b) has a total turnover in respect of that financial year of not less than £60 million or such lesser amount as may be prescribed by regulations made by the Secretary of State.
(3) For the purposes of subsection (2)(b) an organisation’s total turnover is to be determined—
(a) by reference to the activities of that organisation worldwide;
(b) by aggregating the worldwide turnover of that organisation with any other organisation which forms part of the same group undertaking; and
(c) otherwise in accordance with regulations made by the Secretary of State.
(4) A slavery and human trafficking statement for a financial year is—
(a) a statement of the steps the organisation has taken during the financial year to identify and address slavery and human trafficking—and which complies with the minimum requirements set out in subsection (5); or
(i) in any of its supply chains, and
(ii) in any part of its own business,
and which complies with the minimum requirements set out in subsection (5); or
(b) a statement that the organisation has taken no such steps with an explanation of why the organisation considers such conduct to be appropriate.
(5) A slavery and human trafficking statement shall give details of—
(a) actions taken to assess the risk of the presence of slavery and human trafficking in the organisation’s operations and throughout its supply chains;
(b) who has been involved in the assessment of such risks and the extent to which such persons are independent of the organisation;
(c) what risks have been identified, and what action has been taken to mitigate any risks which have been identified;
(d) whether any slavery or human trafficking has been identified and, if so, what steps have been taken to address it, including action to support victims;
(e) the extent to which information for assessment and monitoring has been gathered directly at suppliers’ sites and whether such information has been verified by independent persons; and
(f) any such other matters that may be specified in regulations made by the Secretary of State under this section.
(6) The organisation must publish the slavery and human trafficking statement in each of the following ways—
(a) if the organisation has a website, it must—
(i) publish the slavery and human trafficking statement on that website, and
(ii) include a link to the slavery and human trafficking statement in a prominent place on that website’s homepage;
(b) upload the slavery and human trafficking statement report to the website maintained for that purpose by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills under subsection (8);
(c) an organisation which is obliged to prepare a director’s report in accordance with section 415 of the Companies Act 2006 shall include in that report—
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(i) the name of any director who has taken responsibility for slavery and human trafficking issues within the organisation (or a statement that no director has taken responsibility),
(ii) a fair summary of the slave and human trafficking statement, and
(iii) the web address where a copy of the report may be found, or if the company does not have a website a statement that a copy of the report will be provided on written request.
(7) If the organisation does not have a website, it must provide a copy of the slavery and human trafficking statement to anyone who makes a written request for one and must do so before the end of the period of 30 days beginning with the day on which the request is received.
(8) The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills shall maintain a website—
(a) on which it shall publish slavery and human trafficking statements which are uploaded to the website or delivered to it under subsection (6)(b);
(b) in a form in which the published data is freely searchable by the public.
(9) The Secretary of State—
(a) may issue guidance about the duties imposed on commercial organisations by this section; and
(b) must publish any such guidance.
(10) Evidence under subsection (9) may in particular set out the kind of information in addition or supplemental to that set out in subsection (5) which may be included in a slavery and human trafficking statement.
(11) The duties imposed on commercial organisations by this section are enforceable by any of the Secretary of State, the Independent Anti-slavery Commissioner, the Equality and Human Rights Commission, the Financial Reporting Council; or such other person as may be specified by way of regulation, any of whom may bring civil proceedings in the High Court for an injunction or, in Scotland, for specific performance of a statutory duty under section 45 of the Court of Session Act 1988.
(12) Where a commercial organisation is in breach of any duty under this section the commercial organisation and every director, partner, or other person occupying an equivalent position shall have committed an offence.
(13) It is a defence for any person charged with an offence under subsection (12) to prove that he took all reasonable steps to ensure compliance with this section.
(14) A person guilty of an offence under subsection (12) is liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding the statutory maximum and on conviction on indictment to a fine.
(15) This section shall be reviewed by the Secretary of State 3 years after the section comes into force and following this review the Secretary of State shall lay before Parliament a report assessing the effectiveness of the section and recommending whether any amendments should be made.
(16) For the purposes of this section—
“commercial organisation” means—
(a) a body corporate (wherever incorporated) which carries on a business, or part of a business, in any part of the United Kingdom, or
(b) a partnership (wherever formed) which carries on a business, or part of a business, in any part of the United Kingdom,
and for this purpose “business” includes a trade or profession;
“group undertaking” shall have the meaning set out in section 1162 of the Companies Act 2006;
(a) a partnership within the Partnership Act 1890,
(b) a limited partnership registered under the Limited Partnerships Act 1907, or
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(c) a firm, or an entity of a similar character, formed under the law of a country outside the United Kingdom;
“slavery and human trafficking” means—
(a) conduct which constitutes an offence under any of the following—(a) section 1, 2 or 4 of this Act, (b) section 57, 58, 58A or 59 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003 (trafficking for sexual exploitation), (c) section 22 of the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 2003 (traffic in prostitution etc), (d) section 4 of the Asylum and Immigration (Treatment of Claimants, etc.) Act 2004 (trafficking for exploitation), (e) section 71 of the Coroners and Justice Act 2009 (slavery, servitude and forced or compulsory labour), (f) section 47 of the Criminal Justice and Licensing (Scotland) Act 2010 (slavery, servitude and forced or compulsory labour), or
(b) conduct which would constitute an offence in a part of the United Kingdom under any of those provisions if the conduct took place in that part of the United Kingdom;
“supply chain” means those raw materials, purchases, processes, products, labour, services and transportation by means of which the company’s goods and services whether or not for sale to customers are acquired, manufactured, assembled or otherwise produced from their original source up to and including their sale or provision to the company’s customers;
but a company’s supply chain shall not include those products and services that are acquired, rented, leased or otherwise used by a company for a purpose which is incidental or ancillary to the matters referred to in the definition of supply chain above.”
Lord Alton of Liverpool: My Lords, as the noble Lord, Lord Bates, said, this is the second of three amendments that consider supply chains. It is an issue that I flagged up at Second Reading. The amendment emerged from a meeting which I chaired in this building with many of the charities and non-governmental organisations involved in this question. I particularly thank the noble Baronesses, Lady Kennedy of Cradley and Lady Mobarik, and my noble and right reverend friend Lord Harries of Pentregarth, who are all signatories to the amendment. I also thank those Members of your Lordships’ House, some of whom are here this evening, who signed a letter to the Timeslast Saturday supporting the arguments outlined in the amendment—about 20 Members from all sides. On the same day, the Daily Telegraph published a letter signed by 19 of the leading charities and non-governmental organisations, also supporting the proposal.
Inevitably, we want in the amendment to take the opportunity, while legislation is before your Lordships’ House, to tackle the problem, not to leave it, as the Minister said, to a consultation and review process, which can seem like the long grass. The Government have every reason to be very proud of the Bill. I welcome the fact that they introduced Clause 51—Part 6—at a late stage in another place, but clearly it was not subject to all of the same pre-legislative scrutiny that everything else in the Bill received. There was some, but not much, and it was not considered in Committee in another place. Therefore, we have a particular duty, while these issues are before your Lordships’ House, to spend some time on them. There are 16 subsections in the amendment, so I hope that the patience of your Lordships’ House, even at this late stage in our deliberations on the Bill, will not be too exhausted as I try to describe why so many Members and organisations outside the House feel that they are
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necessary. All the signatories of both letters I have mentioned welcome the inclusion of a new requirement for business to report on slavery and forced labour in their supply chains, but the provision must be strengthened if it is to drive real change in company supply chains.
Part 6, and this amendment, should be read in the context of the International Labour Organization’s estimate that around 21 million men, women and children around the world are in a form of slavery, estimated to generate a profit of $150 billion every single year. Part 6 rightly recognises that we all have a responsibility—a point alluded to by the Minister in the earlier group of amendments—to encourage businesses to look deep into their supply chains to investigate the practices of their suppliers and subsidiaries and to then take action. That is why the Government have repeatedly emphasised that compliance with the transparency and supply chain measures will be driven by consumers, investors and campaigners.
As the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, said on the previous group of amendments, there is a temptation here simply to hope that it will be all right on the night. These amendments seek to provide real strength in putting into practice the sentiments which have been expressed by the Government. As currently drafted, neither the content of what is reported on, nor the location of the report are likely to produce the meaningful, accessible and comparable information that is so essential to take a proper view on how companies are tackling the risk of slavery in their supply chains. As it stands, the provisions will encourage superficial reporting, which is why the Ethical Trading Initiative, to which the Minister referred, the British Retail Consortium and many investors are demanding more specificity. Simply relying on follow-up guidance to fill gaps in the legislation is a doomed strategy, as only the leading companies are likely to pay heed to the guidance.
At present, there is no requirement on businesses to publicise what action they have taken to ensure that their supply and product chains are free from slavery. While some businesses are already taking positive action to address this issue, many clearly are not. I remind your Lordships that in 2013 a factory building collapse in Bangladesh killed more than 1,130 workers at one site, highlighting the life-threatening conditions faced by garment supply chain workers in low-cost sourcing countries. It is just one example of the gap between industry codes and the real situation on the ground. My noble friend Lord Hylton reminded your Lordships of other examples, such as kiln workers making bricks in inhuman conditions in Pakistan and children manufacturing matches in India. There is a growing public expectation that businesses should act ethically and take action to ensure that forced labour does not occur in their supply chains or business practices.
The Government’s own Modern Slavery Strategy recognises the importance of addressing slavery in supply chains. Paragraph 6.24 says that,
“if we want to ensure that the UK plays no part in perpetuating modern slavery we must ensure that consumers here are not unwittingly creating demand for modern slavery elsewhere”.
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Paragraph 6.25 says:
“This will take a concerted, collaborative effort by Government and business, within the right regulatory framework”—
not consultations or reviews, but the right regulatory framework—
“We will ensure that businesses investigate and report on modern slavery, and then help them to stamp it out”.
Paragraph 6.27 says that,
“we are committed to introducing measures that specifically address modern slavery. We will use the Modern Slavery Bill to introduce a legal duty on all businesses above a certain turnover threshold to disclose each year the steps they have taken to ensure that modern slavery does not take place in their business or supply chains anywhere in the world”.
The strategy is right and the Government have articulated the need; the question is, does the legislation do it? Clearly, there is a real need for measures to tackle modern slavery in company supply chains. This is amply demonstrated by abuses and exploitation of workers in such places as the cotton mills of Tamil Nadu in India. The mills in that region supply high-street retailers such as C&A, Mothercare and Primark. The Flawed Fabrics report, published by the SOMO Centre for Research on Multinational Corporations and the India Committee of the Netherlands in October, details many examples of forced labour abuses.
I suspect that my noble and right reverend friend, if he is able to speak a little later, will probably mention the situation he has regularly raised about the Dalits in India and say how many of those in the untouchable caste are doubly exploited because of the way in which they are used as forced labour and become part of these supply chains. That can include physical confinement in the work location, psychological compulsion and false promises about types and terms of work. The SOMO report also details trafficking abuses such as recruitment by deceit and by abuse of vulnerability, exploitative working conditions, coercion and abuse of vulnerability in the workplace.
The report highlights the severe restrictions on freedom of movement. Women and girls are mostly forced to live in hostels within the factory grounds. Rooms are shared by up to 35 people and the facilities are very basic. Toilets and bathrooms are shared by 35 to 45 workers. A local NGO reports that during recruitment some families were even shown photographs of the swimming pools that workers would be able to use—needless to say, these swimming pools did not exist. In the face of such stories, the Bill, as drafted, would not be effective, for the following reasons.
First, there is insufficient content in the Bill to deliver on what the Government has promised and desires. Secondly, there is a real risk that the Bill will not result in this issue being given the attention it deserves at the top of a company’s decision-making hierarchy. The reality is that slavery and forced labour in supply chains will need to be on the agenda and priorities of boardrooms if real and lasting change is to be achieved: this is the desire of many companies. Thirdly, there is no effective mechanism by which the provision will be monitored and enforced. Fourthly, there is no penalty for non-compliance.
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We should study with care the example of California’s Transparency in Supply Chains Act 2010. There is a great deal that we could learn from it. Indeed, this amendment seeks to build on the experience in California. Let me spell out the amendment’s provisions. Subsection (2) specifies a £60 million worldwide receipts threshold. This provides a consistent approach with the size and international nature of companies covered by the California Act, and is a similar provision to that which applies to companies operating in that state. Companies have expressed a desire for parity with California around the threshold level here in the United Kingdom. It also recognises the reality that large companies have the resources to do the initial heavy lifting, as it were. This experience will then be shared across business sectors and, over time, have application in smaller companies. Effective legislation will swiftly work its way down the procurement and subcontracting chain.
Subsection (3) introduces the term “group undertaking”, which allows for a definable aggregation of turnover. Subsection (4) proposes a modification of the Government’s wording, bearing in mind the reality of current corporate reporting and accountability mechanisms. The amendment requires a statement setting out the steps the organisation has taken to identify and address slavery and human trafficking in any of its supply chains or parts of its own business. It is vital to have minimum disclosure measures in the Bill because of the lack of transparency in many of the organisations which the requirement is designed to cover. Significantly, it is the business world which is calling for these minimum measures. I suspect that we will hear from the noble Baroness, Lady Mobarik, on that specific point. The Ethical Trading Initiative and the British Retail Consortium, as I have already explained, support the principles that underpin this amendment. The amendment encourages companies to identify the process they have gone through in identifying and addressing slavery in their supply chains. Subsection (5)(f) provides flexibility and allows for further measures to be specified by order as required.
Subsection (6) addresses this by requiring companies to publish statements on their website and, crucially, to include within their directors’ report the name of the responsible director and a fair summary and the web address of the full statement. Subsection (6)(c) will help to propel responsibility for tackling slavery in supply chains into the boardroom, so that it is not just delegated to an employee charged with the remit of corporate social responsibility. Subsection (7) makes provision for organisations that do not have websites.
Subsection (8) proposes a centrally maintained website which will assist with monitoring of compliance and public accountability, with reduced costs to government through self-uploading of statements by companies. Subsection (11) is important and relates to enforcement of the requirement. As we heard during the debate on Amendments 67ZC and 68ZA, in the name of my noble and learned friend Lady Butler-Sloss, there is a strong feeling that the commissioner should have an oversight and monitoring role in relation to supply chains. In fact, the commissioner-designate himself has already said as much, as reported in the Financial Times on 17 November. He said:
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“Once they know they are being monitored … they will want to have clean supply chains … If they fail they will be exposed—and no company in the world wants to be shown as employing slaves”.
Last Sunday, 7 December, the Sunday Times reported that Nigerian boys are being lured to England with promises of riches from playing football in the Premier League but are being forced into slavery once they arrive. The commissioner-designate immediately said that he would travel to Nigeria to investigate the claim. The issue was raised by John Onaiyekan, the Archbishop of Abuja, at an anti-trafficking conference in London hosted by Cardinal Vincent Nichols, the head of the Catholic Church in England and Wales. It is clear that each of the specified organisations in Clause 11 may come across modern slavery issues, and it is important for there to be a direct enforcement route for any of them.
Clause 12 proposes a new criminal offence without which the measure would be completely toothless. Clause 15 provides for the requirement to produce slavery and trafficking statements to be reviewed three years after it comes into force, an issue that we will return to a little later in terms of post-legislative scrutiny. In Clause 16, there are a number of necessary definitions, most of which are existing government definitions. The definition of supply chains is new and would certainly benefit from discussion in your Lordships’ House.
Amendment 98 has the support of the business community. The Ethical Trading Initiative and the British Retail Consortium, which between them represent many of the companies that would be caught by the requirement, have published a briefing note on the Bill. At Second Reading, I mentioned the support of Rathbones, which holds £96 billion-worth of investments. It wants an amendment like this in the Bill because it says that it would better safeguard its investors and mean that it would be far easier to effectively enforce the sentiments in the Bill. In calling for the anti-slavery commissioner to be responsible for monitoring compliance with the reporting requirement, the legislation would set clear minimum criteria for reporting and specify the penalty for non-compliance, among other things.
The amendment also has the support of a wide coalition of civil society organisations that have been working on this issue and which include corporate accountability, fair trade, development and anti-slavery groups, as shown by their letter to the Daily Telegraph on Saturday. Finally, it also commands support from all sides of the House. I therefore hope that the Minister is able to listen to and reflect on this consensus, and that between now and Report there will be a chance to consider this part of the Bill further, as the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, was pressing in an earlier group of amendments. I have already spoken to the Leader of the Opposition, the noble Baroness, Lady Royall, and we have agreed that we will bring back the coalition of groups which came into the first meeting here. I hope that that may be an opportunity for the Minister to meet them and hear their arguments. I beg to move.
Lord Harries of Pentregarth: The noble Lord, Lord Alton, has set out the case in his usual full and very effective way, and I rise to speak briefly to support the amendment.
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I begin by addressing something that the Minister said at the beginning about consumers having a role and a responsibility here. I absolutely agree. If we pose the question of how consumers will be best educated and alerted to the issues, the answer is that it is by a good law. A good law is not one which just sets out certain generalities, but one that has some bite to it, some detail. As the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, stated so effectively on the previous group of amendments, however welcome it is to have Clause 51, there should be some requirement for more detail on the transparency statements and it should be possible for the general public and NGOs to have easy access to all these statements so that they can compare one thing with another.
The Minister talked about the discussions and dialogues which are going to take place with business. That is absolutely right because business has to be drawn along with this and to be fully supportive of it. I think the businesses involved would find it helpful to have a little more bite about this clause before they begin to think about how best to put it into practice.
I have a particular concern in this area, as already mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Alton, as chair of the All-Party Group for Dalits because they suffer disproportionately in every aspect of trafficking and enslavement, particularly in this area of bonded labour and different kinds of exploitation. I very much hope that the Minister will feel able, after further consultation, to bring back a clause which has a little more bite to it. I think it would be warmly welcomed around the House. It may not require all the detail that the noble Lord, Lord Alton, has, but perhaps the Minister could look at the amendment and the amendment put forward in the previous group by the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, about statements and see whether there are certain details that he would be able to take out and bring back to the House on Report.
Baroness McDonagh (Lab): I shall speak to Amendment 98A and support Amendment 98. I start by declaring an interest as patron of the Lily foundation, an anti sex-trafficking charity operating in India and the UK. Is it not absolutely fantastic that we are here on all sides of the Chamber to support a Bill that we all want to see enacted? That is a very unusual occurrence. In that spirit of unity, I am pleased that this amendment is being supported by me and the noble Lord, Lord Hastings of Scarisbrick.
Our concern is that this clause on supply chains will turn out to be warm words and good intentions. Indeed, when assemblies all around the world have sought to phrase legislation in these terms, they have rarely been able to meet their objectives. If the Bill cannot meet its objectives, what then? That is what this small enabling amendment covers. It would allow the Home Secretary to intervene and require extremely large companies to risk assess, create an action plan and audit. We think this is a very simple thing to do and would welcome a meeting with the Minister to discuss it further.
Let me be clear about the companies to which this amendment would apply. I understand that the Government would be concerned if it were to apply to
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all companies. I understand that placing such a regulatory responsibility on SMEs would be extremely difficult. Indeed, our amendment would not even apply to large companies; it would apply to really large global entities, which are very specifically defined as companies with a turnover of £1 billion per annum. Not only that, there is a secondary locking qualifier, which is that they would be in the wholesale, retail, manufacturing and construction sectors, in which you find more people who are working in servitude in the supply chains.
I ask the Minister and the Government to accept this small enabling amendment. It is a safety net to ensure that all the hard work in tackling this terror will not have been in vain. If it is needed—and if the Bill does what is intended, it will not be needed—it will apply to a small number of companies. Behaviour change in the 124 companies which would qualify would have the biggest impact on the greatest number of people and would bring up the standards of all.
Baroness Kennedy of Cradley: My Lords, I support Amendment 98, which was moved by the noble Lord, Lord Alton of Liverpool.
The case for legislating for transparency in supply chains as part of the Bill has been well made and it is very welcome that it is being progressed by the Government through Clause 51. Now, as many noble Lords have said, the task is to get the detail of the legislation right and agree between us a well crafted clause that levels the playing field for business, informs investors, shareholders and consumers and drives change to end slavery in supply chains. I support Amendment 98 because it would do exactly that.
Amendment 98 would rewrite Clause 51 by adding, where necessary, elements of detail to ensure that it is more meaningful, effective and workable. As the noble Lord, Lord Alton, said, in line with the California Transparency in Supply Chains Act, which came into force in 2012, the amendment defines the threshold as not less than £60 million and, most importantly, includes the term “group undertaking” when determining the total turnover. That is important because it allows multinational companies that may have small operations in the UK to be covered by this legislation.
We all want the Bill to have global reach. Therefore, having a way to ensure the inclusion of all large foreign companies that provide services to the UK is vital. Clause 51 is ill defined in parts and Amendment 98 seeks to correct that in a number of ways. First, it suggests a simple change in the language to make the intent of the clause explicit. In the Modern Slavery Strategy the Government make it clear that they want this legislation to ensure that businesses investigate and report on modern-day slavery through the annual statements they are required to produce. It is therefore important that that aim is made explicit in the Bill. Subsection (4)(a) is consequently amended to confirm that the statement is specifically to “identify and address” the issue of slavery and human trafficking. It is its primary aim.
It is also important that the remit of this statement is more tightly defined. The clearer this legislation is, the better—for business and consumers alike.
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Subsection (5) of Amendment 98 provides a framework for the statements. It makes sure that minimum disclosure measures are included in the Bill: the need for risk assessments; the need to set out who has been involved in identifying the risks; what actions have been taken to mitigate the risks; and what has been the impact of those actions. The “how” should be left to guidance. Without those minimum criteria, as other noble Lords have said, comparisons between companies will be impossible to make and the level playing field desired by good businesses will be difficult to achieve.
We also need to look to and learn from the Californian Act and not repeat its mistakes. The learning from the application of the California legislation to date also shows us why it is necessary to be clear in the legislation about what you want to achieve and what you expect business to report. In California hundreds of organisations have issued statements in line with the Act, but there is a wide variation in the information provided in those statements. Some have disclosed meaningless information, some have disclosed misleading information, and a few—perhaps worst of all—have thwarted the legislation and disclosed that they do nothing and are indifferent to the issue of slavery in their supply chains. For example, Caterpillar Incorporated, a multinational company reported to hold $89 billion in assets, which manufactures its products and components in 110 factories worldwide in high risk countries such as India and Indonesia, issued a woefully inadequate statement. Krispy Kreme Doughnuts issued a statement of just 182 words, using them to say that as regards slavery it does not verify product supply chains, conduct audits of suppliers or require direct suppliers to certify materials.
Getting businesses to produce statements of that kind is not what this part of the Bill is about, and I do not believe it is what the Government intended it to be about. Clause 51 is not a paper exercise for businesses to write down in 200 words or less that they do not do any of this kind of work and do not intend to start. It is a serious measure that we need businesses to engage in and which good businesses want to engage positively with, properly and on an equal footing with each other. It is not fair that the good businesses that do excellent work, actively searching for evidence of exploitation, are being undercut and undermined. That is why having minimum criteria in the Bill is vital. Setting out those minimum criteria would not make the task more burdensome for business; the task—the production of the statement—remains the same. Minimum measures just give a framework for the task so that a level playing field between businesses is achieved.
Proper monitoring is also vital and, as the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, said, it is not currently clear how this part of the Bill will be properly monitored and enforced. Amendment 98 seeks to address that, too. Again, if we look to learn from the experience of the Californian Act, here some companies have ignored the Act completely. Research in January of this year quoted 85 companies as ignoring the legislation. That level of disregard is unacceptable, and we should make sure it is not replicated in the UK. Amendment 98 also ensures that a named
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government department receives and makes sure that the statements are easily publically available. It ensures that there will be consequences for blatant flouting of the legislation—as we have seen in California—by companies that do not comply or refuse to comply. Most importantly, it makes sure that compliance with this clause is a corporate responsibility. You need leadership from the top to change attitudes and make things happen.
I also very much support the requirement for a review after three years, which is included in Amendment 98. This part of the Bill in particular, as it is a completely new area of work, would benefit from a re-evaluation over a specified time period. Formally being able to hear the views of businesses, NGOs, trade unions and consumers on how this legislation operates in practice, and committing to bring forward changes where needed, would be a positive step forward.
I hope that the Government can accept much—if not all—of what is included in Amendment 98 and that they will look seriously at Amendment 98A in the name of my noble friend Lady McDonagh. She has clearly set out the impact multinational corporations can have in the fight against slavery. The 124 companies to which she referred, which operate in high risk sectors and which have a combined turnover of approximately $1 trillion, can clearly influence the working conditions in tens of thousands of workplaces and help many millions of workers across the world. The power of this small group of companies is huge. They have the power to reform their business models, insist on inspection regimes, support local efforts to empower workers and insist on decent wages and formal contracts for all workers here in the UK and across the world. Her amendment brings home to us that we cannot rid the world of slavery without the help of big business.
The provisions in my noble friend’s amendment would enable the economic strength of these companies to be a force for good—something they want to be and something we desperately need them to be. Many if not all those companies understand the reputational damage and loss of both consumer confidence and market share they will suffer if they are found to be sourcing from suppliers which use exploitative labour. Most companies want supply chains that reflect their brand, not brands that reflect their supply chains, so I am sure that, like Amendment 98, this amendment will not be seen as a burden but an advantage. I hope that both amendments and what they set out can be accepted by the Government.
Baroness Mobarik (Con): My Lords, I support the amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Alton, and I am grateful to him for tabling it.
I have put my name to this amendment because it would do two important things. First, it will give businesses more certainty and clarity when producing the slavery and human trafficking statements required of them. That clarity is vital in saving businesses time. Secondly, however, it would also provide consumers with the information they need to hold businesses to account. Without the clarity that the amendment would provide, I am concerned that stakeholders, investors
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and campaigners will not be able to play their part effectively in helping stamp out the abhorrent practices that exist in some of our supply chains.
The media have done an excellent job in highlighting just how far slavery and forced labour have penetrated the supply chains for many of the goods and services that we take for granted, from basic foodstuffs to electronic goods, clothing and fashion. But modern slavery exists across the globe, and whichever form it takes, business supply chains are involved in some way or another. Slavery in supply chains is closer than we often realise. A couple of weeks ago, the owner of a bed factory in West Yorkshire that supplied retail chains such as Next and John Lewis was charged with human trafficking and slavery offences.
I believe that it is not for government to keep legislating. One could say that we should deregulate in order to get the economy going. Indeed, we must work with private sector organisations, such as the Federation of Small Businesses and the CBI, to take the lead in education within various industry sectors. However, when considering any new regulation to impose on business, we must answer three important questions: is it necessary, is it clear, and how much will it add to the bottom line?
On the first of these questions, I am left in no doubt as to the necessity of the amendment. It is rare for business groups and civil society organisations to reach common agreement on new regulation, but in this instance that is exactly what they have done. All are calling for minimum measures of disclosure, greater clarity in reporting, and tougher monitoring, enforcement and compliance. On the second question, the amendment would make it clearer for all those who have to produce these statements what they need to include, where the statements need to be lodged and what they can expect if they do not comply. Thirdly, I believe that the amendment would actually be good for business. It would help protect businesses, because constant stories about the failure of companies to monitor their supply chains will cause significant harm to their reputation and brand, and thus their bottom line.
Transparency in supply chains is the first step in the journey of rooting out slavery and forced labour from supply chains for good. The more explicit we can be at this stage, the more effective we will be over the long term. Both the Ethical Trading Initiative and the British Retail Consortium have written to me in support of the amendment. Their members include global companies with thousands of suppliers—familiar high street brands such as Asda, Debenhams and Marks & Spencer—so their views on this issue should carry significant weight.
As the noble Lord, Lord Alton, has indicated, there is a consensus across civil society groups as well as businesses that the amendment is needed, and that it would provide the information they need to play their part. I would also bring to noble Lords’ attention the fact that more than 20 asset management providers have added their support for the inclusion of supply chain reporting requirements in the Bill, including Hermes, Rathbone Greenbank Investments and Alliance Trust.
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I recently spoke with Katherine Garrett-Cox, the chief executive of Alliance Trust, who is a highly respected figure in the Scottish business community. She says:
“We have been passionate advocates of a greater level of transparency in the management of supply chains and believe that the UK has a unique opportunity to lead the way in recognising those that do this well—by rewarding companies that promote and practise strong values. As a leading investor we also believe that by focusing upon this critical topic, our industry will increasingly differentiate between good and poor practice and can rightly hold those who violate basic human rights in their business models to account”.
Finally, I pay tribute to my noble friend Lord Bates for all his efforts in steering this important Bill through the House, and ask him to bear in mind that Clause 51 has been added because there is a genuine effort on the part of the Government to progress this matter. I hope that he will be able to respond positively to the amendment, which I believe would make what is already a good Bill even better.
Lord Rosser: My Lords, I will be brief. These two amendments are wider-ranging than my amendment but their intentions and objectives are similar, and I wait to see whether they will elicit a more enthusiastic government response. I also await the response to what I believe to be the request of the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Harries of Pentregarth, for discussions involving the Government on this matter before the next stage in the passage of the Bill through this House.
Lord Bates: I cannot quite match the noble Lord’s brevity, but I will try to go as far as I can, because some interesting proposals have been made. The first was the idea, suggested by the noble Lord, Lord Alton, of reconvening, between now and Report, his group, including the noble Baroness, Lady Royall, on the issues of the supply chain. That would be a very helpful thing to do, and I would be happy to take part in it. The noble Lord talked about the process—the journey that we are on—starting when the new clause was tabled. Some may use the term “kicking and screaming”, but I think that a sinner who repenteth ought to be welcomed into the kingdom of heaven—and into Parliament. I believe we are making progress down that route.
Many points were made about the regulatory framework, to which the noble Lord referred in great detail. The regulatory framework is setting out the long-term strategy. That is where we want to be. There are some stages to go through, in relation to the point made by the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Harries of Pentregarth. He raised the desire to see more bite than there is at the moment. I cannot give any assurances that that will be there by the time the Bill reaches Royal Assent. However, by the time of the process of consultation is complete and the guidance has been issued—
Lord Harries of Pentregarth: I thank the Minister for giving way, but will he pay particular attention to the speech of the noble Baroness, Lady Mobarik? She spoke from the point of view of business and emphasised
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the fact that businesses would value greater clarity in what was being required of them in these statements and how they were to go about it. I felt that she was making a very important point from the point of view of business.
Lord Bates: I agree, and my noble friend Lady Mobarik made a very good point by making it clear that it is out of enlightened self-interest that business ought to be pursuing these things. We also need to recognise that we introduced into the Companies Act the requirement for ports to carry a statement on human rights. As with so many of the issues raised by the noble Baronesses, Lady Kennedy and Lady McDonagh, this relates to human rights. You could almost say, without waiting for anything else, that the current legislation that requires a report on human rights could be broadened to include a statement on the human rights of the people involved in the supply chain. Those types of things might give urgency to it. On the assets idea, from my experience of business, nothing grabs the attention better of the chief financial officer, the chief executive or the chairman of the board and the people who invest. The noble Baroness, Lady Mobarik, referred to about 20 institutions of the size of Hermes, which is a huge fund, and Rathbone. When they put weight on that, when they hold shares and hold votes to determine who is the chairman of the board and the non-executive directors and what the remuneration of the senior employees should be—that is precisely the type of group that will grab more attention for these important issues than possibly even more specific legislation.
I am conscious of time, but I am also conscious that I want to pay respect to the two tablers of the amendment, the noble Baroness, Lady McDonagh, and the noble Lord, Lord Alton, with an undertaking to meet and continue the dialogue; and to give an assurance that we will do further work, if or when we meet between Committee and Report, when we will have the terms of reference for the consultation to look at. We can get some early responses to that and see what can be done further to reassure the noble Lord that the Government see this very much as a way of starting down the road. As with all these things, business should be aware that once you start putting down legislation such as this, it tends to be a one-way street. You do not go back. If people do not comply and if business does not take it seriously, this Government or future Governments will say that there is a demand and that they need to act to put more legislation down for businesses to comply with. So I hope, with that canter around the issues, but with some specific commitments to look carefully at this, that the noble Lord, Lord Alton, feels able to withdraw his amendment.
Lord Alton of Liverpool: My Lords, the Minister has been generous in how he has dealt with the issues that have arisen, especially at this late hour. I was struck that he talked about how sinners repenteth, when I was thinking more that Ministers are damned if they do and damned if they do not. I am personally appreciative of the fact that the clause is now in the Bill and, of course, it is incumbent on noble Lords to try to build on provisions in the amendment.
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One might use another metaphor about the bird in hand. On this occasion there is a Bill in hand, and a legislative opportunity. We cannot come back in another year from now with legislative proposals. This is the time to make them and I do not think that any of us wants to feel that the moment has passed without our doing justice. I reiterate that, because this is something that came into the Bill so late in another place, it is something to which, outside your Lordships’ House, we should give more time and attention. I thank the noble Baronesses, Lady Kennedy of Cradley, Lady McDonagh and Lady Mobarik, as well as my noble and right reverend friend Lord Harries of Pentregarth for the contributions that they have made in supporting the principles that underpin this and the other amendment before your Lordships. I am also grateful for the Minister’s willingness to meet those who tabled the amendments and the large array of those involved in this issue.
The Minister said that the important thing was to grab the board’s attention to get them thinking about these things. He is right about the power of investment and resources. I was very struck that Matt Crossman at Rathbone Greenbank Investments, which has more than £900 billion of investment, said:
“It is in the best interests of business to join the fight against modern slavery … Specific, but proportionate, legislation can allow companies to continue making progress, whilst ensuring that firms can no longer turn a blind eye to these issues”.
Naheeda Rashid of Hermes, referred to by the noble Baroness, Lady Mobarik, said:
“Companies which are able to demonstrate that they understand and are actively addressing the complexities of the risks in their supply chains will be better placed in managing both their reputation and disruptions to their operations”.
That is what these amendments seek to do—they put real flesh on the bones of Clause 51. I hope that, when the House resumes after the Christmas break, we will have a chance to hold the meetings to which the Minister referred. I hope that Report will not be reached for some weeks, which gives us some time to do that. With the assurances that the Minister has given us, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 98 withdrawn.
Amendment 98A not moved.
99: Before Clause 52, insert the following new Clause—
(1) Within 5 years of the passing of this Act, the Secretary of State must—
(a) carry out a review of the provisions of this Act,
(b) carry out a review more broadly about the current position of slavery, servitude, forced or compulsory labour, and human trafficking within the United Kingdom and internationally, and
(c) prepare and publish a report setting out the conclusions of the review.
(2) The report must in particular—
(a) set out the objectives intended to be achieved by this Act,
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(b) assess the extent to which those objectives have been achieved,
(c) assess whether those objectives remain appropriate and, if so, the extent to which they could be achieved in another way, and
(d) consider the strategic plans and annual reports submitted by the Independent Anti-slavery Commissioner.
(3) The Secretary of State must lay the report before Parliament.”
Lord Alton of Liverpool: My Lords, I fear I have drawn the short straw and may be exasperating one or two noble Lords, but this is the last amendment and I do not intend to delay the Committee for very long. In many ways, the amendment is self-explanatory: it calls for a review of the legislation within five years of the passing of the Act—the review could come much earlier than that, if it was so desired. The report would,
“set out the objectives intended to be achieved by this Act, … assess the extent to which those objectives have been achieved, … assess whether those objectives remain appropriate … and … consider the strategic plans and annual reports submitted by the Independent Anti-slavery Commissioner”.
A lot of emphasis has been placed on how successful the pre-legislative process has been. Surely, it is reasonable to talk about post-legislative examination of the Bill, too, and to put in the Bill a requirement for that to happen. I remind your Lordships that in 2004 the House of Lords Constitution Committee reported on the process and said that:
“Post-legislative scrutiny appears to be similar to motherhood and apple pie in that everyone appears to be in favour of it. However, unlike motherhood and apple pie, it is not much in evidence”.
The Constitution Committee, the Law Commission and the Government have looked at these questions. When the Constitution Committee reported in 2004, it found that there was significant room for much greater post-legislative scrutiny. The committee recommended that government departments should be responsible for producing a memorandum of the post-legislative review of the Act, which a Select Committee could then conduct an inquiry into. Acknowledging the Constitution Committee’s findings, the Government then asked the Law Commission to conduct its own inquiry into post-legislative scrutiny. The Law Commission reported back in October 2006, proposing a Joint Committee for post-legislative scrutiny.
The Constitution Committee argued that greater scrutiny might encourage the Government to reframe their definition of success from getting,
“their ‘big Bill’ on the statute book”,
to measuring the effect that it had. Given that we are sometimes inclined to pass declamatory legislation that looks good on paper and is a “big Bill”, surely it is right that we come back to have a look at how it worked out in practice. That committee, by the way, also warned that leaving any post-legislative scrutiny exclusively to the Government or solely to Select Committees might encourage selective scrutiny. Interestingly, the Government in their response said:
“the Government believes that strengthening post-legislative scrutiny further could help to ensure that the Government’s aims are delivered in practice and that the considerable resources devoted to legislation are committed to good effect”.
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I will not go through this in detail, but I was struck by evidence that one witness gave at the time that the Law Commission was looking at this issue. He said:
“If post-legislative scrutiny is to be effective … it should be owned by, and directed by Parliament. The Government will of course be a major contributor to that review but should not be in charge of the process or be in a position unduly to influence that process”.
The Law Commission concluded that a Parliament-based review process was popular, seeing it as an extension of the legislature’s existing remit to scrutinise and consider legislation wisely.
More recently, in 2010, the Leader’s Group on Working Practices in the House was appointed to,
“consider the working practices of the House and the operation of self-regulation”.
I note that it considered post-legislative scrutiny. At paragraph 139 it referred back to that statement about “motherhood and apple pie” in 2004, and went on to say that,
“neither Parliament nor the Government has yet committed the resources necessary to make systematic post-legislative review a reality. Like the Law Commission and the Hansard Society, we see merit in post-legislative review being undertaken by a Joint Committee. However, in the absence of Government support and bicameral agreement, no progress has been made towards this goal. We therefore believe that it is time for the House of Lords to establish its own Post-Legislative Scrutiny Committee. This could lead to the establishment of a joint committee in due course—but the desirability of joint action must not be a brake on progress”.
At paragraph 141 it said:
“We recommend that the House of Lords appoint a Post-Legislative Scrutiny Committee, to manage the process of reviewing up to four selected Acts of Parliament each year”.
The House debated that report in June 2011 and the Leader of the House at the time made the following comments:
“As regards post-legislative scrutiny, I am well aware of concerns that once legislation is passed, insufficient attention is devoted to its implementation and effects”.—[Official Report, 27/6/2011; col. 1553.]
Paragraph 38 of the Liaison Committee’s report, Review of Select Committee Activity and Proposals for New Committee Activity, states:
“Post-legislative scrutiny is potentially an important new area of Select Committee activity for the House of Lords”.
This legislation is not about motherhood and apple pie. As the Minister and noble Lords on all sides of the Chamber have said throughout all its stages, this is about one of the most awful evils being perpetrated in the world today. The Minister has rightly emphasised throughout our proceedings that this is legislation that we want others to emulate throughout the world. Surely, with such world-class legislation, we fairly rapidly should go back, look at it and see how it worked out in practice. My amendment would put in the Bill—and it is not without precedent—a commitment to doing that. I hope, therefore, that the Minister will feel that it is a modest and reasonable proposal and one that the Government might accept. I beg to move.
Lord Harries of Pentregarth: My Lords, the Government will be rightly congratulated when the Bill has gone through all its stages, but, as I think we
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are all aware, that is only the first stage. What really will count will be how effectively they get the legislation implemented. Therefore, I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Alton, and I am very glad to support his amendment. It is crucial that we review the Bill within five years of its passing into law. In many respects the Bill is pioneering new ground. Obviously, it will turn out that some things are perhaps not quite as effective as we hope that they will be, but I regard this review as crucial to the effectiveness of this legislation. The thought of having a review in five years will also help to focus and sharpen people’s minds as they know that things will be assessed.
Baroness Butler-Sloss: My Lords, I also support the amendment. I am not sure in what year the review should be held. I think to say “within five years” is sensible, but it might well be wiser to do it within three years. This is such an important Bill. As I have said previously, the Government are to be congratulated on bringing it forward and for doing so much to make it work. Although we on the Cross Benches, like noble Lords on other Benches, have been critical from time to time, we are well aware of the effort that the Government have made. However, it is important to make sure that the Bill works. The strategies of government that are not in the legislative process will have to be reviewed, but in reviewing those it will also be important to see whether the legislation is strong enough and working well enough for it to manage the strategies that go with it. I urge the Minister to support the idea that there should, at some stage, be post-legislative scrutiny of this important Bill.
Lord Bates: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Alton, for proposing the amendment. The Government are committed to post-legislative scrutiny of legislation under the existing arrangements agreed with Select Committees. The Government believe that post-legislative scrutiny is generally preferable to ad hoc and potentially inconsistent specific statutory requirements in individual Bills. The Political and Constitutional Reform Committee’s report into legislative standards praised the Government’s record on post-legislative scrutiny, saying:
“We urge the Government to continue to produce these useful memoranda. In return, we will undertake, and we take this opportunity to encourage other Select Committees to undertake, more visible post-legislative scrutiny work when opportunities arise”.
Since 2012, the House of Lords has established committees on an ad hoc basis specifically to conduct post-legislative scrutiny. I am sure that the House will consider carefully whether the future Modern Slavery Act would be a good candidate for such scrutiny.
However, I would like to place on record once more the Government’s commitment to providing a post-legislative scrutiny memorandum on the Bill within three to five years of Royal Assent. The Government will consult the Home Affairs Committee on the timing of publication of the memorandum, but that is a commitment. In the longer term, the Independent Anti-slavery Commissioner will continue to assess the response to modern slavery and how it is provided, and if new forms of abuse emerge. In addition to the commitment of a memorandum in three to five years,
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we will also have the update of the
Modern Slavery Strategy
, produced by the interdepartmental ministerial group on modern slavery. We will also have the anti-slavery commissioner’s annual report, which I am sure will be awaited with great interest by Members of your Lordships’ House.
There are therefore a number of opportunities for this type of scrutiny to happen. Having taken part in the Leader’s Group, which considered ways to improve the workings of your Lordships’ House and elsewhere, I have to say that one of the joys of this Bill is that it has been a textbook example of how legislation should work: first, producing a Bill, which is scrutinised in pre-legislative scrutiny. The Government then come back with a revised Bill and go through a meaningful stage in another place where amendments are made. The same happens in this place, so it seems to me absolutely logical that we should not leave the job unfinished but follow it through right to the end. That is why we are very much behind this commitment. We will produce the Explanatory Memorandum to ensure that that post-legislative scrutiny does arise.
Given that this may well be the last time that I am on my feet in Committee, I thank your Lordships for the way in which we have engaged in this very tough and passionate four days. It has given a huge amount of work for officials to think about and work on between now and Report. Somebody once said: “To govern is to choose”. There are going to be so many issues that we are going to have to work on that we will have to engage in some prioritisation about what is absolutely critical to get in the Bill before Royal Assent and what work can be continued under the watchful eyes of your Lordships and the Independent Anti-slavery Commissioner thereafter. That work and the meetings will continue and we look forward to making further progress on Report. I thank the noble Lord and ask him to consider withdrawing his amendment.
Lord Alton of Liverpool: My Lords, if, as the Minister has said, this legislation has been exemplary in the way in which it has been handled, and I think it has been, then I would also say, and I do not think I would be alone in saying this, that the Minister and the noble Baroness, Lady Garden of Frognal, have been exemplary in the way in which they have treated each of us. I can only speak for myself as a Cross-Bencher, but I suspect that it is a view shared across the Chamber that throughout proceedings we have been treated with great courtesy and thoughtfulness in the way in which the amendments have been considered, not least this amendment. I am grateful to the Minister for the way in which he has promised that post-legislative procedures will be put in place. Obviously, I would prefer it to be in the Bill, but he will not be surprised by that. However, I feel very pleased with the assurances that he has given to your Lordships. I am happy to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 99 withdrawn.
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