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Lord Dholakia: I support both amendments moved by the noble Lord, Lord Hylton. He has been at the forefront of this particular issue in your Lordships' House on previous occasions. His concern is rightly reflected in the two amendments.

Recently I was talking to a police officer who was involved in some raids. His analysis was interesting. Trafficking in human beings is far more lucrative than trafficking drugs. That shows the extent to which the situation now appears to be changing. There is a parallel here with the announcement recently made by the Government about prostitution laws in this country, where rightly there is a need to protect those who are involved in prostitution and to care about their safety and security. I see nothing wrong with that. Equally, those who traffic in people, punters and so on, ought to be dealt with most severely.

It is interesting that if one takes that parallel, there is substance to what the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, is saying about how we provide security effectively for people who have gone through traumatic situations. For that reason, I do not expect the Government to say, "Right, we shall take this on board", but it gives the Government thinking time between now and Report to see what is appropriate in the circumstances and what they can bring forward so that the objective set out by the noble Lord can be met in this legislation. He has my support for the case that he has presented.

Baroness Ashton of Upholland: I am extremely grateful to the noble Lord for raising a very important issue. I have listened with great care to all the remarks made by Members of the Committee, many of which I agree with. Amendment No. 73 does not give us any additional powers to do more in relation to that than we can already do. It would make the situation mandatory, rather than the present discretionary regime.

Members of the Committee will agree that not all victims of trafficking who agree to assist in a prosecution would want to stay in the United Kingdom. Some people want to go home and they are able to. I take on board the issue of the communities to which they return and the fact that there is a need for them to be safe, and so on. Those who have been brought here and deceived may be perfectly able to return home and if they wish to, they should do so. Of course, they can be given leave to enter subsequently as a visitor to return for a trial. When there is an appeal, such people will, of course, be given leave to stay during that period. There are cases, although rare, where at the end of the trial it may be appropriate to remove the victim. We need a case-by-case approach to this, recognising the need to protect individuals.
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I was not going to talk about the pull factor, although I thought that the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, absolutely nailed the issue. However, it potentially encourages illegal migrants to pose as victims of trafficking if, as a consequence, there is a guaranteed ability to remain. If nothing else, that would confuse the issue. A concern has been raised that if we offer leave to all victims of trafficking—of course we would agree to assistance—that may undermine the prosecutions of traffickers because it could be seen by the defence as an inducement to give evidence.

The last thing the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, would wish his amendment to do is inadvertently prevent us prosecuting as effectively as we might. That is not to say that we do not agree with the essence of what he is seeking to achieve in his amendment. We believe that the discretionary power, exercised properly, achieves exactly what he seeks.

On Amendment No. 74, the noble Lord spoke about accommodation for the victims of trafficking. He spoke in some detail about the Poppy scheme. I shall not repeat it but I shall try and answer the questions that were raised. The noble Lord had a meeting with my honourable friend Paul Goggins and I hope that he was reassured. I have seen the notes of the meeting—I have them somewhere—about the continuation of funding for the scheme, the importance that is attached to it and the fact that there would be no hiatus in funding, enabling the scheme to go ahead.

The evaluation was important in terms of whether the scheme was operating as well as it might. There have been criticisms that the scheme was too small and always full. It reached capacity on a number of occasions but perhaps it will reassure the Committee to know that the last time it was full was during one week in August last year and, prior to that, for a very short time in late February and early March. None the less, the way in which the evaluation has worked will enable us to consider not only the wider geographical provision but the different levels of support that might be needed for victims. I confirm what the noble Lord heard from my honourable friend Mr Goggins—the continued support will initially be for a period of two years, with no hiatus. I hope that that gives the reassurance that the scheme is working well and will continue to be supported appropriately by the Government.

The noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, asked about the broader scope in terms of those who are trafficked not for prostitution but for economic reasons. The Home Office is engaged in a consultation process, with a document entitled Tackling Human Trafficking: Consultation on Proposals for a UK Action Plan. We will make sure that this is available to Members of the Committee. Page 19 gives a series of activities by different parts of government to prevent trafficking, raise awareness and reduce demand. The consultation is specifically designed to elicit as much information as possible about trafficking for economic reasons. Apart from the tragedy of the cockle-pickers, there is not a huge amount of information available, so this is partly
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about developing a strategy based on the best information we can get to support those who are trafficked for economic reasons as well as those who are trafficked for sexual reasons. We hope that that consultation will yield good results to enable us to put a plan in place as soon as possible.

The initial four weeks is available to those involved in the Poppy scheme. Under existing arrangements, shelter and support are provided to all victims for an initial period of four months, I think, and, after that, those who co-operate in dealing with the crimes that have been committed against them will be able to be supported for about four years. This model seems to work extremely well and enables us to support the women concerned very effectively. It will be further supported by the Home Office for the next two years and we will consider ensuring that the geographical spread is dealt with appropriately.

On Amendment No. 73, we believe that we are doing what the noble Lord wishes; however, making it mandatory would have effects that the noble Lord might not want. On Amendment No. 74, I have indicated that we are doing all we can for those exploited by the sex trade to support them for as long as is necessary. We recognise the importance of getting their co-operation to enable us to prosecute where we can. We will ensure that those who need to come back into the country for trial or appeal can do so. We are providing accommodation on an ongoing basis to enable us to support these people effectively and are looking at what effective plans can be put in place for those who are victims for economic reasons. I will make sure that Members of the Committee will have sight of the consultation paper if they have not already seen it.

4.15 pm

The Earl of Sandwich: I am not sure whether the noble Baroness answered the point about the European convention or the question whether it is the reflection issue that makes the Government hesitate to sign the convention.

Baroness Ashton of Upholland: I understood the point about the European convention, and I apologise. We have not signed it yet but that does not mean that we will not do so. We support the objectives of the convention. No final decision has been made about signing it. That is all that I can say about that. I did not hear the second part of the noble Earl's question.

The Earl of Sandwich: I asked whether the problem of the reflection period has made the Government hesitate to sign the convention.

Baroness Ashton of Upholland: I would not put it as strongly as "hesitate". Before making a final decision, the Government are looking at all aspects of the convention, of which the reflection period is one. But, as the noble Earl knows, during our presidency considerable work was done with our colleagues across the European Union on the whole question of trafficking, and I was one of the justice Ministers
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involved in that. There is no lack of commitment on the part of the Government, but no final decision has been made with regard to signing the convention.

Baroness Carnegy of Lour: If the noble Earl pursues this matter and the noble Baroness replies next time, she will have to remember, if she relies on the Government's document on prostitution mentioned by my noble friend, that it is an England and Wales document; it does not cover the rest of the United Kingdom. I have checked that.

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