Meeting on 24 March 2014

Minutes of a Private Meeting between the NGOs Advisory Forum and Members of the Parliamentary Joint Select Committee on the Draft Modern Slavery Bill

 

 24th March 2014, Mermaid Theatre at mid-day

 

Members of the JSC: Lord McColl, Baroness Butler-Sloss, Fiona MagTaggart MP, Caroline Spelman MP, Sir John Randall MP

 

Opening remarks from the Chairman (Anthony Steen)

The Chairman invited Members of the Committee to up-date on progress of the Select Committee’s work. He stressed the importance of the new Bill being victim centred. He invited Members of the Select Committee to give their views as to the current situation, with the two Joint-Chairmen of the All Party Parliamentary Group, Fiona Mactaggart MP and Baroness Butler-Sloss.

 

Fiona Mactaggart MP

The Committee worked as a cross-party alliance for purpose of Bill. There is pressure to keep the Bill short to fit in with short Parliamentary session and movement through Lords. Committee’s Report (launched April 8th 2014) should focus on what is needed for good legislation, and something which can provide foundation for later legislation.

 

FM stressed the importance of getting the definition of the offences right. Rapporteur needs appropriate independence and power. Home Secretary has said that this is just the start - there will be more legislation. Lobby groups - don’t ask for too much - if you campaign for a perfect Bill, you may end up with no Bill. BUT, do need to campaign for perfect definition of offences.

Baroness Butler-Sloss

Home Office Minister, Karen Bradley MP (gave evidence to Committee on 12th March) – stated that language of the offences in the Bill needs simplification and clarification; an umbrella offence for exploitation.

 

Baroness Butler-Sloss highlighted problem with word ‘trafficking’ - seen in court as movement. She also stressed that legislation must be victim and children friendly. Victim centred Bill - care and services - Minister’s response that provision comes under NRM, which will be reviewed shortly.  

 

There are still concerns about the conflict between immigration and trafficking. Why are so many cases in UKVI not being dealt with and linked with UKHTC? Linked to this, there is a lack of legal aid for victims about to be deported (Yarls Wood).

 

Re making child trafficking a separate offence – there is a proposal to have both a general offence and a child offence – though there is evidence to support both arguments both for and against this proposal. The government has proposed legal advocates, as in Scotland.  But there is a concern about the divulgence of information from police and local authorities to advocates. Therefore, would need statutory backing in order to get all information from police.

 

Commissioner - needs to be independent. Baroness Butler-Sloss believes that whoever becomes Commissioner likely to prove independent in reality whether or not in legislation.

 

Freezing and seizure of assets remains poorly executed. If introduced, the seized assets should be used for compensation for victims and incentives for police to be more proactive. GLA - Paul Broadbent has said need more money - spread area further afield, to include domestic services - cleaning, laundry etc. Supply chains - see Californian law.

 

Caroline Spelman MP

Re supply chains – need to find an effective measure that can be used in Bill. Evidence taken from companies was positive. Companies would welcome a measure that creates a level playing field. But needs teeth - not just a tick box.

 

Chairman

Concerted effort to make lobbying united so as not to kill the Bill in the Lords. Anthony Steen offered advice to all present re steer on areas of amendment for Bill after the Queen’s Speech.

 

Professor Gary Craig (DurhamUniversity, Forced Labour Monitoring Group)

Concern - over/under emphasis on forced labour. Guidance needs to be clearer (especially on forced labour, e.g. Northampton). Private Members Bill in Northern Ireland, and Jenny Marra’s Bill in Scotland - needs to be better communication between devolved authorities and Westminster.

GLA limited remit - should be extended and needs more resources (which have been cut in recent years).

 

Internal audits should not allow companies to cover up slavery in supply chains, must extend over both UK and international operations.

 

Sir John Randall MP

Queen’s Speech - bids from Departments being fought over at present - issue of Coalition government. But, there is genuine attempt to have something solid on the Modern Slavery Bill.

 

Lynda Dearlove, Women at the Well

Concern over absence of mention of prostitution. Ireland - decriminalisation of prostitution and criminalisation of those buying sex, which would drive up prostitution in UK, so UK has to react to external measures and influences. We should also keep in mind that the UK has certain international obligations to EU/UN etc. and national activity needs to be coordinated – the UK does not act within a vacuum. Network of rapporteurs of high importance.

 

Caroline Spelman MP

Hard to get public to understand extent and scale of slavery. The UK is a nation on a journey re its approach to prostitution. Given Nordic states’ laws on prostitution, and Ireland starting to go same way - creates problems for UK. But, to look to Bill for vehicle for change in law on prostitution will complicate draft Bill. Prostitution and its legality are not issues to be raised in this Bill.

 

Dorothy Theis, Red Light Campaign

How to get victims back into work - apprenticeship schemes etc. After or within 45 day period - what is the protection of RLC with these schemes with regards to companies engaging with; will there be anything in Bill? Issue over work permits.

 

Jennifer Baker, City Hearts

After 45 days, often refer to Snowdrop project. For men – recently opened drop-in centre and integration support programmes post-45 days which is linked up with recruitment and training agency, and has already seen signs of success.

 

Lara Bundock, Snowdrop Project

Take female referrals after leaving shelter from City Hearts and Ashiana (6 months to 2 years - 18 women at the moment). Group of professionally trained volunteers assist survivors with housing issues, benefits, jobs, training etc.

 

Major Anne Read, The Salvation Army

There are a number of after-care projects, including City Hearts, Snowdrop, Medaille. When victims leave TSA shelters data on where they go is collected, however it is difficult to keep contact in the long run. It would be good to see something built in to legislation to make it systematic and help ensure monitoring of victims post-45 days.

 

Caroline Spelman MP

Committee did pose tough questions on post-45 days; the issue has been considered. However, (London) Boroughs under particular pressure for housing. Need coordination across departments and between local and central government.

 

Andy Elvin, Children and Families Across Borders

RE children - Holding pattern of immigration system. Decision on victim’s future on hold until turn 18 years old. 6 month best interest determination for child (whether they remain in UK or go back to country of origin).

 

Rahul Bansal, HERA

HERA, in conjunction with ImperialCollege, provide annual entrepreneurial educational courses for victims, followed up by a mentorships scheme. Work on referral basis with women for 1-2 years - higher education and training/jobs. The ‘System’ itself pulls women down, i.e. lack of childcare, access to computers etc . HERA offered to refer victims for training course in 2014.  

 

Jakki Moxham, Housing for Women

Provide move-on accommodation in London for female victims who have exited a safe house. Delays in determining immigration status - women get stuck in shelters etc (without visa). NASS accommodation is appalling and is not fit for victims’ needs.  

 

Philip Ishola, Counter Human Trafficking Bureau

Agreed that getting the issues of definitions right is crucial, as well as implementation of existing definitions. Lack of cross-border partnership between NGOs remains an issue. Don’t need to replicate models, these processes already exist - just need officials able to maintain partnerships.

 

Caroline Spelman MP

The role of the Commissioner will be to make sure implementation works. Dutch/Finnish rapporteurs - trust and partnership between Commissioner and NGOs - delivers best ‘service’ for victims. UK struggles with this, but we need to deliver it. The Bill has to be in line with the EU Directive.

 

Izza Leghtas,  Human Rights Watch

Human Rights Watch due to publish report on abuse of domestic workers in UK. Concern over UK Visas - which tie domestic workers to a single employer.

 Sir John Randall MP

Problem of domestic worker visas recognised. Has been discussed with Ministers. Work in progress.

 

Heather Knight, Stop the Traffik

Can legislation do anything to put mandatory training for frontline officials?

 

Caroline Spelman MP

There needs to be a model for training on this issue in order to make prosecution more effective. Look at magistrates training model (domestic abuse). Government wants to work with NGOs to help educate public as well.

 

Phil Knight, Just Enough UK

Work in schools. If contact schools with backing of MPs, Ministers, government - makes reception of school administration smoother.

 

Antony Botting, Croydon Council representative

Raising awareness with frontline practitioners, both adult and children services. There is a need for statutory guidelines for frontline practitioners and funding.

 

Peter Cox, Croydon Community against Trafficking

Need somebody in each local area to take responsibility. Perhaps in Bill - need mandatory awareness in schools. Police need training very important.

 

Caryne Chapman Clark, Odanadi UK and Marginal Voices

In our experience, theatre performance is both a successful means of rehabilitation and also awareness raising. Training for victims to become mentors for other victims (if want to); theatre and education (involving those who have actually experienced).

 

Sam Baxendale, Medaille Trust

Education for younger generations is important; issue should be included in citizenship classes at schools and Women’s Institute etc.

Medaille trust has opened a new home in Manchester, providing move-on accommodation.

 

Pauline Monk, Soroptimists (Purple Teardrop Campaign)

Sexual exploitation of women and children - awareness raising through national network. Low-key mention of sexual exploitation in draft Bill - currently police prosecute traffickers for sexual exploitation through prostitution laws. Statistics on human trafficking therefore exclude these figures. Will Bill include and encapsulate issue of sexual exploitation?

 

Fiona Mactaggart MP

[Quoted a section from existing draft Bill] – definition not clear. Hope to encourage recasting of way in which sexual exploitation described.  Definition of exploitation in Bill - most important.

 

Claire Falconer, Focus on Labour Exploitation

Will the Bill include an element of compensation for forced labour victims (wages owed in hindsight). Currently there are significant barriers to access compensation. GLA - repayments orders have not got anywhere (government does not want to impose penalties on SMEs).

 

Concern over introducing statutory duty to report victims to the NRM, which may lead to violation of victims’ informed consent.  

 

Chairman

Thanked everyone for attending, members of the Select Committee and its Clerks.

 

Meeting ended at 2pm.