On the 8th September 2017 the House of Lords debated the Modern Slavery (Victim Support) Bill [HL], a private member’s bill from Lord McColl. The Bishop of Derby, Rt Revd Alastair Redfern, spoke in support of the Bill:
I declare a number of interests. I was on the Select Committee that helped to craft the legislation, which was a good foundation—but all the evidence shows, and some of us realised this at the time, that it needs to be developed with further investment, as we learned from victims and the adjustments of the police and other statutory authorities. I declare an interest, too, as chairman of the advisory panel of the Independent Anti-slavery Commissioner, to whom the noble Lord, Lord McColl, referred and who is doing some amazing work, helping us to see where the foundations can be strengthened and developed.
The noble Lord, Lord Prescott, has pointed to the fact that this is a perfect storm in the number of vulnerable and desperate people who are attracted and often tricked into coming to our country and into slavery. We have to push back upstream, as the saying goes—and it is great to hear what is happening in Hull. Next Monday, the Independent Anti-slavery Commissioner will release a report after he was asked by the Government to visit Vietnam and look at the relationships with cultures from which people are exported into slavery and to provide contacts for people to return. He is also looking at how economies can be developed to encounter this storm of vulnerable people.
We have heard how the Independent Anti-slavery Commissioner has been working with the Work and Pensions Committee, making suggestions to the Government about the NRM. All this is evidence based and putting victims at the centre, which is what this Bill is about and why I think it is the next obvious step for us to take.
My third declaration is that I am involved with the Clewer initiative with the Church of England and other partners, which is being launched formally on 17 October but is already working to help voluntary groups and churches in particular to engage with victims and support the statutory agencies and other partners, including safeguarding partners in local authorities, to provide energy, wisdom and expertise to add resource to what needs to be done.
Second Reading is about matters of principle, and I want to highlight two or three principles that are important to consider and invite the Minister to reflect on them with us in looking at the proposals before us. The first is about numbers. The Minister in the other place has recognised that the numbers quoted are grossly inadequate. We are looking at a vast problem affecting almost every community; even in rural Derbyshire we discover evidence of people in slavery. So the resource implications will be huge, and we have to face that. How will we resource the needs of victims as we improve our ability to identify them, pushing back against crime and helping them to recover?
The key principle that I want your Lordships to think about is recovery. This is not just about rescuing people—it is recovery. I have had the sad privilege of meeting and working with a number of victims: women who have been raped 10 times a day, who asked for drugs to save them from the pain; people in domestic servitude, who sleep on the floor and are on call 24/7, trapped in a house; and 16 or 20 men in the city of Derby, living in a two-up, two-down house with one bathroom, a bus to work and a bus back, who have £5 a week to spend and whose passports have been confiscated. We meet people like that, from whom the very humanity has been knocked out. They are broken and their ability to think of themselves as human beings is very weak indeed.
The crime works and is such a successful business because they are good at recruiting people who are vulnerable anyway: those who are homeless or who have emotional or mental health problems. This is why resourcing is so important. People in that state do not just need a quick system—at the NRM we are realising that we need more time, resource and benefit cover—they also need loving, basically, and that is really hard to do. One thing the Clewer initiative is about is finding how people can voluntarily go the extra mile and step up. In my diocese, we provide support for the police with premises for interviews. Our Mothers’ Union puts together toiletries to give to people to make them feel that their body is worth caring for. We try to provide volunteers to sit with victims and to provide accommodation, with the Red Cross and others, when the system is creaking and people are falling between the cracks.
I invite the Minister to help us think about this. There are enormous resource implications and there has to be a judgment about how it is to be delivered. How are we going to balance asking the statutory authorities and the benefit system to do what they can in the right timeframe to give people a chance to rediscover their humanity? How are we—especially the Government in their guidance to statutory bodies—going to encourage partnership with things like the Clewer initiative and other voluntary and faith groups, which can provide such a precious extra dimension by saying to people, “You are a person”; “You can be loved”; “You can have a future”? They can go the extra mile when technical resources are often constrained. I hope the Minister will help us reflect on how the voluntary and faith sectors can partner with statutory provision to provide much better resources for recovery.
Baroness Bottomley of Nettlestone (Con):…The work of the Independent Anti-slavery Commissioner, Kevin Hyland, is really showing results in such a short space of time. The report, Victims of Modern Slavery, by my first boss, Frank Field, the chairman of the DWP Select Committee, is hugely influential. As he says:
“The Modern Slavery Act was a pioneering piece of legislation that proved the UK’s commitment to eradicate the horror of modern slavery. The Act established new protections for recognised victims but what it did not do was establish a pathway for their recovery”—
I agree with the right reverend Prelate’s emphasis on the word “recovery”.
“The journey from being a victim to becoming a survivor is unique for each individual and without the right support in place, it is a journey many individuals cannot make”.
The challenge now is for the Government to think as imaginatively as possible. Without doubt, my noble friend has given the Government an agenda for action and the criteria that need to be addressed. Whether this is done through primary legislation, secondary legislation or regulation, I am happy to debate, but the direction of travel has been forcefully identified…
…The latest estimates are that there are 21 million victims of slavery in the world, with 13,000 in the UK. The right reverend Prelate suggested that that was an underestimate.
“You may choose to look the other way but you can never say again that you did not know”.
We do know, and it is the job of legislators, public bodies, philanthropic bodies, the faith community and employers to work together to rid us of this appalling scourge.
Baroness Benjamin (LD)….We as a modern society need to truly understand what modern slavery entails, as was so eloquently set out by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Derby. So alongside our new, more robust criminal legislation, it is vital that we evaluate how we treat the victims of this most awful, degrading, wicked and cruel crime, which involves mental, physical, emotional and sexual abuse and which abuses human dignity, destroys confidence and self-esteem and ruins lives…
Lord Kennedy of Southwark (Lab)…The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Derby rightly drew the attention of the House to the evidence-based policy that underpins the Bill following the work of the anti-slavery commissioner, the Work and Pensions Select Committee and those who work in the charity sector on behalf of victims…
The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Williams of Trafford) (Con): My Lords, I join other noble Lords—I think every noble Lord—in thanking my noble friend Lord McColl for introducing the Bill and the opportunity to have what has been an excellent debate. I welcomed all the opportunities to listen to noble Lords’ contributions, in particular the poignant recollections of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Derby and my noble friend Lady Newlove’s eloquent description of the things victims have to go through and the assistance they need to begin the process of rebuilding their lives.
I also thank the Church for the work it is doing and the other organisations for the work they are doing, including the Co-op, which has been mentioned so many times.