Clause 2 - Human trafficking

Modern Slavery Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am 2:00 pm ar 4 Medi 2014.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Question (this day) again proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Photo of Mark Pritchard Mark Pritchard Ceidwadwyr, The Wrekin

I remind the Committee that with this we are discussing the following:

New clause 7—Child trafficking—

‘(1) It is an offence to traffick a child.

(2) An offence under this section is committed by any person who recruits, transports, transfers, harbours or receives that child, including the exchange or transfer of control over that child, for the purpose of exploitation.

(3) In determining whether an offence has been committed under this section—

(a) the question whether that child, or any person who has responsibility for that child, has consented to any conduct, and

(b) the question whether any coercive means have been used, are irrelevant.’

New clause 8—Trafficking—

‘(1) It is an offence to traffick a person.

(2) An offence under this section is committed by any person who recruits, transports, transfers, harbours or receives a second person for the purpose of exploitation, where the means used to do any of those acts include—

(a) the threat or use of force or of other forms of coercion,

(b) abuction,

(c) fraud or deception,

(d) abuse of power,

(e) abuse of a position of vulnerability, or

(f) the giving or receiving of any payment or benefit with a view to securing the consent of any other person having control over that second person.’

New clause 15—Human trafficking—

‘(1) Any person who—

(a) recruits, transports, transfers, harbours or receives a person including by exchange or transfer of control over that or those persons,

(b) by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or abuse of a position of vulnerability, or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, and

(c) knows or ought to know that the purpose of the acts in subsections 7(1)(a) and 7(1)(b) above is the exploitation of that person, commits an offence of human trafficking.

(2) The consent or apparent consent of a person to the acts referred to in subsection 2(1)(a) or to the exploitation shall be irrelevant where any of the means set forth in subsection 2(1)(b) have been used.’

New clause 16—Offence of child trafficking—

‘(1) Any person who—

(a) recruits, transports, transfers, harbours or receives a child including by exchange or transfer of control over the child, and

(b) knows or ought to know that the purpose of the acts in subsections 8(1)(a) is the exploitation of that child, commits an offence of human trafficking.

(2) The consent or apparent consent of the child to the acts referenced in subsection 2A(1)(a) or to the exploitation is irrelevant.’

Photo of Michael Connarty Michael Connarty Llafur, Linlithgow and East Falkirk

May I put it on record that the Chairman was here before the Committee for the afternoon sitting? The normal order of business has resumed. In my short contribution, I will back up my hon. Friends the Members for Slough and for Kingston upon Hull North by putting on record the process that brought us to say that we cannot accept clause 2 as it stands and will be forced to vote on it, because we cannot table new clauses until the end of the Committee’s proceedings.

I worry about what the Government are doing, and I worry more when I hear the debate put forward in support of their approach. Many of us in the draft Bill Joint Committee had been working on the issues of modern-day slavery, human trafficking and its other aspects and consequences in our communities, including the terrible abuse of young women, children and others. Some people do not know their rights and are abused by labour exploitation and so on.

Even within their own communities, people are moved very short distances, as we found when one of the vice-chairs of the all-party parliamentary group on human trafficking discovered that what he thought was a Roma caravan site turned out to be one Roma family and about 20 slaves—derelict people and people with dependencies who had been taken in by those people—who had been round some of the posher houses in the green suburbs of the counties re-tarring drives and monoblocking without getting paid. They were then brought back at night by the family of Travellers and made to clean the caravans of the individuals whom they worked for, without being paid. Often, they were fed the leftovers from the family’s dinners. The issue affects us in many ways.

We on the Joint Committee took evidence. We heard learned contributions from Lord Judge and from Peter Carter, QC, whom I quote a lot, about what was in the draft Bill and why we should draft different clauses and different criteria for crimes, so that people would understand better in the courts, not just among the public or for the consumption of people who follow politics. I will quote from his early contribution on 10 December 2013, as we started the process in the Joint Committee:

“The consolidated but simplified series of related offences are required because the current offences contained in section 15A of the Sexual Offences Act 2003 (section 15A replaces sections 57 to 59 with effect from 6 April 2013), section 4 of the Asylum and Immigration (Treatment of Claimants, etc.) Act 2004 and section 71  of the Coroners and Justice Act 2009 are over-technical. These technicalities create different ingredients of the three separate offences. They in turn create a hinterland of overlapping elements, but also of gaps which make it difficult for prosecutors to identify the appropriate offence”.

That was the evidence given at the beginning. What we have before us is all those offences rammed into a couple of clauses in the Bill without regard to the fact that the challenge to the Joint Committee and all those involved in combating human trafficking and modern slavery in all its forms is, as Lord Judge says, to say what they mean. That is what he said to us in his evidence. If they say to the judge and the judge says to the jury what they mean by specifying exactly the range of offences in the modern slavery world, it will help the judge, the prosecutor, the instruction of juries and convictions. In his first piece of evidence he said that that will thereby, in the second adjunct to this, help the victim. If we do not get that right we are where we were before. The victim is the sufferer and continues to be because we do not correctly define the crimes.

The Joint Committee took 102 pieces of written evidence and 12 weeks of oral evidence, most of it developed in some complexity. We came up with the idea of the original clauses, which have now been repeated in the amendments and new clauses put forward by my hon. Friends the Member for Slough and the Member for Kingston upon Hull North. We give those to the Committee and the Government as an alternative to clause 2, as we offered an alternative to clause 1 on Tuesday.

We challenge some important points. There is no specific crime in the Bill relating to children. Evidence on that showed that it was nonsense to say that it would be used for silly things. That was dismissed as a red herring in the evidence session of this Committee attended by Peter Carter QC and Nadine Finch:

“It is said by the DPP and others that the offence of child exploitation is unworkable because, I have heard them say, the issue of age assessment will be raised. I appeared last year for the Children’s Commissioner in the case of L and others and one of the issues we took up was the difficulty of addressing age assessments in a criminal court. Lord Judge, the highest judge in the criminal courts at that time, accepted that the criminal court already has case law that enables a judge to adjourn a hearing if there is an age dispute. The court can seek expert evidence on its own, but it can expect both prosecution and defence to bring evidence that will enable them to resolve an age dispute. That is set out in detail in the case, and there was no doubt in the mind of the Lord Chief Justice that it was workable. It has worked for decades in terms of age assessments, so that issue, in many ways, is a red herring.”––[Official Report, Modern Slavery Public Bill Committee, 21 July 2014; c. 35, Q68.]

We have pressed strongly in the amendments for an offence relating to children as well an offence in general relating to people who are trafficked. I cannot understand how the Government can resist. They are in a logjam. I get the feeling that they want this Bill, no matter how inadequate, out by the time of the 2015 general election, or sooner. Maybe somebody wants to wear it as a badge, but that badge will be greatly tarnished if it is what we have before us.

I have a lot of sympathy for the Minister, because I know she was not deeply involved in the all-party group or anything I have been involved in about human trafficking in the previous Parliament. She is working hard in this Parliament to get up to speed but she is defending the indefensible. She is defending a clumsy arrangement  put together by people with no vision. It upsets me that people seem to have said that all of the work done to define the crimes and offences is not of any value, including all of the work done by the Joint Committee.

As I have said, nobody from the evidence side argued strongly against what we are proposing in the amendments to clause 2. Nobody on the Joint Committee demurred from the plan to have a cascade of well-defined offences. The only people who seem not to be willing to take that on board are either the Minister instructing the Home Office officials or Home Office officials blinding the Minister and Parliament to the advantages of following the Joint Committee’s admonitions and directions.

We gave that evidence as a starting point. We did our work diligently with great support. We had to compromise at different times and we did. That will come up later in our discussions.

Chief Inspector Carswell gave evidence on 6 March about the fact that children often do not know they have been trafficked. They know that they have been offended against, that they have been abused and that something is wrong, but they do not see the trafficking impact, because they are convinced to come with their parents, with their parents’ friends or with people who seem to be offering them a new life, just to end up being exploited. They know about exploitation, but a specific case of trafficking can be taken up on the child’s behalf. A senior police officer gave us that evidence.

Peter Carter’s assessment should be looked at in some detail by everyone in the Committee before they think that what the Opposition are doing is wrong. We want not to create a hole in the Bill by voting against the stand part motion, but to create a space in the Bill to put in the correct offences. If we cannot do our best, let us not pretend that what we will do, if we follow the Government line, is good enough. It will let down victims and create an Act that will need to be amended and changed, as it would not work, as it did not work in the past.

Peter Carter is not as hard-line as I am. He says, because there is a more obvious, conglomerate range of offences in clauses 1 and 2, that the Bill will probably lead to more prosecutions, but he went on to say:

“If the recommendations of the Joint Committee had been adopted, I think there would have been even more” offences prosecuted. He added:

“I think the chances of success would have been far higher in the Joint Committee’s draft. I fear there is a greater risk of confusion…than in the cascade of offences.”––[Official Report, Modern Slavery Public Bill Committee, 21 July 2014; c. 34, Q68.]

If people read his explanations in his previous submissions and his evidence, I hope, in their heart of hearts and mind of minds, they will realise that, in voting down and not accepting the amendments, we have to create space by voting to remove clause 2, which would allow those amendments to be put in. The Government are giving a deep offence to the hard work we all did in the Joint Committee and to the victims, who will be failed by what they propose.

Photo of Fiona Bruce Fiona Bruce Ceidwadwyr, Congleton

May I ask the Minister to clarify one or two points for me when she comments? The hon. Member for Slough, in her reference to new clause 15, when asked where the current wording of clause 2 would be inadequate, gave benefit fraud as an  example. I took that to mean using an individual, their name or even a child’s name to obtain fraudulent benefits, without necessarily facilitating any travel, nor indeed involving any slavery, servitude or forced labour by the individual. I share the spirit in which so many of us look at these clauses—the desire to ensure there are no loopholes in offences of this type. Can the Minister confirm how the Bill would cover such offences, or alternatively where they would be covered elsewhere in criminal law? Would the penalties be commensurate in those other relevant Acts? I accept that benefits of any kind are mentioned in clause 3, but “exploitation” in that clause refers to exploitation in connection with the facilitation of travel, so we go back to travel again.

My second, shorter point relates to new clause 15. I would appreciate reassurance from the Minister that there is nothing new in new clause 15 that would not be covered in some way by the current draft. For example, new clause 15(1)(b) refers to the use of “threat”, “force” or other means of “coercion”. For example, I think of some the problems faced by some of the women travelling from other countries, such as Romania, or from the far east, which we have heard about. Their families are threatened by the traffickers there. There might not necessarily be any transportation of those women by those doing that threatening, but none the less it is very severe and grave pressure on those women to continue, for example, in prostitution.

I would be grateful if the Minister commented on those points. They are very much made in the spirit of seeking reassurance regarding the legislation, which we are all concerned to ensure is as good as can be.

Photo of Mark Durkan Mark Durkan Shadow SDLP Spokesperson (International Development), Shadow SDLP Spokesperson (Work and Pensions), Shadow SDLP Spokesperson (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs), Shadow SDLP Spokesperson (Home Affairs), Shadow SDLP Spokesperson (Justice), Shadow SDLP Spokesperson (Treasury)

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Pritchard. I do not need to rehearse the compelling arguments made by the hon. Member for Slough for improving the Bill significantly by replacing clause 2 with the new clauses she proposes. I take very strongly the point made by the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull North that the Opposition amendments have already addressed and answered the concerns registered by the Government in relation to the Joint Committee’s recommendations.

We are here with the benefit of the Joint Committee’s advice about the Bill’s deficiencies. We now have clear options, in the form of the new clauses, for making good those deficiencies. If the Government continue to use the same arguments against the Joint Committee’s proposals and the new clauses proposed by the hon. Member for Slough, I cannot see what their argument would be against the new clauses proposed by the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull North and others.

It is entirely inappropriate, in a Committee dealing with this subject matter, for Members to try to give false impressions about how removing the clause might be interpreted. That is a way of trying to politically intimidate Members from doing what we would have to, procedurally, in order to support the new clauses. The only available way of pursuing those new clauses is the procedural exercise of clause stand part; that is how seriously we feel about these issues.

When we consider the subject we are discussing—the degree of manipulation, control and exploitation used in these sorts of situation—it is a bit rich for us to be told that we have to fall into line and do not have to do what is procedurally necessary. We, as elected MPs, must be robust enough to make a stand consistent with what we know is needed. Relying on the various formulae of assurances that may come from the Minister might be enough for other Members, but it is not fair or good enough for me. As legislators, we have a duty to make legislation the best we can. That is why we sit in these Committees. We are not here to be easily assuaged by various procedural complexities or any apparent awkwardness in having to vote against the clause. That is the best way of showing we are serious about the new clauses, which are absolutely necessary for the substance of the Bill.

As has been so compellingly put by the hon. Member for Slough, trafficking clearly involves more than just travel. The whole chain of conditioning, coercion and manipulation at a psychological and emotional level all comes into the totality of the trafficking experience. Testing whether a trafficking offence has been committed or whether anyone has been part of the trafficking chain simply in relation to whether they were directly involved in or indirectly facilitated the travel is not good enough or robust enough.

I do not like having to vote against the clause. We all welcome the Bill as a significant advance for the purposes we all support. We should not, however, be put in this position by the tone of the debate, in relation to what would happen if we voted against the clause to show that we are serious about pursuing the new clauses. It is not only the Joint Committee that has been clear on the matter; many groups with expertise, insight, real care and impeccable motives are strong on this issue. It is very much part of the fundamentals of the Bill. Not all of us agree that the Bill should focus solely on criminality, prosecution and improving the criminal law. We have already said that it needs to be improved and built up in many other areas but, in relation to criminality, if we fail to correct the gap in the Bill, we cannot then try to pretend that the tyre is only flat at the bottom. A fundamental puncture will exist in relation to the Bill, the purposes that we all claim for it and the support that we all express for it.

Photo of Karen Bradley Karen Bradley The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department 2:15, 4 Medi 2014

It is a pleasure to see the hon. Gentleman back in his seat. I am grateful to the hon. Member for Slough for tabling new clauses 7 and 8 and to right hon. and hon. Members for tabling and speaking to new clauses 15 and 16. I am grateful to Members for all contributions to the debate. We had a very interesting and thorough debate, which, we would all agree, something of the severity of human trafficking warrants. We would be doing a disservice to that dreadful crime if we did not take time to scrutinise the clause and related clauses properly.

The new clauses relate to the human trafficking offence and we are debating them with the stand part debate on clause 2. The new clauses do two main things. They use different technical language to make human trafficking illegal but with the same purpose of outlawing conduct that we all agree is entirely unacceptable. Both sets of  new clauses replace the single human trafficking offence proposed in clause 2 with two new offences of human trafficking and child trafficking.

Before turning to the detail of the new clauses, I will start by explaining the thinking behind the human trafficking offence set out in clause 2. The link to some travel or movement is deliberate. Clause 1 targets those who hold a person in slavery, servitude, or forced or compulsory labour without any requirement for movement. The clause 2 offence targets a different type of wrongdoing—moving human beings with a view to exploiting them. That different type of wrongdoing has been the subject of international legal instruments such as the Palermo protocol and the EU convention and directive. The hon. Member for Slough said that she believes that the offence should not have travel in it. We disagree with that suggestion.

Photo of Fiona Mactaggart Fiona Mactaggart Llafur, Slough

I did not say it should not have travel in it; I said that it should have other things as well.

Photo of Karen Bradley Karen Bradley The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department

We consider that the requirement for travel is absolutely consistent with our international obligations. The treaties, conventions and protocols talk about trafficking. That trafficking involves travel is obvious. A dictionary definition of trafficking is:

“The passage of people…along routes of transportation.”

Anti-Slavery International’s website has a heading asking,

“What is trafficking in people?”,

under which it states:

“Trafficking involves transporting people away from the communities in which they live and forcing them to work against their will using violence, deception or coercion.”

Photo of Mark Durkan Mark Durkan Shadow SDLP Spokesperson (International Development), Shadow SDLP Spokesperson (Work and Pensions), Shadow SDLP Spokesperson (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs), Shadow SDLP Spokesperson (Home Affairs), Shadow SDLP Spokesperson (Justice), Shadow SDLP Spokesperson (Treasury)

The Minister must recognise, having just quoted Anti-Slavery International, that it is among the groups which are clear that the clause, relying purely on travel, is grossly inadequate. Anti-Slavery International is clear that trafficking involves far more than travel.

Photo of Karen Bradley Karen Bradley The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department

It is clear from the clause that there is a prerequisite that travel is involved at some point but it is stated in subsection (3) that:

“A person may in particular arrange or facilitate V’s travel by recruiting V, transporting or transferring V, harbouring or receiving V, or transferring or exchanging control over V”,

all of which are words that are used in the new clauses, the difference being that the word “travel” is included in the clause in the Bill. We believe that word is totally required because the offence is trafficking. Trafficking, by common sense and any definition, involves movement. It is therefore clear that travel is required and that is required in the international convention. All the instruments we have talked about are explicitly concerned with human trafficking. I will say again that, clearly, for trafficking to take place there has to be travel or movement. Our current law is wholly consistent with international obligations and so is the Bill.

Photo of Michael Connarty Michael Connarty Llafur, Linlithgow and East Falkirk

I referred to, but did not go into detail about, Chief Inspector Colin Carswell’s evidence on 6 March. In conclusion to his many contributions, he said:

“With the exploitation of a child we do not need to refer to the Palermo protocol. We should have it in our legislation that a child does not need to be forced or coerced to be trafficked.”

He was talking about trafficking and he quite clearly sees what has happened to those children as trafficking.

Photo of Karen Bradley Karen Bradley The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department

The hon. Gentleman wants me to jump ahead, but I promise him that I will get to that point. If I may go back to the point about travel, it is fully justified because we know that there is an international and national trade in human beings. We have international conventions on trafficking because, by its nature, it is a global phenomenon. That is why the world is looking at how we address the situation.

Photo of Karen Bradley Karen Bradley The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department

I will not, because we need to make some progress. We have spent quite a lot of time debating this. It is important that we get this—[ Interruption. ]

Photo of Karen Bradley Karen Bradley The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department

It is right that we have a separate offence targeting those involved in the movement of people who will be exploited, and that is what the offence will achieve. The offence set out in the Bill is carefully designed to meet fully the international standards for trafficking offences as set out in the Palermo protocol and the relevant EU directive. That will ensure consistency with international partners and help international co-ordination to stop the heinous crime of human trafficking.

The clause consolidates the offences of sexual and non-sexual trafficking, which are currently contained in two separate Acts: section 59A of the Sexual Offences Act 2003 and section 4 of the Asylum and Immigration (Treatment of Claimants, etc.) Act 2004. Before the Modern Slavery Bill there were real concerns that that separation was undermining the fight against this crime. The Centre for Social Justice report, “It Happens Here” explained:

“This separation of the different forms of exploitation is unhelpful, and creates unnecessary confusion for those whose job it is to implement the legislation. Police, prosecutors, judges and the jury can be misled to believe that any trafficking that is not for sexual exploitation is not a criminal issue because of its immigration statute. This further perpetuates the misunderstanding of trafficking as an immigration—and not a criminal—problem.

The CSJ calls for the consolidation of legislation into one Act: the Modern Slavery Act. This would have both practical and symbolic significance. It would enable law enforcement agencies to act with greater clarity”.

Photo of Andrew Stunell Andrew Stunell Democratiaid Rhyddfrydol, Hazel Grove

We heard earlier about the difficulties there seem to be in bringing prosecutions against those involved in the transport of miracle babies, not least because there was the tendency for that to be regarded solely as an immigration offence. Will the Minister spell out in what way the clause closes that gap and allows such people to be prosecuted effectively?

Photo of Karen Bradley Karen Bradley The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department

I feel like I am being pre-empted and second-guessed by everyone on both sides. I promise my right hon. Friend that I will cover that point later.

For the first time, the Bill will bring together our primary trafficking offences into one place, covering all forms of exploitation and ensuring clarity and consistency  in the way we criminalise the heinous conduct involved in the trade in people. The human trafficking offence requires that the defendant arranges or facilitates the travel of another person with a view to that person being exploited.

The pre-legislative scrutiny Committee raised a concern that the offence in the draft Bill might not be as broad as the international definition; for example, around receipt of harbouring of the victim. We have responded to concerns made during pre-legislative scrutiny and made it clear in the Bill that arranging or facilitating the travel of another person includes all of the means through which human trafficking may be committed, as set out in the Palermo protocol.

Again, common sense says that trafficking a person involves movement or travel. A person may arrange or facilitate travel by recruiting, transporting, transferring, harbouring, receiving or transferring or exchanging control over a person and those words reflect those used in the Palermo protocol. I hope the Committee welcomes that clarification.

The hon. Member for Slough suggested there may be a gap in the law and used the example of a minder at a brothel—I think that was in an exchange with my hon. Friend the Member for Congleton. I do not accept that there is a gap in the law. Subsection (3), which we have added since the draft Bill, make it clear that a person may arrange or facilitate a victim’s travel by recruiting, transporting or transferring the victim, harbouring or receiving them, or transferring or exchanging control over them. The person who receives a trafficking victim at the end of their journey at a brothel and stops them leaving, is facilitating their travel within the meaning of clause 2. Therefore, they commit an offence. They are also aiding and abetting the offence of the principal trafficker.

Photo of Diana R. Johnson Diana R. Johnson Shadow Minister (Home Affairs) 2:30, 4 Medi 2014

I am grateful to the Minister for going through this in detail, but is she saying that if there is a direct link at the end of the journey, but someone is then transferred into the control of a new person, there would be an offence committed at that stage? If another person comes along to take control, does that offence transfer down the line? I am trying to understand. Would the trafficking offence continue? Could it continue for many weeks, months or years?

Photo of Karen Bradley Karen Bradley The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department

The shadow Minister makes a good point. There is another element of travel at that second point. The person has to then be transported again to another person who is then abusing and exploiting them.

Photo of Diana R. Johnson Diana R. Johnson Shadow Minister (Home Affairs)

What I was trying to ask was, if the end of the journey was in a property where there was somebody in control, but at the end of the day they left and a new person arrived to take control, and that continued day in, day out, would a trafficking offence still apply to that chain of individuals who might come on the scene at a later date?

Photo of Karen Bradley Karen Bradley The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department

May I come back to that point in a few moments?

My hon. Friend the Member for Congleton raised particular points regarding benefit fraud and threats against a victim’s family. I will cover those points now because it will be useful to clarify them. On benefit fraud, there are no gaps in the criminal law to address the use of a person for benefit fraud. If a person is trafficked to, from or within the UK for the purposes of benefit fraud, that is caught by the trafficking offence in clause 2. Clause 3(5) covers securing benefits by force, threats or deception. Where the victim is a vulnerable person, such as a child, clause 3(6) covers such benefits where the victim is specially chosen for the purpose. Clause 1 may also be relevant, depending on the facts and circumstances, although it is clearly impossible to say in every case of benefit fraud because it depends on the facts of the case.

Photo of Fiona Bruce Fiona Bruce Ceidwadwyr, Congleton

Perhaps I did not explain myself well enough when I spoke earlier. I fully accept that clause 3 refers to benefits and potential benefit fraud, but my concern is that at the start of clause 3 it says:

“For the purpose of section 2 a person is exploited if one or more of the following subsections apply.”

Clause 2 says an offence is committed if a

“person arranges or facilitates travel.”

It refers back to clause 2, so does clause 3 stand alone or not?

Photo of Karen Bradley Karen Bradley The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department

I see my hon. Friend’s confusion. Clause 3 is the definition of exploitation with a regard to the trafficking offence in clause 2. That is the exploitation definition. Somebody is moved from point A to point B with a view to exploitation as defined by clause 3. Clause 1 is a separate clause, which is about slavery, servitude and forced or compulsory labour. Clause 3 is about exploitation that occurs after travel.

Photo of Fiona Bruce Fiona Bruce Ceidwadwyr, Congleton

I thank the Minister for her explanation. Obviously, it will be necessary for us to refer to that in our review of clause 3 and its wording.

Photo of Karen Bradley Karen Bradley The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department

Absolutely. If I can complete my remarks on benefit fraud, there are other ways in which the criminal justice system can target those who commit that offence. If a benefit fraud is not the result of trafficking, slavery or servitude, it is still a criminal offence in its own right. A person who uses another for that purpose will be covered by criminal law, as they are either aiding and abetting benefit fraud or assisting or encouraging such fraud under the Serious Crime Act 2007. They could also possibly be charged with conspiracy. Benefit fraud is a serious offence that carries a maximum of 10 years’ imprisonment.

Photo of Fiona Bruce Fiona Bruce Ceidwadwyr, Congleton

I apologise for intervening again and will desist from doing so on this group of new clauses after this, but will the Minister reassure the Committee that there is provision for compensation for the person deprived of the benefit under that other legislation in the same way as is made in the Bill?

Photo of Karen Bradley Karen Bradley The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department

That would depend on the legislation in question. There is the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002, and confiscation and compensation orders that apply to criminals. The reparation orders, which we will come on  to later, are specific to offences carried out under this Bill. The treatment would therefore not be identical because the reparation order is specific to victims of slavery and trafficking.

My hon. Friend also asked about threats to a victim’s family. A threat made to induce a person to provide services or benefits of any kind, even when that individual is in the trafficked person’s home nation, would be counted under clause 2. We are targeting situations in which a person travels—possibly they are forced to, possibly it is not against their will—from their home nation to the United Kingdom and is then exploited, and is prepared to endure the exploitation because they are told there are threats to their family in their home nation. The person who is threatening their family would be charged under clause 2 because of the trafficking offence. I confirm that.

The shadow Minister asked about transfer of control over a person who is already on a premises—I will complete my points on the matters raised before we go on further. Whether or not that will amount to trafficking by the next person in the chain will depend on the facts; it may amount to facilitating travel. On the basis of the details she gave, clause 1 would be likely to apply, as the person is being passed around as property between people, which would seem to involve slavery, servitude or forced or compulsory labour. But clearly we would have to look at the facts of the case to determine the appropriate offence for prosecution.

Photo of Diana R. Johnson Diana R. Johnson Shadow Minister (Home Affairs)

In the Minister’s view, would it not be a sensible approach to uncouple the trafficking from the exploitation? We could then go after the person who was coming on shift, as it were, directly at a later date if exploitation went on at the property to which the person had originally been trafficked. By coupling trafficking and exploitation together, she is missing out a whole group of people who we could go after.

Photo of Karen Bradley Karen Bradley The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department

That takes me back to my first point: we are looking here specifically at a trafficking offence. We have the offence in clause 1 to deal with slavery, servitude or forced or compulsory labour, and anyone can recognise those. This clause brings in an offence to deal with the trade in human beings. That is specifically what we are targeting.

Photo of David Burrowes David Burrowes Ceidwadwyr, Enfield, Southgate

In our sitting on Tuesday, the Minister said in her response to my amendments 36 and 39, in which I was seeking to expand the definition in clause 1 to cover exploitation:

“I am confident that the offences as drafted do cover begging and benefits exploitation.”––[Official Report, Modern Slavery Public Bill Committee, 2 September 2014; c. 107.]

She also said that she would write to me with an “explicit explanation”. The implication was that clause 1, as drafted, covered exploitation in relation to begging and benefits, and we do not have to rely on clause 2.

Photo of Karen Bradley Karen Bradley The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department

As I explained to my hon. Friend the Member for Congleton, it will depend on the facts of the case. It may be that clause 1 covers the offence, because the facts of the case make it clear that there is slavery, servitude, or forced or compulsory labour; it may be that clause 2 covers it, because the person has been moved with a view to committing benefit fraud; or it may be that in that particular case the offence is one of benefit fraud under the criminal law—the Serious Crime Act. Depending on the facts of a case, there are various ways in which such an offence could be prosecuted.

Photo of David Burrowes David Burrowes Ceidwadwyr, Enfield, Southgate

The Minister said she would write to me with an explicit explanation. Perhaps she could outline some situations, so that we are all clear about what is covered by clauses 1 and 2, because the assurance I received was the basis on which I withdrew my amendment.

Photo of Karen Bradley Karen Bradley The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department

I will, of course, write to my hon. Friend; I had committed to do so and I will fulfil that commitment.

The point has been made several times that evidence was given to the pre-legislative scrutiny Committee which the Government are ignoring. Several hon. Members referred in particular to the evidence given by the CPS to the effect that it was unclear about the offence. Of course, that was the offence as set out in the draft Bill, not the offence that we see before us today; it has changed. We listened carefully to the Committee and the CPS, and clarified the Bill to ensure that harbouring and receipt are covered under a new measure, subsection (3). Also, the Director of Public Prosecutions has told the Committee that she prefers the clarity about the offences as set out in this Bill, rather than the alternative suite of offences, and as she is the person responsible for achieving successful prosecutions I need to listen to her.

Both the shadow Minister and my hon. Friend the Member for Enfield, Southgate asked about extraterritorial jurisdiction. We talked about that issue when we debated clause 1. There are particular reasons why we have taken the unusual step of extending extraterritorial jurisdiction for the trafficking offence, because it reflects the nature of trafficking as a global phenomenon. Trafficking often involves travel between jurisdictions; it does not just happen within the UK. However, it would not be appropriate to apply the same extraterritoriality directly to slavery offences covered by clause 1 that are committed in other jurisdictions. It is simply not possible for the UK to police activity across the rest of the world, although I absolutely agree that we must do all we can to influence others to apply their laws diligently. It is more appropriate for offenders committing slavery in other jurisdictions to be dealt with by local law enforcement agencies and prosecutors who know and understand the specific laws that apply in those jurisdictions.

We continue to work with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Department for International Development to tackle modern slavery globally. That is why we need to have extraterritoriality in clause 2, but it is not needed in clause 1.

Photo of Diana R. Johnson Diana R. Johnson Shadow Minister (Home Affairs)

I listened carefully to that explanation. However, I have a problem. “Exploitation” is defined in clause 3, which makes direct reference to clause 1, which covers

“Slavery, servitude and forced or compulsory labour”.

Clause 2 has the extraterritoriality element, but clause 3, which deals with “exploitation”, refers back to clause 1, and clauses 2 and 3 are inextricably linked. How does that work, if there is a reference to clause 1 but clause 1 is not covered by the extraterritorial aspect?

Photo of Karen Bradley Karen Bradley The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department

The hon. Lady is right that clause 1 is referred to in clause 3, but there are more examples in clause 3; that would be my first comment. Clause 3 covers various types of exploitation; I wish to make that clear. Of course, clause 3(2)(b) refers to behaviour

“which would involve the commission of an offence under that section if it took place in England and Wales.”

That makes it clear the extraterritoriality does not apply to the

“Slavery, servitude and forced or compulsory labour” element of exploitation.

I turn to the new clauses. I must start by repeating that I carefully considered all the suggestions made in the pre-legislative scrutiny process about offences, including those tabled by the hon. Member for Slough. I share hon. Members’ concern that we must have offences that can be readily understood by law enforcement agencies and the judiciary, and that can result in effective prosecutions and convictions. I want to ensure that law enforcement agencies and prosecutors have the right tools to achieve those prosecutions and convictions. I am still listening carefully to members of the Committee and looking at the evidence the Committee receives. If there are suggestions of gaps in the Bill, I ask hon. Members to please bring them to my attention as I want to ensure those are looked at. Of course, if we find that there are genuine problems, I want to correct them.

Photo of Fiona Mactaggart Fiona Mactaggart Llafur, Slough 2:45, 4 Medi 2014

The Minister referred to some of the examples given by Members, but I referred earlier to a granny in Slough whose pension is used by her son-in-law. She has not travelled anywhere. He is not committing benefit fraud but merely using her pension for his expenses in the house he lets her live in. Will the Minister explain how the Bill helps that lady?

Photo of Karen Bradley Karen Bradley The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department

I do not know the specific facts of that case and it is therefore impossible for me to comment. Does the hon. Lady believe that the international conventions dealing with the heinous and hideous crime of trafficking human beings globally are intended to deal with a case such as that? I think they are intended to deal with the most despicable treatment of one human being by another. If there is despicable treatment, there will be offences under which an individual can be dealt with. However, I am not convinced that the hon. Lady’s new clauses would cover that offence because she has stated that there is no travel involved. I cannot get into the specifics of that case, because I do not know the full facts. However, if she wishes to present the full facts and if it is clearly a case of slavery or trafficking, we would be happy to see if there is a way for the Bill to cover it.

Photo of Diana R. Johnson Diana R. Johnson Shadow Minister (Home Affairs)

I also raised the issue of miracle babies and cases where there is travel into the country but the second part—the exploitation—does not necessarily show itself. Will the Minister say whether this will now cover miracle babies?

Photo of Karen Bradley Karen Bradley The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department

As I have said, I will get to the subject of miracle babies later.

Since the pre-legislative scrutiny process, I have made changes to the trafficking offence set out in the Bill and I believe that it is the clearest of all the alternatives. For example, it contains a very simple statement that consent to travel is “irrelevant”. The definition of exploitation in clause 3 also has some specific advantages. For example, by dealing with vulnerable people together in subsection (6), we ensure that a perpetrator who deliberately targets either a child or an adult with very limited mental capacity is equally covered by the offence, just as if they had targeted a child, even where they do not use threats, force or deception.

The hon. Member for Slough suggested that the offence was not wide enough and would not capture grooming. I want to be clear that we are already catching those who groom and prey on children for sexual exploitation. For example, a British sex trafficking gang which preyed on British children by grooming and exploiting them was convicted of sex trafficking in May 2012, including convictions for related offences of rape and conspiracy to engage in sexual activity with a child.

I now turn to the subject of miracle babies, as promised. We have carefully considered the issues raised by the pre-legislative scrutiny Committee in relation to illegal adoption and miracle babies and whether cases in those instances would fall under the definition. We already have an alternative offence which covers cases involving illegal adoption. Where an illegal adoption involves the move into exploitation of a child, an offence of human trafficking can be brought against the so-called parents if they are UK nationals or if the child is brought to the UK. Those facilitating the illegal adoption could be prosecuted for human trafficking in their home country or here in the UK if they are a UK national, where the mother has been forced, coerced or deceived into giving up her baby.

I think that gets to the crux of this problem, which is: where does the exploitation happen? Who is the exploited person? I am not convinced that the new clauses proposed actually cover that point either, because the child itself is not generally being exploited and therefore the person who travels is not exploited. If the child was being exploited, the trafficking offence would clearly apply. The person being exploited is usually the mother who remains in the home country. As that is such a complex area, and one in which successful prosecutions are being brought against perpetrators, although not necessarily for human trafficking, we are monitoring the situation to ensure that we have an appropriate response. If the shadow Minister will forgive me, it is difficult to work out how, within UK law, we can target the people who are genuinely guilty of that offence and ensure that those who are being exploited can be protected. We are continuing to look at how we can make the law cover miracle babies appropriately.

I have engaged with the Director of Public Prosecutions, the police, the National Crime Agency and other law enforcement bodies on clause 2 and the proposed new clauses. I take the professional view of the prosecutors seriously, as they will have to use the offences to prosecute very serious criminals. I am pleased that the Director of Public Prosecutions came before the Committee to explain her views about the alternative offences. She highlighted the importance of clarity, and she made it clear that she  much prefers the clarity offered by the offences set out in the Bill to the pre-legislative scrutiny Committee’s proposed suite of overlapping offences covering the same conduct. My starting point is that I would prefer to maintain the trafficking offence supported by the professionals who will have to make it work on the front line, unless there is compelling evidence of a problem with that offence.

I will now address the effectiveness of a child-specific trafficking offence. The Bill introduces a maximum sentence of life for human trafficking. Current sentencing guidelines already highlight offences against children as an aggravating factor for sentencing purposes. At the beginning of her contribution, the hon. Member for Slough said that she believes there to be a deficit because there is an international obligation to have a separate child offence. We do not believe there is any requirement either in EU directives or in other international obligations to have a separate child trafficking offence. Child offences can be useful and justified where they are needed to ensure that those who abuse children can receive the punishment that they deserve, but there is no practical benefit in establishing a child-specific offence when offenders already face the maximum penalty possible, which is life imprisonment. That is why there is no need for a separate child murder offence, and I have never heard any suggestion that the courts fail to consider the fact that a victim is a child as being particularly serious when sentencing for murder or other offences that cover children and adults. The case for a child-specific offence rests on whether such an offence is needed to enable prosecutors to gain convictions against evil criminals who target children for slavery.

Photo of Mark Durkan Mark Durkan Shadow SDLP Spokesperson (International Development), Shadow SDLP Spokesperson (Work and Pensions), Shadow SDLP Spokesperson (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs), Shadow SDLP Spokesperson (Home Affairs), Shadow SDLP Spokesperson (Justice), Shadow SDLP Spokesperson (Treasury)

I take the Minister’s point on other crimes and the decision of the courts, but are there not instances where prosecutors sometimes decide not to prosecute a widely cast offence precisely because they think that the victim, as a child, may not be robust enough as a witness? Creating a child-specific offence would reinforce some of the child cases, where there has sometimes been a failure to prosecute. The fact that someone is a child is used against them when a case is prosecuted in the courts. Parliament needs to be specific about that.

Photo of Karen Bradley Karen Bradley The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department

I agree that children need to have the best support and attention, but many of the victims I have met are adults with the mental capacity of a child. They deserve and need the same protection, which is why the other victim measures in the Bill are incredibly important. Additionally, we are trialling child advocates because we need to find the right way to protect and support children. I will shortly explain why there is a danger that, with a separate child offence, we might end up putting children through more pain and difficulty at trial.

The other difficulty—the hon. Gentleman’s intervention alluded to this—is with the evidence. That is the real nub of the problem. Getting evidence on such incredibly complex and difficult cases and ensuring that we can present that evidence in court and that victims are reliable witnesses is the biggest hurdle we face in getting successful prosecutions. That is why all the other work we are doing—ensuring that we have a commissioner  and proper victim support, and that we work with victims—is so incredibly important in getting the convictions we desperately want.

Photo of Michael Connarty Michael Connarty Llafur, Linlithgow and East Falkirk

What I cannot understand is the anecdotal throw-offs. I talked to people with learning difficulties for 14 years of my career as a teacher. That is not to say, now that they are adults, that the children they were did not deserve much more attention than they received. Lord Judge, Peter Carter and the chief inspector—people who chase criminals, instruct juries and prosecute cases—all made a strong case that children do not necessarily know that they are trafficked. They may know that they are abused. The police officer said that the problem was that a special, clear definition in law was needed of exploitation and trafficking of a child. Why should that be ignored?

I cannot understand it, and I must say that I am not convinced by the logic being applied. It is like a bulldozer: “Just read the script, and somehow we’ll get it through by the vote.” It is not a convincing argument if all those people say that it is an omission at the moment from the law of the land but the Government say, “We just don’t want it because of the complexity.” It would be a simplification.

Photo of Karen Bradley Karen Bradley The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department

I draw the hon. Gentleman’s attention to clause 3(6), which is specifically about securing services and so on for children and vulnerable persons. That clause refers specifically to children. When one has an offence such as murder, or in this case trafficking, which applies to everybody, specific provision must be made to ensure that children can give evidence, that they have support and that the consent issues and so on are all recognised, but having a separate offence does not necessarily assist the prosecution.

I must listen to the evidence from the Director of Public Prosecutions, who highlighted that she was against new child-specific offences, as it would create problems for prosecutors trying to prosecute the very serious abuse of children:

“I think this legislation is clear. If you separated out offences into adults and children, it would make it more complicated because we know from the number of cases we prosecute that defining and identifying someone’s age is often extremely difficult. We have certainly prosecuted cases where we thought the offenders or, indeed, the victims were children and they turned out to be adults, and vice versa. Also, if you have continuing offences where a number of offences are committed at certain times throughout the life of the offender, it would be quite difficult for us to identify and pin down the dates if there is a difference between a child and an adult. There is no reason why the legislation does not apply to both. The age would be an aggravating feature. There is absolutely no need for it to be separated out; that would make it more complicated and more difficult to prosecute some of these offences.”––[Official Report, Modern Slavery Public Bill Committee, 21 July 2014; c. 6, Q11.]

We all agree that we want successful prosecutions. The Director of Public Prosecutions is the person who brings prosecutions. I must listen to her evidence, because she is the person who will decide what prosecutions are brought.

We reflect that the prosecution needs to establish the age of a victim if the offence is child-specific. For many victims who have been taken from their families, are not from the UK and have no identification documents, that is often difficult. I know that none of us want to be  in a position where prosecutions fail because we cannot determine the age of the victim or the exact period when the exploitation occurred.

Photo of Diana R. Johnson Diana R. Johnson Shadow Minister (Home Affairs)

It is clear, and the Minister is very aware of the fact, that if these offences can attract life sentences if a child is found to be involved, the court will have to decide for sentencing purposes whether the person before them is an adult or a child. I do not understand why it would be a problem if the court decided before sentencing, in considering the substantive merits of the case, to determine the age of the child before it. If it can be done for sentencing, why can it not be done for prosecution?

Photo of Karen Bradley Karen Bradley The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department

The hon. Lady knows better than I do from courtrooms how juries can be influenced. My concern with a child offence is that the jury is told this person is not a child; the defence barrister uses that argument in the defence of their client. Doubt is then put in the mind of the jurors about all of the evidence being put in front of them. In his written evidence, Peter Carter, who has been quoted on several occasions, says that a typical argument is that having such an offence will give rise to disputes about the victim’s age. However, the topic of age assessment in the context of criminal trials was fully explored by the Court of Appeal in the case of L & Others, the case he was involved in. It found that the court already had case law that requires it to adjourn a case if there is not sufficient evidence before it to reach a decision on the question of the age of the defendant.

That is the point I am concerned about. The court has the right to adjourn the case. We are talking about the most vulnerable witness: the victims of slavery. We think that—

Photo of Michael Connarty Michael Connarty Llafur, Linlithgow and East Falkirk

I am pressing that that point is not valid: it did not abandon the case; it adjourned the case. Read the court case.

Photo of Karen Bradley Karen Bradley The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department

I will finish this point and then I will of course allow the hon. Gentleman to intervene. If we have cases where doubt has been put in the jury’s mind as to the age of the witness and therefore the reliability of that victim, and the court comes back after an adjournment and makes that victim go through giving more evidence to prove their age, or says it does not think it is a child case but a case of trafficking, I am concerned that we are putting undue burdens on witnesses and very vulnerable people. We do not need to do that, because the clause 2 offence covers people of all ages. The age would be the aggravating factor.

Photo of Michael Connarty Michael Connarty Llafur, Linlithgow and East Falkirk

The Minister at first gave the impression that the adjournment was permanent; it is not an abandonment. The current state of play is that it  is much more difficult to add aggravation on than have it as a specific offence. That was the whole argument for the cascade, so that the right offence can be chosen and argued for. It is not a case of adding it on as an aggravation, which never works. Look at the case law: there have been only 19 convictions because people get a much lesser charge because they cannot press the main charge, which is not specified in law. That is what we want to be specified.

Photo of Karen Bradley Karen Bradley The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department

We are talking about an offence that carries a life sentence, whether it is trafficking an adult or a child. That is the maximum penalty we can give under UK law. I expect that anyone found guilty under this offence—of the most hideous, heinous behaviour that any one human being can inflict on any other human being—would spend the rest of their days behind bars. The aggravating factor will be brought forward by the prosecution at sentencing, but we need to get that conviction in the first place. When we get that, we can then have the aggravating factors. I want the conviction to happen. We have put significant protection for children in the Bill, but I do not want to see prosecutions fail because there is doubt in the jurors’ minds about the age of the victim. I do not think any of us wish to cause additional distress to vulnerable children by adding to the length and complexity of their involvement in trials for no real gain. We do not want any evidence given about victims of a certain age to undermine confidence in the rest of a child victim’s story. That is what I am keen to avoid, and I know it is what the rest of the Committee wants to avoid. We want to get convictions; we want to see those hideous, awful people—the most evil people I can possibly imagine—behind bars sooner rather than later. I do not want to give victims unnecessary suffering while we get into technical debates about what age they may or may not be.

The trafficking offence in clause 2 is carefully designed to enable prosecutions of traffickers who target children even where the child appears to consent. The hon. Member for Slough talked about the person who gives food and drink to the trafficked child but has not arranged their travel. Every case is fact specific. However, in the case she outlined, it appears that the person providing the care of the trafficked child may be part of a chain of travel and is harbouring or receiving the child as part of that chain. If so, clause 2 would apply. The person would be guilty of aiding or abetting the clause 2 offence. Even if that was not the case, given the facts described, the person would be likely to be guilty of holding a child in slavery, servitude or subjecting them to commit forced or compulsory labour. We discussed the elements of those offences on Tuesday. It seems likely that the relevant elements would appear in that case on the facts described.

Clause 2(2) states: “It is irrelevant whether” any victim—adult or child—“consents to the travel.” The definition of exploitation is drafted specifically so that when a trafficker targets a vulnerable person to take advantage of, there is no requirement for any force, threat or deception. A child trafficker can be convicted under the offence even if the child appears to consent to the travel and the exploitation. I share the desire to take into account the needs of children and to target those who abuse them when we legislate. That is why I support the trafficking offence in clause 2. It will make it easier  than the alternatives for prosecutors to gain convictions against those who target children. It avoids putting child victims through unnecessary discomfort on the witness stand and fully reflects the specific vulnerabilities of children.

The hon. Member for Rotherham asked me to consider pausing. I do not think we have time to pause. We have examined the clause and we looked at it in the pre-legislative scrutiny Committee. We owe it to the victims. We have to get the legislation on the statute book in this short Session. If she will forgive me, I cannot pause; it is too important. Given that, I hope right hon. and hon. Members will feel able to withdraw their amendments, and I hope that when the Chair puts the question, the Committee will feel able to support the clause.

Question put, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

The Committee divided: Ayes 11, Noes 8.

Rhif adran 2 Decision Time — Clause 2 - Human trafficking

Ie: 11 MPs

Na: 8 MPs

Ie: A-Z fesul cyfenw

Na: A-Z fesul cyfenw

Question accordingly agreed to.

Clause 2 ordered to stand part of the Bill.