Draft Modern Slavery Bill - Draft Modern Slavery Bill Joint Committee Contents


·  Introduction



1. The Government's plans to introduce a Modern Slavery Bill give Parliament an opportunity to act decisively to protect the victims of modern slavery and thereby establish the most effective regime in the world for the prosecution of slave masters and traffickers. As the United States Ambassador-at-Large, Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, Luis CdeBaca, told us, the Bill will influence legislation across the globe.[1] It must recognise and reflect that the fight against modern slavery is not simply a matter of prosecution, nor only victim protection, but in fact an indivisible combination of the fourPs: prevention, protection, prosecution and effective partnerships.

2. We applaud the Home Secretary for coming forward with draft legislation and share her wish for a Modern Slavery Bill to be granted Royal Assent before the end of this Parliament. We have therefore concentrated our scrutiny of the draft Bill on areas where there is widespread appetite for change. First, our Report presents an amended Bill. Second, we outline the reasoning for our recommended changes to both law and policy.

3. Our Report recommends the following key steps to improve the draft Bill:

·  simplifying criminal offences so as to ensure more convictions;

·  putting the principles of victim care and services on a statutory footing and making it easier for victims to claim compensation; changes that are morally right, politically expedient and fundamental to effective prosecution;

·  recognising the special case of children by creating separate offences of exploiting and trafficking a child; making clear that children cannot consent to modern slavery; making provision for distinct child assistance and support; and establishing a statutory system of advocates;

·  ensuring that victims are not prosecuted for crimes they were forced to commit while enslaved;

·  strengthening the asset recovery regime to seize the illicit gains made from modern slavery;

·  ensuring independence for the Anti-Slavery Commissioner in order to establish the post as a focal point for galvanising the fight against modern slavery; and

·  taking steps to make sure that goods and services produced elsewhere but sold in the UK are free from the taint of slavery.

4. We thank the Home Office for its cooperation and support during the course of our inquiry. In some areas, though, Government action has been less forthcoming than we had hoped. A review of the governance and functioning of the National Referral Mechanism (NRM) was announced several months ago, but progress has been at best scant. Our Report recommends a statutory and much-revised NRM. Whether a person is a victim of modern slavery and their immigration status must be kept entirely and overtly separate.

5. In the case of the domestic worker's visa, policy changes have unintentionally strengthened the hand of the slave master against the victim of slavery. The moral case for revisiting this issue is urgent and overwhelming. Protecting these victims does not require primary legislation and we call on the Government to take immediate action.

6. Recent progress towards a Modern Slavery Bill has been rapid. Years of dedicated work by NGOs and campaigners was encapsulated by the Centre for Social Justice's March 2013 report, It Happens Here. We have built on that work, the independent Evidence Review commissioned by the Home Secretary in October 2013 and the recent inquiry into data by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Human Trafficking and Modern Day Slavery. We collected an unusually high volume of evidence commensurate with the importance of getting this Bill right. We are grateful to our witnesses, those who have provided written evidence, our Joint Committee staff, and our Specialist Advisers—Christine Beddoe,[2] Peter Carter QC,[3] James Ewins,[4] Lucy Maule,[5] Anthony Steen[6] and Tim Weedon[7]—who have all contributed enormously to our efforts. We extend particular thanks to those victims of modern slavery who have shared the horror of their experiences with us.

7. The Home Secretary and the Prime Minister have breathed life into a strategy against modern slavery. The immediate support the Leader of the Opposition gave to the independent Evidence Review, which influenced the development of the draft Bill, emphasised the cross-party determination to confront modern slavery. We hope the Government will accept our recommendations and it is in this spirit that we recommend our Report to both Houses of Parliament, making a plea that they support its recommendations and do not unduly delay the Bill's progress into law. Life can and should be made as difficult as possible for today's slave masters and traffickers, and the position of the victims of slavery must be transformed. It is with these two objectives in mind that we hope both Houses of Parliament will go about their work on this Bill.


1   Q 682 (Luis CdeBaca) Back

2   Contracted by the Anti-Trafficking Monitoring Group to provide a briefing paper to this Committee; provides advice to Baroness Doocey on child trafficking matters. Back

3   No relevant interests declared. Back

4   Unpaid 'advocate' for International Justice Mission. Back

5   Employed by the Centre for Social Justice, of which Mr Frank Field MP is a member of the Advisory Council. Back

6   Chair of the Human Trafficking Foundation; Specialist Adviser to the Home Affairs Select Committee; Special Envoy to the Home Secretary on Combating Modern Slavery; Advisor to the All-Party Group on Human Trafficking and Modern Day Slavery (all honorary). Back

7   Head of Office, Mr Frank Field MP. Back


 
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Prepared 8 April 2014