Successful Conclusion of Campaign To Provide BBC World Service Transmissions to The Korean Peninsula. Also reports on human rights violations in North Korea

Lord Alton of Liverpool, Co-Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on North Korea:

 

As Co-Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on North Korea, I welcome today’s announcement by the BBC of a Korean-language World Service. The announcement follows many years of work by the APPG and others, and we congratulate the BBC and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office on making the correct decision for the people of North Korea.

This is a practical and overdue step in breaking the information blockade that engulfs North Korea – and fulfils our duties under Article 19 of the Universal declaration of Human Rights – to ensure unimpeded free access to information and news.

Whether in the dark days of Nazi occupied Europe or in remote parts of the world today, the BBC World Service has always provides access to truthful reporting and given people hope in times of oppression and despair. Mikael Gorbachev once said that even he relied on the BBC to learn what was really going on in the world while Aung San Suu Kyi said that the BBC World Service kept hope alive during her years of house arrest in Burma.

In July 2014, I initiated a wide-ranging House of Lords debate on the BBC World Service. In that speech, my colleague, Lord Eames, stated:

‘I visited North Korea…From a most unlikely source, there was a remark that will live with me for a very long time. Obviously, I cannot disclose the complete circumstances, but the words speak for themselves. “Where”, he said to me, “is the BBC?”. If you knew the person who said that, the circumstances and the position that he held, it would set the balance right of many of the impressions that we have of what is going on in North Korea. Those words speak louder than statistics, transmission problems and the facilities needed, and I convey them to the House with great feeling’.

North Korea is a country where access to foreign media is prohibited and accessing such media is punishable by barbaric sentences. Today, the BBC and the United Kingdom Government have taken a stand against the censorship and repression practiced by the North Korean Government. Free speech, objective news, and voices from the outside world will now travel from London to the darkest corners of North Korea.
Over the past decade, the APPG has listened to many calls from exiled North Koreans to send information to their compatriots north of the 38th parallel. This call has now been heard. A mistake which has often been made is to believe that to engage with North Koreans, one must deal with the North Korean Government. Our approach at the APPG has differed. We have instead listened to the knowledge and stories of the 30,000 North Koreans who have escaped their homeland. Some of these exiles have bravely addressed our group in Parliament and their stories have undoubtedly inspired today’s BBC service and will go on to challenge a sixty year old status-quo on the Korean peninsula.

The work of the APPG has long-established the increasing desire of North Koreans to know what is happening in the world outside. Escapees say that significant numbers risk imprisonment and even execution to consume foreign media. But try as they may, the North Korean Government has been unable to put the information genie back in the bottle.

In 2014, a United Nations Commission of Inquiry, chaired by Justice Michael Kirby, detailed ‘an almost complete denial of the right to freedom of thought’ as well as ‘the rights to freedom of opinion, expression, information and association’ in North Korea. Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights insists that citizens have a right to access news and information.

For the people of North Korea, I am pleased that breaking their information blockade and upholding their given rights is to become a central pillar of UK foreign policy and BBC practice. From the Soviet Union to Burma, the BBC has shown that broadcasting can inspire and broaden the horizons of the repressed.

Facing the challenge of North Korea is an urgent diplomatic and political problem, but it is also a moral obligation. A BBC World Service in the Korean-language should come as a sledgehammer to the North Korean Government’s information blockade and inspire those who will one day lead a new North Korea into the light.

Link: https://appgnk.org/2016/11/16/lord-alton-bbc-world-service-and-north-korea/

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November 2016:

  • NORTH KOREA: Over 75 percent of Christians persecuted in North Korea don’t survive their punishments
  • By Czarina Ong
  • Reports obtained from the Database Center for North Korean Human Rights, a South Korean non-profit organisation, showed that over 65,000 people have already been persecuted for their faith in North Korea. From that number, close to 99 percent of the 11,370 defectors confirmed that there is absolutely no religious freedom under Kim Jong-un’s leadership.Meanwhile, the group Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) released a report called “Total Denial: Violations of Freedom of Religion or Belief in North Korea” in September revealing that members of religious minorities suspected of state crimes are “being hung on a cross over a fire, crushed under a steamroller, herded off bridges, and trampled underfoot.”“A policy of guilt by association applies, meaning that the relatives of Christians are also detained regardless of whether they share the Christian belief. Even North Koreans who have escaped to China, and who are or become Christians, are often repatriated and subsequently imprisoned in a political prison camp,” the CSW report stated.As a result, North Koreans don’t enjoy the freedom of expressing their religious beliefs. If they try to do so, they are subjected to discrimination, detention, and all sorts of inhumane treatment.
  • The report added that Kim Jong-un sees religious belief as a major threat to his leadership. Thus, he requires people to acknowledge him as their nation’s “supreme leader.”
  • As if the torture isn’t bad enough, the North Korean government even goes a step further by punishing the relatives of these Christians and members of other religious groups.
  • What’s worse, over 75 percent of Christians persecuted from their faith do not survive their punishments, The Christian Post reported. This is why only 1.2 percent of the defectors engaged in secret religious activities while they were still in North Korea.
  • Christian Today (12.11.2016) – http://bit.ly/2fBKxDq – Christians don’t fare very well in North Korea. Human rights groups are giving grim reports on the treatment of religious minorities in the East Asian country, saying that over 75 percent of those who are subjected to torture, imprisonment and all sorts of punishment do not live to tell their tales.
  • Posted In Freedom of Religion and Belief
  • ———————————————————————-

Chilling testimony of the evils of North Korea’s regime

Also see the web site of the All Party Parliamentary Group on North Korea:

http://appgnk.org/

New report launched at Westminster on the lack of religious freedom in North Korea:

Read the full report and executive summary at:

https://freedomdeclared.org/news/appgs-report-persecution-north-korea-published/

Human rights 4

On 10 December – international human rights day – the All Party Parliamentary Group for International Freedom of Religion or Belief (APPG) published the findings of its Parliamentary Inquiry into persecution in North Korea. The report, Religion and Belief in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, includes witness accounts of the horrific human rights abuses suffered by religious and belief minorities in the country, which often go unheard because of the secrecy of the regime.
It concludes: “The DPRK systematically oppresses freedom of religion or belief, and Christians in particular are targeted by the regime and subjected to chronic human rights abuses, amounting to crimes against humanity.”

The report makes a number of recommendations to the British Government, including that it continue pursuing the referral of the Democratic People’s Republic of North Korea to the International Criminal Court to account for its treatment of its citizens.

It also recommends that the UK invest in long-term strategic engagement with North Korea. Some of the practical suggestions include: educational exchanges, investing in the 30,000 North Korean people who have managed to escape, breaking the information blockade, critical engagement on human rights and the re-instigation of the ‘Six Party Talks’. Further, it urges the BBC World Service to establish a radio broadcast to the Korean Peninsula, in both English and Korean languages, giving citizens a window out of their closed world.

The report was launched at a meeting chaired by Geoffrey Clifton-Brown MP, Vice Chair of the APPG on North Korea. Those present heard of routine, horrific suffering at the hands of the DPRK state, with the Rev. Stuart Windsor, of Christian Solidarity Worldwide, sharing that “Between 1997 and 2007 an estimated one million North Koreans died or were killed in prison while the West has been silent”. The meeting also heard of the ingrained suspicion of religion from Kim, Joo-il, who told how “In North Korea, anti-religious education starts at six-seven years – people are taught to antagonise religion”. While Zoe Smith, of Open Doors UK & Ireland, highlighted a strong message of the APPG’s report, that the current situation in the DPRK “needs the ‘world citizen’ to step up to the table and say ‘enough’s enough’. Change is needed.”

Baroness Berridge, chairman of the APPG, commented: “For the past sixty-plus years, the Democratic People’s Republic of North Korea has committed egregious human rights violations – the details of which would turn the stomach of even the most hardened person.

This includes banishing those who follow a religion to remote places, incarcerating them, subjecting them to torture in labour camps, and murdering Christians for merely possessing a Bible…For many years North Korea has been viewed as an impossible case, but now the international community is finally beginning to afford the country the attention its people so desperately need.”

Lord Alton, chairman of the APPG on North Korea and Vice-chair of the APPG on International Freedom of Religion or Belief, highlighted that “Christmas spent in a North Korean gulag will be just another day of grotesque suffering”, concluding that “We who enjoy political and religious freedom; free to practice our faith; free to celebrate Christmas with our loved ones, must speak out and take practical actions to help bring the long winter of oppression to an end. This Report should be essential Christmas reading for Governments, MPs, and policy makers”.

December 11th – Evidence Given at Westminster on the Plight of Disabled People in north Korea: Testimony of a Disabled North Korean Escapee

Ji-Seong-Ho-a-former-North-Korean-defector

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/northkorea/11288881/British-Government-duped-into-funding-North-Korean-athletes-at-London-2012-Paralympics.html


http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/northkorea/11286517/North-Korea-leaves-disabled-to-die.html

http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/world-news/north-korea-castrates-dwarfs-makes-4790278

Also visit the web site of the All Party Parliamentary group on North Korea: http://appgnk.org/

The unprecedented publication of a United Nations Commission of Inquiry (COI) report calling for the prosecution of North Korea’s leaders for crimes against humanity.

The unprecedented publication of a United Nations Commission of Inquiry (COI) report calling for the prosecution of North Korea’s leaders for crimes against humanity.

400,000 are estimated to have died in North Korea's camps over the past 30 years.

400,000 are estimated to have died in North Korea’s camps over the past 30 years.

A United Nations Commission of Inquiry has called for the leaders of North Korea to be
prosecuted at The Hague for crimes against humanity. Lord Alton of Liverpool has
chaired a parliamentary committee on North Korea for 10 years. The COI report
underlines and corroborates the witness statements about unspeakable cruelty that Lord
Alton’s committee has heard. This report may be the catalyst for global action to force
change in North Korea.
His reaction follows details of two forthcoming meetings at Westminster, where you can learn more:
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Tuesday 4th March 4-5pm Committee Room 15 (note change from CR 18)
APPG North Korea and Open Doors

Fiona Bruce MP is a Vice Chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Group on North Korea

Fiona Bruce MP is a Vice Chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Group on North Korea

A briefing on Christians in North Korea, chaired by Fiona Bruce MP, with speakers including a survivor of a North Korean prison camp and a field expert on North Korea. It is very timely to draw attention to North Korea following the publication of the UN’s first ever report on human rights abuses in North Korea.

Please RSVP to

advocacy@opendoorsuk.org or for further enquires please call 01993 777300

Then on Tuesday 11 March at 5.30pm in Committee Room 4A.

Following the publication this week of the report by the UN Commission of Inquiry on North Korea, the All Party Parliamentary Group on North Korea will hold a discussion focused on the way forward, chaired by Lord Alton of Liverpool.

The speakers will include:∙

Sir Geoffrey Nice QC, former chief prosecutor in the trial of Slobodan Milosevic;∙

Sir Geoffrey Nice QC will be among the speakers

Sir Geoffrey Nice QC will be among the speakers

Brad Adams, Asia Director of Human Rights Watch;∙

Benedict Rogers, East Asia Team Leader, Christian Solidarity Worldwide and a co-founder of the International Coalition to Stop Crimes against Humanity in North Korea (ICNK)

There will also be a screening of a new film on North Korea produced by Human Rights Watch.

Please come, and invite others. Both meetings are open to the public

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North Korea and the United Nations Commission of Inquiry

Two recent events, inextricably linked, are harbingers of significant change in North Korea, and they pose significant questions to the international community about how best to respond.

First, in December last, came the execution of Chang Song-thaek, the uncle of the country’s leader, Kim Jong-un.

Chang’s death was both a sign of Kim Jong-un’s ruthlessness but also a sign of weakness and fear.

Chang’s death was both a sign of Kim Jong-un’s ruthlessness but also a sign of weakness and fear.

Chang’s death was both a sign of Kim Jong-un’s ruthlessness but also a sign of weakness and fear.

Kim Jong Un

Kim Jong Un

Chang Song-thaek had to be killed because he had questioned an ideology which has paralysed economic development, incarcerated hundreds of thousands of its citizens, and which has conferred pariah status on the country. His execution became the most high profile of a succession of killings, symptomatic of a system which routinely murders and imprisons its own people, and which subjugates them through indoctrination and propaganda.

One million men under arms. Military expenditure could be used for development and for feeding a malnourished people.

One million men under arms. Military expenditure could be used for development and for feeding a malnourished people.

Now, two months later comes the unprecedented publication of a United Nations Commission of Inquiry (COI) report calling for the prosecution of North Korea’s leaders for crimes against humanity.

After a year collecting evidence from North Korean escapees, the COI compared the country’s egregious violations of human rights with those of the totalitarian regimes of the 1930s and has called for their referral to the International Criminal Court. Despite their angry protestations, the leadership should be fearfully reflecting that, as at Nuremberg and at the Hague, a day of reckoning may one day come.

The ICC - Despite angry protestations, the leadership should be fearfully reflecting that, as at Nuremberg and at the Hague, a day of reckoning may one day come.

The ICC – Despite angry protestations, the leadership should be fearfully reflecting that, as at Nuremberg and at the Hague, a day of reckoning may one day come.

Unlike their former allies in Burma – who have also faced allegations of crimes against humanity but have begun to alter course – the North Korean regime has eschewed the path of reform, staking their future on the world’s indifference. It is a huge miscalculation.

Mr. Justice Kirby, the highly respected Australian Judge, who chaired the Commission, and his fellow Commissioners, say in their 400-page report that North Korea’s crimes against humanity are sui generis: “the gravity, scale and nature of these violations reveal a State that does not have any parallel in the contemporary world”

Judge Michael Kirby

Judge Michael Kirby

They detail what they describe as “unspeakable atrocities” and spell out their scope in graphic detail:

“These crimes against humanity entail extermination, murder, enslavement, torture, imprisonment, rape, forced abortions and other sexual violence, persecution on political, religious, racial and gender grounds, the forcible transfer of populations, the enforced disappearance of persons and the inhumane act of knowingly causing prolonged starvation.”

Judge Kirby has drawn parallels with Auschwitz, with Hitler and with Stalin and says that the country’s leadership and the system which it sustains – “policies established at the highest level of State” – must be held to account and brought to justice.

Judge Kirby has drawn parallels with Auschwitz, with Hitler and with Stalin and says that the country’s leadership and the system which it sustains - “policies established at the highest level of State” – must be held to account and brought to justice.

Judge Kirby has drawn parallels with Auschwitz, with Hitler and with Stalin and says that the country’s leadership and the system which it sustains – “policies established at the highest level of State” – must be held to account and brought to justice.

Chang Song-thaek high profile execution is certainly redolent of the period to which Michael Kirby alludes.

Chang was seen as a potential alternative. He had been the power behind the throne and was close to China and admiring of its reform programme. China’s anger at his killing sits alongside their barely concealed contempt for an “ally” which routinely aborts North Korean babies, fathered by Chinese men, who are regarded as a contamination of Korean blood line.

Chang’s execution – some unsubstantiated reports in China allege that he was thrown to the dogs ; the purges; the reign of terror; the falsifying of history; the show trials; the network of gulags which incarcerate between 200,000 and 300,000 people; the estimated 400,000 people who have died in the prison camps in the last 30 years; and the attempt to obliterate religious belief and all political dissent; all bear all the hallmarks of a regime which has carefully studied, admires and imitates the visceral brutality of Joseph Stalin.

North Korea's Gulags

North Korea’s Gulags

Not for nothing, on a visit to North Korea, was I shown the bullet proof railway carriage which Stalin gave as a gift to Kim Il Sung.

But the regime has more recent heroes and I was also shown the gifts of Nicolae and Elena Ceaușescu. My guide seemed blissfully unaware of the fate of the Ceaușescus, asking me “are they unwell?” when I asked her if she knew what had happened to them.

My guide seemed blissfully unaware of the fate of the Ceaușescus, asking me “are they unwell?” when I asked her if she knew what had happened to them.

My guide seemed blissfully unaware of the fate of the Ceaușescus, asking me “are they unwell?” when I asked her if she knew what had happened to them.

Unlike the North Korean public – sadly denied access to BBC World Service broadcasts, as they do not broadcast to the Korean Peninsula – the whole world knows what happened to the Ceaușescus. Thanks to the COI, the free world can no longer claim that it had no idea of what happens inside North Korea or the scale of the depredations in North Korea.

One of the relatively new factors which has made possible the COI’s report are the first-hand witness statement s to which the Commission has had access.

  One of the relatively new factors which has made possible the COI’s report are the first-hand witness statement s to which the Commission has had access.

One of the relatively new factors which has made possible the COI’s report are the first-hand witness statement s to which the Commission has had access.

Just as North Korea can no longer completely keep out information and contact from beyond its borders, so the presence of around 30,000 North Koreans living in democratic countries has been a game-changer. The first-hand evidence of escapees has opened the eyes of the world and aroused the anger of many who were previously disinterested.

The first-hand evidence of escapees has opened the eyes of the world and aroused the anger of many who were  previously disinterested.

The first-hand evidence of escapees has opened the eyes of the world and aroused the anger of many who were previously disinterested.

It is now ten years since I urged the British Parliament to highlight human rights violations in North Korea with the same emphasis we place on security issues. Perhaps the COI report will finally make this happen.

As the world discovered during the Helsinki Process, after the West and the Soviet Bloc had reached a military stalemate, human rights engagement (at a number of different levels) tipped the scales and brought fundamental change.

The Helsinki Final Act of 1975 linked foreign policy to basic human rights principles. A firm stand on human rights, linked to a strong non-appeasement military policy, is the catalyst for change. That is why I have argued for Helsinki with a Korean face, and why I strongly welcome the COI’s report.

We should enter negotiations which guarantee human rights, such as free exchange of people and religious liberties ... By linking the present crisis with the human rights violations, a crisis can be turned into an opportunity. To do nothing about North Korea would be the most dangerous option of all.”

We should enter negotiations which guarantee human rights, such as free exchange of people and religious liberties … By linking the present crisis with the human rights violations, a crisis can be turned into an opportunity. To do nothing about North Korea would be the most dangerous option of all.”

Ten years ago I told the House of Lords that:

“By championing the cause of those who are suffering in North Korea, the international community will create the conditions for the establishment of democracy ….Learning the lessons of [the] Helsinki [process], we must do nothing to licence the regime in Pyongyang to commit further atrocities against its own people. We should enter negotiations which guarantee human rights, such as free exchange of people and religious liberties … By linking the present crisis with the human rights violations, a crisis can be turned into an opportunity. To do nothing about North Korea would be the most dangerous option of all.”

During the intervening decade I have chaired the All-Party Parliamentary Group on North Korea and have often felt frustrated that we have pursued that dangerous option of doing nothing at all. As Judge Kirby discovered once confronted by the personal accounts of those who have suffered at the regime’s hands doing nothing cannot be an option.

North Korean Poet, Mr.Jang, has broadcast on BBC World Service - which cannot be heard on the Korean peninsula.

North Korean Poet, Mr.Jang, has broadcast on BBC World Service – which cannot be heard on the Korean peninsula.

Part Two of the COI report relies heavily on personal stories. It cites evidence given by individual victims and witnesses, including the harrowing treatment meted out to political prisoners, some of whom said they would catch snakes and mice to feed malnourished babies. Others told of watching family members being murdered in prison camps, and of defenceless inmates being used for martial arts practice.

This is of a piece with the accounts which my Committee has been given.

It is more than ten years since I met Yoo Sang-joon. Yoo’s story was particularly harrowing and disturbing. He told me how he had seen his wife, and all bar one of his children shot dead. He subsequently escaped across the border to China with his one remaining son. The boy died en route.

The bravery of Yoo Sang-joon

The bravery of Yoo Sang-joon

Yoo Sang-joon himself became an Asian Raoul Wallenberg – the Swedish diplomat who saved thousands of Jewish lives during the Holocaust. Yoo Sang-joon bravely re-entered North Korea and has helped many people flee across the border. This led to his arrest in China in 2007, but, on compassionate grounds, China relented, allowing him to be repatriated to Seoul knowing that in the North he would be executed.

My Committee heard the story of Lee Keumsoon. Her death camp supervisors stripped off Lee’s clothes to establish whether she was pregnant. Like others who have become pregnant in China she was forcibly aborted.

The dignity, integrity and bearing of the women and men who have suffered so much is striking.

  Shin Dong Hyok told my Parliamentary Committee that as a child, he witnessed fellow child prisoners being killed through accidents and beatings. He saw his mother and brother executed in Camp 14.

Shin Dong Hyok told my Parliamentary Committee that as a child, he witnessed fellow child prisoners being killed through accidents and beatings. He saw his mother and brother executed in Camp 14.

None more so that Shin Dong-Hyok, whose story is movingly told by Blaine Harden in “Escape from Camp 14”, extracts of which were serialised in 2012 by BBC Radio Four. I have now met Shin several times. It would be impossible not to be deeply affected by both his story and by his demeanour. Despite everything that has been done to him and his family he still loves his country and wants the best for North Korea and its people.

Shin is nearly thirty and spent the first 23 years of his life in North Korea’s Political prison Camp 14, where he was born. Camp 14 is one of five sprawling prison camps in the mountains of North Korea, about fifty five miles north of Pyongyang. No one born in Camp 14 or any other political prison camp – “the absolute control zone” – had previously escaped from North Korea. These are places where the hard labour, the malnutrition, or freezing conditions, minus 20 Celsius in winter, will often get you before the firing squad.

Shin told my Parliamentary Committee that as a child, he witnessed fellow child prisoners being killed through accidents and beatings. He told me that children and parents were required to watch and report on one another. He was forced to work from the age of 10 or 11.

His parents were sent to the camp in 1965 as political prisoners. Thirty years later, after family members tried to escape from the camp, Shin was interrogated in an underground torture chamber.

Following this failed escape attempt, he was forced, on April 6th 1996, to watch as his mother and brother were publicly executed – common in the camps.

Guards bound the hands and feet of the 13-year-old boy and roasted him over a fire. The burns still scar Shin’s back, the memories have indelibly scarred his mind; and he remains haunted by the double life he was forced to lead and the lies he had to tell to survive.

In 2005, having been tortured, mistreated and discriminated against as the son and brother of a declared traitor – and suffering from constant hunger – Shin and a compatriot tried to escape.
His friend died on the barbed wire – not realising that it carried a high electric current – but, although he was badly burnt, Shin literally climbed over the corpse of his friend and for 25 days he secretly travelled towards the Yalu River and over the border into China.

In Shanghai he found a way over the wall of the South Korean Consulate and, after 6 months there, he was allowed to travel to Seoul. Physically and emotionally Shin was deeply scarred.
NKShin
Shin Dong Hyok: http://www.cbsnews.com/news/un-witness-describes-horrors-of-north-korea/
and also scroll down to watch “Becoming Human: Shin’s New Life” halfway down.

Shin was joined at our Parliamentary Hearing by Ahn Myeong-Cheol, aged 37, who worked as a prison guard at four political prison camps – also within the “absolute control zone” between 1987 and 1994.

He described how his father killed himself when he realised that he had been heard criticising the regime; his mother and brothers were sent to prison camps; Ahn was re-educated and became a prison guard in the “absolute control zones.

Vividly and harrowingly he described how he witnessed guard dogs imported from Russia tear three children to pieces and how the camp warden congratulated the guard who had trained the dogs; he said that even when prisoners died they are punished- their corpses and remains simply left to disintegrate and rot away on the open ground.

Particularly harrowing was the evidence given by two diminutive North Korean women who, speaking through an interpreter, recounted their experiences. From time to time their stories were interrupted as the women wept.

One escapee told parliamentarians: “I couldn’t bear to die with my children in my arms. As long as I was alive I couldn’t just watch them die.”

One escapee told parliamentarians: “I couldn’t bear to die with my children in my arms. As long as I was alive I couldn’t just watch them die.”

Jeon Young-Ok is 40. When she was a little girl her mother took the family across the Tumen River to try and flee to China. They were caught and her father and brother imprisoned. Her mother died of a heart disease and left her three children alone. Years later, now married with three children of her own, Jeon managed to make furtive forays from North Korea into China to secure money and food for her children. Twice she was apprehended and jailed.

Movingly she told the parliamentary hearing: “I couldn’t bear to die with my children in my arms. As long as I was alive I couldn’t just watch them die.” This was an allusion to the starvation of the 1990s when anything from 1 to 2 million North Koreans starved to death.

In China Mrs.Jeon remained at risk “nowhere was safe.” If she was caught the Chinese would send her back. And this is exactly what happened to her. Caught in 1997 and again in 2001 – she was sent to Northern Pyeong-an Detention Camp.

“I was put in a camp where I saw and experienced unimaginable things. We were made to pull the beards from the faces of elderly people. Prison guards treated them like animals. The women were forced to strip. A group of us were thrown just one blanket and we were forced to pull it from one another as we tried to hide our shame. I felt like an animal, no better than a pig. I didn’t want to live.”

“I felt like an animal, no better than a pig. I didn’t want to live.”

Jeon Young-Ok added: “They tortured the Christians the most. They were denied food and sleep. They were forced to stick out their tongues and iron was pushed into it.”

“They tortured the Christians the most. They were denied food and sleep. They were forced to stick out their tongues and iron was pushed into it.

“They tortured the Christians the most. They were denied food and sleep. They were forced to stick out their tongues and iron was pushed into it.”

Despite all this, she harbours no hatred for her country and shows extraordinary fortitude and equanimity: “The past is not important but these terrible things are still happening in North Korea. These camps should be abolished forever.”

In 2011 Mrs Kim Hye Sook gave evidence to my committee and described a normal working day in “Camp 18″. She recounted the manual labour undertaken by prisoners and scarcity of food provisions and the regular public executions and cannibalism which she saw over her 27 years imprisonment during which she saw the death of her son in the camp.

Here are the stories of religious persecution, the lack of freedom of movement, the lack of labour rights, the non-implementation of legal codes, the lack of a fair trial, the lack of judicial oversight of detention facilities and the severe mistreatment of repatriated persons- mainly repatriated from China.

Park Ji says she was sold to a Chinese farmer. Any woman who becomes pregnant and is carrying a child with a Chinese father will be forcibly aborted so as not to

Park Ji says she was sold to a Chinese farmer. Any woman who becomes pregnant and is carrying a child with a Chinese father will be forcibly aborted so as not to “pollute the blood line.”

Throughout the hearings which I have chaired I have been struck by the consistent picture which has emerged of appalling violence against women in detention facilities and the chilling accounts of life in prisons and labour camps. The individual stories bring home the enormity of the suffering that lies behind individual statistics. The COI report brings many of these dark stories into the light.

Professor Muntarbhorn described North Korea’s human rights record as “abysmal” due to “the repressive nature of the power base: at once cloistered, controlled and callous.” The exploitation of ordinary people, he said, “has become the pernicious prerogative of the ruling elite”.

Professor Muntarbhorn described North Korea’s human rights record as “abysmal” due to “the repressive nature of the power base: at once cloistered, controlled and callous.” The exploitation of ordinary people, he said, “has become the pernicious prerogative of the ruling elite”.

My Committee also took evidence from Professor Vitit Muntarbhorn, the previous United Nations Special Rapporteur on North Korea. Like his successor, Indonesia’s former Attorney General Marzuki Darusman and, like the COI, they were refused all access to North Korea. It is often said that the North Korean regime has managed to exist behind a wall of secrecy; that it treats the international community with contempt by refusing to allow outside observers into the country

Professor Muntarbhorn described North Korea’s human rights record as “abysmal” due to “the repressive nature of the power base: at once cloistered, controlled and callous.” The exploitation of ordinary people, he said, “has become the pernicious prerogative of the ruling elite”.

All eight of Muntarbhorn’s reports to the UN detailed an extraordinarily grave situation, in which he says the abuses are “both systematic and pervasive” and “egregious and endemic”, and he has concluded that “it is incumbent upon the national authorities and the international community to address the impunity factor which has enabled such violations to exist and/or persist for a long time.”

The COI  comments in its conclusions that “the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea…has for decades pursued policies involving crimes that shock the conscience of humanity. This raises questions about the inadequacy of the response of the international community” and it trenchantly tells the international community that it “must accept its responsibility to protect the people of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea from crimes against humanity, because the Government of the DPRK has manifestly failed to do so.”

The COI comments in its conclusions that “the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea…has for decades pursued policies involving crimes that shock the conscience of humanity. This raises questions about the inadequacy of the response of the international community” and it trenchantly tells the international community that it “must accept its responsibility to protect the people of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea from crimes against humanity, because the Government of the DPRK has manifestly failed to do so.”

Little wonder the COI comments in its conclusions that “the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea…has for decades pursued policies involving crimes that shock the conscience of humanity. This raises questions about the inadequacy of the response of the international community” and it trenchantly tells the international community that it “must accept its responsibility to protect the people of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea from crimes against humanity, because the Government of the DPRK has manifestly failed to do so.”

If we are to accept the responsibility which the COI places upon us, the Korean Diaspora (which includes 3-4 million Korean Americans) must take a more prominent role. Just as the Jewish community galvanised international opinion about life in the Soviet Gulags, the Korean Diaspora needs to catch our collective imagination and create a worldwide movement for change.

Alexander Solzhynytsyn.Solzhenitsyn remarked that “someone that you have deprived of everything is no longer in your power. He is once again entirely free”

Alexander Solzhynytsyn.Solzhenitsyn remarked that “someone that you have deprived of everything is no longer in your power. He is once again entirely free”

In thinking about the harrowing accounts in the COI report it is hard not to be reminded of life in Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s Gulag Archipelago – the archipelago of labour camps and prison camps spread across the USSR – which were known only to those who were unfortunate enough to enter them.

Solzhenitsyn remarked that “someone that you have deprived of everything is no longer in your power. He is once again entirely free” and that is undoubtedly the case with those who have bravely risked so much in telling their stories to the UN Commission of Inquiry.

As it comes to consider the COI report, the question for the United Nations Security Council – and perhaps especially for China – is whether it will continue to be the silent witness to evil deeds. Before deliberating it should re-read the 1948 Universal declaration of Human Rights. It would find that in North Korea is in breach of virtually every one of its articles.

Whether, by referring the findings to the International Criminal Court, sequestrating assets, setting up reparation funds, using economic leverage, and doing all it can to break the information blockade into the country, it deserves to be held in universal contempt if it now fails to show the necessary resolve to act on the findings of its own Commission of Inquiry .

NK Human Rights are Not Optional

The United Nations deserves to be held in universal contempt if it now fails to show the necessary resolve to act on the findings of its own Commission of Inquiry .

The United Nations deserves to be held in universal contempt if it now fails to show the necessary resolve to act on the findings of its own Commission of Inquiry .

——————————————————————————————————

Also see:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sA0ObXx60Ng&feature=youtu.be

http://amnesty.org/en/news/north-korea-un-security-council-must-act-crimes-against-humanity-2014-02-17

http://www.hrw.org/node/123287

For Immediate Release
***To view video feature and download raw footage:
http://multimedia.hrw.org/distribute/gixryujock

North Korea: UN Should Act on Atrocities Report
New Video Shows Horrors of North Korea Through Eyewitness Testimony

(Geneva, February 17, 2014) – A new United Nations report has found that crimes against humanity are occurring in North Korea and calls for an international tribunal to investigate and hold perpetrators to account, Human Rights Watch said today.

The report, by a UN Commission of Inquiry appointed by the UN Human Rights Council in March 2013, recommends that the UN Security Council refer the situation in North Korea to the International Criminal Court (ICC) and that the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights carry out investigations. The three person commission, which was chaired by Australian jurist Michael Kirby, will formally present its findings to the Human Rights Council on or around March 17, 2014. The council will then consider a resolution to act on the commission’s recommendations.

“This shocking report should open the eyes of the UN Security Council to the atrocities that plague the people of North Korea and threaten stability in the region,” said Kenneth Roth, executive director at Human Rights Watch. “By focusing only on the nuclear threat in North Korea, the Security Council is overlooking the crimes of North Korean leaders who have overseen a brutal system of gulags, public executions, disappearances, and mass starvation.”

The commission’s report finds that crimes against humanity were committed in North Korea over a multi-decade period “pursuant to policies established at the highest level of the State,” and included “extermination, murder, enslavement, torture, imprisonment, rape, forced abortions and other sexual violence, persecution on political, religious, racial and gender grounds, forcible transfer of persons, enforced disappearance of persons and the inhumane act of knowingly causing prolonged starvation.” The report notes in particular “a systematic and widespread attack against all populations that are considered to pose a threat to the political system and leadership.”

New video features eyewitness accounts of atrocities

To coincide with the release of the commission’s report, Human Rights Watch today released a video, “North Korea: Tales from Camp Survivors,” with interviews of North Koreans who survived years of abuse while incarcerated in political prison camps (kwanliso), including systematic use of beatings, food deprivation and starvation, and public executions, to control those held there. The film includes interviews with former camp guards detailing camp administration and atrocities. Regarding these types of camps, the commission found: “The unspeakable atrocities that are being committed against inmates of the kwanliso political prison camps resemble the horrors of camps that totalitarian states established during the 20th century.”

The commission’s report also finds that crimes against humanity were committed “against starving populations” in the context of mass famines in the 1990s, through “decisions and policies taken for the purposes of sustaining the present political system, in full awareness that such decisions would exacerbate starvation and related deaths amongst much of the population.” In addition, the report finds that a widespread campaign of abductions of South Korean and Japanese citizens by North Korean agents, primarily during the 1970s and early 1980s, constitutes crimes against humanity.

“The devastating findings of this inquiry should not be ignored,” Roth said. “Since the crimes were perpetrated by state actors, only an international tribunal can properly carry out criminal investigations aimed at holding perpetrators accountable.”

Human Rights Watch urged the Human Rights Council to endorse the commission’s recommendations by adopting a strong resolution on North Korea during its March session, and task the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon with transmitting the report directly to the UN Security Council and General Assembly for action.

The report concludes that information it collected constitutes “reasonable grounds. . .to merit a criminal investigation by a competent national or international organ of justice,” which could include the ICC, or an ad hoc tribunal created by the UN Security Council or by the consent of UN member states.

Besides referring North Korea to the ICC, the report notes that the UN Security Council has the power to set up a special tribunal for North Korea. This would be an appropriate step since many of the crimes documented by the commission occurred before 2002, when the ICC statute came into force, Human Rights Watch said. Tribunals created with UN Security Council resolutions have been set up for crimes committed in Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia.

Independent of the Security Council, the report notes that the UN General Assembly could pass a resolution aimed at establishing an ad hoc tribunal operated by a set of willing countries. Such a tribunal, set up by UN member states without Security Council authorization, would lack compulsory power under the UN Charter but could carry out many of the same functions as a Security Council-authorized tribunal.

Human Rights Watch urged Security Council members to immediately invite the Commission of Inquiry to brief them on their findings, and called on other countries to support efforts to achieve accountability for crimes committed in North Korea.

“The UN was set up in the aftermath of the Second World War precisely to address this kind of massive abuse,” Roth said. “The atrocities described in this report are a profound challenge to the founding ideals of the UN and should shock the organization into bold action. The suffering and loss endured by victims demand swift and definitive action aimed at bringing those responsible to justice.”

For Selected accounts from the UN report, please see below.

For more Human Rights Watch reporting on North Korea, please visit:
http://www.hrw.org/nkorea

For more information, please contact:

In Geneva, Juliette de Rivero (English, French, Spanish): +41-79-640-1649 (mobile); or derivej@hrw.org. Follow on Twitter @juliederivero

In London, Brad Adams (English): +44-7908-728-333 (mobile); or adamsb@hrw.org. Follow on Twitter @BradAdamsHRW

In Boston, Phil Robertson (English, Thai): +1-617-698-1230 or robertp@hrw.org. Follow on Twitter @Reaproy

In Washington, DC, John Sifton (English): +1-646-479-2499 (mobile); or siftonj@hrw.org. Follow on Twitter @johnsifton

In Tokyo, Kanae Doi (English, Japanese): +81-3-5575-3774; or +81-90-2301-4372 (mobile); or doik@hrw.org

In Brussels, Lotte Leicht (French, German, Danish, English): +32-0273-714-82; or +32-475-681-708 (mobile); or leichtl@hrw.org

Selected accounts from the UN Commission of Inquiry Report

A former guard in a prison for political prisoners told the commission: “Inmates in the [political prison camps] are not treated like human beings. They are never meant to be released […] their record is permanently erased. They are supposed to die in the camp from hard labour. And we were trained to think that those inmates are enemies. So we didn’t perceive them as human beings.”

One prisoner told the commission that he was forced to dispose of over 300 bodies during his 10 years in a camp at Yodok, and described how camp authorities once bulldozed a hill that had been used to bury dead prisoners, to turn it into a corn field: “As the machines tore up the soil, scraps of human flesh reemerged from the final resting place; arms and legs and feet, some still some still stockinged, rolled in waves before the bulldozer. I was terrified. One of friends vomited. …. The guards then hollowed out a ditch and ordered a few detainees to toss in all the corpses and body parts that were visible on the surface.”

The commission found that political prison camp prisoners, which included children and even babies born to prisoners, were only be able to survive “by hunting and gathering insects, rodents and wild plants or finding ways to divert food meant for the guards and farm animals.” One prisoner, describing the effects of the deprivation of food, said: “[The] babies [had] bloated stomachs. [We] cooked snakes and mice to feed these babies and if there was a day that we were able to have a mouse, this was a special diet for us. We had to eat everything alive, every type of meat that we could find; anything that flew, that crawled on the ground. Any grass that grew in the field, we had to eat. That’s the reality of the prison camp.”

A witness, describing what the commission found to be deliberate famine in the 1990s, stated: “We would eat tree bark, and we would get the roots of the cabbage under the ground, but that was just not enough. As time passed, our grandmother and other weak people were just not able to move at all.”

Another said: “So many people died that we didn’t have enough coffins so we borrowed [traditional burial boards] to give them burials. We didn’t have any wood to even give tombstones. That’s how many people died.”

——————————————————————————————————
Calls in Parliament for BBC World Service Transmissions to the Korea Peninsula

Calls in Parliament for the BBC World Service to transmit to the Korean Pensinsula

Calls in Parliament for the BBC World Service to transmit to the Korean Pensinsula


BBC World Service
Questions
Asked by Lord Alton of Liverpool

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether, before handing over to the BBC control of decisions involving future BBC World Service transmissions, they undertook any research into the benefit of broadcasting to all 75 million people on the Korean peninsula and the Korean-speaking Chinese province of Jilin; what is their response to internal research by the BBC that “The more business leaders know and consume the BBC, the more likely they are to trade with the UK”; and whether they will ask the BBC to evaluate the additional trade the United Kingdom would gain from a new service.[HL6002]

The Senior Minister of State, Department for Communities and Local Government & Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Warsi) (Con): There has been and will be no change to the decision making process on BBC World Service language services as a result of the 1 April 2014 transfer to Licence Fee funding. As I said in my 12 March answer (Official Report, 12 March 2014, column 1753), the BBC World Service is editorially, managerially and operationally independent. It is therefore for the World Service, not for the Government, to look into possible benefits of broadcasting to any particular region or in any particular language, and to make proposals on that basis.
When, on 1 April, the World Service moves to Licence Fee funding, the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, my Rt. Hon. Friend the Member for Richmond (Yorks) (Mr Hague), will continue to approve the opening and closing of the World

25 Mar 2014 : Column WA93

Service’s language services, as he does at present, based on recommendations put to him by the World Service.
The BBC World Service reviewed options for establishment of a Korean language service in late 2013, concluding, as a result of questions of likely audience reach, cost and technical feasibility, that establishment of a Korean language service was not appropriate at this stage.

Asked by Lord Alton of Liverpool

To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the reply by the Deputy Prime Minister on 12 March (HC Deb, cols 315–6) concerning proposals to initiate BBC World Service transmissions to the Korean peninsula, and his remark that “I understand that at the end of last year it (the BBC) decided, following a review, that it could not continue to offer an effective and affordable Korean language service”, what Korean language service had previously been offered to the Korean people; for how long it had made such transmissions; what it cost; and what savings were made following the review. [HL6003]
Baroness Warsi:I would like to clarify the answer given by the Deputy Prime Minister, my right hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield Hallam (Mr Clegg) (HC Deb, cols 315–6) concerning proposals to initiate BBC World Service transmissions to the Korean peninsula and his remarks on a review of that. The Review carried out in 2013 was into the viability of a BBC World Service Korean language service. There has not previously been a Korean language service offered by the BBC World Service, so the question of savings from its discontinuation has never arisen.

BBC World Service
Question
Asked by Lord Alton of Liverpool
To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the reply by the Deputy Prime Minister on 12 March (HC Deb, cols 315–6) concerning proposals to initiate BBC World Service transmissions to the Korean peninsula, whether the approval of “new services” remains the prerogative of the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs.[HL6004]
The Senior Minister of State, Department for Communities and Local Government & Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Warsi) (Con): As stated in my response to an oral question on 12 March, Official report, column 1753, the Secretary for State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, my right hon. Friend the Member for Richmond (Yorks) (Mr Hague), will continue to approve the opening and closing of the World Service language services, as he does at present, based on recommendations put to him by the World Service.

BBC World Service
Question
Asked by Lord Alton of Liverpool
To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they will reconsider their decision not to ask the BBC to transmit the World Service to the Korean Peninsula if the United Nations Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea recommends that they meet their obligations under Article 19 of the UN Declaration of Human Rights in respect of the broadcast of news and commentary about human rights and democracy to people trapped by an information blockade. [HL4977]
The Senior Minister of State, Department for Communities and Local Government & Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Warsi) (Con): The British Broadcasting Corporation World Service (BBC WS) is editorially, managerially and operationally independent of Government, so decisions on which new language services they wish to introduce are for them to consider and, if appropriate, to put to the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, my right hon. Friend the Member for Richmond (Yorks) (Mr Hague). As the noble Lord is aware the BBC WS recently reviewed the options for the introduction of a Korean language service and concluded, for a number of reasons, that they could not offer a meaningful, impactful and cost effective service.
The United Nations Commission of Inquiry into human rights abuses in North Korea is due to report to the Human Rights Council in March 2014. It would be inappropriate for us to comment on the content of the report before it has been published and until we have had the opportunity to consider its findings and recommendations in full.
BBC World Service
Question
3.06 pm
12 Mar 2014 : Column 1754
Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB): My Lords, did the Minister see the comments in yesterday’s edition of the Independent by Justice Michael Kirby, who chaired the recent commission of inquiry established by the United Nations to investigate human rights abuses in North Korea? He said that the extension of BBC World Service transmissions to North Korea—
“a country that has been largely cut off from the rest of the world”—
would make a considerable difference in fighting against those abuses of human rights. Given our Article 19 obligations and the BBC’s historic role in promoting democratic values above the heads of dictators, is this not a moment for the Government to urge the BBC World Service to play its part?
Baroness Warsi: The noble Lord has asked me this question on a number of occasions; indeed I have answered it here from the Dispatch Box and also written to him. As he and other noble Lords may be aware, in 2013 the World Service reviewed the possible options for a Korean language service and concluded after a fact-finding mission that questions of likely audience reach, cost and technical feasibility meant that such a service was not appropriate at this stage. I am aware of the UN commissioner’s report. The noble Lord will be aware that that contained two quite specific approaches to how engagement could happen: the first was through the broadcasting route and the second through encouraging people-to-people contact. We are one of the few countries that has extensive people-to-people contract because of our embassy in North Korea. The UN report also recognised that that is one of the ways in which we can engage in dialogue.

Q9. [902972] Andrew Selous (South West Bedfordshire) (Con): On Monday, South Korean newspapers said that North Korea was due to execute 33 people for having had contact with a Christian missionary. Given that a quarter of a million people are in North Korean prison camps, will the Deputy Prime Minister urge the BBC World Service to use its existing transmitters to broadcast into North Korea, especially as more and more North Koreans now have access to radios?
The Deputy Prime Minister: The hon. Gentleman raises a very important issue. As he knows, our embassy in Pyongyang continues to engage critically with the
12 Mar 2014 : Column 316
North Korean regime and tries to ensure that there are as many opportunities for dialogue as possible, including information coming into the country. The BBC World Service is of course operationally, editorially and managerially independent. I understand that at the end of last year it decided, following a review, that it could not continue to offer an effective and affordable Korean language service. That is of course a matter for the BBC World Service itself.

Subject: Independent today: BBC World Service – Mr. Justice Kirby intervenes

To view the Video launched at the APPG on North Korea on March 11th 2014 – what BBC World Service Korea might look like – logon as follows:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ywDAUhb7POA&feature=youtu.be

Also see:

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/bbc-can-make-a-difference-in-north-korea–by-broadcasting-world-service-programmes-in-korean-9182594.html

Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB): My Lords, did the Minister see the comments in yesterday’s edition of the Independent by Justice Michael Kirby, who chaired the recent commission of inquiry established by the United Nations to investigate human rights abuses in North Korea? He said that the extension of BBC World Service transmissions to North Korea— “a country that has been largely cut off from the rest of the world”— would make a considerable difference in fighting against those abuses of human rights. Given our Article 19 obligations and the BBC’s historic role in promoting democratic values above the heads of dictators, is this not a moment for the Government to urge the BBC World Service to play its part?

Baroness Warsi: The noble Lord has asked me this question on a number of occasions; indeed I have answered it here from the Dispatch Box and also written to him. As he and other noble Lords may be aware, in 2013 the World Service reviewed the possible options for a Korean language service and concluded after a fact-finding mission that questions of likely audience reach, cost and technical feasibility meant that such a service was not appropriate at this stage. I am aware of the UN commissioner’s report. The noble Lord will be aware that that contained two quite specific approaches to how engagement could happen: the first was through the broadcasting route and the second through encouraging people-to-people contact. We are one of the few countries that has extensive people-to-people contract because of our embassy in North Korea. The UN report also recognised that that is one of the ways in which we can engage in dialogue.

Q9. [902972] Andrew Selous (South West Bedfordshire) (Con): On Monday, South Korean newspapers said that North Korea was due to execute 33 people for having had contact with a Christian missionary. Given that a quarter of a million people are in North Korean prison camps, will the Deputy Prime Minister urge the BBC World Service to use its existing transmitters to broadcast into North Korea, especially as more and more North Koreans now have access to radios? The Deputy Prime Minister:

The hon. Gentleman raises a very important issue. As he knows, our embassy in Pyongyang continues to engage critically with the 12 Mar 2014 : Column 316 North Korean regime and tries to ensure that there are as many opportunities for dialogue as possible, including information coming into the country. The BBC World Service is of course operationally, editorially and managerially independent. I understand that at the end of last year it decided, following a review, that it could not continue to offer an effective and affordable Korean language service. That is of course a matter for the BBC World Service itself.

Subject: Independent today: BBC World Service – Mr. Justice Kirby intervenes To view the Video launched at the APPG on North Korea on March 11th 2014 – what BBC World Service Korea might look like – logon as follows:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ywDAUhb7POA&feature=youtu.be Also see: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/bbc-can-make-a-difference-in-north-korea–by-broadcasting-world-service-programmes-in-korean-9182594.html

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/media/opinion/ian-burrell-news-the-north-koreans-can-trust-9179941.html

One of the world’s experts on North Korea has called on the BBC to “be part of the solution” in fighting human rights abuses under Kim Jong-un’s repressive regime by initiating Korean-language broadcasts by the BBC World Service. Michael Kirby, the eminent retired Australian judge who chaired a recent Commission of Inquiry (COI) on North Korea for the United Nations Human Rights Council, told
The Independent that the BBC could make a difference to the lives of people in “a country that has been largely cut off from the rest of the world”.

Speaking in a personal capacity, Mr Kirby said the BBC was in a position to make a difference in North Korea. “Because the BBC World Service is still such a globally respected voice, the revelations in the recent UN COI report demonstrate the special needs, and particular utility, of providing the BBC to the Korean peninsula,” he said.

The COI’s report last month identified “unspeakable atrocities” in North Korea and found there was “an almost complete denial of the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion” in the state. The findings, which Mr Kirby said demanded “attention from the international community”, made headlines around the world. He told The Independent: “The strict controls on sources of information in North Korea, revealed in the COI report, surely add to the arguments for an increased outreach by the civilised world to the people of North Korea.

With its hard won reputation for truthful reporting, fair coverage and proper priorities, the BBC has a special potential to be part of the solution.” There is a growing voice in Westminster for a BBC Korea service, broadcasting from South Korea, and on Tuesday at a meeting in the House of Commons a “pilot” BBC Korean show will be played to demonstrate how such a service might sound. Funding of the World Service has passed from the Foreign & Commonwealth Office to the BBC.

Previous BBC studies have identified problems in providing a Korean service, especially in relation to the difficulties of the North Korean population tuning in and defying the ban on listening to foreign broadcasts. Foreign Secretary William Hague said recently that it was “not currently possible for the World Service to offer a meaningful, effective and cost-effective service”. But last week Foreign Office minister Hugo Swire gave renewed hope to campaigners for a Korean service when he said: “We have approached the BBC and are waiting for its detailed response.”

The Independent has seen a confidential report on the viability of a BBC Korean service written by the investigative journalist John Sweeney, who infiltrated the country last year by posing as an academic and filming a documentary for Panorama. “The humanitarian need for a BBC Korea Service broadcasting to the whole peninsular is clear,” he concluded. Mr Kirby said his appreciation of the impact of the BBC’s reporting stemmed from his own experience of listening to the “Radio Newsreel” as a schoolboy in Sydney in the 1950s. “It rescued me from a purely national or local perspective of news that was of concern to me.

It helped to make me a citizen of the world,” he said. Although he acknowledged that he had “no knowledge of the competing priorities of the BBC and the cost factors involved”, Mr Kirby said the BBC had the potential to reduce human rights violations in North Korea. “The path to greater human rights respect lies through greater awareness of the world, and of their own country, on the part of the population of North Korea.”

Lord Alton of Liverpool, one of those campaigning for a BBC Korea Service, said: “It seems unbelievable that the BBC World Service, which has been a game changer from the former Soviet bloc to Burma, does not play its part in breaking this information blockade. I hope they will hear Michael Kirby’s message and respond positively.”

The BBC said: “We agree that there is a severe lack of media freedom in North Korea and an acute need for more choice and variety of media content. However, the available research suggests that there are strict controls in the North on what people are allowed to listen to or watch, difficulty in obtaining radios and a complete lack of internet access – which we confirmed when a senior delegation visited South Korea earlier this year expressly to investigate the possibilities Given these significant barriers and having given this careful consideration, we do not believe it would be cost effective and viable to broadcast existing or new content to North Korea at the present time but we will keep our position under review and look seriously at any new opportunities that emerge.”

Extend the BBC World Service to North and South Korea – Change.org http://www.change.org/…/lord-patten-of-barnes-extend-the-bbc-world-service-…‎ o Cached

We, the undersigned students and residents of Oxford, are deeply concerned by the refusal of the BBC to extend its World Service to the Korean Peninsula, and …

Led by the senior Conservative MP, Gary Streeter, 15 MPs from all political parties have tabled a House of Commons Motion calling for the extension of BBC World Service Broadcasts to the Korean Peninsula.

Mr.Streeter is Vice Chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Group on North Korea. You can ask your MP to add their name.

BBC WORLD BROADCASTS TO THE KOREAN PENINSULA • Session: 2012-13 • Date tabled: 07.02.2013 • Primary sponsor: Streeter, Gary • Sponsors: o Bottomley, Peter o George, Andrew o Meale, Alan o Russell, Bob o Shannon, Jim That this House endorses the recent calls made to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and to the BBC World Service that World Service transmissions should be extended to the Korean Peninsula; welcomes the recent remarks of the hon. Member for East Devon and Peter Horrocks of BBC World Service, made at meetings in Parliament, which rightly recognised the role which the BBC can play in promoting human rights, democracy, culture and language; and believes that an extension of transmissions to the Korean Peninsula would be an appropriate way to celebrate both the 80th anniversary of the BBC World Service and to recognise Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which upholds the right of all citizens to freely listen to broadcasts and to exchange ideas.”>http://www.independent.co.uk/news/media/opinion/ian-burrell-news-the-north-koreans-can-trust-9179941.html

One of the world’s experts on North Korea has called on the BBC to “be part of the solution” in fighting human rights abuses under Kim Jong-un’s repressive regime by initiating Korean-language broadcasts by the BBC World Service.

Michael Kirby, the eminent retired Australian judge who chaired a recent Commission of Inquiry (COI) on North Korea for the United Nations Human Rights Council, told The Independent that the BBC could make a difference to the lives of people in “a country that has been largely cut off from the rest of the world”.

Speaking in a personal capacity, Mr Kirby said the BBC was in a position to make a difference in North Korea.
“Because the BBC World Service is still such a globally respected voice, the revelations in the recent UN COI report demonstrate the special needs, and particular utility, of providing the BBC to the Korean peninsula,” he said.

The COI’s report last month identified “unspeakable atrocities” in North Korea and found there was “an almost complete denial of the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion” in the state. The findings, which Mr Kirby said demanded “attention from the international community”, made headlines around the world.

He told The Independent: “The strict controls on sources of information in North Korea, revealed in the COI report, surely add to the arguments for an increased outreach by the civilised world to the people of North Korea. With its hard won reputation for truthful reporting, fair coverage and proper priorities, the BBC has a special potential to be part of the solution.”
There is a growing voice in Westminster for a BBC Korea service, broadcasting from South Korea, and on Tuesday at a meeting in the House of Commons a “pilot” BBC Korean show will be played to demonstrate how such a service might sound.
Funding of the World Service has passed from the Foreign & Commonwealth Office to the BBC. Previous BBC studies have identified problems in providing a Korean service, especially in relation to the difficulties of the North Korean population tuning in and defying the ban on listening to foreign broadcasts.

Foreign Secretary William Hague said recently that it was “not currently possible for the World Service to offer a meaningful, effective and cost-effective service”. But last week Foreign Office minister Hugo Swire gave renewed hope to campaigners for a Korean service when he said: “We have approached the BBC and are waiting for its detailed response.”

The Independent has seen a confidential report on the viability of a BBC Korean service written by the investigative journalist John Sweeney, who infiltrated the country last year by posing as an academic and filming a documentary for Panorama. “The humanitarian need for a BBC Korea Service broadcasting to the whole peninsular is clear,” he concluded.

Mr Kirby said his appreciation of the impact of the BBC’s reporting stemmed from his own experience of listening to the “Radio Newsreel” as a schoolboy in Sydney in the 1950s. “It rescued me from a purely national or local perspective of news that was of concern to me. It helped to make me a citizen of the world,” he said.

Although he acknowledged that he had “no knowledge of the competing priorities of the BBC and the cost factors involved”, Mr Kirby said the BBC had the potential to reduce human rights violations in North Korea. “The path to greater human rights respect lies through greater awareness of the world, and of their own country, on the part of the population of North Korea.”
Lord Alton of Liverpool, one of those campaigning for a BBC Korea Service, said: “It seems unbelievable that the BBC World Service, which has been a game changer from the former Soviet bloc to Burma, does not play its part in breaking this information blockade. I hope they will hear Michael Kirby’s message and respond positively.”

The BBC said: “We agree that there is a severe lack of media freedom in North Korea and an acute need for more choice and variety of media content. However, the available research suggests that there are strict controls in the North on what people are allowed to listen to or watch, difficulty in obtaining radios and a complete lack of internet access – which we confirmed when a senior delegation visited South Korea earlier this year expressly to investigate the possibilities Given these significant barriers and having given this careful consideration, we do not believe it would be cost effective and viable to broadcast existing or new content to North Korea at the present time but we will keep our position under review and look seriously at any new opportunities that emerge.”
1. Extend the BBC World Service to North and South Korea – Change.org
http://www.change.org/…/lord-patten-of-barnes-extend-the-bbc-world-service-…‎
o Cached
We, the undersigned students and residents of Oxford, are deeply concerned by the refusal of the BBC to extend its World Service to the Korean Peninsula, and …

Led by the senior Conservative MP, Gary Streeter, 15 MPs from all political parties have tabled a House of Commons Motion calling for the extension of BBC World Service Broadcasts to the Korean Peninsula. Mr.Streeter is Vice Chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Group on North Korea. You can ask your MP to add their name.
BBC WORLD BROADCASTS TO THE KOREAN PENINSULA
• Session: 2012-13
• Date tabled: 07.02.2013
• Primary sponsor: Streeter, Gary
• Sponsors:
o Bottomley, Peter
o George, Andrew
o Meale, Alan
o Russell, Bob
o Shannon, Jim
That this House endorses the recent calls made to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and to the BBC World Service that World Service transmissions should be extended to the Korean Peninsula; welcomes the recent remarks of the hon. Member for East Devon and Peter Horrocks of BBC World Service, made at meetings in Parliament, which rightly recognised the role which the BBC can play in promoting human rights, democracy, culture and language; and believes that an extension of transmissions to the Korean Peninsula would be an appropriate way to celebrate both the 80th anniversary of the BBC World Service and to recognise Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which upholds the right of all citizens to freely listen to broadcasts and to exchange ideas.

BBC WS 4
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Human Rights in North Korea
Refugee Testimonies and other online videos

The following selection of online talks, videos and documentaries provide informative first-hand accounts of human rights violations in North Korea. WTthese videos are worth watching for moving and informative background. There are others available on youtube.com as well, but the following is a selection.

Secret State of North Korea – PBS (53.41 minutes)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LnBUDYQxhaw and http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/secret-state-of-north-korea/
An up-to-date, very informative, secretly filmed documentary on life in North Korea.

Breaking the Silence – Journeyman Pictures (12.17 minutes)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PlEvL0ld8D8
Background to the UN Commission of Inquiry into human rights in North Korea

Hyeonseo Lee – Ted talk (12mins)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PdxPCeWw75k
Growing up she thought her country was the best in the world, although she often wondered about the outside world. She escaped North Korea during the famine in the 1990’s. Her story focuses on her escape and resettlement, and the struggle to later get her family out of North Korea.

Joseph Kim – Ted talk (14 mins)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nLeeTVmVrtA
“Hunger is humiliation. Hunger is hopelessness…” He became an orphan after his father died and his mother disappeared. He went to China to look for his sister and crossed the border during the day because he was scared of the dark. Joseph Kim talks of his escape and resettlement in America, and how a chicken wing changed his life.

Seong Ho Ji – (9mins)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0zrebN7mV8o
Seong Ho Ji and his brother fled North Korea in 2006 and travelled 6,000 miles across Asia before reaching South Korea. His only remaining possession from North Korea is a pair of crutches – he only has one leg.

Shin Dong-hyuk
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ms4NIB6xroc (Google tech talk – 1.06 hours)
http://www.libertyinnorthkorea.org/media/ (shorter version, Ted talk – 12 mins).
http://www.youtube.com/movie?v=9FZMwoY7DyM (Journeyman Pictures – 19.29 minutes)

Shin Dong-hyuk was born in a special prison zone and ‘had no real feelings as a kid’. He saw his mother as the cause of his suffering. These accounts tell of his life growing up in the prison. He later escaped North Korea and described how even the North Korea outside the prison seemed amazing.

Yoon Hee and Anon – CNN Digital Originals (4.5 mins)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=72KHZguk-WE

Yoon Hee lived on the streets from 8 years old. For her, food is life. She was abandoned by her parents because they couldn’t look after her. Her story as a defector portrays how life outside North Korea isn’t easy to adjust to and not necessarily safe.
Anon described the struggles in adjusting to a new life in South Korea and the disadvantages faced by students who are North Korean refugees, but how, through special programmes, the ‘country is supporting him, like a parent.

Han-sol Kim (nephew of Kim Jong-Un) – interview with Elizabeth Rehn, in two parts
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T_uSuCkKa3k (Part 1 – 15 minutes)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XSfVOf4OACs (Part 2 – 14.32 minutes)

A fascinating interview with the nephew of Kim Jong-Un, who has bravely spoken out while studying in Europe.

LINK – Liberty in North Korea:
http://www.libertyinnorthkorea.org/media/ (Various)

Danny’s Story (30mins)
He describes living under oppression and in fear, in a country where he is denied freedom of speech, religion and access to information (among other things). He tells of his escape and recalls the moment when his eyes were opened to outside world for first time and to the lies that he had been told. He dreams of being able to go back to North Korea and capture his homeland in pictures.

North Korean Refugee Crisis (3mins)
Successfully fleeing North Korea is just the beginning. This short video outlines the fears and troubles of being a North Korean refugee in China.

The People’s History (4mins)
A brief history behind the current political situation in North Korea.

“Silence in the face of evil is itself evil”- Dietrich Bonhoeffer

“Silence in the face of evil is itself evil”- Dietrich Bonhoeffer

—————————————————————————————————–
Michael Kirby gave a brilliant speech in Geneva, and various countries, including the UK and the EU, explicitly backed an ICC referral as well as the wider COI recommendations – see http://webtv.un.org/watch/id-commission-of-inquiry-on-dprk-31st-meeting-25th-regular-session-of-human-rights-council/3350537718001/

Matthew Jones spoke, representing both Jubilee Campaign and CSW – http://webtv.un.org/watch/id-commission-of-inquiry-on-dprk-31st-meeting-25th-regular-session-of-human-rights-council/3350537718001/

Fiona Bruce has tabled the following EDM in the Commons – see http://www.parliament.uk/edm/2013-14/1184

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New Movie on religious persecution in North Korea…. from Amnesty International UK and the INKAHRD(International North Korean’s Association for Human Rights and Democracy)

To those who are working hard to improve the human rights situation in North Korea
Have you had a chance to read the report of the UN Commission of Inquiry(COI), chaired by the Honourable Michael Kirby, highlighting North Korea’s human rights abuses?

We believe the most important lesson from the 400-page UN COI report is that North Korea must change. And we must remember, as Sir Winston Churchill said, “To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often”.

In this effort, Amnesty International UK and the INKAHRD(International North Korean’s Association for Human Rights and Democracy) are screening a film that reveals the reality of underground church in North Korea. I look forward to welcoming you at this film screening event and seeking ways to further protect and promote human rights in North Korea.
Film title – The Apostle: he was anointed by God(2014)
Location – Amnesty International UK Human Rights Action Centre(17-25 New Inn Yard London EC2A 3EA)

초대장

지금도 북한인권운동에 헌신하는 여러분, 혹시 M Kirby 위원장의 UN COI 보고서를 읽어 보셨습니까?
400페이지가 넘는 그 보고서는 북한에 변화를 주어야 한다는 말로 요약될 수 있지 않을까 합니다. 처칠경은 이렇게 말했습니다. ‘무엇인가 개선을 한다는 것은 변화를 한다는 말이며 완벽해 진다는 것은 그 변화가 자주 일어나야 한다는 말이다’라고
그래서 저희 국제탈북민연대와 AI는 이러한 노력의 일환으로 북한지하기독교 실상을 다룬 북한인권영화 시사회를 아래와 같이 개최할 예정이오니 여러분들의 많은 관심과 참여로 북한인권운동의 새로운 도약을 모색해 보았으면 합니다.
– 영화 제목 ; 신이보낸 사람
– 일시ㆍ장소 ; 2014.3.20(목) 19;00, AI內 Human Rights Action Center
Amnesty International•국제탈북민연대(INKAHRD)

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Susie Younger Never Ending Flower 2

Susie Younger’s book “Never Ending Flower” was published in 1967. She was a young Scot who read Politics, Philosophy and Economics at the University of Oxford. While she was a student she became a Christian and, in 1960, went to Korea, learnt the language, and decided to work among the poor for the rest of her life. Her book was published in 1967 by Collins and Harvill. It’s an inspiring account – not unlike the stories of Gladys Aylward and Jackie Pullinger, who also found their way to the Orient. See: https://davidalton.net/2013/05/11/gladys-aylward-the-little-woman-and-chinas-inn-of-the-sixth-happiness/

Having arrived in Korea with a young Austrian companion, Maria Heissenberger, they set up a house for young street children, bootblacks whose employers exploited them at took most of their earnings from them. It was a tiny house and they lived with those they cared for, sleeping on the floors and living of a simple diet of rice, barley and vegetables.

The project was an early recipient of help from OXFAM and CAFOD and it led to a second house being created in Taegu where Susie set up a home for country girls. They had come to the city looking for work and had been ensnared into prostitution. Susie Younger records some profoundly moving stories of girls who rediscover themselves and who find security, love, employment and, often, marriage.

In the later part of the book Susie Younger describes the creation of a 200 acre co-operative farm at Muhak. It was the brain child of a Korean priest, Fr.Lee, and part of its purpose was to create produce and resources to support Susie’s work. This was when she also met Fr.Stephen Kim – who would, in due course become the Bishop of Masan and eventually the Cardinal Archbishop of Seoul. It was he who stood against the military junta and protected the student protestors who had gathered in his Seoul cathedral. It is fascinating to discover him here, in a book written twenty year earlier, giving so much encouragement to a young Scot from Oxford University.

The book takes its title from the national flower of Korea, the Syrian hibiscus – the Biblical Rose of Sharon. Susie Younger says that because it blossoms from spring until late autumn this tenacious plant is known in Korea as “the never ending flower.”

Although, at the height of summer, the sun scorches and destroys its blossoms, the following day it is resplendent with new flowers. In the case of Korea – whether struggling in the 1960s from the after effects of the Korean War and military dictatorship or, in the North, from decades of totalitarianism – the resilience and the ability, in adversity, to renew and restore damaged beauty seems very apt.

The book concludes with an appendix in which Susie Younger sets out her personal testimony and her hope to stay among the people she felt called to serve for the rest of her life. The book was published in 1967 and it would be intriguing to know how the story continued.

Hillsborough – DPP Asked To Expedite Decision; Susan Hemming to take Final Decisions – Jury verdict of unlawful killing: The Hillsborough Independent Panel’s Investigation – and correspondence from 1989 with the Police Complaints Authority and Government Ministers. April 1989 intervention in the House of Commons. April 27th 2016 Statement in the House of Lords; April 29th letter to the Director of the Crown Prosecution Service

 

Dear Mr.Okogwu

 

I would be grateful if you would thank the Director for this response.

 

I do find it astonishing that it will not be possible to decide more quickly – and certainly well before the end of the year.

 

I would have assumed you would have been receiving transcripts of the Inquest throughout the proceedings and would have been assessing them continually – particularly given the potential for some prosecution questions and the need for requisite decisions.

 

Given the extraordinary delays which have blighted the lives of the affected families for nearly three decades I would be grateful if you would convey my further request to expedite the decisions which must be taken.

 

Could you also indicate whether there is any linkage to the work of the continuing Hillsborough Inquiry and whether you will be asking the Inquiry team for sight of their preliminary findings and conclusions before arriving at your own decisions about how best to proceed.

 

Yours sincerely,

 

David Alton

(Lord Alton of Liverpool),

 

Professor of Citizenship, Liverpool John Moores University,

Independent Crossbench Member of the House of Lords.

 

www.davidalton.net     altond@parliament.uk

 

0151 231 3852 (University); 0207 219 3551 (Parliament)

 

  • Hillsborough 3
  • http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm198889/cmhansrd/1989-04-17/Debate-1.htmlColumn 33: House of Commons April 17th 1989 Mr. David Alton (Liverpool, Mossley Hill) : In the face of this terrible and wholly avoidable tragedy–many of the fatalities were young children, including a 13-year-old boy from my

    constituency–expressions of condolences and sympathy seem inadequate to sum up the enormity of it for a city that is mourning its dead and is united in its grief.

    A time will come when grief will give way to anger and questions will have to be answered. I should like an assurance from the Home Secretary that it will be made clear why the gate was opened and who took that decision. Why were emergency arrangements so pitifully inadequate? I welcome what the right hon. Gentleman said about the provision of seats in our national stadiums, but will he take urgent action to ensure that those terrible metal cages are put on the scrap heap and people are treated like human beings instead of animals? On 22 March, I wrote to the Minister about the ticket allocation for Saturday’s match. I enclosed a statement from Mr. Peter Robinson, the chief executive of Liverpool football ground, who said : “I made it plain that there was no way I could support the choice of Hillsborough this year with the same ticket allocations applying.”

    When I received a reply dated 11 April from the Minister of Sport, he said that the mater was entirely for the football authorities. In the light of what has happened, will the Home Secretary accept that the Minister should take an interest in this matter? Will he confirm that which the Minister said, that the allocations were made on the basis of police advice? I ask that because there have been conflicting statements in the past 24 hours.

    Liverpool is a city schooled in adversity. However, not since the blitz has it had to face a tragedy on such a shocking scale. I am sure that the House today will wish to express its solidarity with those who grieve and those awaiting news of loved ones, whose lives still lie in the balance.

    Mr. Hurd : All the points raised by the hon. Gentleman are clearly covered by the terms of reference of the inquiry, and Lord Justice Taylor will be able to look into them. I am slightly surprised that he suggests that Ministers should become involved in deciding, match by match, how tickets should be allocated. He is perfectly right in his understanding– these are matters for the football authorities. They consult on them and are guided by the police. I shall repeat my earlier point that, although the matter of total allocation will certainly be looked into, it was not the total allocation, so much as the concentration of that allocation in a part of the Liverpool terrace, which resulted in the terrible damage.

  • ———————————————————————-
  • Hillsborough Statement, House of Lords,  April 27th 2016
  • Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB)
  • My Lords, during the 27 years that have elapsed since the Hillsborough disaster, the double spectre of loss and injustice has hung over the people of Liverpool. Among the 96 who died were former constituents of mine, including a child. Those deaths of loved ones were compounded by the denial of criminal negligence, callous indifference, the subversion of our justice system, collective character assassination and demonisation. If the Minister has had a chance to read the material I sent him this morning, including the letter I sent before the game was played at Hillsborough which questioned the safety of the ground, he will realise that there are still many unanswered questions. I would be grateful if he told us more about the timetabling of the continuing inquiry, which is being held with great diligence and meticulousness at Warrington; I have had a chance to visit it and talk to the people about the way they are going about their work. Will he also answer the question which the noble Viscount, Lord Hailsham, put to him a few moments ago about the further judicial proceedings that will be necessary and the timetabling for decisions? We certainly cannot wait another three decades.
  • Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon
  • To take the noble Lord’s last question first, it would certainly be inappropriate for me to straitjacket the CPS in any respect, but the CPS, the two ongoing inquiries and everyone involved in them are fully aware of the sensitive nature of this issue. As we said, there is a responsibility on all involved in these inquiries to make sure that we reach a decision which ensures that justice prevails as soon as is possible and practicable, but it is very much for the CPS to lead on this. I confess that I have not had time to reflect on the detail of the information the noble Lord sent to me this morning, but I certainly will, and look forward to discussing it with him.

————————————————————————–

April 26th 2016: Ninety-six football fans who died as a result of a crush in the 1989 Hillsborough disaster were unlawfully killed, the inquests have concluded.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-36138337

 

The jury decided the match commander Ch Supt David Duckenfield’s actions amounted to “gross negligence” due to a breach of his duty of care to fans.

Police errors also added to a dangerous situation at the FA Cup semi-final.

After a 27-year campaign by victims’ families, the behaviour of Liverpool fans was exonerated.

The jury found they did not contribute to the danger unfolding at the turnstiles at the Leppings Lane end of Sheffield Wednesday’s ground on 15 April 1989.

The jury also concluded

  • Police errors caused a dangerous situation at the turnstiles
  • Failures by commanding officers caused a crush on the terraces
  • There were mistakes in the police control box over the order to open the Leppings Lane end exit gates
  • Defects at the stadium contributed to the disaster
  • There was an error in the safety certification of the Hillsborough stadium
  • South Yorkshire Police and South Yorkshire Ambulance Service delayed declaring a major incident
  • The emergency response was therefore delayed
  • Sheffield Wednesday failed to approve the plans for dedicated turnstiles for each pen
  • There was inadequate signage at the club and misleading information on match tickets

….

 

A statement on behalf of the families said the jury’s conclusions “completely vindicate” the long fight for justice.

 

 

The police response to the increasing crowd outside the Leppings Lane turnstiles at Liverpool’s match against Nottingham Forest was “slow and uncoordinated”, the inquests heard.

The road closure “exacerbated” the situation and there were no filter cordons in place to regulate the movement of spectators.

Attempts to close the perimeter gates were made too late and there were no contingency plans for the “sudden arrival” of a large number of fans, the jury said.

Jurors concluded the commanding officers should have ordered the closing of the tunnel which led directly to the central pens where the fatal crush occurred.

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See:

https://davidalton.net/2015/05/05/two-columns-from-1989-following-the-hillsborough-disaster/

Also see: https://davidalton.net/2014/04/14/bishop-of-liverpool-and-david-alton-speak-on-the-hillsborough-disaster-2/

 

During a meeting this week, with members of the Hillsborough Independent Panel – http://hillsborough.independent.gov.uk/   –  which was established by the Prime Minister in 2012 , we spent a lot of our time discussing a letter which I had sent to Ministers prior to the match being played and which raised safety concerns about the ground.  The Panel also reminded me about – and showed me copies of the correspondence – which passed between me and the Chairman of the Police Complaints Authority in the days which followed the April 15th, 1989, tragedy at Hillsborough: a day which claimed 96 lives and remains the most serious tragedy in UK sporting history.  The Independent Panel are painstakingly sifting through everything relating to Hillsborough, and deserve our admiration and thanks, but at this distance they have an almost impossible task – a task which should have been undertaken in the same objective and thorough manner twenty five years ago.

Letter to Sir Cecil Clothier, Chairman of the Police Complaints Authority, four days after the Hillsborough Disaster, asking for a him to open an independent Inquiry into attempts by Police spokesmen to blame the fans for their own deaths.

Letter to Sir Cecil Clothier, Chairman of the Police Complaints Authority, four days after the Hillsborough Disaster, asking for him to open an independent Inquiry into attempts by Police spokesmen to blame the fans for their own deaths.

Letter to Sir Cecil Clothier, Chairman of the Police Complaints Authority, on May 17th 1989, contesting the Authority's failure to mount an investigation

Letter to Sir Cecil Clothier, Chairman of the Police Complaints Authority, on May 17th,1989, contesting the Authority’s failure to mount an investigation

Letter from the Chairman of the Police Complaints Authority to the Chief Constable of South Yorkshire saying he had done his best to "deflect" the complaint. Sir Cecil signs the letter  "Spike" - perhaps appropriately as it's a word used by journalists when an editors has decided to withhold a story from publication.

Letter from the Chairman of the Police Complaints Authority to the Chief Constable of South Yorkshire saying he had done his best to “deflect” my complaint. Sir Cecil signs the letter “Spike” – perhaps appropriately as it’s a word used by journalists when an editor has decided to withhold a story from publication.

Hillsoborough Correspondence DA

Moynihan reply to DA & cutting

In the aftermath of the Hillsborough Disaster, I had a protracted correspondence with the Police Complaints Authority, challenging the remarks which had been made by Police Officers and repeated in mass circulation newspapers and the media that Liverpool Football Club fans were responsible for their own deaths and injuries. I called for an Independent Inquiry.  The correspondence has been published by the Hillsborough Independent Review (at http://hillsborough.independent.gov.uk/repository/docs/HOM000021980001.pdf) and it makes for deeply depressing reading.

Among the letters which were sent to me and which went to Sir Cecil Clothier, the Chairman of the Police Complaints Authority, was one from a constituent who was on the Leppings Lane Terrace and who provided a first-hand account of what he saw and experienced.  

The letter is dated April 19th 1989, just four days after the tragedy. He vividly describes what occurred and focuses on the description of events given by police officers to the media, saying those responsible “should be prosecuted for the hurt, distress and wounding caused on Merseyside by his untrue, insensitive, unproven slanderous remarks…”   

In my own letter to Sir Cecil, also dated April 19th, 1989, I asked him to “institute an immediate enquiry into the propriety of the remarks passed yesterday by Police Officers of the South Yorkshire Police Force” and that as the remarks had been made the day after the Home Secretary announced the judicial enquiry and “the solicitor for 30 of the victims’ families had begun proceedings against the Chief Constable and his Force these remarks should never have been made.”

I asked ”By what right did Police Officers make statements calculated to be prejudicial to the reputation of Liverpool Football Club and its supporters, and which seem to be part of a smokescreen of propaganda aimed at diverting attention from the truth.”

Quoting Lord Denning I reminded him that “Be they ever so mighty they are not mightier than the law” and I asked him to establish “how such statements came to be made and on whose authority they were issued.” I copied the letter to the Home Secretary, Douglas Hurd, and asked what guidelines existed for the publication of statements once a judicial inquiry had been announced.

In my next letter to Sir Cecil, five days later, on April 24th I asked his Police Complaints Authority to examine the conduct of the South Yorkshire Police – independently of the Government-established Inquiry by Lord Justice Taylor and the Police Inquiry to be led by the West Midlands Police Force because “you will be regarded as independent of Government and Constabulary, both of whom are clearly involved in having taken crucial decisions, which led to the horrific events at Sheffield.”

Sir Cecil wrote back on the 3rd of May refusing to conduct an investigation  and stated that “ I must say at once there is not the slightest ground for suggesting that an enquiry conducted under the authority of Lord justice Taylor will be other than the most rigorous and independent character.”  He suggested that the complainant would be better off “offering himself as a witness to Lord Justice Taylor’s enquiry, rather than by invoking the complaints procedure which is principally concerned with police discipline.”

The previous day, May 2nd, Sir Cecil wrote to me setting out the procedures for making a complaint and said “I am not sure whether you are making a formal complaint as a member of the public affected by the happenings at Hillsborough or as a Member of Parliament.”

He told me that if it was the latter I should raise my concerns in Parliament.

 I replied on May 8th stating that my complaint was made “as a citizen of Liverpool” who was “deeply aggrieved that these comments were made when two Inquiries had already been established, rendering their comments sub-judice.”

I told him that “Their remarks were prejudiced, contrary to good police practice, insensitive to relatives and damaging to my city. I therefore trust you will feel able to carry out an investigation as to how this could have come about.”

On the 16th of May Sir Cecil once again set out the procedures under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act, 1984, and told me “I believe it would be better by far to await the findings of Lord justice Taylor’s inquiry before lodging a complaint about controversial statements by a police officer.”

On the 17th of May I responded that if no action should be taken until after the Inquiry “by the same argument should not the officer who made the offensive comments about Liverpool supporters have kept his comments to himself until after the Inquiry?” 

I asked for him to investigate the South Yorkshire Force because, as the statements had been made anonymously, “there was no one officer to lodge a complaint about.” I told Sir Cecil that I had that day written to Peter Wright, the Chief Constable, lodging a formal complaint.

Among the letters which the Hillsborough Independent Review have also published is one sent on May 25th by Sir Cecil to Chief constable Peter Wright in which he encloses my own letters to him and referring to me he says “It appears that despite my best efforts to deflect him from doing so, he has decided to lodge a formal complaint with you.”

He tells him that he could “satisfy the statutory requirements“if he were simply to “appoint an investigating officer.”  He adds that “I do not think it would satisfy Mr. Alton however, who seems to think that Lord Justice Taylor and Mr. Dear are not sufficiently independent.” Signing his letter with his nickname, Spike, Sir Cecil Clothier copied this note to Lord Justice Taylor and Mr. Dear.   

In that respect he was, of course, right, I was not satisfied – and, more importantly, nor were the families who wanted justice and truth; and twenty five years later they remain convinced that they were lied to and subject to collective character assassination.  

Not as a citizen of Liverpool but as one of its MPs, I had, of course, also been raising the issue in Parliament but had met the same brick walls and prevarication.

Ministers said what had occurred at Hillsborough was a matter for the Chief Constable and for the Taylor Inquiry. In the House of Commons, on April 24th 1989, I asked “at what level the publication of statements on 18 April by South Yorkshire police concerning the conduct of Liverpool fans at the Hillsborough semi-cup final was authorised; if he will publish a copy of that statement and the name of the officer who made it; and if he will make a statement”.
The Minister of State at the Home Office, Douglas Hogg, replied:

“Statements made by officers of the South Yorkshire police are a matter for the chief constable. It would not be helpful for me to publish statements or counter-statements which have been made about the circumstances leading to the tragedy, or to name those who made them. It is for Lord Justice Taylor’s inquiry to establish the facts”.-[Official Report, Commons, 24/4/89; col. 404.]

In the years which followed, I asked why those facts had not been established, why evidence had disappeared, and, in 1998, I asked  what account  Jack Straw, then the Home Secretary, had taken “in deciding against a fresh inquiry into the Hillsborough tragedy, of missing video tapes, changed statements by police officers, conflicting medical evidence and complaints of lack of impartiality in the original coroner’s process and in the granting of immunity from prosecution to police officers upon taking early retirement”. Ministers told me there was “no new evidence.” In 2012 I set out the reasons why this was not so:  https://davidalton.net/2012/12/16/bishop-of-liverpool-and-david-alton-speak-on-the-hillsborough-disaster/

More than two decades later the Prime Minister, David Cameron, in establishing the Hillsborough Independent Review, made it clear that he concurs.  

Mr Cameron told Parliament that the Liverpool fans had “suffered a double injustice”, both in the “failure of the state to protect their loved ones and the indefensible wait to get to the truth”.

What the diligent and painstaking work of the Independent Review team is now attempting to lay bare are not only the errors and deceits which occurred on that bleak day in April 1989 but the wanton and seemingly systematic attempts to delay, to obfuscate, and to refuse to truthfully address the questions which families and witnesses have consistently put to the authorities.

From time immemorial it has always been a tactic of Governments to set up committees in the hope of sending a contentious issue into the long grass and, with the passage of time, and the deaths of many of those who took wrong decisions or failed to do their jobs properly, their hope is that the ensuing reports will simply gather dust.  

G.K.Chesterton, writing about what passes for public accountability and parliamentary scrutiny, once mocked a self-serving process which relied on copious amounts of white-wash. In his “Autobiography: the case against corruption” he writes that “A parliamentary Commission was appointed and reported that everything was very nice; a Minority report was issued which reported that some things were not quite so nice; and political life (if you can call it life) went on as before.”

Those who are privileged to hold high office should understand that for those who died and for those who still bear the emotional scars of Hillsborough life didn’t go on “as before”. We must wish the Hillsborough Independent Panel well as they finally try to do what should have been done 25 years ago.


 

On April 29th 2016 a letter was sent to Alison Saunders, Director of the Crown Prosecution Service asking what the timetable and time scale will be in reaching decisions about what must happen next and whether she will be personally reviewing the findings of the Inquest.  

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Mediterranean Refugees – a human catastrophe – Question in Parliament

Politics Live: http://polho.me/1AKRXwv

https://twitter.com/CentralLobby/status/605681702036508672

refugees

Migration: Trafficking

Question

3.18 pm

Asked by

Lord Alton of Liverpool

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what progress they and their international partners have made in deterring the trafficking of migrants and creating safe havens in North Africa and the Middle East.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Anelay of St Johns) (Con):

My Lords, since the extraordinary European Council in April, EU member states have agreed to establish a military CSDP operation to disrupt trafficking and smuggling networks. That is a considerable achievement, but we also need to address the root causes of that migration, so we are taking forward initiatives in source and transit countries. The regional development and protection programme in the Middle East is one model that we may be able to develop further.

Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB):

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness for that reply. Does not the news that HMS “Bulwark” rescued 741 migrants on Saturday; that more than 4,200 migrants, including young children, were rescued on Friday; that more dead bodies were added to the 1,800 corpses recovered this year; and that new people-smuggling routes are being opened to Greece, underline the scale of this human catastrophe? Against that backdrop, do the Government support the creation of safe havens? Do they support last week’s calls from the European Union for relocation and resettlement plans, and how do we justify the pitiful 187 places provided in the United Kingdom against Germany’s 30,000 places and Lebanon’s 1.2 million? Are we any nearer to ending the causes of this exodus from hellholes such as Libya and Syria, to which the noble Baroness referred a moment ago?

Baroness Anelay of St Johns:

My Lords, there were several crucial questions there, and I know that we will have the opportunity to develop them further in short debates. There has to be no doubt that this is a human catastrophe, caused by those who are making billions out of illegal trafficking and smuggling individuals. It is important that the policies that we adopt deal, first, with the humanitarian approach, which is what “HMS Bulwark” is involved in—and, secondly, breaks that link between travelling on the boat to get here and the certainty of getting settled. If we can do that, we can break the smugglers’ grip on these people, for whose lives they care nothing. That is the link that we must break. So it is important to provide some humanitarian way in which to give hope to those who are travelling that they can go back, or have safety where they are in north Africa, but let them understand that there will not be settlement here. As I said on Thursday, if we offer settlement to 1,000 people, what do you say to the 1,001st person? Do you say, “No, our door is closed.”?

Lord Boateng (Lab):

My Lords, these traffickers and their wicked agents operate with almost complete immunity within sub-Saharan Africa. The EU and AU have a strategic partnership. What steps are being taken within the security, intelligence and law enforcement pillar of that partnership to tackle this problem at source and gain the co-operation of African Governments in a law enforcement measure to protect the people of Africa from this wicked trade? Yes, the terrible scenes that we see on the front pages of our newspapers and in our media are a reproach; they are a reproach to Europe but they are a reproach to African Governments, too.

Baroness Anelay of St Johns:

I agree entirely with the facts and sentiments of the noble Lord. He refers to the Khartoum process, the EU-African Union process, which seeks to provide stability and disrupt these appalling traffickers and smugglers and their networks. We certainly give all our support to that, both in front of and behind the scenes. With regard to the work that we are doing beyond “HMS Bulwark”, joint intelligence activity seeks to find out from those making these hazardous journeys more information that can help us to provide a focused answer to how we disrupt those networks. But disrupting the networks can happen only after we have got agreement with Libya and the United Nations Security Council resolution. It is a priority that we do that.

The Lord Bishop of Norwich:

My Lords, what will become of the refugees and migrants who are trapped in Libya? Since neighbouring countries have closed their borders and current plans are to sink the boats that are smuggling people from Libya, are these refugees and migrants simply consigned to certain abuse and death? Can we do nothing at all to help them?

Baroness Anelay of St Johns:

My Lords, it is clear that we must focus our work on being able to provide some form of humanitarian effort. As I said in my original Answer, we are seeing whether we can use the example of the systems that we have in place in Syria to be able to provide that kind of haven—not a haven from which people then move across the Mediterranean, on that hazardous journey, with an uncertain future, but one where perhaps they can have some education and training towards employment, so that they can have a future, which is what all of us deserve.

Lord Marlesford (Con):

My Lords—

Lord Avebury (LD):

My Lords—

The Lord Privy Seal (Baroness Stowell of Beeston) (Con):

Order! I think that we are still getting used to taking turns now that we are in a new Parliament and we are sitting in different places. May I suggest that my noble friend Lord Marlesford has an opportunity to ask a question on this occasion?

Lord Marlesford:

My Lords, does my noble friend agree that it is more efficient and practical to assess the claims of would-be migrants, whether on the grounds of asylum, refugee status, economic migration or merely, understandably, that of wanting a better life, before they arrive in Europe? Assessing claims and then removing those who have no valid claim is almost impossible once they have arrived in Europe, which therefore means that those who have the greatest claim do not get permission to stay. Would it not therefore be better that those who are rightly rescued from peril on the sea are returned to the mainland from which they came?

Baroness Anelay of St Johns:

My Lords, it is a matter of fact that asylum claims may only be processed and granted once people have reached the United Kingdom. That is how our legislation lies. There is a danger that if one has processing areas—I hate the word “processing”, but noble Lords know what I mean—for asylum across the north African shore, say, those areas would act as a magnet in persuading people to go there. The most important thing is to disrupt the smuggling and trafficking networks to get at this business model which has no moral authority.

My question on the plight of refugees fleeing the hell holes of North Africa and the Middle East was set against the news that over the previous weekend HMS Bulwark rescued 741 fleeing migrants on one day alone; that a day earlier ships from Italy, Ireland, Germany, the UK and Belgium rescued more than 4,200 people, including very young children; that more dead bodies were added to the 1800 corpses recovered already this year – and that new people smuggling routes are being opened to Greece. All of which underlines the scale of this human catastrophe.

Since January more than 35,000 migrants have reached Europe – and who can forget the harrowing images of those who didn’t make it – like the hundreds who died in April when their fishing boat capsized?

As the European Union wrestles with this crisis I cannot be alone in wanting to hear the British Government say it will do more than simply opt out of the relocation plan and that it may opt out of the resettlement plan too.

I was disappointed by the Government’s insistence that either by creating protected havens in the region, where safe and legal routes to asylum destinations may be determined, or by accepting more escaping families, we will create magnets to encourage more people to flee from war, persecution or grinding poverty.

Ministers say “we must tackle the root causes” – and we agree – but in the meantime people are on the high seas or trying to get out of hell holes like Syria and Libya.   

Are we really comfortable in slamming our doors – not on economic migrants but the casualties of violent conflict?

How do we justify the pitiful 187 places for resettlement provided in the UK against Germany’s 30,000 or Lebanon’s 1.2 million, Turkey’s 1.8 million and Jordan’s 600,000?

We have a clear duty to relieve some of the pressure on these countries and remove a substantial source of what has become a highly lucrative market sustaining sophisticated, organised people smuggling networks.

By far the largest group by nationality attempting the Mediterranean crossing are Syrian nationals.

The EU border agency  has reported that in 2014, Syrians and Eritreans made up 46% of all those making the crossing.

And what of those who have made it to Libya?

As the Bishop of Norwich asked during our House of Lords exchanges, what will become of refugees and migrants trapped in Libya, which is a country in a state of chaos and where refugees and migrants are particularly exposed to appalling abuses, if current plans to sink boats to end people smuggling out of Libya are followed through?

Amnesty International has already reported on the targeting of refugees and migrants in Libya, where abuses have included kidnapping, torture, rape and executions as well as widespread violence directed at foreigners; and the closing of borders. Are we going to simply leave them there to accept this fate?

In April, along with twelve other Peers – drawn from across the political divide – I signed a letter to The Daily Telegraph in which we compared our response to this human catastrophe with our reaction to  the plight of the Vietnamese boat people, when the international community rightly recognised that it had a moral and legal duty to act.

We argued interviewing migrants in North Africa could reduce dangerous sailings; that an internationally policed safe-haven in North Africa, where asylum applications could be assessed and repatriation organised where appropriate, was an urgent priority. It remains so. 

We said that the exodus of desperate men, women and children had been driven by wars and conflicts like those in Syria and Libya and by the destitution, grinding poverty and violence engulfing countries such as Sudan, Ethiopia, Eritrea and Nigeria – a point which Lord Boatang emphasised in his intervention on my question. Yes” he said, “the terrible scenes that we see on the front pages of our newspapers and in our media are a reproach; they are a reproach to Europe but they are a reproach to African Governments, too.”

Clearly, long-term steps must be taken to make peace and prosperity in the Middle East and in Africa.

None of this, however, reduces the need for immediate lifesaving – and the urgent need for the international community to thrash out a coherent strategy.

refugees2

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Recent Parliamentary Questions and Written Ministerial Statements (from a House of Lords Library note):
 Middle East and North Africa: Refugees
Asked by: Lord Alton of Liverpool | Party: Crossbench
To ask Her Majesty’s Government how many migrants from the Middle East or North Africa are thought to have died in the past 12 months; how many are being held within the European Union; what progress is being made in deterring human traffickers from exploiting and endangering such migrants; and what are their short- and long-term policies regarding such migrants.
Answering member: Baroness Anelay of St Johns | Party: Conservative Party | Department: Foreign and Commonwealth Office
The UN High Commissioner for Refugees estimates that 3,500 people died attempting to cross the Mediterranean in 2014. The International Organisation for Migration (IOM) estimates that by the end of April, over 1,700 migrants had died crossing the Mediterranean this year. The numbers of illegal migrants detected entering the EU sea border in 2014 was 220,000, of which about 170,000 crossed the Central Mediterranean.
At the Extraordinary European Council in April, EU Member States agreed to establish a military Common Security and Defence Policy operation to disrupt trafficking and smuggling networks. We are working with EU partners to address long-term flows through initiatives in source and transit countries to address the underlying causes. We are increasing our work in and with transit countries to ensure migrants are protected, smuggling networks are closed down, that border management is improved, and to ensure that there is increased awareness of the risks of attempting a perilous journey to reach Europe.
09 Jun 2015 | Written questions | Answered | House of Lords | HL47
Date tabled: 27 May 2015 | Date for answer: 10 Jun 2015 | Date answered: 09 Jun 2015
Statistics: yes | Subject: Death; Human trafficking; Refugees; Middle East; EU immigration; North Africa
 Africa: Refugees
Asked by: Lord Boateng | Party: Labour Party
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what steps the European Union has taken to ensure that its strategic partners in Africa (1) warn their citizens of the dangers of making trans-Saharan and Mediterranean voyages for the purposes of irregular migration, (2) deter those seeking to embark on such a journey, and (3) strengthen law enforcement against human trafficking in such migrants’ countries of origin; and what position they have taken in discussions with other European Union member states regarding such steps.
Answering member: Baroness Anelay of St Johns | Party: Conservative Party | Department: Foreign and Commonwealth Office
We believe it is essential to have a comprehensive approach to deal with irregular migration. This should involve work in source and transit countries to ensure migrants are protected, smuggling networks are closed down, that border management is improved, and to ensure that there is increased awareness of the risks of attempting a perilous journey to reach Europe. We are working with EU partners to ensure these elements are included in the EU’s response to tackling the problems in the Mediterranean. For example, we are members of the Core Group of the Khartoum Process, an EU- African Union initiative to tackle trafficking and smuggling of migrants between the Horn of Africa and Europe.
09 Jun 2015 | Written questions | Answered | House of Lords | HL213
Date tabled: 02 Jun 2015 | Date for answer: 16 Jun 2015 | Date answered: 09 Jun 2015
Subject: Africa; Human trafficking; EU action; Refugees
 Israeli Settlements
Asked by: Hilary Benn (Leeds Central) (Lab) | Party: Labour Party
As more and more people try to make the perilous boat journey across the Mediterranean, the dedicated men and women of HMS Bulwark are having to rescue an ever-increasing number of desperate people in very difficult circumstances. Given that about half a million people are now gathering
in Libya, does the Foreign Secretary think that there is currently sufficient capacity in the EU maritime force to cope with this crisis?
Oral questions – Supplementary
Answering member: Mr Philip Hammond | Party: Conservative Party | Department: Foreign and Commonwealth Office
First, let me join the right hon. Gentleman in recognising the heroic work that the crew of HMS Bulwark, in particular, are doing. They have just landed another 1,200 migrants, bringing to well over 2,000 the total number of people plucked from the sea by that one single vessel. I think the best criterion by which to judge the answer to his question is the number of deaths, and, although we cannot be certain, we believe that since the naval force has been deployed in the Mediterranean the number of migrants’ lives being lost at sea has declined to close to zero. I think that means that the scale of the operation is, for the moment, adequate.
09 Jun 2015 | Oral answers to questions | House of Commons | House of Commons chamber | 596 c1039
Date answered: 09 Jun 2015
Subject: Demolition; Housing; West Bank
 Topical Questions
Asked by: Mark Spencer (Sherwood) (Con) | Party: Conservative Party
What military assistance is being provided by the Department in the Mediterranean and north Africa to help with humanitarian disasters?
Oral questions – 1st Supplementary
Answering member: Michael Fallon | Party: Conservative Party | Department: Defence
HMS Bulwark and three Merlin helicopters are conducting search and rescue in the Mediterranean. To date, they have rescued 2,909 migrants from the sea. I hope the whole House will pay tribute to the professionalism and bravery of those involved in this extraordinarily large rescue mission. As well as rescuing those at sea, we now need to address this problem further back by tackling the trafficking gangs who are making money out of this misery and discouraging people from leaving their countries to make this long and very dangerous journey.
08 Jun 2015 | Oral answers to questions | House of Commons | House of Commons chamber | 596 c904
Date answered: 08 Jun 2015
 HMS Bulwark
Asked by: Shannon, Jim | Party: Democratic Unionist Party
To ask the Secretary of State for Defence, what the cost to his Department is of HMS Bulwark rescuing migrants in the Mediterranean.
Answering member: Penny Mordaunt | Party: Conservative Party | Department: Ministry of Defence
The Ministry of Defence is contributing to an international search and rescue operation in the Mediterranean to rescue migrants, of which HMS Bulwark is providing an essential part. The additional costs of using military assets in support of this international assistance effort are to be borne by the UK Aid budget, as it is eligible as Official Development Assistance, and as such there will be no additional costs attributable to Defence for the use of HMS Bulwark.
04 Jun 2015 | Written questions | Answered | House of Commons | 681
Date tabled: 01 Jun 2015 | Date for answer: 04 Jun 2015 | Date answered: 04 Jun 2015
Subject: Refugees; Mediterranean Sea; HMS Bulwark
 Illegal Migration
Asked by: Mr Gavin Shuker (Luton South) (Lab/Co-op) | Party: Labour Party · Cooperative Party
May I begin by welcoming the Secretary of State back to her post and welcoming the right hon. Member for Welwyn Hatfield (Grant Shapps) to his new post? We look forward to working constructively with the Secretary of State in this very important year for development.
We welcome the reintroduction of search and rescue in the Mediterranean—it was a shameful decision to withdraw it, and the Prime Minister was right to make a U-turn—but we know that the most vulnerable Syrian migrants will not make it to a boat, or get here on a plane; they will die in a camp. Given that the whole world community has come together to relocate those most vulnerable people through the UN, why does the Secretary of State insist on running her own scheme?
Answered by: Justine Greening | Party: Conservative Party | Department: International Development
We are working collaboratively with the UNHCR. In fact, we have helped just under 200 people through that scheme. The hon. Gentleman should be aware that, through the asylum system, we have received 4,000 asylum applications from Syrians. Critically, what this all shows is that we need to support people where they are. Some 99% of the refugees from the Syrian crisis are still in the countries that border Syria, and the UK has put £800 million into helping them build their lives there and educating their children.
03 Jun 2015 | Oral questions – Supplementary | Answered | House of Commons | House of Commons chamber | 596 c574
Date answered: 03 Jun 2015
Subject: Refugees; Mediterranean Sea
 Illegal Migration
Asked by: Mr Angus Brendan MacNeil (Na h-Eileanan an Iar) (SNP) | Party: Scottish National Party
Can we see illegal migrants to Europe first and foremost as human beings and give them all the dignity, care and respect we can, especially by ensuring the availability of rescue facilities as they cross the Mediterranean?
Answered by: Justine Greening | Party: Conservative Party | Department: International Development
The hon. Gentleman is right to say that we need to see the people behind many of the statistics that we read in the paper. That is one reason why we sent HMS Bulwark and Merlin helicopters—so that this country can play our role in providing
search and rescue services to help those people. They are literally putting their lives on the line to get a better life, and we should never forget the stories of the people behind those terrible numbers.
03 Jun 2015 | Oral questions – Supplementary | Answered | House of Commons | House of Commons chamber | 596 c574
Date answered: 03 Jun 2015
Subject: Refugees; Mediterranean Sea
 Foreign Affairs Council, Foreign Affairs Council (Defence) and General Affairs Council: 18 – 19 May
My Right Honourable Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr Philip Hammond) attended the Foreign Affairs Council, and My Right Honourable Friend the Secretary of State for Defence (Michael Fallon) attended the Foreign Affairs Council (Defence), and they both attended a joint session with Foreign and Defence Ministers. I attended the General Affairs Council (GAC). The Foreign Affairs Council and Foreign Affairs Council (Defence) were chaired by the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Federica Mogherini, and the General Affairs Council was chaired by the Latvian Presidency.
Foreign Affairs Council and Foreign Affairs Council (Defence)
A provisional report of the meeting and Conclusions adopted can be found at:
http://www.consilium.europa.eu/en/meetings/fac/2015/05/18/
Foreign Affairs Council (Defence) & European Defence Agency (EDA)
The EDA Ministerial Steering Board discussion focussed on preparations for the June European Council. The Defence Secretary welcomed the work that the EDA has done in delivering the major programmes agreed to at the December 2013 European Council and encouraged the Agency to remain focused on delivering progress on these programmes at the June Council. Ministers also endorsed the Small Medium Enterprise (SME) action plan.
Defence Ministers discussed CSDP Missions and Operations in the Foreign Affairs Council (Defence), where greater political will by Member States in force generation and increased EU-NATO co-operation were highlighted as being key to success. The Defence Secretary reaffirmed the UK’s support for the counter piracy operation EUNAVFOR ATALANTA and highlighted that a combination of Naval forces and development of best management practice by industry and private contractors remained important in order to suppress the pirates’ business model. The Defence Secretary also emphasised the UK’s continued commitment to the maintenance of the Executive Mandate for EUFOR ALTHEA. This mandate was an essential international safeguard against a return to violence in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Joint Meeting of Foreign Affairs Council and Foreign Affairs Council (Defence)
Over lunch, EU defence and foreign ministers exchanged views on the security in the EU’s broader neighbourhood with NATO Security General Jens Stoltenberg. Ministers then discussed the preparations for the European Council in June 2015, which cover the Common Security and Defence Policy, and debated ongoing work reviewing changes in the EU’s strategic environment, including the preparation of a report by the High Representative to the European Council on 25/26 June. The Foreign Secretary noted that the June European Council should be a stocktake of the work begun in December 2013 and highlighted the importance of the EU’s cooperation with NATO.
The Council then took stock of the follow-up to the European Council of 23 April, which focused on migration issues. It approved a crisis management concept for a possible EU military operation and established an EU naval operation to disrupt the business model of human smugglers in the Southern Central Mediterranean. The Foreign Secretary and Defence Secretary spoke in support of the establishment of the operation, but, noted that prior to its launch, clarity would be required on the handling of migrants rescued, smugglers apprehended, and the necessary legal base for the operation would need to be established. All four phases (surveillance/intelligence; seizure of vessels on the high seas; seizure and potentially destruction in Libyan waters/ashore; and withdrawal) needed to be enactable. A number of Ministers set out their position on resettlement and relocation, including the Foreign Secretary who made clear the UK would not accept compulsory resettlement.
Foreign Affairs Council
– Middle East Peace Process (MEPP)
Ministers exchanged views on the situation in the Middle East and on prospects for the peace process, following the formation of a new Israeli government and ahead of a visit of the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy to the region. Ms. Mogherini would be accompanied by Fernando Gentilini, the newly appointed EU Special Representative for the MEPP. The Foreign Secretary recognised the widespread frustration on the MEPP and argued that the EU should keep in step with the US and that there would likely be no progress until the Iran nuclear talks ended.
– Other Items
Ministers agreed a number of other measures:
o The Council adopted Conclusions on Burundi;
o The Council adopted Conclusions on the Common Security and Defence Policy;
o The Council adopted the EU position for the twelfth meeting of the EU-Uzbekistan Cooperation in Brussels on 18 May; and
o The Council adopted the draft agenda for the EU-Gulf Cooperation Council Joint Council and ministerial meeting, to be held on 24 May 2015 in Doha.
General Affairs Council
A provisional report of the Council meeting can be found at:
http://www.consilium.europa.eu/en/meetings/gac/2015/05/19/
The General Affairs Council (GAC) on 19 May focused on: follow-up to the April Emergency European Council; preparation of the June European Council; and the Four Presidents’ Report on economic governance in the euro area.
Follow-up to the April Emergency European Council on migration
The Latvian Presidency and European Commission updated the GAC on developments since the 23 April Emergency European Council discussed migration pressures in the Mediterranean.
I reiterated the points made by the Foreign Secretary at the Foreign Affairs Council and informed Members States about UK activities to help prevent further loss of life in the Mediterranean. I emphasised the importance of addressing the causes of illegal immigration and tackling the organised criminals behind it, and the need for the EU to focus on the longer term picture.
Preparation of the June European Council
The GAC began preparations for the 23 and 24 June European Council, which the Prime Minister will attend. The June European Council will focus on security and economic issues including: defence and the European Security Strategy; relations with Russia and Ukraine; follow-up of the February European Council on terrorism and April European Council on migration; the digital single market; the 2015 European Semester; TTIP; and economic governance in the euro area.
Four Presidents’ Report on economic governance in the euro area
The European Commission updated the GAC on preparations of the Four Presidents’ Report on the Economic and Monetary Union (EMU) to be presented to the June European Council.
01 Jun 2015 | Written statements | House of Commons | HCWS6
Member: Mr David Lidington
Department: Foreign and Commonwealth Office
Topic: EU external relations; EU Council of Ministers; EU defence policy | Subject: Human trafficking; EU common foreign and security policy; EU action; Economic and monetary union; Piracy; Israel; Palestinians; Middle East; Bosnia and Herzegovina; Peace negotiations; EU immigration; EU defence policy; EU Foreign Affairs Council; European Defence Agency; EU General Affairs Council; Mediterranean Sea
 Mediterranean Sea
Asked by: Lord Hylton | Party: Crossbench
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what plans they have to discuss with UNICEF the content of its recent statement on the risks to children who attempt to cross the Mediterranean in order to reach Europe.
Answering member: Lord Bates | Party: Conservative Party | Department: Home Office
The Government is determined to do all it can with international partners, including UN agencies, to reduce the flow of illegal migrants attempting these perilous crossings and to combat the organised criminals who are making huge profits by exploiting vulnerable people. The presence of children on these voyages is a matter of particular concern. We are taking action at a national and international level to find sustainable solutions, for example through regional protection initiatives and the new Khartoum Process, a joint EU and African Union initiative supporting dialogue and concrete cooperation to tackle people smuggling and human trafficking in the Horn of Africa, including measures to address the abuse and exploitation of children and other vulnerable migrants. The Government also welcomes joint EU efforts to provide concrete support to Italy to assist that country in meeting its responsibilities towards those arriving on its shores, and the EU’s intention to enhance efforts to address the root causes of the situation under its forthcoming European Agenda on Migration.
24 Mar 2015 | Written questions | Answered | House of Lords | HL5804
Date tabled: 17 Mar 2015 | Date for answer: 31 Mar 2015 | Date answered: 24 Mar 2015
Subject: Children; Refugees; EU immigration; UNICEF; Mediterranean Sea
 Mediterranean Sea
Asked by: Lord Hylton | Party: Crossbench
To ask Her Majesty’s Government how many vessels, aircraft and drones are available for Operation Triton; and what assessment they have made of their adequacy to cope with current flows of migrants.
Answering member: Lord Bates | Party: Conservative Party | Department: Home Office
Frontex has recently reported that the technical resources provided by the Member States to Operation Triton include: 2 Fixed Wing Aircraft, 1 Helicopter, 2 Open Shore Patrol Vessels, 6 Coastal Patrol Vessels and 1 Coast Patrol Boat. We understand that this provision of technical resource fully meets the request made to Frontex for assistance by Italy, the host state of this Operation.
To date, Operation Triton has intercepted thousands of migrants in the Central Mediterranean, both directly and through cooperation with Italy’s national search and rescue efforts, bringing those intercepted safely to the EU. While the UK is not able to join Frontex, we continue to support Operation Triton through the deployment of UK experts. To date we have met all Frontex requests, and made clear our willingness to consider any further requests for support of this kind. The recent deaths in the Mediterranean are a further tragic reminder of the great risks migrants take when they attempt the perilous journey to reach Europe across the Mediterranean. Like our counterparts across the European Union, the UK wishes to find the best way to prevent tragedies of this kind. Unfortunately, in the open sea, no amount of vessels and surveillance can ensure a safe passage.
24 Mar 2015 | Written questions | Answered | House of Lords | HL5803
Date tabled: 17 Mar 2015 | Date for answer: 31 Mar 2015 | Date answered: 24 Mar 2015
Statistics: yes | Subject: Aircraft; Refugees; EU immigration; Frontex; Unmanned air vehicles; Patrol craft; Mediterranean Sea
 Mediterranean Sea
Asked by: Farron, Tim | Party: Liberal Democrats
To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, what her estimate is of the number of deaths amongst refugees in the Mediterranean in the first two months of (a) 2015, (b) 2014 and (c) 2013.
Answering member: James Brokenshire | Party: Conservative Party | Department: Home Office
The Government has not made an estimate as to the number of people who have drowned attempting the crossing in these periods. All deaths of this nature are a matter of extreme regret and the Government is determined to do all it can with international partners to reduce the flow of illegal migrants taking such risks and to combat the organised criminals who are making huge profits by exploiting vulnerable people. The Government is taking action at a national and international level to find sustainable solutions, for example through regional protection initiatives and the new Khartoum Process, a joint EU and African Union initiative supporting dialogue and concrete cooperation to tackle people smuggling and human trafficking in the Horn of Africa.
17 Mar 2015 | Written questions | Answered | House of Commons | 227065
Date tabled: 10 Mar 2015 | Date for answer: 16 Mar 2015 | Date of holding answer: 16 Mar 2015 | Date answered: 17 Mar 2015
Transferred: yes | Holding answer: yes
Statistics: yes | Subject: Asylum; Death; Illegal immigrants; Mediterranean Sea
 Mediterranean Sea
Asked by: Lord Alton of Liverpool | Party: Crossbench
To ask Her Majesty’s Government how many migrants they estimate to have died while crossing the Mediterranean Sea during the past year; from which countries they have been travelling; and what measures are being taken to discuss their situation with the United Kingdom’s international partners.
Answering member: Lord Bates | Party: Conservative Party | Department: Home Office
The majority of migrants seeking to cross the Mediterranean in the past year are reported to have travelled from countries in Africa and from the Middle East. The Government has not made an estimate as to the number of people who have drowned attempting the crossing in that period, as such estimates are extremely difficult to make with any degree of certainty.
All deaths of this nature are a matter of extreme regret and the Government is determined to do all it can with international partners to reduce the flow of illegal migrants taking such risks and to combat the organised criminals who are making huge profits by exploiting vulnerable people. The Government is taking action at a national and international level to find sustainable solutions, for example through regional protection initiatives and the new Khartoum Process, a joint EU and African Union initiative supporting dialogue and concrete cooperation to tackle people smuggling and human trafficking in the Horn of Africa. The situation is also discussed regularly by Ministers at the EU Justice and Home Affairs Council, as well as in other multilateral and bilateral meetings.
16 Mar 2015 | Written questions | Answered | House of Lords | HL5508
Date tabled: 09 Mar 2015 | Date for answer: 23 Mar 2015 | Date answered: 16 Mar 2015
Statistics: yes | Subject: Refugees; EU immigration; Drownings; Mediterranean Sea
 Mediterranean Sea
Asked by: Farron, Tim | Party: Liberal Democrats
To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, what estimate her Department has made of the number of migrants who have drowned in the Mediterranean since the end of Operation Mare Nostrum and the start of Operation Triton.
Answering member: James Brokenshire | Party: Conservative Party | Department: Home Office
Operation Triton began on 1 November 2014 following unanimous calls from all 28 EU Member States that Italy’s Operation Mare Nostrum should be phased out. There have been no estimates made by the Government or by Frontex (the EU External Border Agency) with regard to the number of people who have drowned in the Mediterranean since the end of Operation Mare Nostrum and the start of Operation Triton as such estimates would be extremely difficult to make with any degree of certainty. All deaths of this nature are, of course, utterly tragic and the Government is determined to do all it can with international partners to reduce the flow of illegal migrants taking such risks and to combat the organised criminals who are making huge profits by exploiting vulnerable people.
10 Mar 2015 | Written questions | Answered | House of Commons | 226037
Date tabled: 03 Mar 2015 | Date for answer: 06 Mar 2015 | Date of holding answer: 06 Mar 2015 | Date answered: 10 Mar 2015
Transferred: yes | Holding answer: yes
Statistics: yes | Subject: Illegal immigrants; Drownings; Mediterranean Sea
 Mediterranean Sea
Asked by: Lord Hylton | Party: Crossbench
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what is their response to the statement by the United Nations High Commission for Refugees that a robust search and rescue operation is necessary in order to save lives in the central Mediterranean.
Answering member: Lord Bates | Party: Conservative Party | Department: Home Office
The number of deaths in the Mediterranean, and on the land routes from the Horn of Africa to the Southern Mediterranean, are a tragic reminder of the great risks migrants take when they attempt the perilous journey to reach Europe.
The Government believes that the best approach lies in the continuation of Frontex (EU external border agency) Operation Triton alongside Italy’s ongoing coordination of normal search and rescue activities. Frontex has been clear that its maritime operations will assist with individual search and rescue efforts in their operational areas if called upon to do so by national search and rescue coordinators.
At the same time, the UK is continuing work with other EU countries to tackle the causes of illegal immigration and the organised trafficking gangs behind it, as well as increasing support and protection for those who need it in North and East Africa. It is action of this kind which offers the best hope of an effective response to the numbers of attempted crossings and the tragic loss of lives.
02 Mar 2015 | Written questions | Answered | House of Lords | HL5156
Date tabled: 23 Feb 2015 | Date for answer: 09 Mar 2015 | Date answered: 02 Mar 2015
Subject: Refugees; Rescue services; Drownings; Mediterranean Sea
 Engagements
Asked by: Jeremy Corbyn (Islington North) (Lab) | Party: Labour Party
Last year, more than 3,000 desperate migrants drowned in the Mediterranean. Several hundred have already died this year trying to reach a place of safety. Many people, in absolute desperation, turn to traffickers to try to escape the crisis in Libya and in many other places. They are victims of war and oppression. The European Union is closing down Mare Nostrum, which has saved a very large number of lives, and is instead instituting something that will only protect Europe’s borders, not search for and rescue people. Will the Prime Minister go back and ensure that Europe adopts a humanitarian approach of saving these desperate people and supporting these desperate migrants who are trying to survive—that is all, survive—in Libya?
Answered by: The Prime Minister | Party: Conservative Party | Department: Prime Minister
The hon. Gentleman makes a very important point, but I am afraid that the statistics do not necessarily back up the case he is making. Mare Nostrum was a genuine attempt by the Italians to deal with this problem, but I think I am right in saying that more people died during the operation of that policy than when it was brought to an end. There are some answers. We need to make sure we press ahead with the Modern Slavery Bill, an historic piece of legislation taken through by this Government, that is doing a huge amount to deal with the problem of people trafficking. Yes, we need to do more to stabilise countries such as Libya and others on the Mediterranean, from which many of the problems derive. That serves to underline the important work done by our development budget.
25 Feb 2015 | Oral questions – Supplementary | Answered | House of Commons | House of Commons chamber | 593 c317
Date answered: 25 Feb 2015
Subject: EU action; Refugees; Rescue services; Libya; Drownings; Mediterranean Sea
 Mediterranean Sea
Asked by: Lord Hylton | Party: Crossbench
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the ability of Operation Triton to save the lives of those at risk in the Mediterranean; and what proposals they will make to assist Spain, Italy and Greece in dealing with the flow of migrants and refugees.
Answering member: Lord Bates | Party: Conservative Party | Department: Home Office
The EU’s external border agency, Frontex, has stated that since the launch of Operation Triton in November 2014 they helped to save 6,000 migrants on their way to Italy. The UK has responded positively to requests from Frontex to deploy two debriefers and a nationality expert to support Operation Triton, with further support committed for 2015. We have made clear that we are willing to consider any further requests from Frontex for UK support. The recent deaths are a tragic reminder of the great risks to migrants attempting to reach Europe by crossing the Mediterranean in unseaworthy and ill-equipped vessels. During Italy’s Mare Nostrum operation in 2014 many thousands of migrants were intercepted and brought to Italy, but over 3,000 died at sea. While EU Ministers have previously agreed that the principal responsibility for migrants and refugees rests with the Member State whose territory they arrive in, the Government continues to provide concrete support to those Member States under particular pressure both through the EU agencies and directly. We are also investing in joint EU efforts to mitigate pressures on these Member States through work in key countries of origin and transit, including efforts to tackle the root causes of these dangerous journeys and the organised criminal gangs behind them, and to increase support for protection for refugees in North and East Africa and in the Middle East.
In particular we are we are playing a leading role in the new ‘Khartoum Process’ launched at a Ministerial Conference in Rome on 28 November, aimed at combating people smuggling and human trafficking in the Horn of Africa. We are also supporting the EU’s Middle East Regional Development and Protection Programme, which is seeking sustainable regional solutions for those fleeing the Syrian crisis, as well as providing over £700 Million in UK humanitarian aid.
24 Feb 2015 | Written questions | Answered | House of Lords | HL5024
Date tabled: 12 Feb 2015 | Date for answer: 26 Feb 2015 | Date answered: 24 Feb 2015
Subject: Greece; Refugees; Rescue services; Italy; Spain; Mediterranean Sea
 Asylum: Syria
Asked by: Lord Alton of Liverpool | Party: Crossbench
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the reasons why Syrian refugees are crossing the Mediterranean Sea in order to seek asylum in European Union member states.
Answering member: Lord Bates | Party: Conservative Party | Department: Home Office
The majority of refugees displaced from Syria, an estimated 3.8 million people, remain in countries neighbouring Syria. That is why the Government has committed £700 million to the emergency response in the region, the second largest bilateral contribution after the USA, helping hundreds of thousands of people in need. We have not undertaken a formal assessment of the motivation for Syrian migrants to try to reach the European Union, or the routes they choose to get here. However, given the scale of the crisis in Syria and the hardship and human suffering it has caused, it is to be expected that some Syrians will seek to leave the region by whatever routes are available.
With millions of people in need in Syria and the region, the Government believes that humanitarian aid and actively seeking to end the conflict are the most effective ways for the UK to help the majority of those displaced, rather than larger scale resettlement. We have made our position on this clear in relevant discussions with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), for example at the UNHCR Global Resettlement Pledging Conference in Geneva on 9 December 2014. We also liaise regularly with the UNHCR at a working level about the relocation of particularly vulnerable displaced Syrians to the UK under the UK’s Vulnerable Persons Relocation (VPR) scheme.
09 Feb 2015 | Written questions | Answered | House of Lords | HL4592
Date tabled: 02 Feb 2015 | Date for answer: 16 Feb 2015 | Date answered: 09 Feb 2015
Subject: Asylum; Refugees; Syria; EU immigration; Mediterranean Sea

Mesothelioma – Why are servicemen and women excluded from help? – call in the House of Lords for an annual Impact statement to monitor the number of fatalities and progress on research into causes and cures

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/asbestos-thousands-of-uk-soldiers-who-develop-cancer-due-to-exposure-unfairly-treated-by-mod-say-a6706011.html

Also see:

https://davidalton.net/2014/10/11/liverpool-conference-on-mesotheioma-and-the-law/

Mesothelioma Lump Sum Payments (Conditions and Amounts) (Amendment) Regulations 2015

Motion to Consider

5.27 pm Wednesday February 25th 2015

Moved by

Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth

That the Grand Committee do consider the Mesothelioma Lump Sum Payments (Conditions and Amounts) (Amendment) Regulations 2015.

Relevant document: 20th Report from the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments

Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth (Con):

My Lords, I beg to move that the Grand Committee do report to the House that it has considered the draft Pneumoconiosis etc (Workers’ Compensation) (Payment of Claims) (Amendment) Regulations 2015, and the Mesothelioma Lump Sum Payments (Conditions and Amounts) (Amendment) Regulations 2015. I am required to confirm to the Committee that these provisions are compatible with the European Convention on Human Rights, and I am happy to do so.

These two regulations will increase by 1.2% the lump sum amounts payable under the Pneumoconiosis etc. (Workers’ Compensation) Act 1979 and the diffuse mesothelioma scheme set up by the Child Maintenance and Other Payments Act 2008. These new amounts will be paid to those who first satisfy all the conditions of entitlement on or after 1 April 2015. These two schemes stand apart from the main social security benefits uprating procedure and there is no legislative requirement to review the level of payments each year. None the less, I am happy to confirm the increase of the amounts payable for 2015 by the consumer price index. This is the same 1.2% rate that is being applied to industrial injuries disablement benefit and some other social security disability benefits under the main social security uprating provisions.

The Government recognise that people suffering from diseases as a result of exposure to asbestos or one of a number of other listed agents may be unable to bring a successful claim for civil damages relating to their disease. This is mainly due to the long latency period between exposure and onset of the disease, often stretching back decades. Also, even pursuing a claim can take some time. We therefore fulfil an important role by providing lump sum compensation payments to sufferers of certain asbestos-related diseases through these two schemes. This does not debar a civil claim, which can still be pursued. These government schemes also aim to ensure that sufferers receive compensation while they themselves can still benefit from it, without first having to await the outcome of civil litigation.

5.30 pm

Improved health and safety procedures have restricted the use of asbestos and provided a safer environment for its handling. However, the historic legacy of the common use of asbestos is still with us. That is why we are ensuring that financial compensation from both these schemes is available to those affected. I will very briefly summarise the specific purpose of these lump sum compensation schemes. The Pneumoconiosis etc (Workers’ Compensation) Act 1979 scheme—which for simplicity I shall refer to as the 1979 Act scheme—provides a lump sum compensation payment to those who suffer from one of five dust-related respiratory diseases covered by the scheme but are unable to claim damages from employers because they have gone out of business and have not brought any action against others for damages. The five diseases covered by the 1979 Act scheme are diffuse mesothelioma, bilateral diffuse pleural thickening, pneumoconiosis, byssinosis and primary carcinoma of the lung, if accompanied by asbestosis or bilateral diffuse pleural thickening. The 2008 mesothelioma lump sum payments scheme was introduced to provide compensation to people who contracted diffuse mesothelioma but were unable to claim compensation for that disease under the 1979 Act—for example, because their exposure to asbestos was not due to their work. The 2008 scheme means that payments can be made quickly to diffuse mesothelioma sufferers at their time of greatest need. Under both schemes, a claim can be made by a dependant if the sufferer has died before being able to make a claim.

The rates payable under the 1979 Act scheme are based on the level of the disablement assessment and the age of the sufferer at the time the disease is diagnosed. The highest amounts are made to those diagnosed at an early age and with the highest level of disablement. All payments for diffuse mesothelioma under the 1979 Act scheme are made at the 100% disablement rate—the highest rate of payment. Similarly, all payments under the 2008 scheme are made at that 100% rate and based on age, with the highest payments going to the youngest sufferers.

I will give some detailed figures on claims and monies paid out under the two schemes. In the last full year from April 2013 to March 2014, 3,300 people received payments under the 1979 Act, amounting to £45.1 million; 440 people received payments under the 2008 scheme, amounting to £9.4 million. The total compensation paid out under both schemes during this period was therefore £54.5 million.

Around half of payments made under the Government’s 1979 Act scheme are for diffuse mesothelioma. I know the occurrences of diffuse mesothelioma are a particular concern of Members, with the number of deaths in Great Britain continuing to rise. It is a fatal disease caused almost exclusively by exposure to asbestos. Those diagnosed usually have a short life expectancy, generally between nine and 12 months, with the sufferer becoming severely disabled soon after diagnosis. The rise in the number of cases reflects the long latency period of the disease, which can take decades to become apparent. Latest available information suggests that deaths will continue to increase to a peak of around 2,500 in 2018 and then start to fall, reflecting a reduction in asbestos exposures following its peak use in the 1960s and 1970s.

These regulations increase the levels of support through the government compensation schemes and I am sure we all agree that while no amount of money can ever compensate individuals and families for the suffering and loss caused by this disease and the other dust-related diseases covered by the 1979 Act scheme, those who are suffering rightly deserve some form of monetary compensation. The government schemes go some way to ensuring that they receive it as soon as possible. I commend the increase of the payment scales and ask approval to implement them. I beg to move.

Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB):

My Lords, I think we are all grateful to the Minister for the way in which he has introduced the regulations today. He has talked about some very significant sums of money to assist some of those who, through either pneumoconiosis or mesothelioma, have had a death sentence merely as a result of their going out to work. I commend the Government for the uprating that they have announced today.

I have some questions for the Minister. He rightly said that Members from all sides of your Lordships’ House have been anxious, first in supporting the Government in the provisions of the Mesothelioma Act last year, but also in pressing for far more resources to be made available, both to those who have been victims of mesothelioma and for the important work involved in research in finding cures and the causes of mesothelioma.

I notice that the Government say in the Explanatory Note:

“An impact assessment has not been prepared for this instrument”.

Although I realise that that is a fairly technical thing and it is not a requirement for the Government to do that in this case, I wonder if that might be reviewed for the future, with regard to such an impact statement and assessment along the lines that the Minister has just referred to. I was not certain what he meant about the year in which he said the number of mesothelioma victims was likely to peak. Perhaps he could repeat it.

Baroness Donaghy (Lab):

It was 2018.

Lord Alton of Liverpool:

The year is 2018. It is very helpful to know that that is the case. That seems to differ from some of the dates that have previously been given by Ministers and in parliamentary replies.

Will the Minister assure me about continuing assessments, so that when these regulations come forward—alas, they will come forward on a regular basis—we can have much more up-to-date information about the total numbers and how the trajectory appears to be working out? I hear very different accounts from people who say that, as a result of diagnosis now being made in a different way from the past, the numbers are being assessed in different ways. Quite alarmingly, we see the incidence of mesothelioma in non-traditional groups. Those of us who have represented sufferers—through the trade union movement, in the case of some noble Lords here, or by representing constituencies, particularly in urban areas—have always been used to meeting people who worked as tunnellers or masons, or in traditional heavy industries. However, there is no doubt that there has been a significant increase in the number of people who present with the disease for no apparent reason—people who are domestic workers, who perhaps have just been at home or who work in schools, and particularly people in the Armed Forces.

It was the noble Lord, Lord West of Spithead, who mentioned in the House that people he had been at Dartmouth and had literally played snowballs with asbestos at that time, not realising the dangers. He mentioned the number of significant figures in the Royal Navy who had contracted mesothelioma and subsequently died. One of the things that I would specifically like to see in an impact statement would be categories of workers, such as those in the Armed Forces, for which we monitored the number of deaths from mesothelioma that were recorded so that we had a far better idea of the impact that this was having. I know that there will be particular interest from a number of those from the Armed Forces who have been following our debates. It was wonderful that the noble Lord, Lord West, along with the noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, and others, were able to meet some of those from the Royal Navy who have contracted mesothelioma, here in your Lordships’ House just a couple of weeks ago.

The Explanatory Note also says:

“It is intended that these rates will be reviewed each year”.

Perhaps the Minister could confirm whether that will always be in accordance with the consumer prices index, as it has been on this occasion.

I shall return to a Question that I raised on the Floor of your Lordships’ House on 9 December, which was answered by the noble Lord, Lord Faulks, on behalf of the Government. It touches directly on the allocation of money, and where it comes from, regarding some of the payments that are made to those who have become victims of mesothelioma. During the passage of the 2014 Act, Ministers said that the levy on the insurance industry would be set at 3%; in fact, the quote from the Minister in another place was:

“Three per cent. is 3% and we have no intention of moving away from it”.––[Official Report, Commons, Mesothelioma Public Bill Committee, 12/12/2013; col. 117.]

I asked this on 9 December and I ask it again today: why then has it been set at 2.2% when that original undertaking was given by the Government? That represents a shortfall from the insurance industry of around £11 million, so this is not a small sum of money. Although I welcome the subsequent uprating that the Government have announced in the total amounts of money that victims will be awarded under that legislation, I wonder whether there is a shortfall that still can be reclaimed from the industry and which might therefore be used to assist with the problem of research.

I moved an amendment in your Lordships’ House—I think it was defeated by a majority of about seven—which would have placed a requirement on all insurance companies to contribute to another levy to provide for mesothelioma research. I commend those insurance companies, and there are two big players, which have continued to step up to the plate to provide contributions towards research, voluntarily and without a statutory obligation to do so. They put the other companies, of which around 150 are involved, to shame but what they contribute is far from enough. It also raises the question of why more public funding is not provided to tackle the disease.

I would be grateful if the Minister could confirm a figure. The Government have previously said to me that around 50,000 to 60,000 people will die of mesothelioma over the next 20 to 30 years. The Chief Medical Officer, Professor Dame Sally Davies, who is also the Government’s chief scientific adviser for health, has said:

“I hope the research community will now respond by generating new research proposals that will provide robust evidence to help people with mesothelioma”.

What I have quoted was also said by the Minister, the noble Lord, Lord Faulks, in response to a question from the noble Lord, Lord Wigley, who said:

“There needs to be a certainty that the money is there but the top-level researchers also need to be aware of it so that the money and the level of the research capability are brought together”.

The noble Lord, Lord Faulks, also said:

“The funding is very much there”.—[Official Report, 9/12/14; col. 1711.]

However, that seems to contrast with both the Question that I tabled in your Lordships’ House and with a letter which I have received from him.

The Question I refer to was answered as recently as 23 February where, in a table, the Government say that there have been four successful applications. One of them is “Subject to contract” and the others have been successful in coming forward to tackle mesothelioma. But then there are several applications which have been turned down, and which were for substantial sums of money. I would be grateful if the Minister could tell us how this therefore accords with the idea that there are plenty of applications and that they have been sufficiently successful, because that does not seem to be the case.

In the letter that the noble Lord, Lord Faulks, wrote to me on 16 December 2014, following the exchanges on the Floor of the House, he said:

“In the last five financial years, the MRC and NICR have received just over twenty applications for grants or fellowships that relate to research on mesothelioma. Of these eight applications were successful resulting in an average success rate of 40%”.

That does not seem to be a very high success rate when we are dealing with the potential loss of life of so many British people, who have contracted this disease simply as a result of going out to work.

During the debate on my Question the noble Lord, Lord Giddens, told your Lordships that his own wife had died of mesothelioma. A few days ago, along with the noble Lords, Lord Giddens and Lord Saatchi, I met the British Lung Foundation who introduced us to a brilliant young woman who is a registrar in London. She told us that she is the only person working anywhere in the world on an innovatory treatment, using adult stem cells which are targeted at mesothelioma cells. She says that that has proved extremely successful in the animal models that have been used. My heart rose when I heard that, and there are other examples that I could cite but I do not want to take up too much of your Lordships’ time today. Surely this is the sort of innovation we must encourage. During our meeting, she told us that it would take £2.5 million to move from the stage that she has reached now on to clinical trials. Again, that does not seem an outrageous sum of money in terms of what we might be able to achieve.

As a result of bringing forward these regulations today, I hope that the Minister will give us some assurances that he will return to the House—with a letter that can be sent to Members of the Committee, with further written replies to Parliamentary Questions or in Statements to the House—to tell us what progress is being made to ensure that we tackle this problem at source. Otherwise, I suspect that year after year, for the next 20 or 30 years, we will be gathering in places like the Moses Room and looking at lists of people for whom compensation is being given to deal with the effects of a disease which at the moment has no cure and which wreaks such tragedy in the lives of so many ordinary working people in the United Kingdom.

5.45 pm

House of Commons Amendment To Safeguard The Lives of Unborn Girls Defeated – 201 votes to 292 votes – Full debate follows

 

 

The unborn child at 18 weeks gestation. 600 babies are aborted daily in the UK - some, up to and even during birth, with the full force of British law. 7 million have been aborted since abortion was made legal and some have had up to 8 legal abortions. sex selective abortions

 

House of Commons Amendment To Safeguard The Lives of Unborn Girls Defeated – 201 votes to 292 votes – Full debate and the Division List of how MPs voted follows:

 

The Background:

On January 22nd, 73 Members of the House of Commons signed an amendment to the Serious Crime Bill based upon the Abortion (Sex-Selection) Ten Minute Rule Bill.

At the conclusion of its Committee Stage , Fiona Bruce laid an amendment to Section 65 of the Serious Crime Bill 2014, clarifying that the Abortion Act 1967 does not permit a pregnancy to be terminated on the grounds of the sex of the unborn child.

Fiona Bruce MP

Fiona Bruce MP

The amendment was selected by Mr.Speaker for debate at Report Stage and was voted upon. If it had succeeded it would have become law when the Serious Crime Bill receives Royal Assent.

This short amendment would have gone into Part 5 of the Bill which deals with crimes which have a disproportionate effect on girls, including female genital mutilation. Together with clause 74(2), which deals with how the Bill’s provisions can be followed-up, the amendment achieves the same effect as the 10 minute Rule Bill, which received near unanimity in a vote on the 4th November in the House of Commons where a motion approving the Abortion (Sex-Selection) Bill was passed 181:1.

sex selection abortions

Speaking about the amendment, Fiona Bruce MP said:

“The amendment has two aims. First to oblige the Government to think of ways to support women who are under pressure to abort on grounds of the sex of their baby. Second, to consolidate current law, which is necessary to prevent false information being distributed to women. Still today, BPAS, Britain’s biggest abortion provider, insists that sex-selective abortion is not illegal. We must battle the prejudices which give rise to the abhorrent practice of sex-selective abortion. It would be wrong to look the other way as women and girls continue to suffer.” *

Mary Glindon MP said:

“If opposing the abortion of baby girls – often under coercion – makes me anti-choice, then I will wear the label with pride.”

JasvinderSanghera CBE, founder and CEO of Karma Nirvana and spokeswoman for www.stopgendercide.org said:

“Sex-selective abortion is a reality in the UK. This is widely known in diaspora communities and beyond. The Government has a responsibility both to women suffering under cultural pressures and to their baby girls.”

Rani Bilkhu, founder of Jeena International, and spokeswoman for www.stopgendercide.org said:

“The Government has been clear that sex-selective abortion is illegal. But the UK’s biggest abortion provider BPAS continues to contradict them. It has been very upsetting to see some people claim that there is no evidence of sex-selective abortion in the UK. We know it is happening because we have been continually supporting women for nearly a decade who have had them or are being forced or coerced in having them. In their desperation to oppose this initiative, some radical commentators have said that there is no way to help women like those we deal with except through racial profiling. This is nonsense, and if the same argument were made about FGM and forced marriages, people would run a mile. We know sex-selective abortions are happening in the UK and the time has come to face up to it. People speak about choice. The women who we deal with rarely have a choice. Many are forced or coerced to abort simply because they are girls, this is the first act of violence against women and girls. We are supporting Fiona Bruce and her colleagues because it is the right approach, making a clear statement about the law, and providing the means for the Government to take practical action and to send a clear message to all stakeholders including communities that practice sex selection abortions is not only acceptable but against the law.”

sex-selection-ad-2

For questions regarding www.stopgendercide.org email info@stopgendercide.org

For interviews, phone www.stopgendercide.org spokeswomen:

A full media kit including video feature, images and further information is available here: http://www.stopgendercide.org/media/

A feature video on the campaign including interviews with Jasvinder Sanghera, Rani Bilku and Fiona Bruce MP is available here: http://youtu.be/nJCMkb8R1Rw

Also, see:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/women/womens-life/11362298/Gender-abortions-could-be-outlawed-within-months.html

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/women/womens-life/11362379/Gender-abortion-Its-time-for-urgent-action.html

SEX-SELECTIVE ABORTION AMENDMENT TO THE SERIOUS CRIME BILL

Short briefing

What does the amendment say?

“Nothing in section 1 of the Abortion Act 1967 is to be interpreted as allowing a pregnancy to be terminated on the grounds of the sex of the unborn child.”

What would this achieve?

The amendment has two aims.

  1. To oblige the Government to think creatively about ways to help women who are under pressure to have sex-selective abortions.
  2. To clarify that sex-selective abortion is impermissible in UK law.

How would this amendment oblige the Government?

Clause 74(2) of the Serious Crime Bill provides that “the Secretary of State may by regulations make provision that is consequential on any provision of this Act”. Regulations would be an opportunity for the Government to consider and implement measures offering concrete help these women.

Why does the law need clarification?

While the Prime Minister and Department of Health are clear that ‘abortion on the grounds of gender alone is illegal’[1], they are flatly contradicted by the British Medical Association[2] and the British Pregnancy Advisory Service[3], who between them represent those who vast majority of the sector. This is despite numerous clear ministerial statements and new Government guidance reiterating the illegality of the practice. The Government’s view is therefore reduced to an interpretation.

The ‘Sex-Selection’ amendment clarifies existing abortion law in line with the Government’s interpretation.

Would this require singling out a particular community or racial profiling?

No. As with FGM and forced marriage, the problem does seem to be prevalent in some minority communities. Like FGM and forced marriage, the Government has a duty to work out a way to help those affected with sensitivity. Mandating changes to doctors’ and counsellors’ guidance does not require racial profiling, and is just one idea.

Is sex-selective abortion an issue in the UK?

Yes, but on a very minor scale when compared with China or the Indian subcontinent. In 2012, the Telegraph ran investigations proving that it was possible to get doctors to refer for a gender abortion in the UK[1]. Researchers from Oxford and Imperial College have found that gender selective abortion could be detected from birth and census data[2]. In May 2014, the Department of Health produced an in-depth breakdown of birth data statistics, showing that there was no statistically significant gender ratio imbalance in the UK across ethnicities.[3] However, there is a growing body of anecdotal research comprising the experiences of a number of women have spoken about their experiences of UK residents having sex-selective abortions in the UK as well as abroad.[4] Rani Bilkhu, director of Jeena International which works with women who have had sex-selective abortions said “Saying that there is no evidence is tantamount to saying that these women are lying and that our organisation is making things up.”

Notes:

[1] Prime Minister, Oral Answers to Questions 19 March 2014, c780 (Official Report)

[2] British Medical Association Press Release ‘Abortion guidance Ignores Gender Complexity, Say BMA’ 27th May, 2014 http://bma.org.uk/news-views-analysis/news/2014/may/abortion-guidance-ignores-gender-complexity-says-bma,

[3] British Pregnancy Advisory (BPAS) ‘Britain’s Abortion Law’ poses the question. ‘Is abortion for reasons of fetal sex illegal under the Abortion Act?’ They answer ‘No. The law is silent on the matter’ http://www.bpasresources.org/product_info.php?ID=11244 (registration necessary)

[1] Newell, C and Watt, H Abortion Investigation: Doctors Filmed Agreeing Illegal Abortions, No Questions Asked, Telegraph, 22nd Feb 2012

[2] See https://www.spi.ox.ac.uk/fileadmin/documents/PDF/WP35__Sex-ratio_of_births_to_India-born_mothers.pdf and http://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/the-lost-girls-illegal-abortion-widely-used-by-some-uk-ethnic-groups-to-avoid-daughters-has-reduced-female-population-by-between-1500-and-4700-9059790.html

[3] See Department of Health Birth Ratios in England and Wales, May 2014

[4] See for example Connor, S: ‘I had to terminate my pregnancies because I was carrying girls’ The Independent, 14th March 2014.

Also see:

https://davidalton.net/2012/03/02/infanticide-gender-abortions-subversion-of-conscience-wake-up-britain-before-its-too-late/

 https://davidalton.net/2013/06/22/gender-based-abortions-question-if-its-illegal-and-immoral-andrew-lansley-in-these-cases-why-is-it-legal-and-ok-in-other-cases-i-thought-it-was-all-just-a-matter-of-choice-june-2013-d/

https://davidalton.net/2012/10/31/its-a-girl-premiered-at-the-british-parliament-exposing-the-scandal-of-gendercide/

 

 

Scroll down for 1. Division List. 2. Some Media Comment. 3. Full Debate

 

Some Cabinet Ministers who voted for the Bruce Amendment:

 

 

Theresa May

Jeremy Hunt

Iain Duncan-Smith

Patrick McG

Oliver Letwin

David Cameron abstained, Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband voted against..

Those in favour:

Tellers for the Ayes:

and

Those against:

NOES

Tellers for the Noes:

and

Question accordingly negatived.

Some media comment:

The Times: 

Tim Montgomerie comment piece:

http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/opinion/columnists/article4362098.ece

 

The Telegraph:

Dominic Grieve debunking legal myths about amendment:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/women/womens-politics/11428460/Why-we-need-to-clarify-our-abortion-laws.html

 

Steven Swinford

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/labour/11427987/Labour-torpedoes-attempt-to-outlaw-same-sex-abortions.html

 

Daily Mail:

Asian communities hit out at those who whipped against the amendment.

http://dailym.ai/1DIfaQi

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/debate/article-2964610/DAILY-MAIL-COMMENT-Union-meddling-question-morality.html

 

The House of Commons Debate:

New Clause 1

Termination of pregnancy on the grounds of the sex of the unborn child

‘Nothing in section 1 of the Abortion Act 1967 is to be interpreted as allowing a pregnancy to be terminated on the grounds of the sex of the unborn child.’—(Fiona Bruce.)

Brought up, and read the First time.

Fiona Bruce (Congleton) (Con): I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Dawn Primarolo): With this it will be convenient to discuss New clause 25 —Termination of pregnancy on grounds of sex of foetus—

‘(1) The Secretary of State shall arrange for an assessment to be made of the evidence of termination of pregnancy on the grounds of the sex of the foetus in England, Wales and Scotland.

(2) The arrangements made under subsection (1) shall be such as to enable publication of the assessment by the Secretary of State within 6 months of the date of Royal Assent to this Act.

(3) The Secretary of State shall consider the assessment made under subsection (1) and—

(a) determine and publish a strategic plan to tackle substantiated concerns identified in the assessment made under subsection (1); or

(b) publish a statement and explanation in relation to why a plan under subsection (3)(a) is not required.

(4) Any strategic plan under subsection (3)(a) must include, but need not be limited to, steps—

(a) to promote change in the social and cultural patterns of behaviour with a view to eradicating prejudices, customs, traditions and all other practices which are based on the idea of the inferiority of women and which may amount to pressure to seek a termination on the grounds of the sex of the foetus;

(b) to ensure best practice exists in identifying women being coerced or pressured into seeking a termination on the grounds of the sex of the foetus, or at risk of being so, and in the provision of protection and support to potential victims; and

(c) to promote guidance to service providers, health professionals and other stakeholders.

23 Feb 2015 : Column 114

(5) The Secretary of State must lay a copy of the plan, determined under subsection (3)(a), before each House of Parliament within 6 months of the publication date of the assessment under subsection (2).’

Fiona Bruce: New clause 1, which I wish to be put to a vote, is supported by more than 100 MPs. The arguments for it are straightforward. First, it is to clarify beyond doubt, in statute, that sex-selective abortion is illegal in UK law. This new clause is not seeking to change the law on abortion as some have said, but to confirm and clarify it. It also provides the Government with an opportunity to address the problem by bringing forward best practice regulations and guidance to support and protect women at risk.

New clause 1 is necessary because there is no explicit statement about gender selective abortion in UK law. The law is being interpreted in different ways because when the Abortion Act 1967 was passed, scans to determine the sex of the foetus were not available. That has led to a huge amount of confusion and mixed messages. That is despite the fact that the Government have repeatedly said that abortion on the grounds of gender alone is illegal. Health Ministers have said so; the Prime Minister has said so; the Department of Health has published guidance to that effect; and the chief medical officer has written to doctors about it. Despite all of that, abortion providers and others, staggeringly, are still refusing to accept the Government’s interpretation of the law.

Only last week, the country’s largest abortion provider, the British Pregnancy Advisory Service, republished its controversial guidance in a booklet entitled, “Britain’s abortion law: what it says and why”. The following question is posed: is abortion for reasons of foetal sex illegal under the Abortion Act? To this, it answers, “No, the law is silent on the matter.” The former Director of Public Prosecutions, Keir Starmer, has said:

“The law does not in terms expressly prohibit gender-specific abortions.”

Sir Edward Leigh (Gainsborough) (Con): All we are trying to do is simply clarify what everyone in the House of Commons wants to be the law: we should not have abortion on the basis of gender. That is the reply to the DPP. We just want the law to be made absolutely clear.

Fiona Bruce: Absolutely right. That is the purpose of new clause 1. I will come on to explain why it is so important to many of the women who are suffering as a result of the lack of clarity in the law.

This House must make the matter clear. If we cannot get a consistent line from abortion providers on whether or not it is illegal to abort a girl—it is usually girls but not always—for the sole reason that she is a girl, then the law is not fit for purpose. To do so constitutes a gross form of sex discrimination. Indeed it is the first and most fundamental form of violence against women and girls. Surely no one can object to a clause that simply states that that is wrong.

New clause 1 will do more than that, because if it is passed, by virtue of clause 79 (2) the Government will be able to issue guidance to help address this abuse and support affected women. That is why new clause 25 is inadequate when taken alone. What it is proposing is a

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Department of Health assessment or review of the issue. The Department can already do that. Without new clause 1, it is inadequate, because it fails to go to the heart of the issue and to clear up the very real confusion that exists. It fails to clarify the law, as new clause 1 does, that sex election abortion is illegal in this country.

Let me turn now to some of the objections to new clause 1. Much of them have misrepresented its impact and some have been plain scaremongering. First, it is said that it will criminalise women. That is flatly untrue. The clause applies only to authorising doctors; it does not affect an expectant mother’s standing in law. We have also heard that it will stop abortion for disability where there is a sex-linked condition. That is also totally incorrect. I can reassure colleagues that there is nothing in this new clause to prevent a doctor from diagnosing substantial risk of serious handicap via the sex of the baby. In such cases, the ground for the abortion is the risk of the disability, not the sex of the baby. New clause 1 will not change that, and I have been careful to obtain expert legal opinion to that effect.

Kate Green (Stretford and Urmston) (Lab): The hon. Lady spoke rightly a few moments ago about the importance of clarity in law. Does she not agree that there would be reluctance and confusion when the grounds for a termination were the genetic disorder, but the only way in which that genetic order could arise is in relation to the gender of the foetus?

Fiona Bruce: Not at all. We can trust our medical practitioners to be professional in that respect. It is quite clear that the ground for the abortion in such cases would be the genetic condition and not the sex of the child.

Glenda Jackson (Hampstead and Kilburn) (Lab): Will the hon. Lady give way on that point?

Fiona Bruce: I will, but then I need to make progress.

Glenda Jackson: There are certain genetic diseases that are transmitted by the mother to a male foetus. They are not passed on to a female foetus. So the hon. Lady’s argument is invalid.

Fiona Bruce: That is exactly the point that I am making. If the handicap, or the condition, is diagnosed via the sex of the baby, in such cases the grounds for the abortion, through that diagnosis, is the risk of serious handicap, and on that ground the abortion can be legitimately carried out.

Mr Dominic Grieve (Beaconsfield) (Con): Perhaps I can help my hon. Friend, although I do not think that she needs assistance. Of all the arguments that have been put forward on this matter, the one that has no traction at all is the suggestion that enacting this new clause would lead to the confusion that the hon. Member for Hampstead and Kilburn (Glenda Jackson) fears. It plainly would not. There might be other arguments that can be advanced and of course there will be different views across the House, but that could not possibly happen if the new clause were enacted.

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Fiona Bruce rose—

Glenda Jackson: Will the hon. Lady give way?

Fiona Bruce: No, I am going to continue. I thank the former Attorney-General for making that point so lucidly.

We have also heard that the new clause could introduce racial profiling of expectant mothers, but has anyone argued that for female genital mutilation? The term “family balancing” goes wider than any one particular community.

Then there is the argument that the new clause will do nothing to help abused women. It will indeed. It will clarify the law and as Polly Harrar of Jeena International powerfully told me:

“What we’ve found with the Forced Marriage Act 2007 was that we were able to use that piece of legislation as a bargaining tool to negotiate with parents, so a young woman could say, ‘You do realise this is a criminal offence?’”

In the same way, Polly says,

“with sex-selective abortion: having clarity in the law means that women could use this clarification to protect themselves against pressure to have a sex-selection abortion.”

She continues that

“as with FGM having a higher profile, legislation does effect a step change in cultural attitudes. So while legislation alone is not enough, it has real power to change behaviour, and that’s what is needed.”

That addresses clearly the Royal College of Midwives’ objection that new clause 1 will do little to alleviate the external pressures or coercion that these women face. As Mandy Sanghera said:

“We also we hope this will act as a deterrent—it will enable women to have more control over their own decisions.”

Is that not what many objecting to the clause want?

What does not help women under pressure to have an abortion simply because they are carrying a girl or a boy, whether that pressure comes from violence or coercion or is more subtle, is allowing that abortion to take place and sending the woman back to an abusive situation. To do so is to condone the very culture behind the pressure for such abortions and to exacerbate such abuse. The new clause does nothing to diminish services for those suffering abuse. Indeed, if it is followed by sensitively crafted regulations it should certainly improve them.

Then the quite offensive point is made that there is no evidence for sex-selective abortions in the UK. That is offensive as it is insulting to women such as those I have mentioned who have been campaigning for many years to stop this practice. Yes, the numbers are small compared with those in China or India, but they are real. Should we have to wait until those numbers grow before we take action? Rani Bilkhu, who, incidentally, is pro-choice, says:

“I have been supporting women dealing with sex-selective abortions…for almost a decade. Saying that there is no evidence is tantamount to saying that the women we work with are lying and that my organisation”—

Jeena International—

“is making things up.”

Interestingly, Rani also says that “nobody is collecting data”, so it is no wonder that opponents of the new clause say that there is none.

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I know of many examples of women who have suffered. One had one daughter, conceived a second girl, had an abortion and then could not conceive again. Another had three abortions on the basis of gender, including of twins. Another’s husband punched and kicked her in the stomach when he discovered she was having a girl. Yet another says that

“women suffer depression after these abortions. What is not always considered is the emotional and psychological impact.”

These women deserve our support in the manner that they say will really help—through legislation and by clarifying the law. That does not stop a review, but it is essential that we clear up the confusion, support these women and pass new clause 1. In doing so, we would reflect the overwhelming public mood. A recent ComRes poll showed that 84% of the public agree that aborting babies because of their gender should be explicitly banned by law. More than that, we should support new clause 1 because it is, quite simply, the right thing to do.

 

Ann Coffey: I am grateful for the opportunity to speak in support of new clause 25, tabled by me, the right hon. Member for Cardiff Central (Jenny Willott), my right hon. Friend the Member for Dulwich and West Norwood (Dame Tessa Jowell), my hon. Friend the Member for Walsall South (Valerie Vaz) and the hon. Members for Truro and Falmouth (Sarah Newton) and for Totnes (Dr Wollaston). I will seek to test the opinion of the House on the new clause.

The Offences Against the Person Act 1861 makes it a criminal offence intentionally to unlawfully procure a miscarriage, including for a woman to procure her own miscarriage. The Infant Life (Preservation) Act 1929 makes it a criminal offence intentionally to kill a child capable of being born alive before it has a life independent of its mother. The Abortion Act 1967 creates exceptions to those offences in limited circumstances and abortion on the grounds of gender is not one of those exceptions. It is therefore illegal and subject to criminal prosecution. Indeed, guidance was reissued as recently as May 2014 by the Department of Health that said again categorically that abortion on the grounds of sex was illegal. I am therefore not quite sure why the new clause proposed by the hon. Member for Congleton (Fiona Bruce) is needed or how inserting it into the 1967 Act would address her concerns.

8.15 pm

Sir Edward Leigh: If the hon. Lady thinks that such abortions are illegal under the 1967 Act, what possible objection could there be to making that explicit in law?

Ann Coffey: If the hon. Gentleman will wait, I am coming to that point.

The statement the hon. Member for Congleton proposes would sit alongside the existing seven grounds for termination in the 1967 Act, but of course the sex of the foetus can be a factor in causing so much distress for the woman that she meets the existing medical criteria for a termination. The British Medical Association supplied two case studies that demonstrated how that can occur. In both cases, gender was a key factor in affecting the state of mind of the pregnant woman and her wish not to continue the pregnancy. It is not clear how new clause 1, if added to the Bill, would affect the decision

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of doctors on the legal grounds on which they might agree a termination, if at all. It would inevitably be subject to legal challenges that would, I believe, dilute the clarity of the 1967 Act. As far as I am aware, there is no evidence that doctors are granting terminations to women who do not meet the medical grounds laid down in the Abortion Act 1967.

Mr Burrowes: Does the hon. Lady agree with the TUC interpretation of the law, which is that it would be right in some circumstances for a doctor to approve an abortion if, for example, a woman did not want to have a girl for cultural reasons?

Ann Coffey: I repeat that as far as I am aware there is no evidence that doctors are granting terminations to women who do not meet the medical grounds laid down in the Abortion Act 1967. That would be a criminal offence.

Duncan Hames (Chippenham) (LD): I am sure that the hon. Lady is right about there not being evidence for that. Is she aware of whether there is evidence of doctors refusing permission for a termination on the grounds of one of those criteria? Are there statistics to demonstrate that that happens?

Ann Coffey: As the hon. Gentleman will be aware, part of the new clause proposes a proper assessment of some of the issues surrounding this question. I hope that during the assessment we would get much better facts about what is and what is not happening.

Women are pregnant in very different circumstances, subject to different pressures—economic, familial and community—that can all influence a pregnant woman’s state of mind and her attitude to continuing her pregnancy. If there is no substantiated evidence that doctors are granting abortions on the grounds of gender alone, we might be dealing with a more complex issue, which is how wider community and cultural attitudes to girls and women affect the physical and mental health of the pregnant woman.

Therefore, before legislating we should examine the facts relating to this complex issue, because I am concerned that the insertion of the proposed statement might have the unwanted consequence of women who might otherwise have access to an abortion on the grounds of physical and mental welfare being denied a termination. New clause 25 would arrange for an assessment of the evidence of termination of pregnancy on the grounds of the sex of the foetus in England, Wales and Scotland to be published within six months of Royal Assent. Of course, included in that assessment should be the experiences of women who feel that they have been pressured to have their pregnancies terminated.

Like other hon. Members, I have received briefings from many organisations and groups on the issue, and they demonstrate its complexity. One group that is in favour of new clause 1 talked about a growing body of research comprising the experiences of women who have talked about having sex-selective abortions in the UK as well as abroad. It states:

“We know from experience that women are having sex-selective abortions in the UK, and we feel their experiences—which reflect a much wider problem—should be taken seriously before the situation worsens.”

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Another group that is opposed to new clause 1 has said that it would

“have far reaching and unintended consequences for the very women it purports to protect.”

It talked about the need to locate the protection of women from sex-selective abortion within a safeguarding framework. It states:

“There is a need to examine the issue alongside other forms of gender discrimination that impact on the practice, including the practice of dowry, domestic violence and honour based violence.”

It therefore calls for a wide-ranging inquiry, including on available support services.

Sir Edward Garnier: The arguments that the hon. Lady is making are those that I have read and that have persuaded me against supporting new clause 1, which I had originally intended to do when it was first mooted. I am persuaded that the real difficulty we face is getting evidence to court, and nothing that my hon. Friend the Member for Congleton (Fiona Bruce) has said will improve the quality of the evidence. I horribly disapprove—

Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Dawn Primarolo): Order. This is not an opportunity for the hon. and learned Gentleman to make a speech. This debate must end at 9 o’clock and many Members wish to speak, so interventions must be brief. I think that we have the gist of what he was saying—

Sir Edward Garnier rose—

Madam Deputy Speaker: No, I think that we have the gist. Thank you.

Ann Coffey: I think that the hon. and learned Gentleman has made his point.

I agree that the connection between cultural preferences for one sex and the factors that might then lead to a state of inconsolable distress for the pregnant woman needs to be better understood to enable us to protect women from coercion and to support them in their pregnancies. We should certainly look at the facts before agreeing to any change in the wording of the 1967 Act, because we must be careful not to worsen the situation for already vulnerable women.

New clause 1 assumes that restating that sex-selective abortion is illegal will offer women protection from pressure to terminate their pregnancies, but women subject to intolerable pressure to abort will continue to be subject to coercion. My concern is about how women would interpret the inclusion of the new clause. They might feel that Parliament has legislated that if the sex of the child is at all an issue, irrespective of their mental distress, they will not have access to a termination. Sometimes it is not what legislation says that has a powerful effect on behaviour, but what people believe it says. That might lead them to pursue alternative routes as a first resort, rather than a last one. We do not want to go back to the days of the botched backstreet abortions that took place prior to the 1967 Act, which throughout the ages have been the resort of desperate women. I remember the lengths to which women would go to terminate their pregnancies prior to that Act, in spite of the risks to their own health.

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If the assessment that we propose uncovers substantiated concerns that there is pressure to seek terminations on the grounds of gender, we need to put in place a plan to deal with what is giving rise to those pressures and how we can better support women who might be being coerced. That is the proposal in the second part of new clause 25. I hope that in bringing forward those proposals there would be extensive consultation with women from all cultural backgrounds.

Finally, I would like to share a story with Members. On a recent train journey I started talking with an Asian woman who was originally from Bangladesh. In the course of the conversation she showed me a photo of her three daughters, who are now grown up. I said that they were beautiful and how lucky she was to have three daughters, at which point she looked very distressed. She then told me that she had never enjoyed any of her pregnancies because she knew that she was carrying a girl and that her then husband saw girls as being of no value and, in turn, viewed her as having no value as a wife because she had not produced a son. He eventually abandoned her. However, I am happy to report that my travelling companion went on to have her own career and that her girls are confident young women who are finding their own ways in life.

When I asked her what she thought could be done about those attitudes to girls, she said that the answer was education, education, education. She of course is right. We understand that from our own history of fighting for women’s equality—a fight that many of us still feel is a work in progress. I hope that this cross-party amendment will be supported by the House and that it will mean that when the Secretary of State reports back in six months’ time on her assessment, with accompanying proposals, we will be better informed about a way forward in addressing concerns that I agree we should not ignore. No woman should feel pressured into seeking a termination for any reason, including gender.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health (Jane Ellison): I welcome the opportunity to speak in this debate, and I will try to do so relatively briefly in order to allow more Back-Bench contributions. New clause 1, which stands in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Congleton (Fiona Bruce), and new clause 25, which stands in the name of the hon. Member for Stockport (Ann Coffey), both relate to the very important matter of addressing the abhorrent practice of sex-selective abortion.

The Government have been consistently clear that abortion on the grounds of gender alone is already illegal. The Department of Health repeated that in guidance issued in May 2014, and it is important to stress that all independent sector providers have agreed to comply with, and operate on the basis of, the Department’s guidance and that they must do so as part of their licensing conditions. The Care Quality Commission monitors compliance with that, including through its inspection visits.

Mr Burrowes: On the welcome guidance that was published, I understand from freedom of information requests, and from an e-mail sent on 21 January, that there was a request for joint badging of that guidance to ensure that all the stakeholders signed up to it. Why did that not happen? Why was it left only to the Department to publish it?

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Jane Ellison: It was the Department’s own guidance, which is why the Department published it. In the course of forming the guidance, we spoke with all the people we would be expected to speak to.

The chief medical officer for England has written twice to all doctors—in February 2012 and November 2013—reminding them of their responsibilities under the 1967 Act and reiterating the Government’s position on gender-selective abortion, and that was reiterated by professional bodies.

The Department has also undertaken detailed analysis to investigate whether the gender birth ratio in the UK varies by the mother’s country of birth beyond the range that might be expected to occur naturally. The analysis, first published in May 2013 and updated in 2014, concluded that, when broken down by the mother’s country of birth, no group was statistically different from the range we would expect to see naturally occurring. The Department has quite rightly committed to repeat that analysis annually when new birth data become available. However, I stress that the Government will remain vigilant, will continue to monitor data and will be fully open to any other evidence that comes to light.

My hon. Friend the Member for Congleton cited poignant anecdotal reports of sex-selective abortion, as she did on her ten-minute rule Bill. As I said to her at the end of that debate, I urge her and anyone with evidence of individual cases to report this to the police to investigate. I invite her once again to come to the Department with such evidence.

Considerable concern has been expressed about the impact of new clause 1 and it is right that we touch on that. The Government consider that the new clause would restate our long-standing position on the issue—that abortion on the ground of gender alone is illegal. However, hon. Members will have heard the concerns expressed by a number of groups about the practical implications of new clause 1. Although the Government do not consider on balance that ground E would be affected by the new clause, it is naturally worrying for me as a Health Minister to hear from the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists and the Royal College of Midwives about the concerns that new clause 1 has caused among health professionals providing termination of pregnancy services to women.

Mr Grieve: I am very grateful to hear from my hon. Friend that ground E would not be jeopardised. The Government have access to good legal advice—[Interruption.] I trust that they have access to good legal advice, and it must be the case that the Government have a position on the matter. I am grateful to hear from my hon. Friend that that particular anxiety is completely misplaced.

Jane Ellison: I am concerned about the fears that some people have about the practical implications of the new clause, and I think others share that concern. I hope to come on to that

The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists highlighted the potential impact on abortions for foetal abnormality—I hear the point that was made on that in two interventions—where an inherited gender-related condition may be indicated, and the possibility that the new clause, if passed, may result in further concerns. The RCOG says:

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“Parents with a family history of such a condition may not have the option of Ground E.”

The RCOG also says, in relation to how doctors might feel about the practical implications, that “doctors deciding not to provide this aspect of gynaecological care”

might do so

“because it is deemed to be too ‘risky’ to them professionally.”

The House will want to be aware of these and other concerns regarding the practical implications of the new clause from the body that represents the doctors who provide these services and whom we entrust with the training, support and education of our future work force.

Dr Sarah Wollaston (Totnes) (Con): Does the Minister agree that one of the issues is that there are some types of X-linked genetic disorders affecting only one sex that cannot be detected by genetic testing for the specific condition in question, and that that is where the uncertainty arises? In other words, it would be entirely on the basis of the sex of the child. That is why the concern and uncertainty would be increased by the new clause.

Jane Ellison: My hon. Friend exactly describes the concerns as they have been expressed to me by the RCOG.

It may be helpful for me to give the House some figures on abortions in our country. The House is aware that the vast majority of abortions—91%—are carried out at under 13 weeks’ gestation. This is before the gestational age at which the sex of the foetus is routinely identified at the second scan, at around 18 to 21 weeks’ gestation. Disclosing the sex of the foetus is a local decision and is based on clinical judgment about the certainty of the assessment and the individual circumstances of each case. Some 98% of all abortions were carried out at under 18 weeks’ gestation in England and Wales in 2013. It is also the case that 98% of abortions performed in the independent sector in 2013 were carried out at under 18 weeks. By contrast, in 2013, 94% of reported abortions for foetal abnormality were performed in NHS hospitals. In the light of this, the House would want to consider that the new clause could be thought likely to have greatest potential impact on those health professionals working in our NHS, rather than on independent sector providers.

As the hon. Member for Stockport explained, new clause 25 would require a further assessment of the evidence that terminations are taking place on the ground of the sex of the foetus alone. I have already outlined the analysis that the Department of Health is undertaking on an annual basis in this area. We will also take into consideration any other evidence that comes to light. I stress to the House that we take the issue of coercion and abuse very seriously. Women who present for an abortion will always have the opportunity to speak to a health professional on their own at some point during the consultation. From my perspective as public health Minister, this is the sort of issue that would sensibly be considered as part of any further review, and the Department of Health is already considering what further sources of evidence can contribute to our knowledge on this important issue.

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Fiona Mactaggart (Slough) (Lab): Does the Minister accept that clauses 73 and 74 of this Bill precisely help to protect women from family coercion to have an abortion?

Jane Ellison: That is a useful point to draw out about other parts of this important Bill.

It is for the House to decide whether it wants to place the commitment to a further review on a statutory footing by supporting new clause 25.

As is the convention with such issues of conscience, as a Government we do not take a position either for or against new clauses 1 and 25. If the matter is pressed to a Division, Government Members will have a free vote. However, I hope that it has been helpful to hon. Members in forming their own opinion on these two new clauses for me to set out the Government’s actions to date in this area, the facts in relation to the gestations at which most abortions are performed, and the concerns raised by professional bodies. As I have said, it is for the House to decide whether it wants to support either of the new clauses, or indeed both or neither of them, but I reiterate that abortion of a foetus on the grounds of gender alone is already illegal.

Luciana Berger (Liverpool, Wavertree) (Lab/Co-op): The impassioned speeches that we have heard in this debate are testament to what a sensitive and complex matter this is. New clause 1 would amend the Abortion Act 1967 and proposes that a pregnancy could not

“be terminated on the grounds of the sex of the unborn child.”

New clause 25 would require a review of the evidence relating to abortion on the grounds of gender alone and for this to be followed by a strategic Government plan that addresses concerns about the prevalence of termination on the grounds of the sex of the foetus in England, Scotland and Wales.

I am in favour of new clause 25 as the best way to address concerns about sex-selective abortions. Outwardly, the intentions behind new clause 1 might seem reasonable. However, a wide range of well-respected organisations and experts have raised concerns, pointing out a number of unintended and troubling consequences. The organisations include the Royal College of Midwives, the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, the British Medical Association, the TUC, the End Violence Against Women Coalition, Genetic Alliance UK, Imkaan and the Southall Black Sisters, among many others.

Sir Edward Leigh: Will the hon. Lady give way?

Luciana Berger: I am going to continue because we have a lot to get through and many Members wish to speak.

New clause 1 represents a significant departure from the current principles on which abortion law in this country is based. Given that this is a matter of huge significance, the new clause deserves fuller debate and scrutiny than we have the opportunity for in the remaining 24 minutes of this debate.

Choosing to terminate a pregnancy simply because the foetus one is carrying is not the sex one wishes for is a notion that most people find abhorrent. As the hon.

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Member for Congleton (Fiona Bruce) confirmed, sex-selective abortion is already illegal under the Abortion Act 1967.

Sir Edward Leigh: Will the hon. Lady give way on that point?

Luciana Berger: If the hon. Gentleman will forgive me, I am not going to take his intervention.

The Government, along with the chief medical officer, the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, and the Royal College of Midwives, have said that abortions carried out on the sole premise of foetal sex are illegal. As we have heard, updated guidance and instructions to doctors published within the past 12 months have clarified this. All independent sector providers have also agreed to follow the revised guidance as part of their licensing agreements. Let me be clear: we do not need new clause 1 to make sex-selective abortion illegal. However, it is right that we should send a strong message from this Parliament that gender-selective abortions are wrong. We can do that today by requiring the Government to carry out a thorough assessment and produce an action plan to address the root causes of this practice. That is what new clause 25 would do.

The change to the law proposed in new clause 1 would not only fail to address the root issues that lie behind the problem but have serious unintended consequences. I listened closely to the hon. Member for Congleton and to the former Attorney-General, the right hon. and learned Member for Beaconsfield (Mr Grieve), but I point to the text of new clause 1, which it is worth reading out:

“Nothing in section 1 of the Abortion Act 1967 is to be interpreted as allowing a pregnancy to be terminated on the grounds of the sex of the unborn child.”

It says that nothing is to be so interpreted, so that includes medical grounds, the well-being of the mother, and gender-specific abnormalities. At best, this would create uncertainty and doubt for doctors who administer abortions in these situations and a legal grey area for women who are already facing a very difficult decision. I heard the former Attorney-General’s intervention, but I have listened to many legal experts who have written on the pages of many papers—

Mr Grieve: I appreciate that there may be policy arguments and all sorts of good arguments to make, but it is simply incorrect to argue that the new clause would have the consequences that have been claimed of preventing, for example, abortion from taking place where, because of the gender, there was a likelihood of disability. The Minister confirmed that. She was a bit hesitant about it, but she eventually did so when I intervened on her, so I repeat her assurance. My view is that this argument is completely groundless.

Luciana Berger: I thank the right hon. and learned Gentleman for his intervention, but, as we have heard, many legal experts dispute that position. I refer to the specific text of the new clause, which says nothing about, and is in direct conflict with, paragraphs (a) to (d) of section 1(1) of the Abortion Act.

The Genetic Alliance has said that

“the consequences of this amendment could be devastating to women and couples at risk of having a child affected by a serious x-linked condition.”

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I have heard from one family where two sisters were carriers of x-linked severe combined immunodeficiency, a disease that affects only boys. After years of thinking, one sister decided not to have any children, because she did not want to risk the chance of having to choose between having a very poorly son or a termination. Her sister decided—also after many years of consideration—to have children and went on to have three healthy daughters. Those were the choices that those women made after much consideration and deliberation with their families. How can Parliament take that decision away from them? I am sure that no one would wish to deprive their daughter, sister or partner of that choice. It is surely not for Parliament to rush this through in the short time available and deny families the opportunity to have children or a healthy baby.

Another serious concern is that new clause 1 is not just a clarification of the law, but a fundamental reform of the essential principles on which existing abortion law in this country been based for 47 years. The Abortion Act 1967 places the physical and mental health of the woman as the overriding concern of a doctor authorising abortion. Our current legislation refers to the foetus rather than the unborn child. That is because, across our legislation and common law, children are accorded a wide range of protections and rights that Parliament has previously agreed should not be accorded to the foetus.

Changing the language of the Abortion Act, as this new clause would do, would send a very different signal to the courts and open up different judicial interpretations of abortion or new consequences and restrictions that would go far beyond the issue of sex selection. For the first time since legislation in 1929, new clause 1, if passed, could afford the foetus rights that would be in conflict with those of the mother and it could seriously jeopardise the future of safe, legal abortion in the UK.

Fiona Bruce: Will the hon. Lady give way?

Luciana Berger: I am not going to give way. I am going to wrap up, because I am conscious of the time and Madam Deputy Speaker wants me to conclude.

There are many other points that I would have liked to address, particularly the issue of custom and practice and why new clause 25 addresses the issue of coercion in communities, which is something we all want to deal with.

Voting against new clause 1 is not an indication of support for sex-selective practices, but an acknowledgement that it would do nothing to address the causes or reduce the incidences of sex-selective abortion and that some serious negative unintended consequences would result from enacting this proposed change to the Serious Crime Bill.

Few people would support the idea that families should be able to have abortions on the grounds of gender alone. That is why it is illegal under our current law. New clause 1 represents a significant departure from the current principles on which abortion law in this country is based. Instead, new clause 25 would require a review of the evidence relating to abortion on the grounds of gender alone, to ensure that we have a full understanding of the practice and the extent of the problem, and for that to be followed by a Government strategy to tackle it accordingly, based on the evidence

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of what works. I sincerely hope that Members on both sides of the House will vote against new clause 1 and in support of new clause 25.

Mr David Burrowes (Enfield, Southgate) (Con): It is important that we try as far as possible to develop a consensus on subjects such as this. Everyone across the House is against abortion on the grounds of gender alone. We have communicated that view, the Government have written it in guidance and we want to make it clear in statute. It is as simple as that. We do not seek to have a Trojan horse or to upgrade the status of the unborn child. On that point, one simply needs to look at section 1(1)(d) of the Abortion Act 1967, which refers to “child” as a legal term, so that definition is not unknown.

We could support new clause 25, which aims to develop further research and have a plan, but it is not an alternative to new clause 1. Yes, we should develop more understanding and evidence, but we should not ignore the main point of this debate, which is what brought together more than 50 Members from both sides of the House—whether they were pro-choice or pro-life—when they signed a letter in 2013. Some of them have now signed different new clauses and are seeking to divide one another when we should be coming together to show that we want to clear up the law.

We have talked about different legal experts. Why not take one, Keir Starmer, the then Director of Public Prosecutions? On 7 October 2013, he said:

“The law does not…expressly prohibit gender-specific abortions”.

That no doubt came as a surprise to many members of the public. To put it simply, that is what new clause 1 is about—it would expressly prohibit such abortions. What does the law do? As Keir Starmer went on, rather the law

“prohibits any abortion carried out without two medical practitioners having formed a view, in good faith, that the health risks of continuing with a pregnancy outweigh those of termination.”

8.45 pm

What drew Members from both sides of the House and all sides of the ethical debate to be concerned in 2013? They jointly said that the Crown Prosecution Service’s decision not to prosecute

“could lead to the conclusion that gender-specific abortion is merely a matter of professional misconduct rather than illegal.”

The issue is whether we simply delegate this matter to professionals’ judgment in performing a balancing act and to their conduct, or deal with it—as we as parliamentarians should do and are charged with doing—by recognising that at the very least we must ensure that the law is clear.

What did the Department do? It responded to the concerns expressed in 2013 by deciding to issue departmental guidance to set out its interpretation of the law. As we have already heard, and we have been bombarded with lots of briefings from many organisations —the royal colleges, the TUC, the BMA and the British Pregnancy Advisory Service—there are different interpretations of the law.

Sir Edward Leigh: We have to base the law on the law. There is no mention of this in the 1967 Act. There was no possibility of mentioning it in the Act, because it

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was not possible to determine gender when it was passed. Keir Starmer is therefore absolutely right: the law is unclear.

Mr Burrowes: That is right. The Department issued helpful guidance that abortion on the grounds of gender alone was illegal. However, guidance is not sufficient. We do not simply rely on guidance in many areas of policy.

As freedom of information requests have revealed, the Government’s attempt jointly to badge all stakeholders together did not succeed, because the BMA rejected the very guidance published by the Government. It said that gender selection abortion is “normally unethical”, but that the guidance

“fails to reflect the…full legal situation regarding abortion and gender.”

The BMA therefore had a different interpretation. It also said that, separate to the issue of gender-related disability that has quite properly been raised,

“in some cases doctors may come to the conclusion that the effects of having a child of a particular gender are so severe to the physical or mental health of the pregnant woman as to provide legal and ethical justification for an abortion”.

We need greater clarity than can be given in guidance; we need to be sure that such a prohibition is clear in statute. The law as it stands is not clear. We have a duty not just to leave it to a doctor to perform a balancing act. No longer should we be silent on this issue. I urge hon. Members to support new clause 1.

Several hon. Members rose—

Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Dawn Primarolo): Order. May I ask Members to make their comments very brief, because the debate will end at 9 pm and I want to get in as many as I can?

 

Jim Shannon (Strangford) (DUP): Many Members, including myself, strongly support new clause 1 as a means of clarifying the law to make it absolutely clear that sex-selective abortion, which is plainly discriminatory, is illegal in the United Kingdom. In so doing, we seek to inspire the Government to develop interventions that will address the issue of why boys are more desired than girls—the issue of son preference.

In setting out my position, I want to address head on the argument that the new clause will criminalise women. That is not the case: the legal standing of women would in no way be changed, but doctors would instead be held to account, and rightly so. Sex-selective abortion is already illegal in the United Kingdom. In fact, the Prime Minister suggested in March 2014 that abortion on the grounds of gender was not only unacceptable, but illegal. It is alarming that medical organisations, such as the British Medical Pregnancy Advisory Service and the British Medical Association, have suggested that that is not the case, or that at the very least the law is silent on the matter. That must be addressed.

Mr Jeffrey M. Donaldson (Lagan Valley) (DUP): Thankfully, we do not have the Abortion Act 1967 in Northern Ireland. One of the difficulties is that organisations, such as the BMA and others, which

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constantly call for clarification of the law in Northern Ireland by seeking to extend the level of abortion there are quick to say that we do not need to clarify the law when it comes to tightening the law on abortion in Great Britain.

Jim Shannon: I thank my right hon. Friend for making that clear and salient point.

If abortion laws are unclear on whether sex-selective abortion is legal, let us tighten them up using new clause 1, so that it is clear beyond reasonable doubt that the practice is unacceptable. The new clause would inevitably clarify the law by stating explicitly that the termination of pregnancy on the grounds of the sex of the unborn child is illegal. It would add clarity and certainty for women and medical professionals, so that neither party would be left wondering what their rights and obligations were.

New clause 25 would not provide adequate means for holding doctors to account, because a prosecution would still hinge on the ambiguity of section 1 of the Abortion Act 1967. It is clear that it would do nothing to move forward the debate on the clarity of the law. New clause 1 would make it certain, without a doubt, that sex-selective abortion is illegal. There would be no conflicting interpretations, just the black letter of the law. It would force the Government not only to clarify the law, but to create initiatives to address the issue of son preference.

I will conclude, because I am conscious that others want to speak and I want to allow time for that. New clause 1 is vital for at least two reasons. First, at the moment it is possible to ask whether sex-selective abortion is illegal and to get three different answers that appear to be contradictory, but that are all correct. That will not do. If there are varying interpretations of the law and the legality of a practice is unclear, the law must be amended to thwart any confusion, particularly for women, who should be in no doubt as to their rights in this area. It is therefore important that we support new clause 1.

Secondly, campaigners such as Jeena International and Karma Nirvana suggest that a prejudicial attitude towards girls is a phenomenon that is occurring in the United Kingdom. Therefore, the time to act against sex-selective abortion is now, not when our sex ratios become distorted to the same levels as those of India and China. New clause 1 sends a clear, unequivocal message to doctors and medical practitioners that sex-selective abortion is illegal and cannot be tolerated in our society. I urge right hon. and hon. Members to vote for it tonight.

Dr Wollaston: We all agree that it is abhorrent to terminate a pregnancy on the grounds of a belief that daughters are less valuable than sons. However, I will vote against new clause 1 for three reasons: it is unnecessary, there would be unintended consequences and we have insufficient time to debate what would be a fundamental change to an underlying principle of the Abortion Act 1967.

We have heard clearly that it is already illegal to terminate a pregnancy on the grounds of gender alone, and rightly so. That has been clarified since many of us agreed that there was an issue. I agree that there was an issue. It was not possible to bring prosecutions until the clarification was issued by the Department of Health and the chief medical officer.

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The updated data on this issue, which examines not only ethnicity but birth order, shows that there is no evidence of a systematic practice of gender-based abortion in this country. It happens in other parts of the world, where it is having a serious distorting effect on societies and on the status of women, but there is no systematic practice here, although I have no doubt that there are individual cases.

New clause 1 would have unintended consequences. At present, women may have the confidence to disclose to a doctor in the confidence of a consulting room that they feel under pressure. If we brought in the new clause, women might feel that they may be criminalised. That would do more harm than good and bring about the exact reverse of the intended consequence of the new clause. We also risk stigmatising communities through the implication that this is a widespread practice, which it is not in the UK. We have to be clear about that.

New clause 1 uses the very emotive term, “the unborn child”. That would change the meaning within the Abortion Act. We have to be very careful about that. My hon. Friend the Member for Enfield, Southgate (Mr Burrowes) mentioned that the word “child” appears in the Abortion Act. I accept that, but we must look at the context in which the word is mentioned. It is mentioned in the grounds for terminating a pregnancy when there is a grave risk that a child may suffer a serious abnormality. In other words, it does not confer personhood on the foetus in the way that this change would. It may be the view of the House that that needs to change, but let us come back and debate this incredibly serious ethical point with the time it deserves, not shoehorn it on to the tail end of a new clause with which it is difficult to disagree—as I said earlier, we are all agreed that termination on the grounds that a daughter is somehow of less value than a son is totally abhorrent.

I urge hon. Members please to come back to this issue and give it the time it deserves. Let us debate it on its ethical merits, not try to pretend that we are talking about something else. We are all agreed on the fundamental premise, so let us give it the time it deserves and reject new clause 1 tonight.

Fiona Mactaggart: I speak as one of the 13 MPs who co-sponsored the original ten-minute rule Bill of the hon. Member for Congleton (Fiona Bruce). I did that because I think she was right to make people aware that sex selective abortion is illegal, and I thought her Bill was a powerful and good tactic to do that. However, I feel a bit as though I have been pulled along by a Trojan horse because, as the hon. Member for Totnes (Dr Wollaston) said, the new clause confers the status of an unborn child on the foetus, and that radically changes our abortion laws in a way I believe is dangerous.

As I said in an earlier intervention, clauses 73 and 74, which deal with coercive behaviour, contain a powerful tool that we should use to prevent the kind of coercion to which the hon. Member for Congleton referred. In those references she quoted extensively from an organisation based in my constituency, but personal experience of how that organisation has failed to help individual constituents has led me to the conclusion that it is not possible to depend on the accuracy of what it says. I am therefore concerned that we are using anecdote from an unreliable source to make legislation on the hoof.

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Having supported the hon. Lady’s original ten-minute rule Bill, I have since read something from an organisation in America that is closely linked to the all-party pro-life group that she chairs. The head of that group stated:

“I propose that we—the pro-life movement—adopt as our next goal the banning of sex…selective abortion. By formally protecting all female fetuses from abortion on the ground of their sex, we would plant in the law the proposition that the developing child is a being whose claims on us should not depend on their sex…This sense of contradiction will be further heightened among radical feminists—”

I think he means people like me—

“the shock troops of the abortion movement. They may believe that the right to abortion is fundamental to women’s emancipation, but many will recoil at the thought of aborting their unborn sisters.”

My final reason for arguing that we should reject the new clause is the concern of the British Medical Association that it will make doctors more fearful of providing abortion services and training to carry out abortions. One of the biggest risks for young women seeking help to terminate a pregnancy is not getting that help in time, as a result of which we end up with late abortions and women who cannot have abortions when they are entitled to them. One reason for that is the growing number of doctors who are reluctant to perform abortions because they practise defensive medicine. I have no doubt that the new clause is unnecessary and likely to increase that and make it more difficult for women to access their right to termination—a right that I am afraid the hon. Member for Congleton, although I agree when she says that we all agree that abortion should not be available on the basis of gender, does not support at all.

Sir Edward Leigh: If the whole House is agreed that it is morally repugnant to destroy a foetus simply on the basis of its gender—it is usually a girl—let us make that explicit in law.

Dame Angela Watkinson (Hornchurch and Upminster) (Con): Very briefly—

9 pm

Debate interrupted (Programme Order, 5 January).

The Deputy Speaker put forthwith the Question already proposed from the Chair (Standing Order No. 83E), That the clause be read a Second time.

The House divided:

Ayes 201, Noes 292.

 

October 19th 2015 Modern Slavery Act Regulations debated in Parliament , followed by December 19th article for Huffington Post – Committee Stage of the Modern Slavery Bill – Amendments to Create a Fund from the Seized Assets of Traffickers – to help victims, charities and law enforcement agencies, – Amendments on Domestic Workers Visas, Gangmasters, Supply Chain Transparency

modern slavery and wilberforce

House of Lords Debate: October 19th 2015

Modern Slavery Act 2015 (Transparency in Supply Chains) Regulations 2015

Motion to Approve

7.01 pm

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”.—[

Official Report

, 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”.

He added:

“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.

7.15 pm

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”,

and to,

“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.

19 Oct 2015 : Column 519

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.

7.30 pm

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?

19 Oct 2015 : Column 520

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

19 Oct 2015 : Column 521

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

19 Oct 2015 : Column 522

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.

7.45 pm

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.

Motion agreed

Huffington Post December 19th 2014

http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/lord-alton/ethical-christmas-modern-slavery_b_6355308.html?utm_hp_ref=uk

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.

http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/lord-alton/ethical-christmas-modern-slavery_b_6355308.html?utm_hp_ref=uk

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?
1 Dec 2014 : Column 1154
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.

modern slavery domestic workers

Providing Protection for Domestic Migrant workers
7.30 pm

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
1 Dec 2014 : Column 1179
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”,
and said:
“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

modern slavery william wilberforce 2

Amendment 32
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,
1 Dec 2014 : Column 1213
(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
1 Dec 2014 : Column 1214
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”.—[
Official Report
, 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”.
1 Dec 2014 : Column 1215
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
1 Dec 2014 : Column 1216
Foundation, published
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.
10 pm
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
1 Dec 2014 : Column 1223
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.

The Morecambe Bay Cockle Pickers

The Morecambe Bay Cockle Pickers

Human trafficking 2

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

10 Dec 2014 : Column 1859

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.

5.45 pm

Gangmasters

7 pm

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

Amendment 98
Moved by Lord Alton of Liverpool
98: After Clause 51, insert the following new Clause—
“Slavery and human trafficking statements
10 Dec 2014 : Column 1893
(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;
“partnership” means—
(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.
8 pm
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.
8.15 pm
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.
8.30 pm
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—
“Review
(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”.
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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.
10 Dec 2014 : Column 1912

Dalits, Untouchability, and the Caste System in India

House of Lords Debate November 26th 2014.

Cast out Caste - Make Caste History

Cast out Caste – Make Caste History

[Voice of Dalit International (VODI), Email: vodi@vodintl.org.uk , Web: http://www.vodintl.org.uk]

‘RESPONSE TO CASTE & DALIT POVERTY IN INDIA’ Report of DALITAID–INDIA – 2 DAY CONFERENCE –

National Biblical Catechetical and Liturgical Centre (NBCLC), Bangalore]

By lightning the lamp Mr. Roshan Baig, Honourable Minister for Infrastructure Development, Information and Haj, Government of Karnataka inaugurated the conference. His Excellency Rt. Rev Dr. A. Neethinathan, Bishop of Chingleput, Chairman, Department of Dalits, Catholic Bishops Conference of India (CBCI) and Patron of DALITAID-India on the Dias with DALITAID office bearers, Professor Mary John [Chair], Ms. Maglin Jerry, [Treasurer] and Mr. V.J. George, [General Secretary].
‘Dalit Struggle for Equality needs recognition’
Says Mr. Roshan Baig, Minister for Infrastructure Development, Information and Haj, Karnataka State.

‘Dalits in India are struggling for equality and development and it is high time that society gives them the deserving recognition and acceptance that they need to be brought to the mainstream of Society. Their acceptance must come from the hearts of the civil society members’, said Mr. Roshan Baig, Minister for Infrastructure Development, Information and Haj, Karnataka State, India

He was inaugurating a 2 Day National Conference on ‘Response to Caste and Dalit Poverty’, organised by DALITAID-India, at the National Biblical, Catechetical and Liturgical Centre [NBCLC] Bangalore held on 5th and 6th December 2014. The conference was attended by 190 delegates from Dalit led NGOs and movements across the country.
Most Rev. Dr. A. Neethinathan, Chairman of the Department of Dalits, Catholic Bishops Conference of India [CBCI] and Bishop of Chingleput, gave the keynote address. He said there is a strong correlation between Caste and Poverty of Dalits. Dalit poverty is caused mainly by caste and the Development agencies must have Dalit sensitisation to address the issue of caste, while attempting to reduce the poverty of Dalits.
Prof. Dr. M. Mary John, Chair, DALITAID –India, giving the opening remarks, said that the conference sought to address the issues of Dalit development by focusing on the right share of development resources, which are reaching the wrong hands. The conference unleashed deliberations for the strengthening of the stake of the Dalit led NGOs for the involvement in the development processes.
Speaking on the occasion, Mr. V.J. George, General Secretary, DALITAID India, said that the main reason for the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) being off-track was due to neglect of the Dalit sector and the conference gave strong warnings to the Development agencies, National and Global, that Dalit poverty needs to be addressed through Dalit led NGOs .
Ms. Maglin Jerry, Treasurer of DALITAID India gave the Welcome speech and Mr. Alfred Culas, Director, DALITAID India made the Vote of Thanks.
The Conference discussed paper presentations by experts on various sections, subjects included, ‘Dalits among Global Poor’, ‘Impact of Caste on Dalit Poverty’, ‘New Understandings of Dalits and Poverty’, ‘Struggles within Struggles’, ‘Struggles for the Equal Rights of Dalits’, and ‘Dalit Development oppositions’. 24 papers were presented and discussed. The Conference deliberated and approved a ‘Bangalore Declaration’, which forms part of the news release.
Prof. Dr. Mary John Mr. V.J. George Ms. Maglin Jerry Mr. Alfred Culas
(Chairman) (General Secretary) (Treasurer) (Director)

Bangalore Declaration
190 Dalit activists, Dalit Rights workers, Dalit led NGO leaders, members of Research Institutions, Training, Development and Human Rights organisations, leaders of Faith Communities and Human Rights activists gathered from different states of India during 5th – 6th December 2014, at the National Biblical, Catechetical and Liturgical Centre [NBCLC], Bangalore for a 2 day National Conference on ‘Response to Caste and Dalit Poverty’ and have unanimously adopted this Declaration on this 6th day of December 2014.

We declare:
1. That the definition of Dalits shall be based on ‘untouchability’; those communities and their posterities who suffered untouchability in the past are to be considered as Dalits, irrespective of their religion.

2. That there is a positive correlation between caste and Dalit poverty; as the poverty of Dalits is due to the caste system and all the backwardness inflicted upon them by the caste system.

3. That the Development Sector should coin right terminologies to describe caste discrimination, in the place of using traditional terminologies which glorify and reinforce the caste system.

4. That Dalits in India form 1/3rd of the Global poor (444 Million) and hence Dalits deserve a legitimate share of 1/3rd of the Global resources which are set apart for addressing poverty.

5. The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) failed to achieve the desired targets on Dalit poverty reduction, mainly due to the fact that they completely ignored a major chunk of the Global poor; i.e. Dalits who form 1/3rd of the Global Poor.

6. That the National and International Aid agencies, Governments, and the Corporate Social Responsibility of the Corporate sector must address the root cause of poverty rather than continuing and content with treating the symptoms of poverty.

7. That the Cannon of Equity shall be followed by the Aid Agencies in sharing resources, specifying ‘Dalits and Caste Discrimination’ as a thematic area, as against inequality and other similar jargons.

8. That the aid agencies must re-define their ideas of empowerment of Dalits. They must insist on disaggregated information for stopping caste discriminatory practices in their Monitoring and Evaluation methods, additional to the current trend of empowering people for their civic entitlements.

9. That the aid agencies must follow similar/ parallel Dalit affirmative policies of respective countries where they work and follow the principle of inclusion of people and personnel from the Dalit background in their International Development Departments and as Country Heads in South Asian Countries where 90% poor are Dalits. They must have Dalit Experts in their International Offices also.

10. The Aid agencies and International NGOs working in South Asia must review: the caste composition of their staff and their partner NGOs in South Asia and; their capacity to absorb the target population within its decision making circles, including who own the properties bought with aid money, who operate the bank accounts and who take the decisions.

11. That the International Aid Agencies working in India should support Anti- Caste Discrimination campaigns internationally and support the Global campaign against Caste Discrimination, as caste discrimination is practiced in 132 countries, including 110 countries, where South Asians have migrated to, such as the UK which has passed anti- caste Discrimination laws.

12. That the Overseas Governments with their India Offices and international Aid Agencies having their Indian country offices, should all have their country coordinators from Dalit backgrounds or trained in Dalit studies, as 90% of the poor in India are Dalits

13. That resources for the development of Dalits shall be routed through NGOs owned, managed and run by the Dalits themselves, in the place of the existing trend where these resources are cornered by NGOs run by Caste Perpetrators, who claim Dalits to be their target groups. Aid agencies must take mainly Dalit led NGOs as their partners while addressing Dalit poverty.

14. That, as the platform for Dalit led NGOs, DALITAID India shall be accepted by the Aid agencies and Corporate Social Responsibility Departments of the Corporate bodies and shall be promoted with priority.

15. That the National Model Community Development Project (NMCDP) which DALITAID-India has proposed and to be implemented in Odisha, shall be supported by Aid agencies, Church and Dalit-led NGOs.

16. That the rights of all Dalits, irrespective of religion, for equal rights and opportunities for development shall be accepted by the Aid agencies and governments, when addressing Dalit development.

17. That the Churches in India shall be more inclusive in their approach to Dalits and ensure Dalits get equal opportunities for inclusion in the various hierarchy of Church, leadership positions and educational and employment opportunities.

18. That the Central and State Governments in India shall take very strict measures to abolish the Bonded labour in the Textile Industry and other sectors, where victims are mostly Dalits.

19. That discrimination to Dalits in the educational opportunities and institutions shall be addressed effectively by the government and private educational institutions run by Churches and Church based institutions. Different forms of caste humiliations in Higher Education shall be addressed seriously.

20. We endorse the Motion adopted in its 2014 AGM by the British Overseas NGOs in Development [BOND] – Europe’s largest NGO network: that “This house recognises that caste and discrimination based on ‘work & descent’ actively contribute to the structural causes of poverty and inequalities among Dalits and other excluded communities. It calls for BOND members to express solidarity and work towards addressing this problem as appropriate”.

21. We call upon all NGOs and their networks around the world to implement the above BOND Motion and urge the UN to include Caste and Dalit poverty in all its deliberations on Global poverty and development, particularly in its forthcoming September 2015 Summit to declare ‘Beyond 2015’ development targets.

DALITAID-INDIA
27 Brigade Lane, Vikas Bhavan P.O, Thiruvananthapuram-695 033, S. India ,
Tel No: 0471-2306493 /2300122
E-mail: dalitaid2012@gmail.com , Web: http://www.dalitaid.com

———————————————————————————————————————————————————–

House of Lords Debate 26 Nov 20146.16 pm

Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB): My Lords, no one has done more to keep the issues of caste, untouchability and the Dalits before your Lordships’ House than my noble and right reverend friend Lord Harries of Pentregarth. Earlier this year I was very privileged, as I feel I am again today, to share a platform with him at a conference here in London that looked at the issue of caste.

To prepare for that conference, I read Dhananjay Keer’s admirable biography of Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar, who was the architect of the Indian constitution, which the noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, just referred to. He was born into a family of untouchables in 1891, and he said:

“Untouchability is far worse than slavery, for the latter may be abolished by statute. It will take more than a law to remove the stigma from the people of India. Nothing less than the aroused opinion of the world can do it”.

In the speeches we have heard already in this debate, we have heard the aroused conscience of the world.

No one, therefore, is attacking the state of India. It has done a great deal to try to address this question.

My noble and right reverend friend quoted Dr Manmohan Singh, and many illustrious Indian politicians have done their best to try to tackle this problem, but the sheer scale of it is what has struck me most in the contributions we have heard so far.

It was Ambedkar who, while still a young man, aged just 20, pointed to perhaps the best way forward in dealing with caste. He said:

“Let your mission be to educate and preach the idea of education to those at least who are near to and in close contact with you”.

As other noble Lords have said, education is the key to addressing the poverty and exploitation of Dalits in India. Education provides the knowledge, skills and qualifications that have the potential to help Dalits escape the cycle of poverty and exploitation.

The Indian Government have made considerable efforts to address this, not least through the right to education Act 2009, and initiatives such as Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, which aims for universal access and retention, the bridging of gender and social gaps in education and the enhancement of learning levels. Enrolment, attendance and retention levels have improved,

26 Nov 2014 : Column GC308

but there are still significant issues around attendance and drop-out rates, particularly among Dalit children. The Human Rights Watch report, “They Say We’re Dirty”: Denying an Education to India’s Marginalized, which was published earlier this year, highlights the number of Dalit children who drop out of education and the persistence of discriminatory practices in the classroom.

The report calls for better tracking of pupils and greater efforts to ensure social inclusion.

I will develop that point about non-attendance at school because it plays into the arguments that we are discussing in the context of the Modern Slavery Bill and human trafficking.

The economic pressure on marginalised groups gives families little choice but to require their children to work or even in some instances in effect to sell their children.

Dalit Freedom Network, a trafficking prevention organisation, estimates that Dalits are 27 times more likely to be trafficked or to be trapped in bonded labour than anyone else in India. The organisation supports 100 schools, providing education to more than 25,000 children, mainly from the Dalit and tribal communities. It estimates that if the children were not in their schools, some 30% to 40% would be trafficked or in bonded labour.

Although enrolment levels have improved in Indian schools, there are still issues around obtaining school places, particularly where there is an insistence on identity documents. Some Dalits have had immense difficulty in getting hold of ID. There is a particular issue around children of Devadasis or Joginis—temple prostitutes—almost all of whom are Dalits. The nature of this practice means that their mothers do not have husbands, so when the school insists on having the name of the child’s father, the children are unable to provide this, and as a result, they are refused places. The authorities also need to focus not simply on enrolment but on retention of every child in school until at least the age of 14. A system to track and monitor children is essential, along with a protocol for identifying those have dropped out or who are at risk of dropping out.

Although current thinking in development often calls for education in the local language—and I will be interested to hear from the Minister on DfID’s thinking about this—there are particular reasons why Dalit leaders have asked for English-medium education. English is still the language of opportunity in India. It is the language of higher education, government, trade and commerce and the legal system. Why else would children of high-caste families be sent to private English-medium education? In the district of Banka, Bihar, the Dalit community has constructed a temple for,

“the Goddess English hailing her as a deity of liberation from poverty, ignorance and oppression”.

The goddess stands on a computer monitor, a symbol perhaps of economic advancement. I would be intrigued to hear from the Minister whether this is an approach that we are supporting. I hope it is.

I would also like to talk briefly about Dalits and the freedom of religion and belief. Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights insists that it is the right of anyone to hold the religion of their choice. Over the past several hundred years, many Dalits have changed their faith in order to come out of oppression

26 Nov 2014 : Column GC309

and discrimination based on caste. Ironically, only untouchable Hindus, Sikhs and Buddhists are considered “scheduled castes” and therefore registered castes with entitlements to state support, such as protective mechanisms under various pieces of legislation and quotas for places at university and for employment in government services. Freedom of religion is a value for society as a whole. It is universally agreed that the internal dimension of a person’s religion or belief should enjoy absolute protection. Have the Government spoken with the new Indian Government about whether they uphold Article 18?

Mahatma Gandhi said,

“Our struggle does not end so long as there is a single human being considered untouchable on account of his birth”.

India is incredible and amazing. It is one of the greatest countries in the world today. What is amazing and incredible is that there could still be untouchability, now, in the 21st century.

6.22 pm

The Annihilation of Caste b y Dr.Ambedkar

The Annihilation of Caste b y Dr.Ambedkar

What Gandhi had to say about untouchability

What Gandhi had to say about untouchability

mahatma-gandhi