The UK’s approach to tackling modern slavery through the aid programme: report from the Sub-Committee on the Work of ICAI

This is a House of Commons Committee report, with recommendations to government. The Government has two months to respond.

Third Report of Session 2021–22

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Contents

Conclusions and recommendations

Filling knowledge and evidence gaps

1. We agree with ICAI that the Government’s response to gender in the Review was weak. ICAI’s Review and evidence from our witnesses demonstrates that the risks of modern slavery are not the same for all genders. Whilst we welcome the commitment from the Government to addressing knowledge and evidence gaps, there is clearly work to do in improving this area. (Paragraph 18)

2. We recommend that the Government applies a disaggregated approach to data collection on modern slavery in order to better understand the differing needs of survivors of modern slavery of different genders. The Government should report its progress in applying this approach to us one year after the publication of this report. agraph 19)

Including survivor voices in policy and programme design

3. We were concerned to hear that survivors of modern slavery within the aid sector are not given the freedom to self-identify and cannot engage with the aid sector in a meaningful way, as survivors are not treated as people who can give feedback into programmes. Rather, they are treated like victims who need rescue. Therefore, we welcome the strong message given by the Minister that the Government is seeking to integrate the voices of survivors into its approach to tackle modern slavery. (Paragraph 26)

4. With regard to the Government’s intention to explore how interventions can be made more effective through the appointment of survivors to advise Ministers, we have been made aware of similar initiatives by other Governments. We recommend that the Government consult with other governments who have already developed similar initiatives, to learn from and build on their experiences. (Paragraph 27)

Objectives and approach to using UK aid to tackle modern slavery internationally

5. Given that the Government in its Response to ICAI’s Review committed to setting out a public statement that will help to explain better its international modern slavery objectives in 2021, it is disappointing that this has now slipped into 2022. (Paragraph 33)

6. The Minister spoke broadly about other statements from the Government, the modern slavery strategy and the review of that strategy. We recommend that, in response to this Report, the Government set out specifically when and how it will publish a clear statement of its overall objectives and approach to using UK aid to tackle modern slavery internationally, as recommended by ICAI. That response should also explain what broad areas that statement will cover. (Paragraph 34)

Mainstreaming modern slavery into other development programmes

7. Despite the Minister’s assurances that the Government is taking action to mainstream tackling modern slavery across its programmes, the evidence we have received suggests that this is not always the case in practice, and we have heard from witnesses that much more can be done. (Paragraph 40)

8. We recommend that the Government takes further steps to mainstream tackling modern slavery across the UK aid portfolio, including setting out the steps by which it will do this as part of the forthcoming Development Strategy. In particular, the FCDO must ensure that staff working on ODA programmes embed an approach that actively works to address the causes of modern slavery through UK ODA programmes. (Paragraph 41)

Partnerships with the private sector and working with partner governments

9. We recommend that the Government strengthen its partnerships with the private sector on modern slavery, building on experience in the Home Office and other departments. In particular it should take action to enable engaged private sector organisations to more easily engage with overseas embassies, and take steps to align overseas aid with private sector efforts to tackle modern slavery. (Paragraph 50)

10. Many of our witnesses have raised the role that practices within the financial sector in the City of London can have in influencing how businesses seek to address modern slavery. Therefore, we recommend that, in response to this Report, the Government sets out what recent action it has taken to consider how modern slavery can be tackled through financial instruments and how the UK’s strong position in this area can be leveraged. (Paragraph 53)

11. Modern slavery is a problem that needs to be addressed by coordinated action internationally. Despite the UK Government’s previous efforts to raise the issue on the global stage, momentum on the issue appears to have slowed. We welcome the steps that were taken at the G7 Summit under the UK’s presidency, and the commitment from G7 leaders to work collaboratively to protect individuals from forced labour and to ensure that global supply chains are free from the use of forced labour inclusion. (Paragraph 58)

12. We recommend that as part of the forthcoming Development Strategy, the Government should set out how it will use its platforms overseas to maintain international pressure on tackling modern slavery. (Paragraph 59)

Future of modern slavery aid programmes

13. There has been understandable concern in the international development sector over the past year about the cuts to UK Official Development Assistance spending and how they will be distributed. With less money available in the aid budget, it is more crucial than ever that programmes to tackle modern slavery are targeted as effectively as possible to ensure maximum impact and value for money. Furthermore, there is concern that those organisations undertaking modern slavery projects are not fully aware of how much has been allocated to support their work. (Paragraph 65)

14. We recommend that, in response to this Report, the Government sets out what its expenditure on ODA projects tackling modern slavery will be in 2021–22, and how changes to allocations have been conveyed to those delivering programmes. (Paragraph 66)

1 Introduction

1. The Independent Commission for Aid Impact (ICAI) published its Review, The UK’s approach to tackling modern slavery through the aid programme (the Review) in October 2020.1 The Government’s response to the Review was published in November 2020.2 Our Report examines the Review and response and makes conclusions and recommendations.

Conduct of scrutiny

2. We took evidence from ICAI and the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) in relation to the Review and the Government’s response. We also took evidence from Yuki Lo, Head of Research and Evaluation, Freedom Fund, Sophie Otiende, Board Member, Global Fund to End Modern Slavery, Professor Alex Balch, Research Director, Modern Slavery Policy and Evidence Centre, Professor James Cockayne, Professor of Global Politics and Anti-Slavery, University of Nottingham, Dame Sara Thornton, Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner, and Christian Guy, Chief Executive Officer, Justice and Care. We are very grateful for the evidence provided by all the witnesses.

ICAI’s findings

3. ICAI’s Review states plainly that modern slavery is a global problem that causes untold suffering, and that:

From bonded labourers in brick kilns in South Asia to the trafficking of West African women into Europe for sexual exploitation, many millions of people around the world are forced to work in conditions of coercion, exploitation and violence.

4. ICAI’s Review made clear that the UK Government has prioritised tackling modern slavery both domestically and internationally since the Modern Slavery Act 2015 came into force, and had met its commitment to spending £200 million in UK aid on promoting global action to combat modern slavery. The Review found that the UK has not built sufficiently on the experience of others and lacks a systematic approach to analysing the problem and building evidence on ‘what works’, limiting its ability to develop an effective set of programmes in the future.

5. Using its scoring system, ICAI gave the UK’s approach to tackling modern slavery through the aid programme an overall Amber/Red score, indicating “Unsatisfactory achievement in most areas, with some positive elements. An area where improvements are required for UK aid to make a positive contribution”.3

6. ICAI’s findings were made against three tests:

  • Learning: How well has the UK Government built and applied the evidence base in support of its modern slavery work?
  • Relevance: How well has the UK Government gone about building a relevant, strategic, coordinated and credible portfolio of modern slavery programmes and influencing activities?
  • Effectiveness: How well is the modern slavery portfolio delivering results and value for money?

ICAI scored DFID as Amber/Red against each of these.

7. Yuki Lo, Head of Research and Evaluation, Freedom Fund, described the ICAI scoring as harsh but honest. She said:

[i]t is perhaps an assessment and a reflection of the state of the modern slavery movement, which is in a nascent state. We should remember that we have not had the decades of programmatic and policy experience, as compared with the health, education and climate sectors.4

Sophie Otiende, Board Member, Global Fund to End Modern Slavery, agreed that the assessment looked harsh, and considered it to be a reflection of the sector as a whole and not necessarily unique to the UK.5

ICAI Recommendations

8. The Review made five recommendations, directed broadly towards the UK Government, illustrating the cross-departmental nature of tackling modern slavery. The recommendations focused on:

  • filling knowledge and evidence gaps;
  • including survivor voices in policy and programme design;
  • the UK Government’s objectives and approach to using UK aid to tackle modern slavery internationally;
  • examining the scope for more interventions in neglected areas of modern slavery, and mainstreaming approaches to tackle modern slavery; and
  • strengthening partnerships on tackling modern slavery, including with the private sector and partner governments.

9. In its response, the Government accepted recommendations 1, 2 and 3. The Government partially accepted recommendations 4 and 5.6

10. This Report focuses on ICAI’s recommendations and the Government response, as scrutinised during our evidence sessions.

2 Filling knowledge and evidence gaps

11. The first recommendation from ICAI’s review stated:

Responsible departments should develop a more systematic approach to filling knowledge and evidence gaps, including sex-disaggregated and sector-specific data, gender analysis and more comprehensive evaluations, to guide the choice of interventions.7

12. With regard to filling gaps in knowledge and evidence, our witnesses concurred that this should be an area of focus for the Government. This was best summarised by Sir Hugh Bayley, Commissioner, ICAI, who said “there was a lack of a strategic approach and a lack of a focus overall on what kind of interventions work best”.8 Professor Alex Balch, Research Director, Modern Slavery Policy and Evidence Centre, told us that it was now time to take action, saying:

One of the things we need to avoid is producing another report saying there are gaps, because it is now clear, and I have read many reports complaining about the quality of evidence and the quality of data. We know those problems, and it is now about working to improve those.9

13. In its response to the Review, the Government accepted this recommendation.10 The response acknowledged that the global evidence base on modern slavery was underdeveloped and stated that “addressing knowledge and evidence gaps on modern slavery remains a key priority for HMG”. The response emphasised the Government’s commitment to “investing in monitoring and evaluation to ensure high quality evidence for learning and improvement of development interventions” and highlighted the investment made to establish the Modern Slavery Policy and Evidence Centre (MSPEC), whose work was also referenced by our witnesses.11

Sex-disaggregated and sector-specific data

14. In response to the part of ICAI’s recommendation that called for the knowledge and evidence gaps relating to sex-disaggregated data, sector-specific data and gender analysis, the Government said:

UK Aid is governed by The International Development Act 2002, which places a duty on the Government to promote gender equality through development and humanitarian funding in the countries receiving aid. We will continue to ensure gender outcomes are embedded into our modern slavery policy and programming.12

15. ICAI told us that the Government response on this aspect “was very weak” and that “they need to do more than they are doing presently”.13 Sir Hugh Bayley told us that the Government could do more to help people escape enslavement if it looked more closely at the gendered nature of slavery. He said

the risks are not the same for all people. Women and girls, for example, are at greater risk of sexual exploitation. Men and boys are at greater risk of labour exploitation.14

He also noted that other demographic indicators such as age, caste, disability, religion and transgender status, also affected vulnerability and the nature of slavery.

16. Peter Grant, Team Leader, Modern Slavery Review, ICAI, addressed the further action ICAI wanted the Government to take:

We would love to see sex-disaggregated data collected across all the programmes. The Government should be looking at the lifetime experiences of men and women in modern slavery, which are very different. They ought to be much more active in addressing the fundamental power inequalities that are driving so much of modern slavery, such as power inequalities between the genders.15

17. In light of this evidence, we asked the Minister, Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon, Minister for South Asia and the Commonwealth, Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, what steps the Government was taking to improve data collection and refine programmes to address the different vulnerabilities that people face. He told us

The data available to us, particularly in an international context, needs more investment. There is money that we are making available to see how we can strengthen our own data set so we can become more focused.16

He added that the merger of the Foreign Office and DFID into a single structure within country would also assist the Government at a strategic level to work on the individual needs and requirements of particular countries based on the demographics present.17

18. We agree with ICAI that the Government’s response to gender in the Review was weak. ICAI’s Review and evidence from our witnesses demonstrates that the risks of modern slavery are not the same for all genders. Whilst we welcome the commitment from the Government to addressing knowledge and evidence gaps, there is clearly work to do in improving this area.

19. We recommend that the Government applies a disaggregated approach to data collection on modern slavery in order to better understand the differing needs of survivors of modern slavery of different genders. The Government should report its progress in applying this approach to us one year after the publication of this report.

3 Including survivor voices in policy and programme design

20. The second recommendation from ICAI’s review states:

Responsible departments should do more to draw on survivor voices, in ethical ways, with a particular focus on inputs to policy and programme design, and to deepening understanding of lifetime experiences and gender dimensions of modern slavery.18

21. The Government accepted this recommendation, acknowledging there was a “need to improve the integration of survivor voices into the design, implementation and review of the HMG modern slavery portfolio”.19 This is currently being explored through the appointment of survivors to advise Ministers on how interventions can be made more effective. The Government also said it would review the lessons from engaging with survivors to understand their experience of the UK support system, and whether these could be applied to international work.20

22. Sophie Otiende, herself a survivor of domestic servitude, explained to us how survivors’ voices were currently not included in the formulation of programmes, unless it was through survivor-led organisations. She said

In most cases, survivors rarely are incorporated. [T]his is a sector problem … when this sector was developed, survivors were put on the sidelines as victims requiring to be rescued and not necessarily as people who could actually give feedback.21

She said that many survivors are professionals, and she knew of survivors who are researchers, therapists, social workers, or are managing programmes. She argued that

survivors of trafficking do not get to self-identify because most of the support offered to survivors is tied to either Governments or organisations identifying them. There is a whole sector that talks about freedom, yet survivors never get to self-identity.22

23. The inclusion of the voice of survivors in advising Ministers when formulating programmes to tackle modern slavery was endorsed by all our witnesses. Professor Balch said “We need to … learn from what has not worked in the past, … and mov[e] more towards community-engaged, community-driven and survivor-led work”.23 Professor James Cockayne, Professor of Global Politics and Anti-Slavery, University of Nottingham, said

if you want to address agency, the best way to do so is to give people agency, so to bring them into the heart of the development design, the execution and the M&E aspect. It is very heartening to see the Government signal that they want to bring survivors closer to the heart of execution.24

24. The written evidence from the University of Nottingham Rights Lab, also highlighted that similar initiatives, to appoint survivors to advise Ministers on how interventions can be made more effective, have been developed by other Governments. Rights Lab’s evidence states:

We would encourage the UK Government to consult with other governments who have already developed similar initiatives, such as the United States, which established the ‘U.S. Advisory Council on Human Trafficking’, as well as survivors who have taken part in these initiatives, to learn from and build on their experiences.25

25. The Minister was eager to take action on this recommendation, saying “ We should [be including the voices of survivors] and do it as soon as possible”. He explained how he had seen the benefits of including survivors’ voices in other areas, and said “We must bring them in right at the start of the programme”. He concluded:

there is no better person or people who can advise and work with Government than survivors. The short answer is that I want it fully integrated in our approach. I totally agree with the recommendation that ICAI has made on this.26

26. We were concerned to hear that survivors of modern slavery within the aid sector are not given the freedom to self-identify and cannot engage with the aid sector in a meaningful way, as survivors are not treated as people who can give feedback into programmes. Rather, they are treated like victims who need rescue. Therefore, we welcome the strong message given by the Minister that the Government is seeking to integrate the voices of survivors into its approach to tackle modern slavery.

27. With regard to the Government’s intention to explore how interventions can be made more effective through the appointment of survivors to advise Ministers, we have been made aware of similar initiatives by other Governments. We recommend that the Government consult with other governments who have already developed similar initiatives, to learn from and build on their experiences.

4 Objectives and approach to using UK aid to tackle modern slavery internationally

28. The third recommendation from ICAI’s review was that:

The UK Government should publish a clear statement of its overall objectives and approach to using UK aid to tackle modern slavery internationally.27

29. The Government accepted this recommendation, saying:

We agree that a public statement will help us to explain better our international modern slavery objectives. We are considering the most appropriate way to take this forward and will set this out in 2021.28

The Government Response also highlighted that it reports annually on activities taken to deliver its modern slavery objectives, most recently in October 2020.

30. Our witnesses eagerly anticipated the publication of a statement of objectives and approach to using UK aid to tackle modern slavery this year.29 Peter Grant hoped the statement would include more detail of the Government’s research strategy, which would enable ICAI to make an assessment of whether the Government has taken practical action to tackle modern slavery.30 He also hoped that the statement would include a “systematic analysis of the incidence of modern slavery across the world in different countries” which would enable the Government to have a much more systematic response.31 Yuki Lo said “It is great to see that the Government are committed to making a statement to clarify their plans”,32 and Christian Guy, Chief Executive Officer, Justice and Care. said “the new cross-Government statement on modern slavery … has to involve the international. We must not now separate what we do with our overseas aid budget and what we do at home.”33

31. In light of this expectation for the statement, we were disappointed with the response from the Minister when we raised this. Lord Ahmad indicated that the Government would no longer set out its statement on international modern slavery objectives in 2021. He said

First and foremost, we already publish annual statements [on the use of official development assistance to tackle modern slavery]. We published our modern slavery strategy back in 2014 and the Act in 2015. … We will review the modern slavery strategy and respond to ICAI’s recommendation specifically to publish a clear statement of our objectives. We will also be meeting as Ministers between the Home Office and the FCDO every six months, including on progress against ICAI’s recommendation. We are looking. We already make some formal statements. There is a review also being conducted, which will be published in 2022 by the Home Office. That will also give further details of our priorities in terms of how we align both our domestic and international work.34

32. He later added:

“The next main statement, apart from the commitment that we have already given, will be on the review of the strategy in the spring of next year. … What we want to see from our strategy—the next clear statement will be in the spring of next year—will be an integrated sense of the information we share reflecting, coming back to where we started, the ICAI recommendations.35

33. Given that the Government in its Response to ICAI’s Review committed to setting out a public statement that will help to explain better its international modern slavery objectives in 2021, it is disappointing that this has now slipped into 2022.

34. The Minister spoke broadly about other statements from the Government, the modern slavery strategy and the review of that strategy. We recommend that, in response to this Report, the Government set out specifically when and how it will publish a clear statement of its overall objectives and approach to using UK aid to tackle modern slavery internationally, as recommended by ICAI. That response should also explain what broad areas that statement will cover.

5 Mainstreaming modern slavery into other development programmes

35. The fourth recommendation from ICAI’s review states:

Responsible departments should increase the future impact of programming by examining the scope for more interventions in neglected areas of modern slavery, and mainstreaming modern slavery into other development programmes, including in the COVID-19 response.36

36. The Government partially accepted this recommendation, stating that many of the Government’s modern slavery projects form part of larger development programmes, and therefore are already integrated with other workstreams. The Government response concluded “Further programming and integration will, however, depend on the outcome of the spending review”.37

37. Despite the Government’s response, our witnesses emphasised a need to better integrate modern slavery into other programmes. Sir Hugh Bayley said “in relation to each UK ODA-funded programme, [the Government] should look and find a modern slavery focus”.38 Peter Grant added:

“any programme that is trying to achieve the sustainable development goals ought to have some element of a focus on modern slavery, at least to screen within it. … It also requires an internal effort in Government to train staff more to be looking out for these kinds of things, to have better guidance and that comprehensive approach to integrating modern slavery into a whole lot more of their programming.39

38. Sophie Otiende emphasised that the root causes of trafficking were present in other issues. She said “I feel that there is a lot of work that needs to be done, especially as far as co-ordination is concerned and getting to the root aspect of these issues and then … mainstreaming”.40

39. We raised with the Minister why the Government had only partially accepted ICAI’s recommendation to mainstream modern slavery across the UK aid portfolio. In reply the Minister reiterated that action was already being taken in this area, and cited a couple of examples. He said:

the issue of human trafficking and modern slavery is very much looked at in an overarching way, on all the programmes that we undertake.41

and

When we talk of spending on girls’ education, for example, one of the key components of why we want to spend more on girls’ education is also to alleviate modern slavery.42

40. Despite the Minister’s assurances that the Government is taking action to mainstream tackling modern slavery across its programmes, the evidence we have received suggests that this is not always the case in practice, and we have heard from witnesses that much more can be done.

41. We recommend that the Government takes further steps to mainstream tackling modern slavery across the UK aid portfolio, including setting out the steps by which it will do this as part of the forthcoming Development Strategy. In particular, the FCDO must ensure that staff working on ODA programmes embed an approach that actively works to address the causes of modern slavery through UK ODA programmes.

6 Partnerships with the private sector and working with partner governments

42. The fifth recommendation from ICAI’s review states:

Responsible departments should strengthen partnerships on modern slavery, including deepening engagement with the private sector and working with partner governments to develop locally owned action plans covering origin, transit and destination countries.43

43. The Government partially accepted this recommendation. The Government Response said that engaging with the private sector was a key component of its work to combat modern slavery, and this was already taking place “in partner countries, at the multilateral level and with British businesses”. It added that the Government worked closely with partner governments and multilateral initiatives to strengthen international work to tackle modern slavery, encouraged governments to work in partnership with the private sector to develop policy and would continue to support the delivery of national action plans to tackle labour exploitation in global supply chains. The Response concluded “we will use the [Business Against Slavery Forum] and work with other partners to explore what more we can do in this area and we will examine the scope to do more with the private sector depending on the outcome of the spending review”.44 In oral evidence to the Committee, the Minister said “To be very clear, we accept what has been put forward by ICAI; the only reason we added caveats was because we did not agree with the assessment that nothing had been done”.45

Private sector supply chains

44. Dame Sara Thornton told us starkly that forced labour is pervasive in international supply chains, such that around $350 billion of products are tainted and that 16 million people are in labour exploitation in the private sector. She said that she tells businesses “If you haven’t found [forced labour], you probably haven’t looked hard enough” and that there are a range of structural issues which means it is “absolutely key that there is political will to tackle this”.46 Yuki Lo told us that there was a lot of forced labour related to supply chains, and that currently “a lot of businesses and industries are getting away with it quite easily”. She thought more effort was required to monitor and hold business to account,47 and that businesses needed to extend their auditing and transparency beyond the first tier of their supply chains.48

45. While it is accepted that the Government is engaging with the private sector, many of our witnesses told us the Government could be developing much broader partnerships with the private sector. In written evidence Marshalls PLC told us that “private sector efforts would benefit significantly from increased appropriate UK Government engagement” and that “[t]here is little understanding of the UK Government’s overseas aid agenda by the private sector as a whole. This makes it impossible to understand it or align efforts in support of it, which would seem a lost opportunity”.49

46. One practical step they suggested the FCDO could take would be to make it easier for private sector organisations to connect with UK posts overseas in source countries. They stated:

“[i]t is often difficult to connect with embassies, to understand their role and agenda regarding modern slavery, and to know whether they wish to engage with the private sector. There seems little opportunity for businesses to connect and no easy way to do it. Where we have had engagement with British Embassies … this has been a slow process overall”.50

47. In oral evidence, ICAI’s witnesses expanded on why their recommendation had been critical of Government action in this area, which echoed the written evidence from Marshalls PLC. Sir Hugh Bayley told us:

“[w]e felt there was a lot more the Government could do with the private sector. Private companies know a great deal more than diplomats abroad on labour conditions in those countries and the dangers within supply chains. The leading companies that are doing most to combat modern slavery, not just going through the motions of producing an annual report, as required by the Act [Modern Slavery Act 2015], but actually driving the agenda forward, said to us that they found it difficult to contact diplomats in the field to work with them on issues like changing the law in those countries or pressing the Government for stronger enforcement. One of the points they make is that they are doing everything they can. Some companies have a really strong record, but they want a level playing field. They want their competitors to be required to do the same.51

48. He later told us:

We found generally that the Home Office was better at consulting the private sector than the former DFID. There is quite good co-ordination between the Government Departments in this particular area. That is an area the new FCDO could do some learning from across Government.

Lord Ahmad told us that the Government remains “fully committed” to “bringing the public and private sector together”. He said:

I am a great believer in working hand in glove with the private sector. Our support, for example, to the global fund illustrates the importance of bringing the public and private sector together, and I am fully committed to this. I know through the Home Office and Victoria Atkins’ team there are regular meetings with the private sector in ensuring priorities are being met. We have been on the front line on ensuring companies also declare and look at modern slavery and human trafficking within their own corporate statements.52

49. The Government accepts that engaging with the private sector is a key component of its work to combat modern slavery. It is clear from ICAI’s findings and our evidence that dialogue with the private sector regarding the overseas aid programme is essential, as many in the private sector have a wealth of information, insights and research which could enable the UK to more effectively highlight and address modern slavery issues. However, we have heard that many in the private sector consider there to be little opportunity to engage with the Government. This appears to be an area where the FCDO specifically can learn a lot from the lead taken by other departments, such as the Home Office, which we were told meets regularly with its partners in the private sector.

50. We recommend that the Government strengthen its partnerships with the private sector on modern slavery, building on experience in the Home Office and other departments. In particular it should take action to enable engaged private sector organisations to more easily engage with overseas embassies, and take steps to align overseas aid with private sector efforts to tackle modern slavery.

The role of the financial sector

51. Yuki Lo told us there was an opportunity for the UK’s role as a financial centre to be leveraged in addressing modern slavery. She said “UK aid could be thinking much more about engaging with the investment community on modern slavery” and referred to the CCLA’s Find It, Fix It, Prevent It programme, which seeks to increase the effectiveness of corporate action against modern slavery.53

52. This was a thread that several of our witnesses also picked up on. Professor Cockayne noted that “[i]n a climate where finance is increasingly turning to sustainability … the City as an asset”.54 He argued “there can be a carrot for helping [firms] to upgrade their supply chains, to be able to continue to play in global financial markets that are increasingly insisting on respect for international labour standards as part of the [Environmental, Social, and Corporate Governance] regime”.55 University of Nottingham Rights Lab said that the UK Government was uniquely positioned to take this approach, “given the influence the City has over financial rules, norms and flows”,56 and Dame Sara Thornton said “[t]hat is something the UK should think about, if we are going to use the leverage that the financial services sector has”.57

53. Many of our witnesses have raised the role that practices within the financial sector in the City of London can have in influencing how businesses seek to address modern slavery. Therefore, we recommend that, in response to this Report, the Government sets out what recent action it has taken to consider how modern slavery can be tackled through financial instruments and how the UK’s strong position in this area can be leveraged.

Partnerships with other governments

54. Action to tackle modern slavery will be more effective if it is prioritised and coordinated internationally. However, Sir Hugh Bayley told us that despite a great deal of effort having been expended by the Government in persuading over 90 other countries to sign up to former Prime Ministers Theresa May’s call to action on modern slavery, there had been little follow up with those countries. He explained that ICAI had recommended that the Government develop shared action plans with these 90 countries, but that the Government has only responded in respect of a small group of donor countries with which it has been engaged in follow-up action.58

55. Our witnesses also identified further opportunities to work in partnership with other governments. Sophie Otiende told us that in the effort to tackle modern slavery the Commonwealth was “a massively underutilised resource, particularly when it comes to Africa and certain South Asian parts of Asia-Pacific”.59 Furthermore, Professor Balch highlighted there was an opportunity for the UK Government at the G7 to show leadership and to demonstrate a commitment to tackling modern slavery.60

56. The G7 Summit was held in Carbis Bay, Cornwall on 11 to 13 June 2021.61 Dame Sara Thornton explained that prior to the summit the case had been collectively made by several organisations to governments to take action on modern slavery. The Carbis Bay G7 Summit Communiqué contained a commitment from G7 leaders to work collaboratively to protect individuals from forced labour and to ensure that global supply chains are free from the use of forced labour.62 Dame Sara was pleased to see the commitment in the communiqué, and said “[w]e will continue to make the case privately and publicly. It is really important that this is an opportunity for the G7 … to really make that commitment, think about what the measurable goals are, and what more can be done to harmonise the approaches”.63 Christian Guy also welcomed the commitment, but added:

[i]n the end, [tackling modern slavery] will come down to whether someone at the very top wants to make it happen and push this through. … We saw promising noises coming out of the G7 … but we need that to translate from words on a page to proper action and investment.64

57. In their oral evidence to the Committee, the FCDO witnesses spoke positively of work that is ongoing to strengthen partnerships with other governments. Jennifer Townson, UK Migration and Modern Slavery Envoy, Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, said that FCDO staff globally were

looking out for the opportunities to advance the [modern slavery] agenda with host Governments, but also, where that is more difficult … they are looking out for opportunities to also work with civil society organisations or subsets.65

She added that this was an issue that was being raised among the Five Eyes partnership in relation to transparency in supply chains, and that there was an opportunity to expand and broaden work among the G7 following the commitment in the Carbis Bay communiqué.66

In addition, Lord Ahmad said that the commitment at the G7 underlined the Government’s political will and commitment to prioritise human trafficking and modern slavery both through its own development support and with international partners–with the G7 communiqué being illustrative of that.67 Furthermore, he told us that by the end of 2021 it was hoped that strategic dialogue status will have been achieved with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, (ASEAN). He said “That will underline our focus not just on strengthening our work when it comes to trade and the economy, but the whole intention around that values piece”.68

58. Modern slavery is a problem that needs to be addressed by coordinated action internationally. Despite the UK Government’s previous efforts to raise the issue on the global stage, momentum on the issue appears to have slowed. We welcome the steps that were taken at the G7 Summit under the UK’s presidency, and the commitment from G7 leaders to work collaboratively to protect individuals from forced labour and to ensure that global supply chains are free from the use of forced labour inclusion.

59. We recommend that as part of the forthcoming Development Strategy, the Government should set out how it will use its platforms overseas to maintain international pressure on tackling modern slavery.

7 Future of modern slavery aid programmes

60. The most significant change in International Development policy since ICAI’s Review and the Government Response were published has been the announcement of cuts the UK Government is making in Official Development Assistance (ODA).

61. On 26 November 2020, the Chancellor of the Exchequer announced a reduction in the overseas aid budget from 0.7% to 0.5% of GNI.69 On 13 July the House of Commons voted to reduce ODA expenditure to 0.5% of GNI until the fiscal circumstances allow a return to 0.7%.70 The Government has committed to spending 0.7% of GNI on ODA when the Office for Budget Responsibility’s fiscal forecast confirms that, on a sustainable basis, the UK is not borrowing for day-to-day spending and underlying debt is falling.71

62. We have not seen the detail of how this reduction in funding will affect programmes aimed at tackling modern slavery. Our witnesses had differing views of what the effect would be. Professor Balch said:

[t]he cut in ODA funding is particularly worrying, and that limits our possibilities to be more strategic and to make that commitment. … there are some concerns around the cuts to funding and the lack of mentions of modern slavery in some of these recent publications, such as the integrated review and the new priorities”.72

Dame Sara Thornton told us “[t]he UK’s profile internationally as a leader is somewhat threatened by the cuts in ODA that are just about to bite.73 She noted that detailed information about the impact of ODA cuts had not yet been made public74 but gave us some examples of how funding had been cut from some programmes.75 Christian Guy also highlighted that detailed information had not been made available and said “[w]e have to work hard to make sure [cuts] are temporary and that we do reinvest again, because if you take the foot off the pedal, this problem will only get worse”.76

63. In contrast, Sir Hugh Bayley told us that despite the reduction in ODA expenditure it would be possible to prioritise money for modern slavery, as “[a] lot of our proposals are not going to cost a great deal of money”.77 Sophie Otiende told us that progress was not dependent on further ODA expenditure, saying “it is not even about millions of dollars and everything; it is just about looking at the resources we currently have and actually using them effectively and making sure that they are targeted”.78 Furthermore, in written evidence, Marshalls PLC proposed that if the reduction in ODA led to the NGO community engaging more meaningfully and the Government engaging fully with the private sector, then it was possible that actions to tackle modern slavery could be more effective, progress could be accelerated and efforts multiplied.79

64. We questioned the Minister on the impact of reducing ODA expenditure, and Lord Ahmad told us “I do not hide away from the fact there is less money being spent than was being spent previously. Yes, of course everyone is disappointed that we have had to make the reduction, albeit on a temporary basis”.80 However, he did reiterate that addressing modern slavery remained a key priority,81 and said “I can assure you there is no dilution of intent, prioritisation or indeed spending. The commitments we have previously given quite publicly on our spend in this area are very much alive”.82 He later explained that where programmes and projects have been cut and impacted, the FCDO has done work to “go to the core of programmes and projects” to see how we can sustain them”83

65. There has been understandable concern in the international development sector over the past year about the cuts to UK Official Development Assistance spending and how they will be distributed. With less money available in the aid budget, it is more crucial than ever that programmes to tackle modern slavery are targeted as effectively as possible to ensure maximum impact and value for money. Furthermore, there is concern that those organisations undertaking modern slavery projects are not fully aware of how much has been allocated to support their work.

66. We recommend that, in response to this Report, the Government sets out what its expenditure on ODA projects tackling modern slavery will be in 2021–22, and how changes to allocations have been conveyed to those delivering programmes.

8 Conclusion

67. We welcome the Review conducted by the Independent Commission for Aid Impact and the Government response. The Review highlights significant areas for improvement that remain in tackling modern slavery through the UK aid programme. In its response, the Government accepted three of the Review’s recommendations; and where it only partially accepted two recommendations, we were told this was because the Government was already taking action in these areas. We are concerned about the effectiveness and sustainability of UK interventions on modern slavery. We are however optimistic about the commitments that were set out in the G7 Communiqué, and hope that this will represent a doubling of efforts across major democratic governments in this area.

68. During our evidence sessions, we received the impression that there is scope for the Government to take more action in response to ICAI’s recommendations than what it has already set out. As a result, we have made further recommendations for action and to elicit a response from the Government on matters raised in ICAI’s review.

Formal minutes

Sub-Committee on the work of the Independent Commission for Aid Impact

Wednesday 20 October 2021

Members present:

Theo Clarke, in the Chair

Mr Richard Bacon

Brendan Clarke-Smith

Sarah Champion

Draft report (The UK’s approach to tackling modern slavery through the aid programme: report from the Sub-Committee on the Work of ICAI), proposed by the Chair, brought up and read.

Ordered, That the draft report be read a second time, paragraph by paragraph.

Paragraphs 1 to 68 read and agreed to.

Summary agreed to.

Resolved, That the report be the Third report of the Sub-Committee to the Committee.

Ordered, That the Chair make the report to the Committee.

[Adjourned till Wednesday 24 November at 9.45 a.m.

International Development Committee

Tuesday 26 October 2021

Members present:

Sarah Champion, in the Chair

Chris Law

Kate Osamor

Mr Virendra Sharma

Draft Report (The UK’s approach to tackling modern slavery through the aid programme: report from the Sub-Committee on the Work of ICAI), proposed by the Chair, brought up and read.

Ordered, That the draft Report be read a second time, paragraph by paragraph.

Paragraphs 1 to 68 read and agreed to.

Summary agreed to.

Resolved, That the Report be the Third Report of the Committee to the House.

Ordered, That the Chair make the Report to the House.

Ordered, That embargoed copies of the Report be made available in accordance with the provisions of Standing Order No. 134.

[Adjourned till Tuesday 2 November at 2.00 p.m.


Witnesses

The following witnesses gave evidence. Transcripts can be viewed on the inquiry publications page of the Committee’s website.

Wednesday 14 April 2021

Sir Hugh Bayley, Commissioner, Independent Commission for Aid Impact; Peter Grant, Team Leader on ICAI Modern Slavery Review, Independent Commission for Aid ImpactQ1–13

Yuki Lo, Head of Research & Evaluation, Freedom Fund; Sophie Otiende, Board Member, Global Fund to End Modern SlaveryQ14–26

Prof Alex Balch, Research Director, Modern Slavery Policy and Evidence Centre; Prof James Cockayne, Professor of Global Politics and Anti-Slavery, University of NottinghamQ27–35

Wednesday 30 June 2021

The Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon, Minister for South Asia and the Commonwealth, Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office; Jennifer Townson, UK Migration and Modern Slavery Envoy, Foreign, Commonwealth & Development OfficeQ36–49

Dame Sara Thornton, Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner; Christian Guy, Chief Executive Officer, Justice and CareQ50–64


Published written evidence

The following written evidence was received and can be viewed on the inquiry publications page of the Committee’s website.

TMS numbers are generated by the evidence processing system and so may not be complete.

1 Marshalls plc (TMS0002)

2 Office of the Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner (TMS0003)

3 Rights Lab, University of Nottingham (TMS0001)


List of Reports from the Committee during the current Parliament

All publications from the Committee are available on the publications page of the Committee’s website.

Session 2021–22

Number

Title

Reference

1st Report

Assessing DFID’s results in nutrition Review: report from the Sub-Committee on the Work of ICAI

HC 103

2nd Report

Global Britain in demand: UK climate action and international development around COP26

HC 99

1st Special Report

The humanitarian situation in Tigray: Government Response to the Committee’s Tenth Report of Session 2019–21

HC 554

2nd Special Report

The UK’s Support to the African Development Bank Group: report from the Sub-Committee on the work of ICAI: Government Response to the Committee’s Ninth Report of Session 2019–21

HC 555

3rd Special Report

DFID’s results in nutrition Review: report from the Sub-Committee on the work of ICAI: Government response to the Committee’s First Report

HC 780

Session 2019–21

Number

Title

Reference

1st
Report

Humanitarian crises monitoring: the Rohingya

HC 259

2nd Report

Effectiveness of UK aid: interim findings

HC 215

3rd Report

The Newton Fund review: report of the Sub-Committee on

the work of ICAI

HC 260

4th Report

Effectiveness of UK aid: potential impact of FCO/DFID

merger

HC 596

5th Report

Humanitarian crises monitoring: impact of coronavirus

(interim findings)

HC 292

6th Report

The Changing Nature of UK Aid in Ghana Review: report

from the Sub-Committee on the Work of ICAI

HC 535

7th Report

Progress on tackling the sexual exploitation and abuse of

aid beneficiaries

HC 605

8th Report

Covid-19 in developing countries: secondary impacts

HC 1186

9th Report

The UK’s support to the African Development Bank Group:

report from the Sub-Committee on the Work of ICAI

HC 1055

10th Report

The humanitarian situation in Tigray

HC 1289

1st Special Report

Follow up: sexual exploitation and abuse in the aid

sector: Government Response to the First Report of the

Committee

HC 127

2nd Special Report

Humanitarian crises monitoring: the Rohingya:

Government Response to the First Report of the

Committee

HC 658

3rd Special Report

The Newton Fund review: report of the Sub-Committee

on the work of ICAI: Government response to the

Committee’s Third Report

HC 742

4th Special Report

Effectiveness of UK Aid: Interim Report & Effectiveness of

UK Aid: potential impact of FCO/DFID merger: Government

Response to the Second & Fourth Reports

HC 820

5th Special Report

Humanitarian crises monitoring: impact of coronavirus

(interim findings): Government Response to the

Committee’s Fifth Report

HC 1160

6th Special Report

The Changing Nature of UK Aid in Ghana Review:

report from the Sub-Committee on the Work of ICAI:

Government response to the Committee’s Sixth Report

HC 1198

7th Special Report

Progress on tackling the sexual exploitation and abuse of

aid beneficiaries: Government Response to the Seventh

Report of the Committee, Session 2019–21

HC 1332

8th Special Report

Covid-19 in developing countries: secondary impacts:

Government Response to the Eighth Report of the

Committee

HC 1351


Footnotes

1 ICAI, ‘The UK’s approach to tackling modern slavery through the aid programme’, October 2020

2 FCDO, ‘HMG Response to the ICAI recommendations on: UK’s approach to tackling modern slavery through the aid programme’, November 2020

3 ICAI, ‘How we work’, accessed 24 July 2021

4 Q14 [Yuki Lo]

5 Q15 [Sophie Otiende]

6 FCDO, ‘HMG Response to the ICAI recommendations on: UK’s approach to tackling modern slavery through the aid programme’, November 2020

7 ICAI, ‘The UK’s approach to tackling modern slavery through the aid programme’ October 2020, Page iv

8 Q9 [Sir Hugh Bayley]

9 Q30 [Professor Alex Balch]

10 FCDO, ‘HMG response to the ICAI recommendations on: UK’s approach to tackling modern slavery through the aid programme’, November 2020, Page 1

11 See Qs 9, 27, 29, 30 and 48

12 FCDO, ‘HMG response to the ICAI recommendations on: UK’s approach to tackling modern slavery through the aid programme’, November 2020, Page 1

13 Q5 [Peter Grant, Sir Hugh Bayley]

14 Q5 [Sir Hugh Bayley]

15 Q5 [Peter Grant]

16 Q54 [Minister Lord Ahmad]

17 Ibid

18 ICAI, ‘The UK’s approach to tackling Modern Slavery through the aid programme’, October 2020, Page iv,

19 FCDO, ‘HMG Response to the ICAI recommendations on: UK’s approach to tackling modern slavery through the aid programme’, November 2020, Page 2

20 Ibid

21 Q22 [Sophie Otiende]

22 Ibid

23 Q28 [Professor Balch]

24 Q34 [Professor Cockayne]

25 University of Nottingham Rights Lab (TMS001)

26 Q56 [Minister Lord Ahmad]

27 ICAI, ‘The UK’s approach to tackling modern slavery through the aid programme’ October 2020, Page iv

28 FCDO, ‘HMG Response to the ICAI recommendations on: UK’s approach to tackling modern slavery through the aid programme’, November 2020, Page 2

29 University of Nottingham Rights Lab (TMS001) Page 2 ; Marshalls PLC (TMS002) -Page 1

30 Q2 [Peter Grant]

31 Q13 [Peter Grant]

32 Q14 [Yuki Lo]

33 Q39 [Christian Guy]

34 Q51 [Minister Lord Ahmad]

35 Q64 [Minister Lord Ahmad]

36 ICAI, ‘The UK’s approach to tackling modern slavery through the aid programme’, October 2020, Page iv

37 FCDO, ‘HMG Response to the ICAI recommendations on: UK’s approach to tackling modern slavery through the aid programme’, Page 3

38 Q8 [Sir Hugh Bayley]

39 Q7 [Peter Grant]

40 Q15 [Sophie Otiende]

41 Q50 [Minister Lord Ahmad]

42 Q55 [Minister Lord Ahmad]

43 ICAI, ‘The UK’s approach to tackling modern slavery through the aid programme’, October 2020, page iv

44 HM Government, ‘HMG Response to the Independent Commission for Aid Impact recommendations: UK’s approach to tackling modern slavery through the aid programme’, October 2020, Page 4

45 Q50 [Minister Lord Ahmad]

46 Q41 [Dame Sara Thornton]

47 Q17 [Yuki Lo]

48 Q25 [Yuko Lo]

49 Marshalls PLC (TMS002)

50 Marshalls PLC (TMS002)

51 Q1 [Sir Hugh Bayley]

52 Q50 [Minister Lord Ahmad]

53 Q17 [Yuki Lo] see CCLA Modern Slavery, accessed August 8th 2021

54 Q27 [Professor Cockayne]

55 Q29 [Professor Cockayne]

56 University of Nottingham Rights Lab (TMS001)

57 Q47 [Dame Sara Thornton]

58 Q1 [Sir Hugh Bayley]

59 Q31 [Sophie Otiende]

60 Q33 [Professor Balch]

61 G7 Summit, ‘2021 G7 Summit - UK Presidency

62 G7 Summit, ‘Carbis Bay G7 Summit Communique’, Para 29

63 Q46 [Dame Sara Thornton]

64 Q39 [Christian Guy]

65 Q60 [Jennifer Townson]

66 Q60 [Jennifer Townson]

67 Q57 [Minister Lord Ahmad]

68 Q61 [Minister Lord Ahmad]

69 HC Deb, 25 November 2020, col 830

70 HC Deb, 13 July 2021, col 173

71 HC Deb, 12 July 2021, col 172WS

72 Q27 [Professor Balch]

73 Q38 [Dame Sara Thornton]

74 Q39 [Dame Sara Thornton]

75 Q45 [Dame Sara Thornton]

76 Q45 [Christian Guy]

77 Q10 [Sir Hugh Bayley]

78 Q23 [Sophie Otiende]

79 TMS002 - Marshalls PLC

80 Q57 [Minister Lord Ahmad]

81 Ibid

82 Q58 [Minister Lord Ahmad]

83 Q59 [Minister Lord Ahmad]