Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Lord Dholakia: I thank the Minister. She was trying to be very helpful. Unfortunately, I am still not convinced by the number of arguments she advanced. I have always identified this clause as the "Finsbury Park mosque clause", in relation to the trial that is going on. Powers under which that handful of individuals could be dealt already exist, without our succumbing to further legislation.

We will come back to this clause on Report.

Baroness Ashton of Upholland: I do not think that I even attempted to answer the points made in relation to Amendments Nos. 71 and 72. I apologise to the noble Lord. I shall try to do that briefly.

Noble Lords will recall that the noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, was concerned about those who are eligible to receive nationality by registration. We are introducing a requirement that the Secretary of State must be satisfied that the applicant is of good character. That applies at present only to those who are seeking naturalisation.

An exception would continue to be made in a small number of cases where, because of our obligations under the UN Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness, it would not in general be possible to refuse on character grounds. I am happy to provide the noble Lord with details of that if it would be helpful.

We accept that there is a case for continuing to exempt certain people—minors; those with other forms of nationality; persons with ancestral connections—from the full rigours of the naturalisation process. That would not change. They
19 Jan 2006 : Column GC279
would continue to enjoy exemption from most of the requirements, but we now think it inappropriate that those who have engaged in certain unacceptable behaviours should be able to benefit from the special arrangements.

The requirement is that the Secretary of State must be satisfied that that the applicant is of good character. This is a straightforward principle and it should be applied in a straightforward way, in order to make sure that people who come here have good character. Concern has been expressed that we would extend the rule to very young children or even babies—that was raised with me yesterday. Of course, the rules would state that that would be a silly thing to do, and it would not happen. It is a straightforward requirement. It would not be burdensome or inappropriate. I know that the noble Lord would probably prefer a much higher test or to reverse it by saying that we would prevent coming to the UK only those people who had fallen foul of the higher test. But this is a simple way of ensuring that those who come to this country and are granted citizenship are of good character. This requirement would simply be a normal part of the process.

Lord Dholakia: I again thank the Minister for her explanation. We shall certainly return to this matter on Report. I shall leave her with one little thought, on which she may wish to reflect. During the crisis of the Ugandan Asians, a large number of people were expelled and great confusion arose over Britain's responsibility to take them. It refused to accept people who were later found flying from one country to another and staying in transit lounges until Britain finally accepted responsibility for them. I would like the Government to look carefully at what precisely happened. We refused to accept the citizenship of British overseas citizens and expected other countries of origin to take them in. Those countries did not take those people in and, finally, they ended up here. A similar confusion will arise in this case. Considerable thought is required. I know that quoting articles and sections of previous Acts is boring and not conducive to a good discussion, but—to put my cards on the table now—the discussion on Report should be much more constructive. At that stage, perhaps we can determine our position.

Baroness Ashton of Upholland: The noble Lord is never boring. The articles and elements of previous legislation are critical. Having been involved in helping with the evacuation and the arrival of those who came from the Asian community in Uganda, I certainly would not wish to cause confusion. The measure is meant to apply in a more general sense. I shall think further about how to respond to the question before Report. It is important that people are not left in transit lounges in difficult circumstances.

Lord Dholakia: I thank the Minister for that reply. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 53 agreed to.
19 Jan 2006 : Column GC280

Clause 54 [Deprivation of right of abode]:

[Amendment No. 70A not moved.]

Clause 54 agreed to.

Clause 55 [Acquisition of British nationality, &c.]:

[Amendments Nos. 71 and 72 not moved.]

Clause 55 agreed to.

[Amendment No. 72A not moved.]

Clause 56 agreed to.

Lord Hylton moved Amendment No. 73:

(1) Where a person who has been trafficked into the United Kingdom—
(a) provides sworn evidence, or
(b) is willing to testify in court,
against the traffickers' organisation or their beneficiaries, that person shall be granted leave to remain and be entitled to seek employment.
(2) For the purposes of this section, a person is "trafficked" if another person forces him to enter the United Kingdom or deceives him to do so or otherwise fraudulently encourages him to do so for the purposes of sexually or economically exploiting him."

The noble Lord said: It is generally accepted that trafficking into this country for sexual or economic exploitation is a serious and quite widespread problem. For some years, we have had unaccompanied children arriving here, being cared for by social services and later disappearing. I understand that a similar problem is now being recognised in the Republic of Ireland. That was followed by the tragedy of the cockle pickers and other exploited labourers.

Next, it was noticed that a high proportion of prostitutes came from eastern Europe and that brothels, saunas and massage parlours were controlled by Albanian and other criminal gangs. The unfortunate women in these situations are controlled and manipulated not only by threats of violence against them, but also by the possibility of dire consequences for their families in their home countries. This is not, I regret, just a London problem. Friends of mine have knowledge of eastern European women held in quasi-slavery in Liverpool, Leicester and Birmingham.

There are thought to be some 900 gangs organising serious criminal exploitation. New forms of it keep arising. Over the past year, there has been an upsurge in Vietnamese teenagers brought here, largely to London, to work growing cannabis. The Metropolitan Police has apparently conducted some 250 operations to close down illegal and exploitive establishments.

India is another country of concern. A Briton was recently arrested at Bangalore airport with two under-age boys, false passports and faked visas. This, no doubt, ties in with paedophile tourism to Goa, Thailand and the Philippines.

To understand something of the size and scale of the problem it is worth reading the recent survey, of over 500 pages, on trafficking from and through south-east Europe, published by the International
19 Jan 2006 : Column GC281
Organisation for Migration. The IOM is doing valuable after care and resettlement work. I have seen the new draft UK action plan for tackling trafficking. It mentions that it is desirable to reduce demand for prostitution here but offers no ideas as to how that might be done. Can the Government explain what is in mind—or is it just a rhetorical phrase that has been thrown in?

3.45 pm

The plan elsewhere states that five convictions have so far been obtained under the Sexual Offences Act 2003. No doubt some additional convictions have been obtained since the plan was written. Operation Reflex, conducted by the police during 2004–05, resulted in 149 "disruptions"—whatever that means—and 1,456 arrests. How many prosecutions are now pending? If the answer is not very many, that surely indicates a lack of evidence that will stand up in court.

I apologise for this slightly long introduction; it is, however, necessary to set the context for Amendments Nos. 73 and 74. To defeat trafficking of whatever kind it is essential to obtain convictions of those operating here and making large fortunes from doing so. Convictions require evidence, and I have already explained why victims of trafficking may be extremely reluctant to give evidence, even if they are provided with good personal witness protection. Incentives are therefore greatly needed.

My first amendment provides the considerable carrot of allowing a trafficked person who gives evidence to remain here and seek lawful employment. If the United States and France can do this, why do we not do it also? I do not take seriously repeated Home Office comments that it would constitute a "pull factor" for people-smuggling and trafficking. If the Minister has that in her brief, I hope she will expunge it. After all, those who have been trafficked do not come of their own free will, but because of the force, fraud or deception applied to them. The amendment is confined to victims of trafficking.

Amendment No. 174 is closely linked to the previous amendment on the need to obtain evidence that will secure convictions. At present, there seems to be only one source of protected accommodation for victims of sex trafficking who have been rescued or who have escaped. It is known as the Poppy Project in the London area. It opened in 2003 with Home Office funding. Although it has been evaluated at length, its funds will run out in March. However, from a meeting I had last week with a Home Office Minister; I understand that further funding will be provided, probably for two years. But the piecemeal way in which funds have been made available cannot have been good for staff morale or forward planning.

The Poppy Project has done a good job for those referred to it, affording them time, space and care in which to recover from earlier experiences and to consider their future. The police, however, have complained that the project is usually full when they want to send someone to it. That means that some victims have probably been deported or repatriated, thus making them liable to be trafficked all over again.
19 Jan 2006 : Column GC282

I therefore propose that there should be a general duty to provide sufficient accommodation so that evidence can be obtained, and thus convictions. Accommodation would normally be for a relatively short readjustment period and should be available regardless of immigration status. It would cater mainly for victims of sex exploitation but could, on occasion, be needed by other trafficked people.

In subsection (2) of Amendment No. 74, I have mentioned the provision of advice. This is essential so that those who have been placed in impossible situations may come to prudent decisions about their future. The amendment will not require huge new government enterprise as the accommodation needed could be provided by selected specialised housing associations. I look forward to what the Government have to say, not only about funding for Poppy, but also about the general need for far more safe and protected accommodation. I beg to move.

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page