Bishop of Derby speaks during the third reading of the Modern Slavery Bill

DerbyThe Bishop of Derby, the Rt Revd Alastair Redfern spoke during two amendments during the third reading of the Modern Slavery Bill. The Bishop co-sponsored an amendment to give the Secretary of State the power to appoint a body to maintain a website which would enable businesses to be accountable to their investors, their consumers and their shareholders. This amendment did not pass. Bishop Alastair also supported the government amendment to improve the Gang Masters Licensing Authority. This amendment was agreed by the House. The Bill will now go to the House of Commons for consideration.

Amendments 3

The Lord Bishop of Derby: My Lords, I support these amendments and thank the noble Lord, Lord Alton, for his leadership. I associate myself with the remarks of the noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy, about websites and technology.

I have had the privilege of being in conversation with the Minister about the importance of this legislation and what we are trying to achieve for our country as a mark to the world: that is, helping business to develop and change its culture, and to take responsibility for good practice. Of course, the discipline of using a website will enable businesses to be accountable to their investors, their consumers and their shareholders in a transparent and open space. That will encourage good business practice and help the businesses that have fallen short to be challenged. Therefore, this very sensible and practical suggestion will not only help the Bill to achieve its objectives but will help the culture of business to change in a positive way and make the employment of people in slavery less likely.

I want to make a couple of other small points. Amendment 3 includes the word “may”. Therefore, it is inviting the Minister to agree to this direction of travel as a priority to deliver what we all want to achieve through the Bill. This has been a long journey and we have learnt a great deal on it. As other noble Lords have said, we have been extremely grateful for the way in which the Minister has listened, negotiated and developed the Bill appropriately when persuasion has been there. I think that that process will go on. The website will provide for learning to go on and, with practice, to develop.

My final point is that last week, in talking about the Gangmasters Licensing Authority, we were reminded that organisations like that were able to access proceeds of crime to help fund the work. If we need to find a way of funding a website, which could be quite labour-intensive in answering all the niggly questions to which people expect a reply, the proceeds of crime might be a proper place from which resourcing might be found.

Division on Amendment 3

Contents 205 | Not-Contents 232 | Amendment 3 disagreed

 

Amendment 4 – Government amendment

The Lord Bishop of Derby: My Lords, I thank the Minister. This is another excellent example of listening, learning and working together and taking seriously what was said at Report. On Monday, I was privileged to be at the GLA national conference, which was in Derby, where the Minister, Karen Bradley, who I see is present, was the keynote speaker. I was privileged to speak, along with the new independent commissioner designate. The GLA is alive and well and thinking creatively, but it will be very important for it to use its expertise in a targeted way and negotiate how that expertise is employed alongside other inspectorates. I welcome this proposal.

At the event on Monday, there was the launch of an academy by Derby University in partnership with the GLA to help businesses to learn good practice at a professional benchmarked standard to enable them to comply with the spirit and direction of the Bill and for there to be proper professional training of those employed in businesses to administer supply chains and employment.

The GLA is fulfilling all the expectations that it raised with the Select Committee and Members of this House. It is very important that we undertake this work. I am grateful that the amendment contains the word “must” because it is important to do this scoping out and I thank the Minister for tabling it.

Lord Bates: My Lords, I am grateful to the right reverend Prelate for welcoming this amendment. I again thank him for his work in this area. In answer to the point made by the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, the consultation will look across all aspects of the GLA’s work and will consider how it can make an effective contribution to tackling worker exploitation through asking questions about how we can improve the way that it gathers and shares intelligence with other agencies and the way that it interacts with other agencies. The consultation will also examine possible changes to its enforcement activity and powers as well as to its licensing functions. Given that that is the intent, I certainly think that the scenarios outlined by the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, would not arise. We are talking about the mistreatment and exploitation of workers. The GLA performs excellently in its present role and we are seeking to ascertain whether, given this new piece of legislation, it can play a part in supporting the work of tackling exploitation. I hope that I have reassured the noble Earl.

Amendment 4 agreed.

 

Motion put to the House Moved by Lord Bates

That the Bill do now pass.

Lord Bates: My Lords, the new advice from the Procedure Committee is that it is at this stage, in moving that the Bill do now pass, that we make some traditional remarks marking the end of this stage. I want to take that opportunity. To start naming particular individuals is perhaps invidious, since so many have engaged in this process.

This has been a genuine cross-party effort. All sides of the House, including the Cross Benches, have played an incredibly important role. That also includes the Bishops’ Benches—they have played a very important role in shaping this legislation.

In all the legislation I have ever been involved in, this has perhaps been one of the most significant. Procedurally it has been one of the best for Parliament. I am delighted to see the Minister for Modern Slavery at the Bar of the House. It is appropriate that she is there. When the Bill was published it went through pre-legislative scrutiny. It was then republished. It was taken through a substantive series of Committee stages in the other place, where amendments were made. It then came to your Lordships’ House where it has been engaged with again. The amendment that I just passed, Amendment 8, was the 100th government amendment that we have made to the Bill in the House of Lords. That is a tribute not only to the deep passion that we all share on this issue, but to the thoroughness with which we have engaged.

From my point of view, I thank in particular my noble friend Lady Garden for her support through this process. I thank members of the Bill team, who have done such a tremendous job. We have put them through an incredible pace. The number of letters, bilateral meetings, interested Peers’ meetings and telephone calls that we have had has put a tremendous strain on them. I am very conscious of that, but they have performed their role perfectly in support of our discussions in your Lordships’ House.

I take great pride in this Bill. It was more than 200 years ago, as the noble Lord, Lord Alton, often refers to, that legislation abolishing slavery was passed by this House. It was this country that took a lead in the world to produce legislation to bring about that effect. What we have done in our work is of a similar magnitude and similarly groundbreaking. It needs to send a message to the victims that we are here and will provide them with support, and to those who are perpetrating this evil crime that there are powers, capabilities and institutions that are now on their case in tackling their inhumanity to other human beings. With that, I beg to move.

Lord Rosser: I thank the Minister for his very kind comments. I, too, add my appreciation for the work that both he and the noble Baroness, Lady Garden, have done. I express my thanks to the members of the Bill team. Whether with 100 government amendments they ended up in a state of despair, I do not know, but if they did they never showed it and we are extremely grateful.

I also express appreciation from these Benches to all noble Lords who have taken part in our discussions, whether from a political party, the Cross Benches or the Bishops’ Bench. We have had numerous meetings which have all been extremely helpful. They have certainly all been extremely good-natured and conducted on all sides with a view to trying to resolve any differences of view and to come up with solutions that have been acceptable to us all. I also thank those organisations and individuals who have provided advice and briefings. I am sure we have found them all very useful and helpful. Whether or not we have always taken the road that the advice suggested is another matter, but we appreciated receiving it.

This Bill has been interesting because at heart it has not been a party-political issue. We have all been trying to achieve the same objective. We may have had slightly different views as to how that objective should be achieved, but nevertheless this Bill has avoided some of the rancour that can go with highly party-political issues. As the Minister has said, at the end of the day we have achieved real progress on behalf of the victims of modern slavery and I am sure this Bill and its terms will be much appreciated by all those concerned for what it will achieve.

The Minister said there had been 100 government amendments. They were obviously put down in part as a result of the patience, good nature and willingness to listen of the noble Lord, Lord Bates, and the noble Baroness, Lady Garden, which has been widely commented on in this House and widely appreciated. Of course, in so doing, the Minister has denied us the excitement and thrill of a number of votes, but in view of the outcome of the last one, perhaps that is just as well.

Baroness Hamwee: My Lords, from the Liberal Democrat Benches I also thank all those who have already been mentioned. It is only so as not to be tedious that I will not go through the list again but my thanks are sincere.

This has been such a good example of how Parliament can work well across parties, with people of no parties and with organisations outside this House, as the noble Lord said. I have been particularly struck, which I am sure is in no small part thanks to the efforts of both Minsters present, that even at this last stage, with the last of the substantive amendments on the Gangmasters Licensing Authority, the Minister came forward with an amendment which he did not need to make. I do not think there would have been complaints. We would have taken the good faith of what he had said about the work that the Government were going to be doing on this. I know that he will agree that this is the end of the beginning rather than anything further, including at a personal level. I do not know whether the Bill team has counted up for him the number of commitments to extra meetings that he has made following the passing of what will soon be an Act but I know that we will all want to continue to be involved in making sure that the Bill, as implemented, fulfils its promises.

The Lord Bishop of Derby: My Lords, I want to very briefly say from these Benches what a privilege it has been to participate. My colleague, the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury, had to get special permission for me to sit on the Select Committee. It has been a wonderful opportunity for the church to contribute and, through me, for the voluntary sector to be involved both with the crafting of the legislation and with working further afield on grass-roots responses and the wider cultural and learning changes that need to happen in our society. I also want to say a final “thank you” to the Minister whose leadership of this whole process has been exemplary, as other colleagues have said.

Bill passed and returned to the Commons with amendments.