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House of Lords

Wednesday, 25 February 2015.

3 pm

Prayers—read by the Lord Bishop of Carlisle.

Small Businesses: Finance

Question

3.07 pm

Asked by Lord Harrison

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what steps they have taken in the past year to increase access to finance for small businesses.

Lord Newby (LD): My Lords, it was announced in the Autumn Statement that the Government are providing further funding to two British Business Bank schemes, the enterprise capital funds and enterprise finance guarantee schemes. Additionally, the Funding for Lending scheme will be extended and focused on lending to SMEs, and furthermore, the Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Bill ensures that SMEs which are rejected for finance by banks are referred to alternative finance providers and that those providers have access to the credit data they need.

Lord Harrison (Lab): My Lords, according to the Federation of Small Businesses, credit availability and affordability has declined in the past quarter and indeed the Government’s own Funding for Lending scheme has sputtered and spluttered into reverse over the past two years. Will the Government take heed of Keith Morgan, the leader of the British Business Bank, who has said that there are market failures which need to be addressed if our small businesses are to grow and to provide jobs for the future?

Lord Newby: That is why we have created the British Business Bank specifically to deal with these market failures. The bank aims to unlock £10 billion of new finance by 2017-18. On lending to small businesses, the noble Lord should be aware that gross lending has grown by 25% in the past year and by 41% over the past two years.

Lord Cotter (LD): My Lords, recently the Business Minister wrote to the FTSE companies which are not signed up to the Prompt Payment Code. More than £39 billion is owed in overdue payments to SMEs, so this is a very important issue. Can the Minister tell us what progress has been made on encouraging the many FTSE companies which are not signed up to the code to do so and on ensuring that we carry on pursuing this matter? SMEs are saying that late payment of bills is the main bar to their growth.

Lord Newby: My Lords, I agree absolutely with my noble friend. We are looking at this in the context of the Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Bill and tightening up the speed with which the Government

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pay their bills. We will keep bearing down on businesses to make sure that they improve their performance in this area.

Baroness Sharples (Con): Can my noble friend say whether government ministries are paying their bills on time as that would surely help small businesses?

Lord Newby: My Lords, I think that the track record of government departments on paying bills is significantly better than that of the private sector, but we are always keen to improve performance.

Lord Lea of Crondall (Lab): What steps have the Government taken since the Insurance Bill Special Public Bill Committee to make sure that the insurance industry signs up to its own scheme to deal with the late payment of bills? This is a cause of great concern to many of the people who otherwise would use the British insurance industry.

Lord Newby: My Lords, as the noble Lord knows, the insurance industry has a payment code and we are encouraging all firms in the industry to abide by it.

Lord Scriven (LD): What action will the Government take on non-traditional funding for small and medium-sized businesses such as crowdfunding, which is becoming a far more important route to gaining funds for small and medium-sized businesses?

Lord Newby: My Lords, the Government have been supportive of the peer-to-peer and crowdfunding lending sectors and have removed barriers to ordinary people making investments while limiting their exposure to risk. So far this support has included allowing peer-to-peer lending to be included in ISAs and to be eligible for bad debt relief, channelling investment from the British Business Bank towards peer-to-peer, and helping investment crowdfunding take off through the enterprise investment scheme.

Lord Davies of Oldham (Lab): The Minister’s initial Answer suggests that he is utterly oblivious to the fact that we have a productivity crisis in this country, a massive balance of payments issue, and that small businesses are constantly emphasising that their access to finance is very limited and difficult for them. Does the Minister not agree that Labour’s commitment to a British investment bank is the next Government’s solution to this Government’s failure?

Lord Newby: The noble Lord will be amazed to discover that I do not agree with him at all. He has failed to point out that since this Government came into office private sector employment is up by well over 2 million and the majority of that is likely to be in small and medium-sized businesses.

Lord Brooke of Sutton Mandeville (Con): May I commend to my noble friend my experience in running a small business where I found that our bills got paid

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significantly faster if we asked our auditors to call up the company that owed us money?

Lord Newby: I am extremely grateful to my noble friend for his suggestion.

Lord McFall of Alcluith (Lab): Can the Minister explain why the British Chambers of Commerce has stated that small and medium enterprises are being increasingly left out in the cold by lenders?

Lord Newby: As I explained, gross lending to small businesses was up by 25% last year. That is the figure, my Lords. The noble Lord shakes his head, but that is the figure. Banks have not been as open-handed to small businesses as they were before the crash, partly because at that stage in some cases they were lending irresponsibly and partly because they have had to strengthen their balance sheets—something which the noble Lord has been very keen to encourage.

Lord Foulkes of Cumnock (Lab): Was finance for small businesses discussed at any of the 56 meetings Ministers had with HSBC over the past five years?

Lord Newby: Good try, my Lords.

Broadband

Question

3.14 pm

Asked by Lord Holmes of Richmond

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of broadband speeds, capacity and coverage in rural areas of the United Kingdom and in city technology hubs such as the Old Street roundabout.

Lord Ashton of Hyde (Con): My Lords, UK broadband coverage is near universal. Superfast broadband, capable of speeds over 24 megabits per second, is available to 78% of UK premises. This compares with superfast coverage of 33% in rural areas and 90% in Greater London. The average overall download speed is 23 megabits per second—10 megabits in rural areas and 27 megabits in Greater London. Tech City, the hub around Old Street roundabout, is well served by business connections. The coverage of residential superfast broadband varies.

Lord Holmes of Richmond (Con): My Lords, does my noble friend agree that broadband must be seen as a utility, with high-speed, high-capacity access for all? Allied to this, does he also agree that we must ensure that everyone has the skills to transact, to interact and to fully participate in this digital future?

Lord Ashton of Hyde: My Lords, this issue was raised by the Select Committee on Digital Skills, which reported on 17 February—last week. The Government are considering the report and will reply in due course. I completely agree with my noble friend that

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broadband is increasingly seen as an essential service. That is why we are committed to providing universal broadband coverage by the end of 2015, and by 2017 in Scotland. Whether it should be a utility requires careful consideration. The commitment for universal coverage referred to is non-regulatory, and we would need to consider the implications of making it a utility. I completely agree with my noble friend about the importance of digital skills. Broadband is the infrastructure, and the important thing is what happens at either end of the infrastructure. In order for people to use it correctly, and to take advantage of the infrastructure we have put in place, they need digital skills.

Lord Mitchell (Lab): My Lords, I think the Minister is living in some sort of cuckoo land. Last Friday, I was in Plymouth, looking at some very interesting and exciting technology companies. Their biggest complaint is that the broadband they are getting is totally insufficient. A few months ago I was in Norwich, where it is the same story. If you go to Tech City, which is the hub of what we are doing in this country, you will find time and time again the complaint that we are not getting the speeds that are required. Can the Minister say when, instead of being complacent about what is happening, there will be some degree of urgency about improving coverage and speed?

Lord Ashton of Hyde: What I was referring to mainly with essential services was the basic broadband service. Superfast broadband, which is what I think the noble Lord is referring to for business, is necessary. At the moment, 78% of premises in this country have superfast broadband. By the end of 2016, it will be 90% and in 2017 it will be 95%. The remaining 5% will be dealt with later.

Lord Blencathra (Con): My Lords, will my noble friend the Minister please put a rocket under Ofcom with regard to broadband speeds? The service providers boast of speeds of up to 15, 20 or 30 megabits per second, and I suppose you might just get that on a wet Sunday morning at 3 am, if you are the only person online. The vast majority of people do not get those speeds. Will he please tell Ofcom that we, the consumers, are fed up being misled about speeds and being ripped off, and that we want action on guaranteed minimum speeds?

Lord Ashton of Hyde: My Lords, every local authority area will have at least 90% at superfast levels by the end of 2017. The rest will be 95%, but there will be an absolute minimum of 90% superfast coverage by the end of 2017.

The Lord Bishop of Carlisle: My Lords, many small rural schools, for instance in Cumbria, where I come from, struggle to access a high-quality broadband connection. That results in pupils missing out on educational opportunities through not having a good internet-based information supply. Can the Minister tell us what assessment the Government have made of this situation and how they intend to address it?

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Lord Ashton of Hyde: My Lords, the right reverend Prelate makes a very good point. We are obviously concerned that schools have the benefit of superfast broadband, which is important if schools are to take advantage of the opportunities offered by learning technology. However, not every school is the same. Schools have the autonomy to buy a connection that meets their needs. Schools’ connectivity needs will vary depending on the size and type of school. The Government’s £780 million investment programme in broadband infrastructure will increase the broadband options available to schools, including to rural schools.

Lord Collins of Highbury (Lab): My Lords—

Lord Clement-Jones (LD): My Lords—

Noble Lords: This side!

The Lord Privy Seal (Baroness Stowell of Beeston) (Con): Order, order. Thank you. It is the turn of the Labour Benches.

Lord Collins of Highbury: My Lords, the Minister mentioned rural areas and whether broadband is deemed an essential service. The Government are saying one thing about broadband while those in the rural economy, particularly farmers, are being told that they need broadband to complete forms and participate for VAT. On the one hand, the Government require it; on the other, they are not delivering it.

Lord Ashton of Hyde: My Lords, I have already said that we have made a commitment that universal coverage will be in place by the end of this year, and 2017 in Scotland. I accept that that is at the lowest end of the scale—up to two megabits per second. However, it is possible—and I speak from some experience, living in an area in which you are unable to get superfast broadband; although I should inform the House that the government website says,

“but it could be coming to you soon through government and local authority investment”,

so I remain optimistic—to upload forms, such as farmers have to do, on that speed of broadband. As I say, it will be in place by 2015 in the UK.

Lord Clement-Jones: My Lords, the Government have put into place a potentially valuable broadband connection voucher scheme for companies in our major cities. However, there is concern about the level of take-up of that voucher scheme. I wonder whether my noble friend can give the House the accurate figures on that.

Lord Ashton of Hyde: My Lords, nearly 80% of homes and businesses have superfast broadband, yet only 22% of all broadband connections are superfast.

Baroness O'Cathain (Con): My Lords, is the Minister aware of how great a social exclusion issue this is becoming? Only today the Carnegie UK Trust and Ipsos MORI brought out research showing that it is

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now a serious issue, particularly in Scotland. What are we going to do? It is not the speed of broadband that matters in this case but the actual access to it.

Lord Ashton of Hyde: I completely agree with my noble friend. As I said, a bare minimum of two megabits per second will be in place by the end of this year and in Scotland by the end of 2017. As I said to my noble friend Lord Holmes, we, too, regard this as an essential service today.

Soil Quality

Question

3.23 pm

Asked by Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether the soils in England will sustain food production at current levels in the long term.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord De Mauley) (Con): My Lords, we are committed to delivering the natural environment White Paper aspiration of ensuring sustainable management of all soils by 2030. We have introduced new cross-compliance rules to protect soils while reducing paperwork for farmers. Through our agri-tech strategy and sustainable intensification platform we will help farmers to take advantage of the latest techniques, to help them improve productivity while protecting the environment.

Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer (LD): My Lords, I welcome the Minister’s commitment to this issue, because of course no soils equals no foods. He will know that 2015 was designated the International Year of Soils to help to highlight this fact and the enormous soil loss, which in the UK is 2.2 million tonnes of topsoil alone per year. He mentioned the new rules that have been introduced. Perhaps he could tell me how farmers will receive practical advice on their soil management from people who are not seeking to sell inputs. Could he also tell me—given the rate of the loss of soil and microbial health, and even the loss of soil scientists, as they are not being replaced at the rate they need to be—whether he thinks that the actions being taken are urgent and effective enough to ensure the continued and, indeed, increased production of British food?

Lord De Mauley: My noble friend asks a number of questions. The Farming Advice Service is a service to help farmers understand and meet the requirements of cross-compliance, greening and the European directives on both water protection and sustainable pesticide use. It has a helpline, newsletters, guidance and technical articles. During 2015 its priorities will be to give advice on the changes to the cross-compliance rules, which include the new soil standards, which go to the prevention of erosion, which she mentioned; maintaining soil cover; and the protection of organic matter.

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The Countess of Mar (CB): My Lords, does the Minister agree that the study of the soil, its microflora and microfauna, and its interactions with trace elements is both fascinating and essential? In view of the shortage of soil and plant scientists, will he tell us what the Government are doing to increase the numbers of those scientists, and impress upon them how important it is that we have them?

Lord De Mauley: I very strongly agree with the noble Countess. She might be comforted to know that we are investing £10 million through NERC and BBSRC programmes specifically to investigate soil security, with a strong focus on soil biology, which she referred to. We are also undertaking research on soil management approaches to stimulate soil organisms.

Lord Clark of Windermere (Lab): My Lords—

Lord Tebbit (Con): My Lords—

The Lord Privy Seal (Baroness Stowell of Beeston) (Con): My Lords, everybody is frisky today. Having heard from the Back-Bencher from the government side first, we have had a Cross-Bencher, and it is now time to go to the main Opposition—rather, the only Opposition—on the Labour Benches.

Noble Lords: Oh!

Baroness Stowell of Beeston: Then we will come back to the government Benches.

Lord Clark of Windermere: I thank the noble Baroness. Does the Minister accept that tree planting plays a critical role in stopping the erosion of soil? As this problem gets more and more acute, what plans do the Government have to engage with the Forestry Commission to allow it to get more in touch with farmers to point out the advantages of tree planting and the disadvantages of removing hedges?

Lord De Mauley: Yes, I strongly agree with the noble Lord. He will be pleased to know that over the past five years not only have we planted 1 million trees, principally in urban areas, through the Big Tree Plant, we have also planted 10 million trees, funded through Pillar 2 of the CAP. We think it is extremely important and I agree with him very strongly on that.

Lord Tebbit: My Lords, does my noble friend think it is entirely wise to cover good-quality agricultural land with solar panel farms producing electricity at an enormous cost to the taxpayer and the user of electricity?

Lord De Mauley: I take my noble friend’s point entirely. The Government’s position is that farmers should not be subsidised twice. They should either take the subsidy for the solar panels or take the subsidies through the common agricultural policy.

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Lord Grantchester (Lab): My Lords, I declare an interest as a farmer receiving CAP payments. Healthy soils were also identified in the Pitt review, which recommended,

“water retention through management of infiltration”,

to reduce flood risk and delay water flow during flash-flood events. Given the pressures for efficiency in farming, with the ever increasing use of heavy machinery leading to soil compaction and run-off, what were the principal reasons behind the Government’s recommendation that the EU withdraw its proposed soil framework directive to establish a common framework to protect soils, bearing in mind that none of us wants excessive bureaucracy and regulation?

Lord De Mauley: The noble Lord makes an important point. He is right that matters such as compaction affect flood risk. The proposal from the EU lacked flexibility and it was overly prescriptive for member states that already have effective soil protection measures in place, such as the United Kingdom, where we have cross-compliance rules that specifically have measures in place to stop erosion, to maintain a minimum level of soil cover and to protect soil organic matter. There is already a large tranche of existing EU legislation that addresses soil protection.

Baroness Walmsley (LD): My Lords, is my noble friend aware that some of the healthiest soils in this country are to be found in allotments? Will he therefore encourage local authorities to avoid building on allotments wherever possible and, when they cannot avoid it in the public interest, to ensure that the land that is given in compensation is of similar quality? Not any old piece of land will do—it takes 20 years to develop a good soil.

Lord De Mauley: I certainly take my noble friend’s point and I will take it back. The noble Lord, Lord Grantchester, reminded me that I should also have declared an interest as a recipient of CAP funds.


Leisure Industry: Turban-wearing Sikhs

Question

3.30 pm

Asked by Baroness Thornton

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what action they are taking with the leisure industry to support turban-wearing members of the Sikh community.

Baroness Garden of Frognal (LD): My Lords, the Sikh community is a vital part of our vibrant nation. The Government are committed to ensuring that people are protected against discrimination because of race or religion and we always seek to balance individual freedom with our responsibilities to keep citizens safe. Legislation is in place to allow for exemptions for turban wearers where appropriate and the Government expect businesses, including those in the leisure industry, to comply with the law.

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Baroness Thornton (Lab): I thank the Minister for her Answer. It is indeed good that the recent Deregulation Bill sought to deal with issues of turban-wearing Sikhs on building sites and in other workplaces, but it also threw up some anomalies. A turban-wearing Sikh may help to build a new sports facility and work in that new sports facility but may be barred from membership or sporting activities in that facility—sometimes just through ignorance. The Sikh Council reports inconsistencies across the country. There may be an Olympic talent out there in the turban-wearing Sikh community who is not able to get sports training, so will the Minister undertake to have discussions with the sports organisations, the EHRC and the Sikh Council to unlock and solve these issues?

Baroness Garden of Frognal: The noble Baroness is quite right to point out these anomalies. Through Sport England the Government are investing just over £1 million in Sporting Equals over two years. Sporting Equals provides expertise in encouraging more black and minority ethnic people to play sport. It has produced fact sheets with issues relevant to particular cultures and religions, including Sikhism. Of course, the Sikh Council would be very welcome to speak to Sport England and the Secretary of State would be pleased to take part, too.

Lord Singh of Wimbledon (CB): My Lords, I have played cricket and rugby to a respectable level without mishap. Will the Minister remind the leisure industry and assorted health-and-safety and conformity fanatics who argue that we cannot even change a light bulb without protective clothing that the Sikh turban is not cultural headgear but a religious requirement to remind us of a commitment to ethical living, gender equality and a respect for all faiths and beliefs?

Baroness Garden of Frognal: Indeed, my Lords, there is a very rich and valuable tradition, culture and religious faith behind the turban. We are aware of that. The fact that the noble Lord has taken part in those sporting activities is evidence of the fact that the turban need not be a barrier to sporting prowess.

Lord Dholakia (LD): My Lords, my noble friend is aware that the Government have made legislative concessions in the past to make sure that the religious requirements of the Sikh community are met. The classic example is the wearing of crash helmets when riding a motorbike. If it is good enough for the Government, why is it not so for some of the leisure industry? Will the Minister meet the Sikh organisation in this country with people from the leisure industry to make sure that the matter is fully discussed and that concessions are made in that respect?

Baroness Garden of Frognal: My noble friend has great expertise in these areas and he is quite right. The legislation is there and it is for individual organisations to ensure that they comply with it. Sometimes problems arise because quite small organisations—leisure centres and sports facilities—may be unaware or unwilling to take the risk of moving outside the very strict legislation, so getting messages to them will be a very important factor, as will meetings with the Sikh Council.

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Lord Suri (Con): My Lords, the Minister should tell us why the Government have not taken any action to stop this discrimination. It is discrimination. Sikhs are allowed to ride motorbikes and work in industry with a turban. Sikhs have fought two British world wars wearing turbans, not helmets. This is nothing. The Government must take action and we would like to hear what action they are going to take.

Baroness Garden of Frognal: My Lords, again, my noble friend speaks with great experience of this. There is legislation in place that discrimination cannot take place on spurious grounds, so it would be discrimination under the Equality Act if the provider of a leisure centre were to require a turban-wearing Sikh to wear a safety helmet when head protection is not justified. Of course, it is sometimes a matter of balance because there are some sports where head protection is required. It is for individual sports to take that decision, but they must not debar people from sports because they are wearing a turban; it has to be on other grounds.

Baroness Hussein-Ece (LD):My Lords, health and safety is one excuse being used to discriminate against Sikhs wearing turbans. Insurance is also being cited by some leisure facilities. Given that legislation is in place, is it not important that all the leisure industry starts to act within the law and that there is consistency throughout the industry? It is unacceptable that individuals should be turned away and deprived of the opportunity of using facilities.

Baroness Garden of Frognal: I agree with my noble friend; that is absolutely the case. It is probably a matter for Sport England, possibly working through Sporting Equals, to ensure that the information is disseminated. I come back to the point that a lot of these sporting and leisure organisations are quite small and may not be fully informed of all the facts and figures. We need to get that information better disseminated.

Lord Harris of Haringey (Lab): Are the Government not being rather complacent about this? The Minister told us that anomalies arising from the passage of the Deregulation Bill will mean that turban-wearing Sikhs can be involved in the construction of a leisure facility, but acknowledged that those leisure organisations may none the less ban turban-wearing Sikhs from using those leisure facilities. Surely it is time that the Government did something. The Minister mentioned the fund used by Sport England. How much of that £1 million will be devoted to issues around turban-wearing Sikhs?

Baroness Garden of Frognal: My Lords, I can only apologise if I gave the impression that leisure centres can ban turban-wearing Sikhs. I was trying very carefully to say that they could not. There may be some sports that require protective headgear. For instance, in competitive riding it would be important to wear protective headgear. The noble Lord said he played cricket. Many cricketers cover their head with a smaller version of the turban—a patka—and play with that. It

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is important to get the message through that there should be no barriers to people wearing turbans playing the sports that they wish.

House of Commons Commission Bill

First Reading

3.37 pm

The Bill was brought from the Commons, read a first time and ordered to be printed.

Ukraine

Statement

3.38 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Astor of Hever) (Con): “The Government’s position has been from the outset that we deplore Russian aggression in Ukraine. We do not believe that there is a military solution. There needs to be a diplomatic solution that should be enabled by sanctions and pressure and the economic weight of Europe and America, but as the Prime Minister said, obviously where we can help a friend with non-lethal equipment, we should do so.

The second Minsk agreement on 12 February provided a framework for stabilising the situation in eastern Ukraine. We want it to succeed, and we urge all sides to take the necessary steps to implement it. In light of continued Russian-backed aggression in Eastern Europe, the UK is committed to providing additional non-lethal support to the Ukrainian Government to help their forces deal with the pressures they are facing. As the Prime Minister confirmed yesterday in Parliament, we are providing additional non-lethal support by sending advisory and short-term training teams. This support, provided at the request of the Ukrainian Government, will help their armed forces develop and maintain the capacity and resilience they need, and reduce fatalities and casualties.

Support to the Ukrainian armed forces is not new; the UK has been providing advice and training support to Ukraine for some time and has well established relationships. Over the last year the UK has also provided personal protective equipment, winter fuel, medical kits and winter clothing to the Ukrainian armed forces.

As part of wider government effort to support Ukraine and ensure a robust international response to Russia’s aggression, UK personnel will now provide training in medical, logistics, infantry and intelligence capacity building from mid-March to the Ukrainian armed forces. Most of the advisory and training support will take place in Ukraine but well away from the areas affected by the conflict in the east of the country. The number of service personnel involved will be around 75.

In terms of medical support, we will be providing combat life support training through a “train the trainer package” to multiply the numbers trained. The logistics team will identify and help improve deficiencies

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within Ukraine’s logistics distribution system. The infantry training package will focus on protective measures to improve survivability. The intelligence capacity building team will provide tactical-level analysis training.

We are considering further requests from the Ukrainian Government for support and assistance and we will work closely with key allies through the Ukraine-US-UK-Canada joint commission. In the mean time, Russia must abide by its commitments at Minsk. That means making the separatists withdraw their heavy weapons, stopping continued separatists attacks so that an effective ceasefire can hold and allowing effective monitoring to take place.”

3.42 pm

Lord Rosser (Lab): My Lords, I thank the Minister for repeating the Answer to the Urgent Question. We agree that the international community must continue to put diplomatic and economic pressure on Russia and we endorse the non-lethal support for Ukraine just set out by the Minister.

I wish to raise a few points. On what basis was the conclusion reached that up to some 75 military personnel should be deployed in Ukraine as opposed to a significantly higher or lower figure than that? For how long are we committing to deploying members of our Armed Forces in Ukraine? Can the Government confirm that our Armed Forces will not be deployed under any circumstances anywhere near the conflict zone in eastern Ukraine and that, as a result, issues of force protection should not arise?

In what circumstances, if any, would the Government decide to either withdraw these military personnel from Ukraine earlier than intended or, alternatively, significantly increase their numbers in Ukraine? When do the Government envisage making a decision on the further requests from Ukraine, to which the Minister referred, for additional assistance and support?

Finally the deployment of our Armed Forces in Ukraine is not, as I understand it, being done under the NATO umbrella. Is that regarded as a potential strength or a potential weakness by the Government, and which other NATO countries are also deploying, or have committed to deploying, members of their armed forces in Ukraine, and in what numbers and capacities?

Lord Astor of Hever: My Lords, I am grateful for the Opposition’s support for non-lethal support for Ukraine.

The noble Lord started by asking me about the 75 military personnel. Up to 75 UK service personnel will be based in Kiev to provide the training advisory support in four areas, as mentioned in my speech. In practice, lower numbers of personnel will be in country initially, and the numbers of personnel required to train in each area will be assessed according to Ukrainian requirements and capacity to absorb the training.

The noble Lord asked for how long the deployment will last. The length of training will be dependent on the Ukrainian capacity to absorb this. We will work closely with them to continuously refine the length and forms of the training packages.

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The noble Lord then asked for a commitment that there will not be any deployment near the conflict zone. I can confirm that UK service personnel will only be training well away from the conflict in the east. Most of the trainers will be around Kiev in the west, which is an area that we know very well. It is peaceful, and we do not expect our troops to be armed, but obviously we are keeping that under review.

The noble Lord asked under what circumstances we would withdraw our troops earlier or possibly increase them. Training will be tailored to meet Ukrainian requirements; for example, the medical teams will initially deliver short combat life-saver courses to Ukrainian students.

Baroness Falkner of Margravine (LD): My Lords, can my noble friend tell the House whether the United Kingdom Government’s position that we are not contemplating shipments of defensive weapons to Ukraine still stands, and what the arrangements will be as regards the short campaign and the period thereafter if the situation on the ground, particularly with respect to Mariupol, changes significantly?

Lord Astor of Hever: I can confirm to my noble friend that the last point she made could be a game-changer, and obviously, we are keeping that under review. We are getting requests for equipment from the Ukrainian Government, and we are considering that seriously. At the moment we feel that it is best to give only non-lethal equipment.

Lord Elystan-Morgan (CB): My Lords, will the Minister confirm that Her Majesty’s Government are cognisant of two very grave dangers in this connection? One is what historians call “mission creep”, bearing in mind how the United States of America, from the deployment of a handful of advisers, found itself sucked into the war in Vietnam, deploying millions of conscripted troops. Secondly, will he also confirm that the problem is of course much wider than Ukraine itself? The presence of strong Russian minorities in so many other parts outside Russia means that the Sudetenland game can be played ad infinitum by Putin.

Lord Astor of Hever: My Lords, we are aware of mission creep and the history here. This is a closely defined training and advisory mission, and we are well aware of the other point that the noble Lord made.

Lord Morris of Aberavon (Lab): My Lords, as is the practice where British troops are engaged, will rules of engagement be agreed with the law officers that will ensure that they remain well away from the areas affected by the conflict to avoid the slippery slope situation or mission creep?

Lord Astor of Hever: My Lords, we will consider the rules of engagement very seriously. However, as I said earlier, we anticipate that our trainers will be in a peaceful area, and they will not be armed. We will keep this under review, but we are optimistic on that point.

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Lord Hurd of Westwell (Con): Since my noble friend referred to the second Minsk agreement, which we all hope will be effective, can he tell us what his latest information is about that? The first reports were that implementation was only partial, and there were bits of Ukraine which we thought were covered by the agreement but which according to the Russians were not. Can he tell us if that is still the position?

Lord Astor of Hever: My Lords, we welcome the diplomatic efforts that the French President and Chancellor Merkel brought to the Minsk meeting. There is concern that the situation is breaking down in places, and we are watching it very carefully.

Lord Anderson of Swansea (Lab): My Lords, a surprising omission from the Statement is any reference to NATO—it mentions only Canada and the US. To what extent has the new provision been dovetailed and co-ordinated with our NATO allies? Given the danger in the Baltic states, is there not a serious argument for revisiting the definition of Article 5, because of hybrid warfare, cyberwarfare and economic warfare, beyond the direct military incursion which was in mind when Article 5 was drafted?

Lord Astor of Hever: I took a question yesterday from my noble friend Lord Howell on hybrid warfare. It is an area that NATO is looking at very carefully. The noble Lord mentioned the UK/US/Canada commission. The UK formally joined this commission earlier this year. The commission provides a framework for co-ordinating our support to Ukraine with allies, ensuring all support provided is consistent and complementary.

Lord Cromwell (CB): What reaction does the Minister expect from the Russian propaganda machine to this very loud announcement of the deployment of 75 people, particularly should one of the 75, God forbid, fall into their hands? Secondly, have there been any discussions with the Greek Parliament to see whether they could let us have 300 Spartans to help out?

Lord Astor of Hever: My Lords, I cannot answer the second part of the noble Lord’s question. As for the first part, we would obviously rather avoid the path of confrontation with Russia. We hope that recent diplomatic efforts will bring lasting peace; the choice lies with the Kremlin. Russia faces a clear choice. If the destabilisation of Ukraine continues, there will be further sanctions and increasing isolation.

Baroness Rawlings (Con): Is this aid coming out of the defence budget or the international development budget?

Lord Astor of Hever: I can confirm to my noble friend that the costs of this mission are coming out of the defence budget.

Lord Hylton (CB): Will the Minister discuss with his colleagues the use of Britain’s soft power, with the help of the world’s media, to establish the truth of what has happened in Ukraine and to point out Russia’s many internal weaknesses?

25 Feb 2015 : Column 1657

Lord Astor of Hever: The noble Lord makes a very good point. There are a lot of weaknesses in Russia. Their economy is in a very bad way, the rouble is falling and it is very important that this message is given out. We will endeavour to pass this on to the media.

Modern Slavery Bill

Report (2nd Day)

3.52 pm

Clause 48: Child trafficking advocates

Amendment 52

Moved by Baroness Butler-Sloss

52: Clause 48, page 37, line 23, leave out “such”

Baroness Butler-Sloss (CB): My Lords, I shall speak also to Amendments 53, 56, 58, 59 and 71. The noble Lord, Lord McColl, and I have fought a battle with two separate Governments over the past six years or so to be able to create a situation in which child victims of human trafficking, from overseas, in particular, have someone as a mentor, or to monitor them, outside social services. We fought that battle—it took a long time—and I am absolutely delighted to be able to say that I strongly support Amendment 61, in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Bates. It is for that reason that I think, for the first time, that the battle the noble Lord, Lord McColl, and I have fought has achieved, with the existing part of Clause 48 together with these amendments, nearly everything that we both want—certainly that I want. However, it would be helpful, when regulations and guidance are given, if the other matters in various amendments proposed by the noble Lord, Lord McColl, and with my name on them, were to be found somewhere, in secondary legislation or guidance. But for the time being I am delighted with the result that has been achieved.

Lord McColl of Dulwich (Con): My Lords, I am extremely pleased that Clause 48 is part of the Bill. It recognises that trafficked children have particular needs and experiences that make them especially vulnerable. It has been a great pleasure to work with the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, over these years and it is great that the Minister has been so co-operative and helpful. I am also particularly grateful that he arranged the very helpful meeting with officials from the Home Office and Barnardo’s, which operates the child trafficking advocacy scheme.

The Minister’s amendments to Clause 48 deal precisely with the key areas of concern that we raised in Committee, and they are a testament to the Minister’s willingness to engage constructively on those issues—and I am very pleased to speak today in support of the majority of his amendments. I shall not go into great detail on matters contained in the amendments, trusting that my views are well known to your Lordships, and I shall focus my remarks on areas on which I would appreciate further clarification from the Minister.

25 Feb 2015 : Column 1658

Amendments 62 and 64 address the power to make regulations about details of the advocate scheme and will now require that regulations are made and cover the functions and appointment of the advocate. I strongly urge your Lordships to support Amendments 62 and 64, which will require the creation of regulations ensuring a robust statutory foundation for child trafficking advocates.

I have one question for the Minister. In previous amendments that I have brought to the House on this issue, I have always ensured that the functions of the role were based on internationally recognised best practice guidance from UNICEF and, more recently, from the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights. Can the Minister assure me that such international guidance and recommendations from other British studies such as the Still At Risk report will be considered in drawing up the functions in the regulations, as well as from the trials currently being undertaken?

I particularly welcome Amendment 61, in the name of the Minister, which gives child trafficking advocates the power to assist the child in obtaining the legal advice and power to appoint and instruct legal representatives. As I mentioned in Committee, I have met a number of lawyers who represent trafficked children and who have all told me that they have great difficulty in taking instructions from trafficked children. They have therefore recommended that the advocate should have the power to fill that gap.

I welcome the Minister’s Amendment 72, which states that regulations about the advocates will require public authorities to,

“recognise, and pay due regard to, the advocate’s functions, and … provide the advocate with access to such information … to carry out those functions”.

We have heard in the past various stories from organisations such as Barnardo’s where advice from charity workers supporting trafficked children has not been heeded by a local authority, resulting in a child going missing and no longer receiving the help that they need.

Amendment 72 would help to prevent this happening. I have one question for the Minister about that amendment: which bodies and agencies will have this duty? During the meeting with Barnardo’s arranged for Peers by the Minister, I was disappointed to hear the story of a child whose college did not accept the child’s valid reason for missing classes, which had been to attend official immigration appointments. It was frustrating to hear that the advocate had had to make repeated representations to the college explaining the child’s situation before it heeded her advice and removed the negative attendance report from the child’s records. I hope that such a scenario would not be possible in the future, as a result of Amendment 72.

4 pm

I would appreciate clarification from the Minister about the meaning of the term “public authorities”. Would, for example, a college be included within that definition? Would courts or tribunals be included? What about a child’s GP or other health professionals? Does the definition cover the child’s foster carers? I understand that the equivalent section of the Northern

25 Feb 2015 : Column 1659

Ireland legislation uses the term “any person or body” rather than “public authorities”. Perhaps the Minister could reflect on whether that might be a better term to ensure that all the necessary professionals are covered.

I welcome the Minister’s amendment that inserts the word “independent” into the title of the child trafficking advocate. That was another of the matters I raised in Committee. However, I still have some concerns that the caveats in references to independence that appear in Clause 48(2) may add a layer of confusion about the independence of the advocate’s role, and may even be in conflict with the description of the advocates as independent. Amendment 59A, in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Howe, highlights that point. Could the Minister reflect on the possible contradiction, or confusion, between subsection (2) and the change in the title of the role to “independent child trafficking advocates”? Perhaps he might consider tabling an amendment at Third Reading to clarify those terms, and ensure that the independence of advocates is protected and guaranteed?

I now turn to my Amendments 55 and 69, and the Minister’s Amendment 68. All international evidence and recommendations, including the studies here in the UK, highlight the importance of appointing a child trafficking advocate at the earliest possible moment. It is this early intervention that can help prevent children going missing, either under the influence of their traffickers or out of fear of the authorities. The UNICEF Reference Guide says:

“As soon as a child victim is identified, a guardian should be appointed to accompany the child”.

The Still at Risk report recommends that an independent trusted adult to support a trafficked child should be appointed,

“as soon as they come to an authority’s attention”.

I was encouraged by what I heard from the representatives of Barnardo’s, during the meeting arranged by the Minister, about the intention within the trials to appoint an advocate within hours of a referral being made. I welcome the part of Amendment 68 requiring an advocate to be appointed,

“as soon as reasonably practicable”,

but I am concerned that it then qualifies that requirement by requiring,

“reasonable grounds to believe a child may be a victim”.

Amendment 57 would apply to Clause 48(1) the same criterion for appointing an advocate for a child when there are “reasonable grounds” for believing the child is trafficked. I understand this to mean that a child must receive a positive “reasonable grounds” decision under the national referral mechanism before an advocate will be appointed. Can the Minister confirm whether this is his intention? I have concerns that if my understanding is correct, it could result in undue delays in providing an advocate for a child victim in the crucial first hours and days after it is realised that they might have been trafficked.

Furthermore, I was somewhat surprised by this addition because it seems to be at odds with the process being used in the trials, whereby, I understand, referral to the advocate scheme is possible even before a referral to the NRM has been made, and there is no

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need to wait for receipt of a “reasonable grounds” decision. I am aware that the NRM review has recommended a different process, whereby the referral and “reasonable grounds” stages will be merged into one decision. However, I had understood that the review’s recommendations were being piloted before any nationwide changes were made to the system.

One must also acknowledge not only the need to await the results of the pilot but the potential for changes in the personnel in the Home Office, which could impact on such decisions, given the forthcoming election. It concerns me that until such time as the NRM system is changed, if it is changed at all, vulnerable children may need to wait for a longer period before an advocate is appointed. I have therefore tabled Amendments 55 and 69, inspired by the approach taken in the Human Trafficking and Exploitation (Criminal Justice and Support for Victims) Act (Northern Ireland) brought forward by the noble Lord, Lord Morrow. My amendments would replace the reference to “reasonable grounds” that the Minister is proposing with a requirement only that a referral about a child is to be, or has been, made. This will ensure that as soon as indicators of trafficking are spotted and a child is referred to the NRM, the child can be appointed an advocate, rather than waiting until receiving a positive “reasonable grounds” decision. I urge the Minister to consider the dangers of victims having to wait for a “reasonable grounds” decision before receiving an advocate. Perhaps if he is unable to accept my amendments today, he could consider bringing in an amendment at Third Reading to deal with this matter.

I state again that I am grateful for the responsiveness of the Minister to the concerns that have been expressed by myself and other noble Lords about the drafting of the clause. We all want to ensure an effective advocate role for trafficked children, and the amendments tabled by the noble Lord meet most of the concerns that have been raised in this House. A few issues remain and I hope that he will reconsider them at Third Reading.

Baroness Howe of Idlicote (CB): My Lords—

Baroness Howarth of Breckland (CB): My Lords, I simply want to ask a question relating to the speech of the noble Lord, Lord McColl. I hope that noble Lords will forgive me; I will be brief and then I will not need to intervene again.

Following the very useful meeting that the Minister called with Barnardo’s, he subsequently wrote to us explaining that local authorities had, in fact, taken proper action. This again raised a concern that I would like to put on record and for the Minister to speak to regarding the line of accountability between the local authority and the independent advocate. At the meeting, he made it clear that ultimate responsibility for the oversight and care of the child remained with the local authority, and that the independent advocate was, if you like, a help in terms of that. Something clearly went seriously wrong with communication but not with action, and the Minister subsequently told us that. My only question is to ask him to put on record that the respective roles of the independent advocate and the social worker are absolutely clear. Otherwise, we will have subsequent confusion. I was reassured at

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the meeting. I am no longer reassured about this and remain doubtful about the way in which this will work. I apologise but that was the only point I wanted to make.

Baroness Howe of Idlicote: My Lords, I wish to speak to my Amendment 59A in this group. First, however, I would like to commend the noble Lord, Lord McColl, for his perseverance in bringing this issue before the House over so many years. I hope your Lordships would agree that his work and that of the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, have been recognised in the amendments to Clause 48 that we are discussing today.

In Committee, I said that I was disappointed that the Government would not “be bolder” in their statements of the principles that would underpin the role of the advocates. I am glad to see that today they have gone some way towards meeting my concerns. At Second Reading, I said that we needed,

“a proper definition of child trafficking advocates”.—[

Official Report

, 17/11/14; col. 307.]

Again, I am glad to see that the Government have put forward some helpful clarifications in the series of amendments tabled by the Minister. In particular, I welcome the addition of the word “independent” in eight of his amendments.

However, as was said about the anti-slavery commissioner, adding the word “independent” does not mean that the role really is independent. I am grateful that the Government have recognised the strength of the argument in the case of the commissioner and amended the Bill to ensure that there really is independence with budgets and staff. I feel the same way about the use of the word “independent” in relation to child trafficking advocates.

Clause 48(2) currently says that the Secretary of State,

“must have regard to the principle that, so far as practicable, a child should be represented and supported by someone who is independent of any person who will be responsible for making decisions about the child”.

I know that the Minister said in Committee:

“Our provision sets out key principles in the Bill, such as that the advocate must be independent”.

He also said that,

“we are very clear that these advocates need to be independent in order to support and protect the child effectively”.—[

Official Report

, 8/12/14; cols. 1683-84]

The noble Lord said that the principle of independence was set out in subsection (2), so it was therefore unnecessary to include the word “independent” in the title of the clause or the title of the role.

I welcome the Minister’s change of heart on the use of the word “independent”, but there are so many new references to “independent” included in this clause that Clause 48(2) remains unamended. I am left perplexed about what “independence” might actually look like if it was only to be “so far as practicable”. It is for that reason that I tabled Amendment 59A, which would amend Clause 48(2) and clarify what “independent” means in this subsection, thereby removing the uncertainty that the words “so far as practicable” engender.

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The need for an independent person was recognised in the 2013 report, Still atRisk, produced by the Children’s Society and the Refugee Council. That report recommended that,

“a system of protection needs to be developed which includes an independent trusted adult appointed to a separated child as soon as they come to an authority’s attention”.

The handbook on child trafficking advocates published last year by the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights has independence and impartiality as one of its six fundamental principles, saying that advocates must,

“be in a position to make independent and impartial decisions, assessments, actions and representations guided by the best interests of the child”.

4.15 pm

Noble Lords supported the Immigration Bill amendment that would have introduced a statutory child trafficking guardian, independent of a local authority. The Government themselves acknowledged the need for independent advocates for trafficked children. The fact sheet provided by the Government for this clause in November 2014 repeats that they will be,

“specialist, independent advocates to support child victims of trafficking”.

On 7 April last year, the Minister at the time, the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, said that the advocates would be,

“experts in trafficking, and completely independent of the local authority and social services department”.—[

Official Report

, 7/4/14; col. 1156.]

In his letter of 20 February, the Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner wrote:

“Advocates must not become restricted or limited by bureaucratic restraints. They must be empowered to do what they are intended to do: help, protect and assist the child”.

We need to be sure that the definition of “independent” does not become one of those bureaucratic restraints.

Given this widespread support for the principle of independence from outside and inside the Government, I am arguing for a more robust definition of “independent” than is currently in the Bill. I hope that the Minister will reconsider the wording in Clause 48(2). I commend my amendment to the House.

Baroness Hodgson of Abinger (Con): My Lords, one of the most important aims of the Bill is undoubtedly to better protect children from the scourge of slavery and trafficking. I have welcomed from the outset the enabling provision for specific child trafficking advocates but have also joined other noble Lords in pushing for such advocates to be given greater clout and full independence in working to protect the children they are assigned to. To that end, I am heartened by the Government’s proposed amendments which seek to do this.

At Second Reading I was also clear about the need to assign full and proper legal powers to advocates. Again, I welcome that the power to appoint and instruct legal representation on behalf of the child is now being proposed by the Government in Amendment 61.

I would, however, emphasise the importance of the constructive working relationships between the advocates and other professionals working with the child. It is important that this should be a fundamental part of

25 Feb 2015 : Column 1663

their roles. I am still a little concerned that there is not enough clarification on the definition of their responsibilities. Perhaps the Minister would comment on this when he responds.

Baroness Royall of Blaisdon (Lab): My Lords, I support the government amendments and Amendment 60, which stands in my name and that of the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss. At the outset, I, too, pay tribute to the battles, as the noble and learned Baroness put it, fought by her and the noble Lord, Lord McColl, to bring about child trafficking advocates with the appropriate powers. I have always been pleased to support their powerful advocacy.

As noble Lords have said, we are grateful for the Minister’s efforts in securing these important amendments, which significantly strengthen the role of child advocates in the Bill. In Committee, we pushed for changes to be made to Clause 48, and specifically to give advocates the legal powers that they would require in order to carry out their role effectively. This is the purpose of Amendment 60—but, of course, I am delighted to see that the same powers are outlined in government Amendment 61. Alongside the legal powers, we are pleased that government Amendment 72 gives child trafficking advocates the ability to co-operate and work for public authorities. These are important steps in securing the protection of vulnerable children who have been, and are, the victims of the most heinous crimes.

Guardians will be able to effectively and successfully act in a child’s interests only if they have the appropriate powers to instruct solicitors and have access to the required information from public authorities. Evidence from members of the Refugee Children’s Consortium, the Children’s Society and the Refugee Council demonstrates that local authorities have, unfortunately, failed on many occasions to respond adequately to the needs of the trafficked child.

While I give the Minister the warmest thanks for the amendments that he has brought forward today, I am rather disappointed that between Committee and Report we were not given sufficient information on the interim outcomes of the pilots that are being undertaken. I am grateful for the letter sent out by the Minister on Monday evening, but there is not quite enough detail to tell us clearly what needs to be improved, what is working in the current trials and what is not. The trials started in September 2014 and it would have been helpful if, five months on, we could have had more details and information to inform our debate today. So I have a few questions for the noble Lord.

It would be helpful if he could tell us how many children each advocate represents at a time, what services are available to help with any potential language barriers the children may have, and—as the noble Baroness, Lady Howarth, said—what the difference is between the role of the advocate and that of the social worker. Do the trials demonstrate that there is a clear enough definition between those two very specific roles? Have any areas been identified thus far where more work needs to be done or where there are potential problems? I wonder, for example, why there has been a slower rate of uptake than may have been expected.

25 Feb 2015 : Column 1664

With that, I say again that I am very grateful to the Minister for all that he has done on these issues, and I look forward to his response.

Baroness Hamwee (LD): My Lords, while welcoming very much the enormous progress that has been made—I have no doubt that a lot of that is due to the Minister’s personal efforts—I have two points that I should like to raise. I thought that the noble Baroness, Lady Howarth, was going to ask about independent reviewing officers, but I suppose that that is subsumed within the question of accountability.

My first point, highlighted by the noble Lord, Lord McColl, concerns the use of the term “reasonable grounds to believe” which the government amendments apply in place of “reason to believe”. On Monday when we discussed legal aid, the Minister said that he thought it was important that no one should be deterred from applying to be referred to the national referral mechanism, and therefore that it would be better to have “reasonable grounds to believe” as the catalyst or prompt for various things to follow. It would be ironic if that were to be a reason for the change today in the case of child trafficking advocates.

I wonder whether there is in fact any difference between the terms. Is one more subjective than the other, or is one a harder test than the other? I ask this because if they mean the same, would it not be better to retain a non-technical term in order to anticipate any change there may be in the arrangements for the national referral mechanism? We know that consideration is being given to having a single stage going straight to conclusive grounds. Are we constraining a change which a lot of NGOs are calling for by including a technical term in the legislation? This is a question that goes to quite a number of the amendments that we will be considering today.

My second point is about legal representation. I think that on pretty much every occasion when we have discussed this issue I have argued for its importance. I did wonder whether the instruction should be given by the child or by the advocate. Is it the advocate’s role to assist, which is the Government’s amendment? I think that perhaps it is. The lawyer needs to hear from the child, but I am not even sure whether a child—I hesitate to ask this question in the presence of the noble and learned Baroness—has the capacity to give instructions to a legal representative. Should they instead be given by someone on the child’s behalf? However, that is not the main thrust of my question.

Government Amendment 61 states:

“The advocate may (where appropriate) assist the child to obtain legal or other advice”,

and so on. Can the Minister flesh that out? If a lawyer is approached and asked for advice, but legal advice is not appropriate in the circumstances, the lawyer is going to say so. We do not need legislation to put a block in the way—and, indeed, there should not be a block in the way of that approach.

I would not want to think that the advocate would be in a position to stop the question to a lawyer: “Is this a legal issue that you can help sort out?”. I would not want to think that the term “appropriate” in this context is because it is appropriate to the trafficked

25 Feb 2015 : Column 1665

position of the child—because a child victim may have much wider needs than those which are directly related to his or her having been trafficked. Again, I think it would be a great pity if those who are involved are made to question whether seeking legal advice is the right thing to do.

If the Minister can flesh out and get rid of my concerns about Amendment 61, it would be very helpful to have that on the record. If he cannot, I will really wish that I had not raised them, because I would not want the negative points to be on the record, either.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Bates) (Con): My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness for moving her amendment. I will speak to my amendments as well. I begin by joining others in paying tribute to the noble and learned Baroness and to my noble friend Lord McColl for eventually securing the amendments that they are looking for. I am grateful that we have been able to do that.

A hallmark of the way in which this Bill has gone through is that it has drawn upon the incredible level of expertise in your Lordships’ House in these particular areas. We have tried to distil that into strengthening the Bill, which enjoys cross-party support and which we all want to see passed. That expertise is also reflected in the 23 amendments that the Government tabled in Committee and by the further 72 amendments, 27 of which we will be considering on the second day of Report. I was reminded by officials that this is something of a record. I do not know if they meant that as a compliment—equating the number of amendments to the effectiveness of the Bill. However, as we have gone through this process, time and again, new pieces of evidence—new gaps—have come to light and, where at all possible, the Government have sought to respond to them.

I will speak to my amendments first and then deal with the questions which were raised. The government amendments reflect the European Union fundamental rights agency’s key functions for such a role and the Northern Ireland human trafficking and exploitation Act. These amendments have been drafted following significant consultation with NGOs and Peers on the precise wording necessary to seek the overall objective of ensuring that we have set out the fundamental principles of these roles in statute.

The government amendments clarify beyond doubt the independence of the child trafficking advocate’s role; ensure the advocate promotes the child’s well-being as well as acts in the child’s best interests; and give the advocate the power to assist the child in obtaining legal advice, as referred to by my noble friend Lady Hodgson. I will return later to the question raised by my noble friend Lady Hamwee. I know that this has been at the very forefront of the debate on this issue and is reflected in the amendments tabled by noble Lords today.

These amendments also remove the Secretary of State’s discretion to make detailed regulations and replace this with a duty to do so. We are also ensuring,

25 Feb 2015 : Column 1666

through these amendments, that the regulations provide for advocates to be appointed to potential child victims of human trafficking as soon as possible.

The government amendments will also place a requirement on public authorities to co-operate and share information with child trafficking advocates, where any disclosures do not contravene a restriction. This will place beyond doubt the status of the advocate across the criminal justice, care and immigration systems. Again, these government amendments closely reflect those made by noble Lords, as referred to by the noble Baroness, Lady Royall.

4.30 pm

I will take a moment to address my noble friend Lord McColl’s amendments, Amendments 55 and 69, in particular. I understand the sentiment behind these amendments but am keen to assure my noble friend that the reference here to “reasonable grounds” does not tie the appointment of a child trafficking advocate to a reasonable grounds decision or the national referral mechanism. The wording of the clause as it stands seeks to ensure that all children who are suspected of being victims of human trafficking are appointed a child trafficking advocate in a timely manner, regardless of whether they have entered the national referral mechanism system. It is also the intention that the advocate would, if necessary, be able to work with the child beyond any negative grounds decision to ensure an effective transition to other relevant services. The intention behind the amendment is to standardise wording across the Bill: the test will be the same as it would have been if the clause still read “reason to believe”.

I thank the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, and the noble Baroness, Lady Royall, for Amendment 60. I hope that noble Lords will agree that the effect of government Amendments 54, 61, 63, 66, 67 and 70 is to deliver the improvements to the clause which are sought by Amendment 60. In these amendments, we clarify beyond doubt the independence of the child trafficking advocate role, we give the advocate the power to assist the child to obtain legal advice—including, where necessary, instructing legal representatives to act on behalf of the child—and we place a requirement on public authorities to co-operate and share information with child trafficking advocates.

I welcome the scrutiny which the amendments tabled by Peers has brought to this clause. Let me be clear that we have listened. Our amendments now put on the face of the Bill the key functions of the child trafficking advocate as set out in the European Union fundamental rights agency handbook. We have drawn on the wording in the Northern Ireland human trafficking and exploitation Act, as has been suggested by noble Lords. These are internationally agreed principles and functions.

I now turn to some of the points raised. On the question of which agencies will be on the panel, I was trying to make the point that we need to view the amendments that have been put forward alongside Jeremy Oppenheim’s well received review of the national referral mechanism, which recommended that we move from the current position of UKVI effectively adjudicating

25 Feb 2015 : Column 1667

and assessing the reasonable grounds and conclusive grounds decisions to involving a wider group of agencies and organisations. These will include, of course, the local authorities, the police and other agencies working in the area and involved in the protection of the individual. We believe that the decision-making will be better as a result, because it will be broader, and this will move from being seen just as an immigration issue to an immigration and social care issue. That will go some way to addressing the point which the noble Baroness, Lady Howarth, raised about the level of co-operation that will exist between various agencies. The pilot has highlighted some gaps in that, which I will refer to later.

My noble friend Lady Hamwee asked for details on legal representation. We developed the government amendment after consulting expert lawyers. The text draws on the new Northern Ireland Act, and we are confident that our amendment complements the rules on children’s capacity.

The noble Baroness, Lady Howarth, asked about the role of the advocate and how it might differ from that of the social worker. The social worker is responsible for carrying out the local authority safeguarding functions for the child and for making decisions about the child’s upbringing, if they are a looked-after child. The independent child trafficking advocates will be responsible for holding the local authority to account and making sure that the child’s views are heeded. In all of this, we recognise that the individuals who we are talking about here will be incredibly confused and vulnerable people trying to make sense of what has happened to them and what will happen next. There will be a great deal of fear. There may also be, in view of how they were trafficked to this country, a deep hostility and suspicion towards figures of authority. Therefore, in designing the role, we need to be aware that the child trafficking advocate needs effectively to be the child’s friend—a trusted friend, who can guide them through the process as we want.

My noble friend Lady Hamwee also asked what the difference is between the “reasonable grounds” and the “reason to believe” tests. There is no legal difference between reasonable grounds and reason to believe. We wanted to make sure that we reflected the wording in our international obligations in the NRM enabling power. If we had left different tests in the different victims’ provisions, the courts might have assumed that there was a difference, which was the point that my noble friend was making. Using the term “reasonable grounds” does not tie the provisions to the reasonable grounds decision within the national referral mechanism, just as the term “suspect but cannot prove” is a standard of proof.

My noble friend Lord McColl asked whether the appointment of a child trafficking advocate will not be tied to the national referral mechanism. Of course, that is absolutely right. That was the evidence that we got on 5 February in the very helpful meeting that we had. I am sure that all noble Lords want to pay tribute to the work of the Barnardo’s case workers who gave evidence. They were making the point that their engagement was not at all linked to the decision of the national referral mechanism. The noble Lord, Lord McColl, also asked why the Government’s amendment

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allowed for independence where practicable. This was drafted to allow some flexibility for the basis of a future national scheme, depending on what was learnt from the evaluation of the trial. However, we are clear that the advocates will be independent.

My noble friend also asked for reassurance that regulations and guidance will be in line with international best practice, including the EU fundamental rights agency handbook and the UNICEF best practice and scoping review. I assure my noble friend that the regulations and guidance outlining the functions of the advocate will indeed be in line with international best practice, including the EU FRA and the UNICEF best practice and scoping review. My noble friend asked which bodies will be under the duty in Amendment 72. Public authorities are defined in this Bill with reference to the definition in the Human Rights Act 1998 as anybody with functions that are public in nature, excluding courts. This definition has been chosen because it is flexible and expansive. Schools, colleges, the NHS and UK Visas and Immigration would all be covered when considering the public function.

I turn to the other points that noble Lords raised, particularly the one raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Royall, who asked about the trial. We received an update, and I wrote on 23 February and gave a further indication on that. We expect that there will be a further evaluation.

Baroness Butler-Sloss: I thank the Minister but I did not get that letter, and I think that many other noble Lords did not get it. It would have been helpful because I tabled the lead amendment.

Lord Bates: I apologise for that.

Baroness Butler-Sloss: I just checked on my iPad and I did not get it.

Lord Bates: I am sorry about that.

Baroness Butler-Sloss: Could I have it?

Lord Bates: Of course; that goes without saying. A copy was placed in the Library. I readily accept, having been on the Back Benches and followed legislation, that that is meant as a get-out clause. However, the noble and learned Baroness should have had that letter as a courtesy, and I will make sure that she is furnished with one within the next few minutes.

The University of Bedfordshire has been appointed to undertake an independent evaluation of the child trafficking advocates trial. That evaluation will establish what difference the specialist advocate scheme made for child trafficking victims compared to the existing provision. The success of the trial will be measured by assessing the impact of advocates on the quality of decision-making in relation to the child trafficking victims’ needs by key professionals—for example, social workers, immigration officials and police officers—the child trafficking victims’ well-being; their understanding, experience and satisfaction of the immigration, social care and criminal justice system; and their perceptions

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of practitioners. The evaluation will include a process assessment to show how the advocate process operated in practice and what might be improved. The early findings show that in the first four and a half months, 59 children were allocated to the child trafficking advocates trial. The advocates are largely perceived by stakeholders to be doing well, and there is emerging evidence of advocates’ positive impact in individual cases.

The point was raised about the college case, where one individual who was being helped by an advocate was having problems being released by their college. The very fact that the advocate was there and was able to make representations to show that the individual’s college record was not being damaged as a result of the necessary meetings she had to attend is a good example of the work that is being done.

I have a copy of the letter for the noble and learned Baroness and I will make sure that she receives it. I am aware that a number of other specific points were raised. I will look very carefully at those and will be happy to write to all noble Lords, particularly the noble and learned Baroness, following this. But I hope that on the basis of those reassurances, the noble and learned Baroness will feel able to withdraw her amendment.

Baroness Hamwee: The Minister is being very clear that there is no difference between “reason to believe” and “reasonable grounds to believe”. Many people who will encounter these provisions will have been used to the “reasonable grounds” formula through dealing with the NRM. This point is relevant to other parts of the Bill as well. Can he reassure the House that the guidance that will be published will make it crystal clear that there is no need to get to that point in the NRM procedure in order for the provisions to bite and to be applied?

Lord Bates: I totally agree with that. I also recognise that the guidance will be a key part of filling in some of the gaps in the information. When the guidance is released, it will be informed by the results of the trial. That will strengthen still further the operation of the role going forward.

Baroness Howe of Idlicote: My Lords, I just wondered why the Minister had not made any comments about my Amendment 59A. I was hoping that he would reconsider the wording in Clause 48(2).

Lord Bates: I am sorry about that. I do not appear to have a note relating to that amendment. Just looking at Amendment 59A, which says:

“Page 37, line 27, leave out from beginning to ‘be’ in line 28 and insert ‘For the purposes of subsection (1), a child must’”,

perhaps I could come back to the noble Baroness on that. I am sorry I did not deal with it specifically. If she wants to raise a specific point about the effect of that amendment, which I could perhaps respond to, I would be very happy to deal with that.

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Baroness Howe of Idlicote: My Lords, I am happy to await any sort of further answer the Minister may have to my point. I was just somewhat surprised that there was no mention at all of what I was saying.

Lord Bates: I can say that the response was given in my answer but I did not highlight it as being in response to Amendment 59A. The government amendment to allow for independence when practical was drafted to give some flexibility for the basis of a future national scheme depending on what was learnt from the evaluation of the trial. We are clear, however, that the advocates will be independent. Although not tagged as such, that was our response to Amendment 59A.

4.45 pm

Baroness Butler-Sloss: My Lords, I wanted to make a small number of points. First, I add my thanks to those offered to the Minister, who has listened with enormous care to the various points that we have made throughout this Bill and particularly on the issue of child advocates, both in meetings that I have had with him and other Ministers, and within this Chamber.

I think that Clause 48 is good enough. It is not as good as perhaps some of us would like, but it is important to have it in place, to look at how the independent child advocates perform, to watch with interest on the guidance and then to come back, either privately or publicly, to say if we are not satisfied with it and how we would like it to be changed. That seems to me better than pushing any further amendments on Clause 48.

I have two points on the advocates. First, I would assume that an advocate for a child victim of human trafficking who is almost certainly a foreigner in this country would be likely not only to be sympathetic and compassionate but robust and effective. That will not only be with lawyers but with everybody else, from the immigration officials through to mental health and physical health issues and so on. That is the most important part of the advocate’s role: to be the friend, the mediator with organisations and the mentor from the beginning to the time when the child has settled. That is what we now have in the Bill, and I look forward to seeing how well it will work.

The issue of capacity of a child was probably best defined by Lord Denning many years ago, on whether—I forget her name; she was the good lady who was a devout Roman Catholic and who did not want her teenage daughters—

Noble Lords: Gillick.

Baroness Butler-Sloss: Yes, Gillick. She did not want her teenage daughters to receive advice on either the pill or other forms of contraception. What Lord Denning said, which has reverberated around the courts more perhaps than anywhere else, was that a child may have the capacity to do all sorts of things much younger than the age of 16 and, in many ways, some capacity at the age of 10, 11 or 12 in relation to the particular issue on which the child is being asked to give an opinion. Being a child, their capacity may

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mean that they can be decisive or that the opinion will be listened to but not necessarily agreed to. That is another aspect of the robustness of the child trafficking advocate. They will come to a view as to whether what the child wants is actually what is best for the child, because, at the end of the day, for child victims as well as all for other children, it is their welfare that is the paramount consideration.

I think that this will be an interesting problem from time to time with 14 year-olds and 15 year-olds—it might be an interesting problem with the 11 year-old—but it will have to be dealt with. The guidance in relation to Clause 48 will be of enormous importance, and I hope that those around the House who have expressed an interest in how the independent human trafficking advocate will work might be given the opportunity to express views on the guidance when it comes forward, which would be helpful. In the mean time, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 52 withdrawn.

Amendment 53 not moved.

Amendment 54

Moved by Lord Bates

54: Clause 48, page 37, line 24, after “persons (“” insert “independent”

Amendment 54 agreed.

Amendments 55 and 56 not moved.

Amendment 57

Moved by Lord Bates

57: Clause 48, page 37, line 25, leave out “is reason” and insert “are reasonable grounds”

Amendment 57 agreed.

Amendments 58 to 60 not moved.

Amendment 61

Moved by Lord Bates

61: Clause 48, page 37, line 33, at end insert—

“( ) A person appointed as an independent child trafficking advocate for a child must promote the child’s well-being and act in the child’s best interests.

“( ) The advocate may (where appropriate) assist the child to obtain legal or other advice, assistance and representation, including (where necessary) by appointing and instructing legal representatives to act on the child’s behalf.”

Amendment 61 agreed.

Amendment 62

Moved by Lord McColl of Dulwich

62: Clause 48, page 37, line 34, leave out “may” and insert “must”

Amendment 62 agreed.

Amendments 63 and 64

Moved by Lord Bates

63: Clause 48, page 37, line 34, after “about” insert “independent”

64: Clause 48, page 37, line 35, leave out “may” and insert “the regulations must”

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Amendments 63 and 64 agreed.

Amendment 65 not moved.

Amendments 66 and 67

Moved by Lord Bates

66: Clause 48, page 37, line 37, leave out second “a” and insert “an independent”

67: Clause 48, page 37, line 38, leave out second “a” and insert “an independent”

Amendments 66 and 67 agreed.

Amendment 68

Moved by Lord Bates

68: Clause 48, page 37, line 39, at end insert—

“( ) requiring an independent child trafficking advocate to be appointed for a child as soon as reasonably practicable, where there are reasonable grounds to believe a child may be a victim of human trafficking;”

Amendment 69 (to Amendment 68) not moved.

Amendment 68 agreed.

Amendment 70

Moved by Lord Bates

70: Clause 48, page 37, line 40, after “of” insert “independent”

Amendment 70 agreed.

Amendment 71 not moved.

Amendments 72 and 73

Moved by Lord Bates

72: Clause 48, page 37, line 41, leave out from “authorities” to end of line 42 and insert “which provide services or take decisions in relation to a child for whom an independent child trafficking advocate has been appointed to—

(i) recognise, and pay due regard to, the advocate’s functions, and

(ii) provide the advocate with access to such information relating to the child as will enable the advocate to carry out those functions effectively (so far as the authority may do so without contravening a restriction on disclosure of the information).”

73: Clause 48, page 37, line 43, leave out subsection (5)

Amendments 72 and 73 agreed.

Clause 49: Guidance about identifying and supporting victims

Amendment 74

Moved by Lord McColl of Dulwich

74: Clause 49, page 38, line 5, after “guidance” insert “, in conjunction with the Independent Anti-slavery Commissioner,”

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Lord McColl of Dulwich: I speak to amendments to Clause 49. First, I have tabled Amendment 74 because I am keen to ensure that there is joined-up thinking between different sections of the Bill. Part 4 has created the position of the Independent Anti-slavery Commissioner and has charged the commissioner with encouraging good practice in the identification of victims. It seems logical, therefore, that the commissioner be involved in the production of statutory guidance directly relevant to promoting good practice in the identifying of victims—namely, the indicators of trafficking and the process of deciding that a person is a victim of trafficking and entitled to receive assistance.

The commissioner will have a great deal of expertise and will gather a lot of information from front-line professionals about the challenges and good practice in identifying victims in the course of carrying out his work. That expertise and information will be key to determining what the guidance produced under Clause 49 needs to cover. We must ensure that the commissioner’s knowledge and findings are incorporated into the development process for the guidance. Amendment 74 would make that a requirement of the guidance provision. I urge the Minister to accept Amendment 74 to guarantee a role for the commissioner in drawing up the statutory guidance. Can the Minister also confirm that the guidance produced under Clause 49 will go through public consultation processes to enable NGOs and other groups with relevant expertise to make an input into the guidance?

I am pleased to introduce Amendment 74 in my name and in the names of the noble Baroness, Lady Grey-Thompson, and the noble Lords, Lord Anderson of Swansea and Lord Morrow. I am extremely thankful to the Minister for the new measures that he has introduced on Report to strengthen protection for child victims and bring victim support into the consideration of the Independent Anti-slavery Commissioner. However, I feel that there is still a gap in the centre of the Bill: the lack of a guarantee of assistance and support for victims. Amendment 82 creates a power for the Secretary of State to introduce regulations about providing assistance and support to victims, which I welcome as far as it goes—but I do not believe it goes far enough. An enabling power provides no assurance to victims and makes no commitments about what victims are entitled to. Amendment 78 is a better way forward. My Amendments 75, 79 and 80 are consequential on Amendment 78.

It has been noted by the Minister and others that the Bill before us today has vastly more measures to address the needs of victims than the draft Bill. This is undoubtedly true, and I welcome all the improvements that have occurred here and in another place, but on the specific matter of victim support, the Modern Slavery Bill comes up very short when we compare it with the Human Trafficking and Exploitation (Criminal Justice and Support for Victims) Act (Northern Ireland) 2015, which was steered though the Assembly by the noble Lord, Lord Morrow, and the Human Trafficking and Exploitation Bill proposed by the Scottish Government. Amendment 78 would insert a new subsection (1A) which would require support to be provided and a new

25 Feb 2015 : Column 1674

subsection (1B) which would require the Secretary of State to provide guidance on the provision of support and assistance.

There are three key elements in Amendment 78 which echo the provisions of the Northern Ireland Act and the Scottish Bill but are missing from both Clause 49 and the amendments proposed by the Minister. The first is putting in statute a basic duty for the state to provide victims with,

“support and assistance for physical, psychological and social recovery”.

Setting out in the Bill that victims are entitled to a period of support and assistance will help give them confidence to come forward and seek help. It should also give them confidence to engage with police officers and talk about what has happened to them—and perhaps even to give testimony in court against the perpetrators of these horrible crimes.

During the very helpful meeting with Peers arranged by the Minister, the Independent Anti-slavery Commissioner spoke about the many victims he had encountered in his time as a police officer who were too fearful to speak to officers. It was only after they had been brought to a place of safety in the care of people outside the law enforcement apparatus that they felt confident to speak. In Committee, the Minister drew attention to the assistance provided under the victim care contract, which is a very positive thing. However, unless we establish in law a duty to provide that assistance, I fear that the victim care programme will not be protected for the long term when budgets become squeezed or departmental priorities change. In Committee, I mentioned that GRETA, the Council of Europe’s group of experts, recommended in 2012 that the convention right to a recovery and reflection period for victims should be enshrined in British law, and my amendment would do exactly that.

Establishing victim support in law will also provide a basis for achieving a greater level of consistency in the support provided to victims across the care programme. Paragraph (d) of new subsection (1B) inserted by Amendment 78 additionally promotes this by requiring the establishment of minimum standards for victim support, while paragraph (g) of that new subsection requires the service to be audited, as recommended by the NRM review.

5 pm

A notable feature of the duty to provide support set out in my Amendment 78 is that the support should be provided from the moment a person’s case is referred to a competent authority to determine if they are a victim of trafficking—the approach implemented in the Northern Ireland legislation. It is very important that a victim should be able to immediately access support once they are discovered in a police raid or when they seek help. This is in contrast to Amendments 76, 77 and 82 proposed by the Minister. I am concerned by the change of terminology in these amendments, which refer to support for victims where there are “reasonable grounds” to believe that a person is a victim. This terminology suggests that, under the present national referral mechanism system, a person will need to receive a reasonable grounds decision before they can receive assistance. The Salvation Army stated

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in evidence to a Home Office Select Committee in 2013 that the average time for a person to receive a reasonable grounds decision was 37 days. Although in 2014 the director of UK Visa and Immigration told the Joint Committee on the Draft Modern Slavery Bill that the UKVI—responsible for two-thirds of NRM decisions—was now delivering reasonable grounds decisions within the target of five days, five days is still far too long for a rescued victim to wait to receive support.

I was very interested to hear the proposals of the NRM review to simplify the process, making the current referral and reasonable grounds stages into one initial step. This sounds as though it could be of great benefit, but until that recommendation is implemented—if at all—the present process remains. This could be particularly problematic if a victim comes forward at a weekend or out of hours, when decision-making processes would not begin instantly. The Anti-Trafficking Monitoring Group has said:

“Members too often experience the sight of victims in waiting rooms and reception areas for hours while numerous telephone calls are made to secure accommodation”.

We need to do all that we can to avoid such situations and enable suitable assistance to be available immediately a victim is in contact with the authorities. I would be grateful if the Minister could give details of the current average waiting time for a reasonable grounds decision. Could he also indicate whether it is his intention that the assistance and support provided under the guidance in Clause 49 or the regulations in Amendment 82 would not be available until a reasonable grounds decision was received? If so, what mechanisms are in place to ensure that vulnerable people are provided with help in those initial days of most extreme need when they are first identified and await a reasonable grounds decision?

The second key element in Amendment 78 is that it states that assistance provided under the duty must cover the types of support set out in the EU directive and Council of Europe convention, which it then lists. Amendment 78 does not require anything more than provision of the types of assistance already required by our international obligations but, by bringing them into national law, it will help to ensure that all victims have access to the support they need and are entitled to. The evidence I heard when sitting on the Joint Committee on the draft Bill suggested that not all victims receive the support that they should. I believe we must do all we can to prevent these inconsistencies. The GRETA report to which I referred earlier also highlighted the need to improve consistency in provision of assistance and support for victims of trafficking. The report said the UK should,

“ensure that all potential and actual victims of trafficking are provided with adequate support and assistance from their identification through to their recovery”.

The evidence review chaired by Frank Field MP, which was commissioned by the Home Secretary prior to the publication of the draft Bill, made a similar recommendation. The review said:

“We believe the Bill should go further and detail the protections, entitlements and support that victims are entitled to. This should lead to a more consistent support regime for victims around the country, which in turn should give victims the confidence that their needs will be met”.

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Amendment 78 would provide a basis for consistent provision of all forms of support and assistance required by the international obligations, and made available to all victims of trafficking across England and Wales. Neither Clause 49 nor the Minister’s Amendment 82 contains any detail about the type of support to be provided under those measures.

The third key element is the inclusion in paragraphs (b) to (f) of proposed new subsection (1B) of safeguards for the manner in which support and assistance is to be provided, based on EU directive and Council of Europe convention. For instance, to pick one of the safeguards, the law would make clear that assistance must not be conditional on a victim agreeing to act as a witness in court proceedings, making it clear that a victim is entitled to support because of what has happened to them, not for what they can offer the law enforcement machinery. Those safeguards are not set out in Clause 49 or Amendment 82, yet are essential to ensuring that victims are supported in an appropriate and safe way.

It has been said time and again that this is a landmark Bill, and it is certainly one of which we can be rightly proud. However, as regards the way it addresses the most basic needs of victims when they first come forward, it is now getting left behind other legislation in the UK. The Act introduced in Northern Ireland by the noble Lord, Lord Morrow, which received Royal Assent in January, includes a statutory duty to provide support and assistance to adult victims, includes full details of the types of support that should be provided, makes support available from the moment of referral, with the possibility of a discretionary extension, and includes the internationally required safeguards about how support should be provided. Since we debated this clause in Committee, the Scottish Government have introduced their Human Trafficking and Exploitation (Scotland) Bill to the Scottish Parliament. That Bill also contains a duty to provide support and assistance for adult victims, sets out the basic types of support which should be covered, and highlights some of the key safeguards about the delivery of care. I encourage the Minister, if he cannot accept my amendment today, to consider an amendment at Third Reading that will ensure that this flagship Bill, at the end of this Parliament, does not fall short of the comprehensive legislation being enacted in Belfast and Edinburgh.

Victims of human trafficking, wherever they are in the UK, need to have the same confidence and the same assurance of support. We owe it to them to ensure that we demonstrate our commitment to their well-being in the centre of our foundational legislation on modern slavery. I beg to move.

Lord Morrow (DUP): My Lords, I will speak in favour of Amendment 78 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord McColl, to Clause 49, to which amendment I have also added my name. I commend the noble Lord, Lord McColl, for putting forward this important amendment today.

Some noble Lords may be aware that I brought forward legislation in the Northern Ireland Assembly on human trafficking. It took over three years to get from the genesis of the legislation to the granting of Royal Assent last month, but to my mind it was worth

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every minute. Noble Lords will undoubtedly agree with me that victims of human trafficking are some of the most vulnerable people within the United Kingdom. Northern Ireland most certainly is not exempt from the impact of human trafficking, and I brought forward the Human Trafficking and Exploitation (Criminal Justice and Support for Victims) Bill to improve the response to the crime of human trafficking in Northern Ireland, crucially with regard to this amendment, to ensure that victims of trafficking are effectively supported.

The statutory requirement to assist and support victims of trafficking is a crucial part of the Human Trafficking and Exploitation (Criminal Justice and Support for Victims) Act. The relevant section was the product of a collaborative effort between the Minister of Justice, David Ford, and me, alongside our respective support teams. We were determined to ensure that victims of human trafficking who have entered into the NRM process have a statutory right to access support including: appropriate and safe accommodation; material assistance; assistance in obtaining health care services, counselling, translation and interpretation services; assistance in obtaining legal advice or representation; and assistance with repatriation.

That section was supported unanimously by the Northern Ireland Assembly. Northern Irish society may be divided on many issues, but the need to effectively support victims of human trafficking is not one of them. The NGO community in Northern Ireland also overwhelmingly supported the introduction of this section. In my opinion it is vital that the requirement to provide assistance and support is in statute. It makes it crystal clear to victims of trafficking, the NGOs supporting them and state agencies what victims are legally entitled to. It gives victims and those seeking to support them the ability to challenge the actions of the state if it has failed to provide effective support. It also ensures that the support and assistance provided to victims cannot be withdrawn or restricted by government if, for example, it faces challenges, particularly a challenging budgetary situation.

I have added my name to Amendment 78 because I believe it fills an important gap in what is otherwise an excellent Bill. First, it will help to ensure that victims of human trafficking are effectively supported in England and Wales. I appreciate that the Bill requires the Government to issue guidance to public authorities setting out,

“arrangements for providing assistance and support to persons who there is reason to believe may be victims of slavery or human trafficking”.

This requirement is better than nothing but in my opinion does not go far enough. There are no directions or guarantees about the content of the guidance, which can be varied at the will of the Secretary of State. Guidance also does not have the same status as legislation and cannot be relied on in the same way. It would be far better for victims if the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord McColl, were adopted. It would ensure that there is a legal guarantee of support for victims.

Secondly, it seems clear to me that if the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord McColl, or something like it is not accepted, victims of trafficking in Northern

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Ireland—and in Scotland once the Human Trafficking and Exploitation (Scotland) Bill has passed—will have more legal rights than victims of trafficking in England and Wales. This would be a rather unfortunate situation. Surely, most of us here and most of the public would think that victims of trafficking, regardless of where in the United Kingdom they have been identified, should have the same or similar legal rights. Of course, it is Parliament’s prerogative to decide whether this will be the case.

I urge noble Lords to support the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord McColl. It rectifies a significant omission in the Bill and will help to ensure that victims of trafficking in England and Wales are effectively supported.

Baroness Grey-Thompson (CB): My Lords, I wish to speak in support of Amendment 78, in the name of the noble Lord, Lord McColl, to which I have added my name.

I have been watching the passage of the Bill with great interest. I recognise that many noble Lords who have spoken on Report have much greater knowledge and a longer history of raising these issues than I have. In particular, I pay tribute to the noble Lord, Lord McColl, for his tireless efforts in bringing the needs of vulnerable people to the attention of your Lordships. It is listening to his contribution that has encouraged me to step forward.

I do not doubt that the Government take victim protection very seriously, but I have concerns that the Bill itself does not yet provide the necessary framework for victims to receive the support that they most desperately need at the time when they are at their most vulnerable—when they are first rescued or identified. Nor does it give a clear enough signal to victims and those who first encounter them that access to immediate assistance is a matter of utmost priority.

5.15 pm

Amendment 78 clearly establishes that victims of trafficking must be provided with,

“Support and assistance for physical, psychological and social recovery”,

from the moment that it becomes apparent they may be a victim and a referral to the NRM is made. The amendment transposes into our law the obligations that already exist in the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings and the EU directive, in particular the need for a recovery and reflection period to support a victim’s recovery.

Developing the provision on a policy basis was appropriate in the early years of the convention. Now, however, we are entering a new chapter in how human trafficking is to be addressed, with legislation that brings together all aspects of the strategy to combat it. In the context of such a wide-ranging Bill, the absence of a clear duty to provide victims with initial support and assistance in the recovery and reflection period is anomalous. This absence is highlighted when it is compared to the comprehensive legislation in Northern Ireland and the Bill proposed by the Scottish Government to which the noble Lord, Lord McColl, referred. Devolution means that the Assemblies and Parliaments

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are able to develop legislation that best serves their own areas, but when our international obligations apply to the UK as a whole, and where victims may easily have been moved around and exploited in various parts of the UK, surely a unified approach would be better. Why should there be no legal duty to provide initial support to a victim who is discovered in Cardiff or London, and yet had they been found in Belfast or Edinburgh such a duty would apply? Amendment 78 will ensure that there will be a similar duty to provide support in England and Wales as exists in Northern Ireland and is proposed for Scotland.

I am aware of the NRM review and the proposals to develop pilot programmes to test its recommended changes to the decision-making process. However, I do not see why such a process should necessarily delay the establishment in the Modern Slavery Bill of the underlying principles of the system of victim support, which are in any case set out in existing international treaties and by which the UK is bound. I welcome the intention to provide a form of statutory framework for support put forward in Amendment 82, in the name of the Minister. However, it does not guarantee that the statutory basis for support and assistance will be developed at all. Neither does it contain any details of the types of assistance that should be addressed in those regulations—not even to specify, as the European Convention and Amendment 78 do, that the support should be for the victim’s physical, psychological and social recovery.

I hope that the Minister will look kindly on Amendment 78 and other amendments in this group and, if he cannot do so, reflect on whether a reference to the types of assistance set out in the convention and directive could be added to the reference to guidance in Clause 49 and the enabling clause in Amendment 82. We must ensure that victims are not on their own, and that they can have confidence that the support they need will be there when they need it most.

Baroness Howe of Idlicote: My Lords, I am very pleased to speak in support of Amendment 78, in the names of the noble Lord, Lord McColl, the noble Baroness, Lady Grey-Thompson, and the noble Lords, Lord Anderson of Swansea and Lord Morrow.

In Committee, I highlighted the concerns raised by the Council of Europe’s group of experts and quoted in detail from their recommendations 26 and 27 that the UK,

“should make further efforts to ensure that all potential and actual victims of trafficking are provided with adequate support and assistance from their identification through to their recovery”.

I quoted from the Joint Committee on the draft Bill about the lack of consistency in the support being provided to victims of human trafficking. I said then:

“If this Bill contained details of the minimum levels victims should be receiving under our international obligations, it would strengthen the likelihood that all victims would receive that level of assistance”.—[Official Report, 8/12/14; col. 1693.]

I continue to have concerns that provision of support will be patchy and may not reach the standards expected by international treaties if the Bill does not make a specific guarantee that support of particular types will be available to victims, and create a statutory framework to govern how that support is provided.

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I understand that an organisation that provides support to victims told the evidence review in the run-up to the draft Bill:

“In order to ensure that victims of human trafficking are confident that the UK will provide adequate protections it is vital that protections, entitlements and support are clearly defined in legislation and are not afforded through a ‘policy’ approach that can be subject to different interpretations .... Clear, legally defined obligations towards supporting potential victims of trafficking will improve confidence in the state to provide protection for them, further encourage cooperation and lead to the successful prosecution of perpetrators”.

I agree, and am disappointed that the amendments tabled by the Minister do not address this issue at all, especially as the Government’s own NRM review revealed that the current provision of support falls short of what we might expect and of the UK’s obligations in international treaties. For example, as the NRM review noted, the use of asylum support accommodation for victims of trafficking who are also making an asylum claim raises concerns with regard to victims’ safety and protection. This has been mentioned by other noble Lords. The report concludes that asylum support accommodation,

“may be suitable for some, but not all. Shared rooms or mixed gender accommodation are not suitable for those who are highly traumatised or who have been victims of sexual exploitation for example”.

Article 11.5 of the EU anti-trafficking directive requires that victims should be provided with “appropriate and safe accommodation”, as does Article 12 of the European convention, which specifically requires countries to take due account of the victim’s “safety and protection needs”. The evidence from the NRM review about the use of asylum seeker accommodation calls into question how well those international obligations are being met. Amendment 78 contains the requirements for appropriate and safe accommodation and for support to be provided with due regard for the victim’s need for safety and protection. Putting these requirements into law would prevent the placement of a vulnerable victim in unsuitable accommodation.

The review also “noted with concern” that there is no formal audit or inspection of services provided. I am glad to see this addressed specifically in Amendment 78, through proposed new subsection (1B)(g) and through the creation of minimum standards in proposed new subsection (1B)(d). The noble Lord, Lord McColl, referred to this. The absence of official minimum standards and independent auditing processes for support services means there is no way to ensure consistency in the type and quality of the assistance provided to victims. Victims of human trafficking are all different: they have experienced different types of exploitation, and their national and cultural backgrounds are different. Men and women can respond differently to the trauma that they have been through. Different needs will mean that different forms and methods of support will be appropriate.

I agree with the recommendation of the NRM review, which states:

“Support should be provided based on an assessment of the individual needs of the victim”.

But, as the Centre for Social Justice report on modern slavery, It Happens Here, notes:

“Whilst a variety of approaches is to be welcomed there is a need for consistency across all organisations which are providing support”.

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The report goes on to recommend the establishment of minimum standards, echoing an earlier recommendation from the Council of Europe group of experts report, which I quoted earlier. The Anti-Trafficking Monitoring Group has also made this recommendation on more than one occasion.

We must ensure that all victims receive the care that they are entitled to and that they are cared for in a safe and appropriate manner. Amendment 78 provides a foundation to do that. I commend it to the Minister. If he is unable to support it today, perhaps he may reflect on how key elements ensuring consistency in standards of care might be incorporated into the regulations that he proposes in Amendment 82.

Baroness Howarth of Breckland: My Lords, I want to speak briefly on what might appear to be a rather discordant note. I support the government amendments for the following reasons. I have great sympathy with the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord McColl, which has been supported. However, when the noble Baroness, Lady Doocey, raised the issue about child exploitation, we talked about the spectrum of people with needs.

In local authorities there are individuals with as high a level of need as some trafficked individuals—and I am not saying that trafficked individuals do not need a specialist service. I work with some of the relevant organisations, and a specialist service is needed. There are numerous sexually exploited young people who the local authority is attempting to support—the Children Act 1989 was as special as this legislation is—but because of cuts in local authority spending, children’s services are unable to provide the level of service needed, particularly in mental health support services, hostels for runaways and a whole range of services that we would expect to be given to asylum seekers. It is therefore difficult to set a standard for one group of individuals and say that we are not going to meet it for others.

I would be delighted if the Minister were able to say, “We are going to set this standard, and it should be for all individuals who have these needs”. However, under the 1989 Act, children who are described as being in need—there are thousands on local authority books—are simply not receiving those services. I wanted to inject that into the debate because someone has to speak for the local authorities, which are continually derided as not providing services appropriately. I speak as a vice-president of the Local Government Association, but that is neither here nor there. I simply hear from social workers and people in communities who are attempting to deliver services but against all odds. If there are specialist advocates who can give a high-quality service, such as guardians ad litem—I was eight years in CAFCASS, and I know all about the services such specialists are able to give—we need to look to enabling local authority social workers to give such services to every child in need.

Baroness Hamwee: My Lords, we dealt in the previous group of amendments with the distinction, or lack of it, between “reason to believe” and “reasonable grounds to believe”, and to which the noble Lord, Lord McColl,

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referred. Here, just as on that issue, the guidance will be important in making clear the position. That is because the first few days are so critical, as the noble Lord and others have said.

Guidance will also be important as regards our international obligations, to which the noble Baroness, Lady Grey-Thompson, referred. Looking at Amendment 78, I have been wondering whether it is necessary to detail what are already obligations, or whether one should have simply the general umbrella description, so that we are not stuck on any particular points. It might be necessary because we are, we hope, making quite a step change. It might also be necessary because having them spelt out in primary legislation will be an easier route to a remedy through the courts; but I raise the point because, if the amendment is not accepted, the guidance will be important in that regard.

5.30 pm

I want to mention health provision in particular. On 6 April, regulations about charges to overseas visitors will come into force, and victims of trafficking will be exempt from certain charges. They are referred to as “victims of trafficking”, not as “victims of slavery and exploitation”; that may be because, by definition, we are talking about people who come from overseas, so they will be regarded as trafficked. I am not quite convinced about that, but there we go. It is not quite the thrust of my point this afternoon.

As I read the regulations, the exemption depends on a reasonable grounds decision. My wider point is that it might be important to refer a victim to a GP straightaway, not for one of the relevant conditions as spelt out in the regulations, but for a condition that would be less urgent in the case of another patient, but is particularly important here because a victim of trafficking needs quick attention and care. I do not discount the points that the noble Baroness, Lady Howarth, has just been making.

To come to the particular point for today, I wonder whether the noble Earl, Lord Howe, could consider including healthcare and perhaps other care in the pilots that are to be undertaken. Might there be a mechanism piloted as part of the new NRM to test turnaround times, for instance? There might be ways of recording the reasonable grounds assessment that could be quicker than the sort of bureaucracy that, all too often, gets in the way, involving, for example, telephones, emails and so on. My request to the Minister is that there be an imaginative and extensive use of pilot testing in the case of some of the items of care and support that are so important.

Lord Rosser (Lab): My Lords, we are not directly associated with any of the amendments in this group, but the proponents of Amendment 78 have certainly made a powerful case in support of it. They referred to the Northern Ireland Act and to the Bill in Scotland which are much more specific on support and assistance for victims than this Bill as it is currently worded. We will wait to see whether the Government are going to give a helpful response to Amendment 78 in particular; or, alternatively, whether, when the Minister comes to propose his amendments, he can persuade us that they actually address the point.

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There must surely be a need for the Government to say something now at least on what minimum level of assistance and support they would expect would be provided to victims of slavery or human trafficking and in what circumstances. This major question should not be left so much in the air as is the case in the Bill as it is worded. It would still appear to be the case—we will wait for the Minister to speak to his amendment—in government Amendment 82.

Lord Bates: My Lords, I shall speak to Amendment 74, moved by my noble friend Lord McColl, to the amendments tabled by him and other noble Lords and to the nine government amendments standing in my name in this group. I shall speak, first, to the government amendments and then respond to the amendments tabled by other noble Lords and address at that point some of the questions which have been raised. I am grateful to noble Lords for tabling these amendments relating to the identification and support of victims, particularly through the national referral mechanism. I shall move government amendments on this issue.

The quality of the identification and support of victims is an essential issue. As I have said before, the victim is at the heart of the Government’s approach to tackling modern slavery. It is right that we had a thorough debate in Committee on issues relating to victims and we are very grateful that so many noble Lords took part in the excellent discussions we had outside the Chamber ahead of Report. Given the importance of identifying and supporting victims I entirely understand the sentiment behind Amendment 78—tabled by the noble Lords, Lord McColl, Lord Anderson of Swansea, and Lord Morrow, and the noble Baroness, Lady Grey-Thompson—which would place support of victims on a statutory footing immediately.

At this point I pay tribute to the work of the noble Lord, Lord Morrow, in introducing this important, ground-breaking legislation in Northern Ireland. We have been following closely the excellent work by the Assembly—by the noble Lord and David Ford—in bringing this forward. It is an example of the way in which we can learn together. There is the potential for the role of the Independent Anti-slavery Commissioner—who I know has had constructive meetings in Northern Ireland—to be UK-wide. This would help ensure consistency of standards and support as we move forward. I want to place on record my thanks and our respect for what the noble Lord has done.

As I set out in the debate on a previous group of amendments I have some concerns about moving immediately to a statutory footing for the NRM. We have just had a review of the system which found that major changes are needed, and we have, in principle, accepted all its recommendations. Many have referred to the NRM and Jeremy Oppenheim’s excellent review, which has received widespread approval. However, he stopped short of recommending that there should be a statutory element to the NRM at that stage.

Some of the changes in the national referral mechanism reflect key concerns raised in Parliament through the pre-legislative scrutiny process and since, for example, changing the decision-making process so that final decisions are taken by multiagency panels rather than UK Visas and Immigration or the NCA alone. We are

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setting up pilots to test out the new arrangements. I do not believe that an immediate move to a statutory footing while the system is in flux would be appropriate. I am also concerned that we need to consider the conclusions of the review of the national referral mechanism, which raise concerns that a statutory footing could lead to a loss of flexibility.

However, the Government have listened carefully to the debates on the issue, particularly the imaginative and practical idea put forward by the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, and the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, in Committee; and under Amendment 48, which we have already debated, we have brought forward that change. Given the changes being made currently, an enabling power which allows for the Government to place the national referral mechanism on a statutory basis once we have a more settled and effective system is an excellent idea. That is why I am bringing forward today government Amendments 76 and 77, 81 to 87 and 107, which place an enabling power in the Bill to make regulations in relation to the support and assistance of victims of modern slavery. The amendments will allow for regulations to be made about accommodation, financial assistance, assistance in obtaining healthcare—a question that was raised by my noble friend Lady Hamwee—the provision of information, and translation and interpretation services where a person is a victim of modern slavery or there are reasonable grounds to believe that they are. These are exactly the types of support that were previously covered by Amendment 78.

Amendment 74, tabled by my noble friend Lord McColl, seeks to require the statutory guidance set out in Clause 49 to be developed in conjunction with the commissioner. We are determined to involve the commissioner fully in the development of the statutory guidance set out in Clause 49, and have also committed to a formal public consultation. One of the commissioner’s core functions is encouraging good practice in the identification of victims of modern slavery. Given that we already have a clear intention to involve the commissioner in the development of the guidance, I do not believe that the amendment is necessary, although I think that we are very much in the same area on the points made by my noble friend.

I turn now to some of the specific questions which have been raised. The noble Baroness, Lady Howe, talked about minimum standards. As part of our work to retender the adult victim care contract, we have included minimum standards of care which will ensure that the care provided through the contract is routinely inspected.

On average wait times, individuals who need support immediately will be accommodated under the adult victim care contract from the point they come to the attention of the first responder and are referred for support. There will be no gaps, 48-hour delays or anything like that; it comes into play as soon as they come to the attention of the first responder. Of course, a huge section of the NRM dealt with the effectiveness of the first responder system, and clearly some were much better than others. Most of the referrals to the system were coming via the Home Office, perhaps fewer than one might expect were coming from local authorities, a small number were from NGOs and an even smaller number were from the Gangmasters

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Licensing Authority. One of the key elements that we need to look at is the quality of the training that people are provided with, and this was recognised by Jeremy Oppenheim. We need to make sure that the first responders are more able to deal with these issues.

My noble friend Lord McColl said that we need the words “the right to support” in the Bill. The Government are under a duty to provide support services to victims under the Council of Europe convention and the EU directive on trafficking. Placing this phrase on the face of the Bill would not change this duty, as the NRM review set out. In fact, Jeremy Oppenheim said in the review that:

“Any process put on a statutory footing can become inflexible and unresponsive to changing demands and indeed improvements, due to the requirement to further legislate before making changes. Pinning the National Referral Mechanism down now would not be an effective methodology particularly when the National Referral Mechanism is going through a period of significant change”.

I simply repeat that to demonstrate that neither here nor throughout the Bill are we objecting out of hand to the proposals. We are trying to move forward on the basis of the evidence and the advice that we are getting from various expert groups, and that was a clear recommendation. The fact that we have tabled these amendments is a good indicator of that.

My noble friend Lord McColl also asked about support prior to the reasonable grounds decision. The NRM pilots will be implemented as soon as possible. They will include testing the amalgamation of the referral and reasonable grounds decision, which will allow victims to access support and accommodation immediately. Currently, support and accommodation can be provided to the individual prior to receiving a reasonable grounds decision, which I know was at the heart of the concern of the noble Baroness, Lady Grey-Thompson. Where there is a need, this is provided for on a case-by-case basis, recognising of course that the local authority has the first responsibility to provide immediate care, particularly in the case of vulnerable children.

I am happy to reflect on those outlines and explanations further, and indeed to look again at the comments made in this debate—as the noble Lord, Lord Rosser has invited me to do; I am happy to continue doing that, as I have done throughout. With that, I hope that my noble friend Lord McColl will consider withdrawing his amendment.

5.45 pm

Lord Mackay of Clashfern (Con): Before the noble Lord sits down, does he happen to know whether the Northern Irish legislation includes the person who has the obligation to provide the support? This amendment does not seem to have that. I wonder whether the Minister knows whether the Northern Ireland legislation says who must provide the support.

Lord Bates: I always slightly quake in my boots when my noble and learned friend asks me a question, because if I think I have actually understood the question, I am probably overreaching myself in terms of my understanding of it. I think that we are talking

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about the individual—the noble Lord, Lord Morrow can respond, should he wish, on the specifics of Northern Ireland—and making it clear that the support to be provided is through the care contract, which is currently provided through the national referral mechanism. In addition, there are particular statutory duties, of course, on the part of local authorities to provide social care for vulnerable individuals. I will, again, reflect on that and if there are any changes I will certainly write and clarify the remarks that I have made.

Lord McColl of Dulwich: My Lords, I thank noble Lords for their contribution, and I especially thank the Minister for his and for many of the explanations that he has given. I also thank him again for the many ways in which he has accommodated us. I beg leave to withdraw Amendment 74.

Amendment 74 withdrawn.

Amendment 75 not moved.

Amendments 76 and 77

Moved by Lord Bates

76: Clause 49, page 38, line 10, leave out “is reason” and insert “are reasonable grounds”

77: Clause 49, page 38, line 12, leave out “a person is to be treated as” and insert “there are reasonable grounds to believe that a person may be”

Amendments 76 and 77 agreed.

Amendments 78 to 80 not moved.

Amendment 81

Moved by Lord Bates

81: Clause 49, page 38, line 18, at end insert—

“( ) If the Secretary of State makes regulations under section (Regulations about identifying and supporting victims), the references in subsection (1) to “arrangements” include arrangements under the regulations.”

Amendment 81 agreed.

Amendment 82

Moved by Lord Bates

82: After Clause 49, insert the following new Clause—

“Regulations about identifying and supporting victims

(1) The Secretary of State may make regulations providing for assistance and support to be provided to persons—

(a) who there are reasonable grounds to believe may be victims of slavery or human trafficking;

(b) who are victims of slavery or human trafficking.

(2) The Secretary of State may make regulations providing for public authorities to determine (for the purposes of regulations under subsection (1) or other purposes specified in the regulations) whether—

(a) there are reasonable grounds to believe that a person may be a victim of slavery or human trafficking;

(b) a person is a victim of slavery or human trafficking.

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(3) Regulations under subsection (2) may in particular make provision about the public authorities who may make such determinations, and the criteria and procedure for doing so.”

Amendment 82 agreed.

Clause 50: Presumption about age

Amendments 83 to 86

Moved by Lord Bates

83: Clause 50, page 38, line 22, leave out “reason” and insert “reasonable grounds”

84: Clause 50, page 38, line 23, leave out “reason” and insert “reasonable grounds”

85: Clause 50, page 38, line 30, leave out “there is reason” and insert “are, or who there are reasonable grounds”

86: Clause 50, page 38, line 31, after “in” insert—

“(a) any regulations made under section (Regulations about identifying and supporting victims)(1);

(b) ”

Amendments 83 to 86 agreed.

Clause 51: Duty to notify Secretary of State about suspected victims of slavery or human trafficking

Amendment 87

Moved by Lord Bates

87: Clause 51, page 38, line 36, leave out “reason” and insert “reasonable grounds”

Amendment 87 agreed.

Amendment 88

Moved by Baroness Garden of Frognal

88: Clause 51, page 39, line 7, leave out from “(2)” to end of line 9 and insert—

“(a) may provide that a public authority which includes information in a notification in accordance with the regulations does not breach any obligation of confidence owed by the public authority in relation to that information;

(b) may not require or authorise the inclusion of information which contravenes any other restriction on the disclosure of information (however imposed).”

Baroness Garden of Frognal (LD): My Lords, I shall speak also to Amendments 89 and 108 in this group. The Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee’s excellent report on the Modern Slavery Bill recommended specifying on the face of the Bill an initial list of public authorities which will be subject to the duty to notify potential victims of modern slavery to the Home Office and ensuring that authorities could only be removed from the list through the affirmative procedure.

I welcome the Committee’s balanced and constructive consideration and agree that these measures would give Parliament the appropriate level of scrutiny of the new duty. We are therefore tabling amendments to reflect these recommendations. On commencement of

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this provision, the duty to notify will apply to the police, the National Crime Agency, the Gangmasters Licensing Authority and local authorities. These are the key public authorities that make referrals into the national referral mechanism and have a key role to play in tackling modern slavery. They are most likely to encounter victims and also have the expertise effectively to identify them.

However, we are determined to improve the identification of victims, including through the statutory guidance provided for in the Bill. We will work with other public authorities to improve their knowledge and, should it become clear that other public authorities should also be made subject to this duty, they can be added via regulations. In line with the recommendations of the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee, such additions will be made via the negative procedure. Amendment 108 ensures that any removal of an authority would be subject to the affirmative procedure.