Clause 3 - Meaning of exploitation

Modern Slavery Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am 3:00 pm ar 4 Medi 2014.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of David Burrowes David Burrowes Ceidwadwyr, Enfield, Southgate 3:00, 4 Medi 2014

I beg to move amendment 31, in clause 3, page 3, line 19, leave out from “(5)” to the end of line 20 and insert “where”.

The amendment removes the burden on the prosecution to demonstrate that an offender chose the victim because of his or her particular vulnerability.

Photo of Mark Pritchard Mark Pritchard Ceidwadwyr, The Wrekin

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

Government amendments 1 and 2.

Amendment 32, in clause 3, page 3, line 21, leave out “young” and insert “a child”

The amendment removes the burden on the prosecution to demonstrate that an offender chose the victim because of his or her particular vulnerability and clarifies that this section applies to children under the age of 18.

Government amendment 3.

Amendment 33, in clause 3, page 3, line 23, leave out “a person” and insert “an adult”

The amendment is consequential on inserting a specific reference to a child in this subsection.

Government amendment 4.

Amendment 35, in clause 3, page 3, line 24, at end insert—

‘(7) In this section—

“child” means any person below 18 years of age;

“services” or “benefits of any kind” can include forced begging or criminal activities.”

The amendment clarifies the definition of a child and some of the types of behaviour which can be included under the clause.

Photo of David Burrowes David Burrowes Ceidwadwyr, Enfield, Southgate

There may be a spirit of consensus and commonality coming out of the last Division around many matters. Indeed, many of the amendments that I have tabled mirror the Government amendments. I am pleased to be on the same page.

We all share the concern to increase the successful prosecutions of perpetrators of those crimes involving child victims and, as referenced by the Minister, vulnerable adults. The amendments would work within the framework of the Bill to achieve that purpose or at least to probe and test the Minister about whether, indeed, there are unintended obstacles being put in the way of successful prosecutions.

Amendment 31 would ensure that we make it as simple as possible to secure convictions in cases in which children or vulnerable adults have been trafficked and exploited. The wording of clause 3(6) could be construed—this is the concern at the root of amendment 31—as having the effect of creating an additional burden of proof, because it requires that the offender has chosen the victim for exploitation “on the grounds” of the victim’s particular vulnerability. The amendment seeks to test the Government on whether that is indeed an additional burden of proof.

We have mentioned the international definitions of best practice that many of us seek to establish in the Bill, but, at the very least, at the heart of them is an understanding that trafficking a child for exploitation should be an offence whether or not force, threats, deception or other forms of coercion have been used. Nothing in that best practice provision requires proof that the child was chosen specifically for exploitation because they were a child. The amendment would therefore provide a better reflection on that principle in international law.

The requirement for proof that a vulnerable victim was chosen on the grounds of being a child or having a disability presents an obstacle to successful prosecutions. If the Bill is not amended, it could require proof that there is an act of trafficking under clause 2(1); proof that the defendant did that act “with a view” to the victim being exploited; and—this is the point of the amendment—proof that the defendant deliberately selected the victim to be exploited because they were a child. There is concern that that could conflict with international law as well as with the case law developed in this country.

In addition, there is the practical issue that proving a person’s motivation for an action could be difficult. The Joint Committee’s sterling work has been referred to already. It heard evidence about the difficulties in proving a defendant’s reasons for selecting their victim. Evidence was given on that by Riel Karmby-Jones and the Helen Bamber Foundation. The foundation said that the

“cognitive selection process may be difficult to prove, and it is often the case that a network will employ different people in the recruitment, harbouring and transfer of victims. Therefore a  person who trafficks another person may well have no interest in their specific vulnerability and may be following the orders or advice of others. The time-span of recruitment can vary from days to a matter of years and is also difficult in some cases to pinpoint.”

I have also heard of a case in which a mother was exploited through forced labour and the children’s identity documents were taken and used for benefit fraud. We need clarity that the trafficker will be prosecuted for the offence against the children as well as that against the mother. If a burden of proof is needed to show that the trafficker chose those children, that could lead to complications in terms of successful prosecutions. The amendment asks whether that is a problem and seeks reassurance that it is not. It also seeks reassurance that we can properly prosecute those offenders who target children and vulnerable adults.

On amendments 32 and 33, and Government amendments 1 to 3, which replicate my amendment 34, which was not selected because it had the same aim, I welcome and fully support the Government amendments —we are very much on the same page. Along with the international principles, it is important that we recognise that a child is inherently vulnerable. We all recognise that they lack power, status, physical strength and material resources, and that they often have limited knowledge and emotional maturity. They are therefore a specific category. We need to recognise that and provide special provision for them.

That refers back to the arguments I made about having a specific child offence. We need to make special provision for children clear in the framework of the Bill. It is important to have more than those terms used currently in the Bill, namely “young” and “youth”. That point was picked up by the Joint Committee and it is good that the Government listened. We need to ensure that we reference and define “child”. I am pleased with the direction in which we are moving and pleased to support the Government’s amendments.

Amendment 35 also follows on from the recommendations of the Joint Committee. It would make explicitly clear that, in talking about a child, we are talking about a person under the age of 18. In many ways, that is pretty obvious, but it is important to make the point in the definition. The hon. Member for Rotherham is here; in the cases of sexual exploitation there, and in Oxford and Rochdale, we have seen that often, children going all the way up to teenagers receive inadequate levels of protection. I ask the Minister to consider the amendment in that light. There is a real practical and positive effect in defining a child as what we know a child is: someone under the age of 18.

Secondly, amendment 35 seeks to probe where the Government are coming from on the definition of exploitation, but from a different angle, to cover what we keep talking about—it is what I was seeking with my amendments to clause 1 and what we have sought in discussing definitions in clause 2. What do we mean by exploitation? What is the modern understanding? The EU directive defines it as, “at a minimum”—we are talking about a minimum—

“the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour or services, including begging, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude, or the exploitation of criminal activities, or the removal of organs.”

The definition of exploitation in clause 3 refers specifically to sexual exploitation, slavery, servitude, forced labour and the removal of organs—they are all covered. What is not included is specific mention of forced begging or other criminal activities. The Government have put a specific definition in the Bill that covers the EU directive and the common understanding of the minimum that constitutes exploitation; why have they not included specific mention of forced begging or other criminal activities? Excluding them raises the question of why they are not included, which leads us to hold the Government to account more closely on the question of whether those things are covered in the Bill.

It is important to realise that those activities are very much a modern form of slavery. We need to make sure we cover all other exploitation of criminal activities. One example is a victim being lured to the UK on the false promise of a job, which happens all too regularly—we get to see only a small sliver of this and do not know the extent to which it happens around the country. That person’s passport is taken from them and, lo and behold, that was what they were wanted for: their passport is why they were trafficked. That passport may then be used fraudulently to open a credit card account or claim welfare benefits, so the criminality continues. There are also cases in which victims are trafficked for sham marriages. The list goes on, but is that list covered properly in the Bill? Amendment 35 seeks to close what could be a gap.

I look forward to hearing some assurances from the Minister on those matters.

Photo of Sarah Teather Sarah Teather Democratiaid Rhyddfrydol, Brent Central 3:15, 4 Medi 2014

I want to make a few remarks about the amendments tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Enfield, Southgate. I will also say a couple of things about clause 3 in general. I was going to wait for the next group of amendments to make those more general remarks, but they pick up on some of the points my hon. Friend has just made, so if it is okay to do so, Mr Pritchard, although clause stand part will be considered in the next group, I will make them now.

I have huge sympathy with my hon. Friend’s points—and therefore with amendment 31—about the burdens the clause appears to place on prosecutors by asking them to second-guess motivation. I will be interested to hear what the Minister has to say.

There are also some wider issues about what is and is not included in the definition of exploitation, which we have been covering since Tuesday. I have a suggestion to make, which I hope is helpful. As drafted, the definition in clause 3 is an exhaustive list. I wonder whether the Minister has considered not making it an exhaustive list, or else adding a provision—perhaps by bringing forward an amendment on Report—that allows the Secretary of State to amend the definition by order, if people on the ground find that the definition does not include certain things as patterns of behaviour change.

This issue was covered by a number of hon. Members on Tuesday. My hon. Friend the Member for Enfield, Southgate has said that patterns of exploitation are changing all the time, and prosecutors are having to  keep up as they change. A number of hon. Members have referred to things that have been missed out. During the evidence session Nadine Finch referred to baby farming, and there are all sorts of things that people are concerned have been missed out. I dare say that with this type of legislation, when prosecutors begin to work it on the ground, people will find ways around it. I am concerned that the definitions are very tight and, if we find they are not quite adequate, are not amendable except by introducing further primary legislation. I recall from my experience as a Minister that one has to fight very hard to get primary legislation. It would be remiss of us to leave ourselves no freedom of movement if we find that the Bill does not quite cover all the things the Minister hopes it will. I hope she will regard that as a helpful suggestion that, rather than fettering her discretion, would reassure those of us who are concerned that some of the answers she has given do not really address the issue of missing elements of the definition.

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

The Opposition welcome the amendments and we are pleased they have been tabled. A number of them pick up on the issues identified in the Joint Committee and in the evidence given to this Committee. I was rather taken aback to discover that the references to children had not been drafted as they should have been: clearly, so that we all understand that when we are referring to children, we mean all those under the age of 18. It is unfortunate that we have references to “youth” and “young people” in the Bill. That is not helpful because, as has been said on a number of occasions, we want to be as clear and straightforward as possible so that we all understand what the Bill is trying to do. We will return to the need for clear definitions when we move on to part 5 later on in our deliberations.

Amendment 31 makes it clear that the prosecution does not need to establish that a victim was chosen because of some particular vulnerability. Most of the cases we have been discussing have involved vulnerable people—children, those with learning disabilities, women working in the sex industry—but it is wrong to think that slavery or forced labour is restricted to those groups. Indeed, when we debate the next group of amendments, I want to discuss some cases of slavery where the victims did not have a particular vulnerability. Therefore, amendment 31 is sensible.

On amendment 35, I support making the Bill clearer. We should be clear that a child is anyone under the age of 18. It is also important that we make it clear that forced begging is exploitation. I am sure all members of the Committee remember that during the evidence session, the Director of Public Prosecutions struggled a little on the question whether forced begging counted as exploitation. Given that forced begging is one of the most common elements of child exploitation, it is highly problematic and concerning that the DPP does not know whether the Bill applies to that or not. She seemed to be saying that other offences could be used, but that misses the whole purpose of the Bill, which is to bring together and consolidate in one place clear offences that can be pursued by prosecutors.

Amendment 35 highlights the fundamental problem with the drafting of clause 3. The Government’s aim is to make a comprehensive list of instances of exploitation, and the evidence from the DPP shows that the approach  is flawed, as highlighted by amendment 35. We cannot make a comprehensive list. It would be an improvement to add forced begging to the Bill, but what about other instances that the amendment does not cover, such as people who traffic children into the UK so that the adults who control them can then claim benefits? That would not be covered by the Bill or by amendment 35. As I see it, the child would not be committing a criminal act, but the purpose of bringing them into the country would be to obtain benefits. Will the Minister respond to that point?

Photo of Fiona Bruce Fiona Bruce Ceidwadwyr, Congleton

I will speak in particular to amendments 31 and 35. I welcome the amendments in this group for the clarity they bring in prosecuting offences committed against children.

On amendment 31, I know we all agree on the importance of ensuring that we do not create additional and unnecessary hurdles that must be overcome to reach successful prosecutions. While I have no doubt that a trafficker may often select a child or, indeed, a vulnerable child for exploitation precisely to take advantage of those vulnerabilities, I am concerned that demonstrating those intentions to the satisfaction of the criminal court may not always be possible. If a child is trafficked in order to beg on the streets, how can we prove that a trafficker chose that child for exploitation just because they were a child? Must some evidence be shown that the trafficker believed that particular child could earn more than another child or an adult? Amendment 31 would provide a clear way to remove that potential loophole, and I urge the Minister to support it.

To support my argument, I will now cite the case of “PS”. PS was a woman who came to London from Nigeria with a three-month-old baby. On arrival, she told immigration officers that she was the child’s mother and then immediately went to the local authority to apply for housing on behalf of herself and her baby. Council officials were suspicious because they had seen her a few months earlier and she was not pregnant at the time. She then changed her story and said that she had adopted the child. Council staff were still not satisfied by her account and, suspecting her of seeking to use the child to obtain council accommodation, they contacted the local authority and action was taken. It appeared to those involved in investigating the case that her clear motive for bringing the child to the UK had been to gain increased access to benefits and housing for herself. However, it would have been extremely difficult to prove that it was that particular baby. I know one can argue that every child is different but, having had children myself, I also know that one three-month-old baby is not that different from another. The Minister made the point that it may be the mother of a miracle baby being exploited, rather than the baby itself, and I was quite concerned to hear that.

The Borders, Citizenship and Immigration Act 2009 was amended, precisely because of the case of PS, to include the exploitation of a passive individual—for example, a child who is too young to give evidence or to gain benefit for themselves but is being used as a tool. I am concerned at the thought that a three-month-old baby could be deemed to be exploited under one set of legislation but not under another. I hope the Minister will reflect on that.

I now turn to amendment 35. The Joint Committee heard evidence about the new ways traffickers are finding to put people into slavery.

Photo of Andrew Stunell Andrew Stunell Democratiaid Rhyddfrydol, Hazel Grove

As the hon. Lady is moving on, may I take her back to what she said about amendment 31 and the selection—if it be that—of a vulnerable person? Could it not easily be the case that a job lot, including adults and children, might be taken by an exploiter or trafficker, with no element of selecting a young person?

Photo of Fiona Bruce Fiona Bruce Ceidwadwyr, Congleton

Indeed. The right hon. Gentleman is absolutely right. One of the problems with such cases is getting evidence to prove intention. In the case to which I referred, the selection was done in Nigeria and it proved impossible to get evidence that was admissible in court about why that particular child had been chosen.

Turning back to amendment 35, exploitation through forced begging, fraudulent charity collections, chugging, benefit fraud, credit card applications and so on is ever increasing. We must ensure that those types of criminal exploitation are clearly included in the understanding of services or obtaining benefits. Amendment 35 provides a way of doing that without restricting the definition by simply and clearly stating that those types of activities should fall within the clause. It would include, for example, the endeavours by PS in the case I cited to obtain housing through the use of that three-month-old child.

I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Enfield, Southgate for highlighting this issue. However, I am struggling to understand why the reference to exploitation in clause 3 does not cover clauses 1 and 2. If subsection (1) read, “For the purposes of sections 1 and 2 a person is exploited”, would that not assist us in our consideration today?

Photo of Michael Connarty Michael Connarty Llafur, Linlithgow and East Falkirk 3:30, 4 Medi 2014

Some of the definitions have already caused trouble. When I spent time with the Serious Organised Crime Agency, I was told that the crimes committed under the “human trafficking” label were changing in response to the reactions of prosecuting authorities across Europe. There is, for example, the pattern of charity bag collections.

The amazing house that I live beside, which is used for nefarious purposes—the last being a cannabis factory—was previously used by a company with big white vans that took people from various parts of the expanded A8 EU to steal every charity bag for the British Heart Foundation, for example, that they could find outside houses. The vans would suddenly have stuck to their sides a sign similar to, but not exactly the same as, that of the British Heart Foundation, and they would go round and scoop up all the bags belonging to that charity. They were caught at times, and there were some serious dust-ups with the people who worked for the charity and its shops in the Falkirk area.

When people were putting out bags for the breast cancer campaign, the signs would look like those of the breast cancer campaign. If one looked up those people’s  website, one would find that the money was going to a charity in their own country—Lithuania or another country in the region—but, in fact, the charity was owned by the same people who hired the white vans and sent the young men across. Those people have now worked out that they can contract with the charities, and they promise to give the charities a certain amount of money, so the crime has changed, and they now have a contract.

The young men who take that job do not fit into any of the categories here. They are told, “What you do is pick up every charity bag that is lying in anybody’s doorstep, regardless of whose it is—not just those of the charities we are contracted to.” I understand that that is theft. If somebody puts something in a charity bag sent out by the British Heart Foundation, it belongs to the British Heart Foundation. None of the definitions say that those young men fit into these categories. One would not say that they are vulnerable, but clearly they believe what they are told.

I had to tell a group of young Hungarians that they could pick up only bags that were labelled in a particular way and given out by their company, because they thought they had the right to do otherwise. They were there to pick up charity bags; that was their job. They said to me, “We have come to do the charity bags”, and they did not know they could pick up only their own because they had not been told that. They are well meaning. They come here to try to find employment because there is none in their own country. I do not find that any of the definitions fit those people. The question is, where is the vulnerability? Where is the culpability? It is difficult, because the situation will keep changing. People who want to exploit people in that way will find different ways of phrasing it and different ways of attracting them.

The second point that I have a problem with is that by inserting “child”, taking out “youth” and all the rest of it, we make assumptions about the people who come to this country who may not necessarily have been trafficked but may have been exploited. Their attitude, even at their age, would be completely different from that of a young person in this country. We have said that that would be okay because they would be a child, and the hon. Member for Enfield, Southgate said that the upper age limit would be set at 18.

We then get into the argument we have just had with the Minister. The Minister said that we do not want to have a specific crime of trafficking or exploiting children because we would get into great debates in court about whether they were children and what age they were. Yet here we are arguing to insert those points into clause 3. If those arguments were correct when used against our having a specific crime of trafficking or exploiting a child, why are all the things that the Opposition argued for, which the Minister rejected, now being inserted into the Bill in these amendments? I do not see how the Minister can argue for them now when she argued against them in a different context earlier, because it is the same problem.

People who want to defend the exploiter will say that it is not a child that they are dealing with but an adult. An adult is someone who

“without the illness, disability, youth or family relationship would be likely to refuse to be used for that purpose.”

In reality, people coming from many other jurisdictions are not likely to refuse to be used for that purpose. They think it would be perfectly normal to do the things that we would consider exploitation. The only argument would be if they were children—the argument that we would not expect any child to do that. If I were a defence lawyer, I would argue that someone coming from an environment such as Vietnam or some of the poorer parts of the EU would think it perfectly normal to do the things that we would consider exploitation if a British person were involved.

We have heard quite a bit of evidence about the fact that children do not know they are trafficked, although they know there is something wrong. Chief Inspector Carswell said that that is the great problem with children: they do not know they are being sinned against in terms of the behaviour that they are being asked to carry out. This is a difficult set of amendments. I do not see how the Minister can defend them if she does not want to have a separate clause that gives children protection by having a specific crime against them.

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

I want to speak amendments 1, 2, 3 and 4. Ensuring that children are safeguarded and protected from those who seek to exploit and abuse them is paramount. This group of amendments relates to a particular form of exploitation for the purposes of the human trafficking offence, where a trafficker targets a vulnerable person. If a trafficker targets someone with one of the listed vulnerabilities set out in subsection (5), because of that vulnerability, and where someone without the vulnerability would have been likely to refuse the trafficker’s instructions, there is no need to show that the vulnerable person has been subject to force, threats or deception to demonstrate exploitation. This means that whether a vulnerable person appears to consent to their exploitation is irrelevant to whether the trafficker acts with a view to the form of exploitation in subsection (6).

I have had a number of representations from parliamentarians and non-governmental organisations with expertise in relation to child victims of trafficking asking me to look again at the definitions in this provision to ensure the position is clear in respect of children. This was also an issue raised by the pre-legislative scrutiny Committee. I have also listened with great interest to my hon. Friend the Member for Enfield, Southgate, who tabled amendments 32 to 34 which seek to clarify the wording of this provision by replacing the words “youth” and “young” with the clearer term “child”. I agree that we need to ensure that this offence is clear and effective in relation to child victims, and these amendments aim to clarify the Bill and meet those concerns.

The amendments I have tabled clarify that one of those vulnerable groups is children by replacing current references in the clause to “young people” with references specifically to “children”. A child is a person under the age of 18. Unlike the term “young”, there is no possible ambiguity over the legal definition of a child. Amendments 1 and 2 make this clarification to subsection (6)(a) and amendments 3 and 4 make this same clarification to subsection (6)(b). These amendments make it clear beyond doubt that choosing a child for exploitation is within the form of exploitation covered by subsection (6). I hope my hon. Friend and the Committee will welcome the amendments.

I am also grateful to my hon. Friend for tabling and speaking to amendment 35, which states that the Bill should specifically define the word “child” as someone under 18 years of age. My hon. Friend clearly shares my aim of providing the courts with certainty. However, the amendment is not necessary. Section 1(2) of the Family Law Reform Act 1969 sets a general principle for statutory interpretation that the terms,

“‘full age’, ‘infant’, ‘infancy’, ‘minor’, ‘minority’ and similar expressions”,

mean a person under the age of 18. This would include the term “child”, which is therefore already legally understood to be someone aged under 18.

Photo of Sarah Champion Sarah Champion Llafur, Rotherham

I am listening with interest to what the Minister is saying, but there is a difference of interpretation in some legislation. Children in care will be seen as a child until the age of 18, but children living at home will be seen as a child until the age of 16. It would be useful to have that clarification that a child is someone under the age of 18.

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

It is my understanding that, where an age different from 18 applies, that is clearly set out in the legislation. It is assumed to be 18 unless it is set out otherwise. That means that certain offences under the Sexual Offences Act, which apply differently to children aged 13 and under, to children aged under 16, and to children aged under 18, would be specifically defined as applying to those separate ages. If the legislation says “child”, that would mean under 18 as a matter of course.

Amendment 35 also makes a second point, which is that the term “services” should include forced begging or criminal activities. I agree that we must ensure that exploitation through forced begging, or gaining benefit by making others undertake other criminal activities, should be covered by our definition of exploitation. We all know that forced begging is a problem and it is clearly the kind of serious behaviour that we are all determined to stamp out. However, I would like to reassure the Committee that the Bill is clear that forced begging is already covered by our definition. Subsection (5) defines exploitation as subjecting someone to “force, threats or deception” to induce them to provide “services” or “benefits of any kind”. It is therefore already very broad. Our view of forced begging would involve another providing a service, which is the actual begging, and it would be likely to involve inducing another to provide a benefit—the proceeds of that begging. It would therefore clearly be covered by our definition in subsection (5).

Photo of Fiona Bruce Fiona Bruce Ceidwadwyr, Congleton

Is the Minister saying that this does not necessarily have to be linked with any transportation of that individual?

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

In this clause we are looking at the trafficking offence. Any of the amendments that have been proposed would apply only in the trafficking offence. Trafficking has to happen for clause 2 to apply, and clause 3 is of course an explanatory clause for clause 2.

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

I rise to seek clarification. Would the clause cover the case I mentioned of someone coming from another country—an EU country or not—and  stealing all the charity bags they could get their hands on, on behalf of a company, thinking it was correct? Would they be considered to have been trafficked for exploitation, or would they be criminalised by being arrested and told they were stealing other people’s charity bags?

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

It would depend on the specific facts, but, on the facts as the hon. Gentleman has presented them, if those people are brought to the UK and are then made to steal bags, albeit that they do not believe they are stealing bags—

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

They do not know they are doing it.

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

But that does not matter. If they are being forced into a criminal behaviour after having been trafficked, clearly that would fall under clause 2. The criminal offences that would be used would depend on the facts of the case.

Photo of Andrew Stunell Andrew Stunell Democratiaid Rhyddfrydol, Hazel Grove

I appreciate that the Minister is being very helpful indeed. I wanted to have her absolute assurance that begging is a service. That is what she is offering to us: that the beggar would be providing a service of some kind and therefore would be caught. I wondered whether she could explore that for us a little bit more. Before she concludes, perhaps she could pick up the question raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Congleton about whether clause 3 could not be made applicable to clause 1 as well as clause 2—in other words to the exploitation matter as well as to the trafficking matter.

Photo of Karen Bradley Karen Bradley The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department 3:45, 4 Medi 2014

I am beginning to think that my right hon. Friend has seen my notes, because he pre-empts exactly what I was about to say. First, I will cover his second point about making clause 3 apply to clause 1. I think that is a point for a separate debate; it is part of the debate that we had about clause 1. We have already said that we will consider the points made by the Committee, including that one. Let us not dwell on that now, as we have debated clause 1; let us deal with clauses 2 and 3.

I recognise the importance of ensuring that it is absolutely clear that begging is covered in clause 3(5), which is why begging is mentioned explicitly in our explanatory notes for clause 3(5).

Photo of Fiona Bruce Fiona Bruce Ceidwadwyr, Congleton

I sincerely apologise for troubling the Minister again, but I wish to elaborate on the question put by the hon. Member for—

Photo of Fiona Bruce Fiona Bruce Ceidwadwyr, Congleton

Yes; I am sure it is a lovely constituency.

A young man travels from Romania in the hope of finding here what he considers will be a better life. He travels voluntarily—he is perfectly free and entitled to do so—but he does not find that better life and ends up hanging around on the streets. He bumps into some  young men who are picking up these charity bags that have been mentioned and who have been trafficked. Will he fall within this legislation or not, because he himself has not been moved involuntarily?

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

On the face of it—given the facts that my hon. Friend has put forward—that individual has not been trafficked. They have moved; nobody has facilitated their travel or forced them to travel. They have made that decision voluntarily, with no support or help from other people to travel. Therefore, by definition they would not fall within trafficking under this Bill. There may be other criminal and non-criminal points that would be relevant to that case, but that individual would fall outside the scope of this Bill because someone has not made them travel with a view to exploitation; they have just travelled, and after travelling they ended up falling on hard times.

Photo of Fiona Bruce Fiona Bruce Ceidwadwyr, Congleton

Even though that individual falls under the control of gang leaders?

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

I cannot get into specifics because we do not know what that situation would be, but perhaps clause 1 would apply at that stage. However, that person has not been trafficked. Alternatively, it may be that the gang trafficked that individual within the UK and then forced them into criminal behaviour, but it would depend on the facts of each individual case as to whether clause 1 would apply. On the face of it, the case of someone who voluntarily travels with no coercion or force applied and falls on hard times before turning to criminal activity for whatever reason is not what the trafficking offence is designed to deal with.

In addition, subsection (5) can cover a wide range of other criminal activity: essentially, anything that could be defined as a service or that involves the trafficker or another person gaining a benefit. While I share my hon. Friend’s aims, I am convinced that the current drafting is more than sufficient to achieve her objectives.

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

I just wanted to check with the Minister whether the example I gave of a child who is trafficked into this country so that benefits can be applied for is covered by the measure that she just referred to.

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

I was going to address that point later, but I will come to it now. As we debated earlier, using a victim for benefit fraud is clearly capable of falling within the definition set out in clause 3. If somebody moves a child or adult with the purpose of carrying out benefit fraud, that would fall within the clause 2 offence of trafficking. Subsections (5) and (6) of clause 3 specifically cover a person who acquires benefits of any kind for any person. I hope that answers the hon. Lady’s question.

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

I am sorry to press the point, but the child is trafficked into the country for the sole purpose of claiming benefits. The benefit claim can be made, which is not fraud, but the reason that the claim can be made is because the person has been trafficked in. That is my point.

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

I apologise if that was not clear. Dependent on the facts, obviously, but in a case of someone moving a child into the UK and doing so  explicitly to get benefits for that child, that would fall under clause 2. I hope that that is clear to the hon. Lady. If it is a legal benefit that can be claimed, that will fall under clause 2, because that would be “Securing services etc”. It is securing services, basically—the fact that services are being provided. The point is that the child has been moved in order to secure those services, the services being the access to benefits.

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

I am sorry to press the Minister. Subsection (5) states:

“The person is subjected to force, threats or deception designed to induce him or her—” and then lists some actions. We are talking about a child. I know that there are issues around the idea of threats and inducements not applying to children, so that is not relevant. To be clear, will the Minister explain that again?

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

Subsection (6) would be relevant in the case of a child. There is no need for force to be a factor. It is clear that acquiring benefits is acquiring a service, and the service that is acquired from the child does not need any coercion or force, albeit the child is legally entitled to the benefit. However, the fact that the child has been moved in order to acquire that benefit is covered under the clause.

I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Enfield, Southgate for moving amendment 31, which is about how we have defined exploitation in respect of vulnerable people under subsection (6). I am concerned that we ensure that the trafficking of vulnerable people can be effectively prosecuted and punished. The amendment has been a useful challenge and I welcome the chance to explain the Government’s approach to such an important area of the Bill.

The Bill defines exploitation by reference to a number of specific types of exploitation, such as sexual exploitation. Broader provisions in subsections (5) and (6) cover a range of other forms of exploitation to ensure that, as new forms of exploitation emerge, the trafficking offence will remain effective.

My hon. Friend the Member for Brent Central asked whether the list in the clause was exhaustive or non-exhaustive. We consider the clause to be extremely broad. Subsections (5) and (6) are general and not specific in nature. They allow developments in exploitation to be covered by the clause as traffickers use victims for their benefit in new ways. For that reason, although we share the desire to future-proof the Bill, we do not think that an order-making power is needed.

Subsection (5) covers the situation in which a trafficker uses threats, force or deception to induce the victim to provide a service or benefit of any kind. Subsection (6) covers the situation in which the trafficker targets a vulnerable person because they know that the vulnerable person may agree when someone without that vulnerability would not. For the purposes of subsection (6), there is no requirement for threats, force or deception.

My hon. Friend the Member for Enfield, Southgate proposes removing the requirement that the vulnerable person is chosen because of their vulnerability. His amendment would mean that exploitation took place if the victim was vulnerable, as a person who was not vulnerable in that way would be likely to refuse the  request. It is right in principle that the criminal law should target traffickers who deliberately target vulnerable people for exploitation because of their vulnerability. I am particularly disgusted by that type of behaviour and subsection (6) targets that.

I also share my hon. Friend’s concern, however, that the offences be drafted in a way that enables them to be used in practice by prosecutors to secure convictions. I would be concerned if the detailed drafting of the Bill inadvertently created a significant problem for prosecutors, so I am grateful to him for raising the matter. His doing so has given me the opportunity to ensure that my Department consulted the Crown Prosecution Service about whether the requirement to show that victims were targeted because of their vulnerability was likely to prove problematic. The wording of subsection (6) is essentially taken from the definition of exploitation in section 4 of the Asylum and Immigration Act 2004, so the CPS has experience of prosecuting the offence. The CPS stated that the definition has not caused it any problems when trying to establish that a victim has been exploited. On the contrary, the CPS believes that prosecutors are used to the wording of the definition and that changing it risks creating unintended confusion.

Finally, I turn to the question from my hon. Friend the Member for Congleton about whether it was necessary to prove that the child victim in each case would have refused to provide the services. Whether that child would refuse to provide services is irrelevant. Rather, the question is whether an adult would have been likely to refuse to do so if placed in the same circumstances as the child.

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

I thought that the Minister might have taken the opportunity to answer what I believe to be the glaring question: why should the insertion of “child” here not cause exactly the problems that she laboured in her response to our proposal for a specific child exploitation and child trafficking offence? Will she give me any comfort that the wording will not cause exactly the same problems in the courts? If so, will she accept my argument that the courts are well equipped to deal with the question of assessing a child’s age when such problems are put before them by the defence? Why can the term be used in this context but not in our proposal?

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

The reason why we have put the child-specific points in this clause is to ensure that children are treated differently when law enforcement or others are looking to determine whether the child has been a victim of trafficking. When it comes to a prosecution, however, it will not be necessary to prove the age of the child. The measure that we are discussing concerns whether that charge can be made. We must provide the protection for children to ensure that they are treated in a certain way.

We have been clear that the measure applies not only to children, but to children and vulnerable people. It is important that we protect adults who have the mental capacity of children in the same way as we protect children. I do not agree with the hon. Member for Linlithgow and East Falkirk that the issues are the same; I think that we are talking about apples and pears here, rather than apples and apples. With those points in mind, I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for Enfield, Southgate will feel able to withdraw his amendment,  and that the Committee will support the Government amendments to ensure that the position of vulnerable children under clause 3 is clear.

Photo of David Burrowes David Burrowes Ceidwadwyr, Enfield, Southgate

I welcome the debate that is taking place. To pick up on the previous comments, the importance of amendment 31 in the context of clause 3(6) is that the Bill specifically makes reference to, and makes special provision for, a child. I take some comfort and assurance from the fact that the Bill properly reflects the need for protection and provision for children, and the aggravating factors surrounding child exploitation. I agree with the hon. Member for Linlithgow and East Falkirk that it is workable to deal with the issue of a child in a court. That is the purpose of my amendments, which have been mirrored by the Government. As a Committee, we can take comfort from the fact that we are all together on the need for “child” to appear clearly in the Bill.

I welcome Government amendments 1 to 4, which mean that my amendments can fall by the wayside. It has been useful to hear the Minister’s response to amendment 31, because we are dealing with concerns that have been raised about clause 3. I accept the Minister’s statement that, given the experience that has been gained through enforcement of related legislation, the evidential burden that I am concerned about—trying to prove that there has been a specific identification and exploitation of a child—does not exist. On that basis, I will seek the leave of the Committee to withdraw amendment 31.

Other amendments, amendment 35 in particular, raise other concerns, however. My hon. Friend the Member for Brent Central asked whether the list was exhaustive. The Minister said that the definitions are general and that there is no need for separate order-making powers, but subsection (1) states:

“For the purposes of section 2 a person is exploited only…”.

The word “only” is included there. In his note to the Committee, Peter Carter made the point that the inclusion of “only” is inconsistent with international instruments. Indeed, the EU directive to which I have referred uses “as a minimum”. I understand that the meanings in clause 3 are the minimum and the danger of including “only” is that we are being exhaustive even though the Minister says that the definitions are general.

Photo of Karen Bradley Karen Bradley The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department 4:00, 4 Medi 2014

I just want to be clear. The wording in subsection (1) is merely about the extent to which the exploitation can apply within clause 3, but subsections (5) and (6) are non-exhaustive. They are broad and can be expanded as case law develops and as we get more of an understanding of the crime.

Photo of David Burrowes David Burrowes Ceidwadwyr, Enfield, Southgate

I am grateful to the Minister. Indeed, paragraph 25 of the explanatory memorandum actually goes further than my amendment, which repeats the EU directive’s words about criminal activities or forced begging. She has put it on the record in the explanatory memorandum that it is

“not necessary for this conduct to be a criminal offence.”

That takes us to the example given by the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull North, which is that anyone who is exploited to acquire benefits is covered.

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

I just want to be absolutely clear. Subsections (5) and (6) are general, so that they can take account of general offences, which is why we consider them to be broad.

Photo of David Burrowes David Burrowes Ceidwadwyr, Enfield, Southgate

We have perhaps got ourselves into a little bit of confusion, because subsections (5) and (6) are general and deal with services. There may be other activities that do not immediately come to mind that are not criminal, not services and do not lead to acquired benefits, so we should make it clear in the Bill that the definitions are a minimum and that there are other matters that come under the ambit of exploitation, so that we are not being unduly restrictive. However, I do not want to take up too much time. We have had a good debate and have agreed on quite a lot, so I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendments made: 1, in clause 3, page 3, line 21, after “she”, insert “is a child,”.

This amendment, together with amendments 2, 3 and 4, relate to the definition of groups who can be exploited without force, threats or deception because they were selected due to particular vulnerability. The amendments apply this to a child rather than a young person, and are intended as a clarification.

Amendment 2, in clause 3, page 3, line 21, leave out “is young”.

Amendment 3, in clause 3, page 3, line 23, at beginning insert “an adult, or”.

Amendment 4, in clause 3, page 3, line 23, leave out “youth”.—(Karen Bradley.)

The amendment is consequential on inserting a specific reference to a child in this subsection.

Question proposed, That the clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill.

Photo of Mark Pritchard Mark Pritchard Ceidwadwyr, The Wrekin

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

New clause 5—Child exploitation offences—

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

(2) It is an offence for one person to obtain a benefit through the use of a child for the purpose of exploitation.

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

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

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

New clause 6—Exploitation offence: general—

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

(2) An offence under this section is committed where one person obtains a benefit through the use of a second person for the purpose of exploitation by means of—

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

(b) abduction,

(c) fraud or deception,

(d) abuse of power,

(e) abuse of a position of vulnerability,

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

New clause 10—Definition of “exploitation”—

For the purposes of this Part—

‘(1) “exploitation” includes but is not limited to the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, labour or services including begging, practices similar to slavery, servitude, or the exploitation of or for criminal activities, or the removal of organs etc.

(2) “sexual exploitation” means—

(a) an offence under Part 1 of the Sexual Offence Act 2003,

(b) an offence under section 1(1)(a) of the Protection of Children Act 1978,

(c) an offence under any provision of the Sexual Offences (Northern Ireland) Order 2008,

(d) an offence listed in Schedule 1 to the Criminal Justice (Children) (Northern Ireland) Order 1998 (S.I 1998/1504 (N.I.9)),

(e) an offence under Article 3(1)(a) of the Protection of Children (Northern Ireland) Order 1978 (S.I. 1978/1047 (N.I.17)), or

(f) anything done outside England and Wales and Northern Ireland which is not an offence within any of paragraphs (a) to (e) but would be if done in England and Wales or Northern Ireland.

(3) “removal of organs etc.” means—

(a) an offence under section 32 or 33 of the Human Tissue Act 2004 (prohibition of commercial dealings in organs and restrictions on use of live donors) as it has effect in England and Wales, or

(b) which would involve the commission of such an offence if it were done in England and Wales.”

New clause 14—Repeal of existing provisions—

‘(1) In the Sexual Offences Act 2003, omit—

(a) section 59A (trafficking people for sexual exploitation),

(b) section 60 (interpretation of section 59A),

(c) section 60A (forfeiture of land vehicle etc.),

(d) section 60B (detention of land vehicle etc.),

(e) section 60C (interpretation of sections 60A and 60B).

(2) In the Asylum and Immigration (Treatment of Claimants, etc.) Act 2004, omit—

(a) section 4 (trafficking people for exploitation),

(b) section 5(3) and (4) (section 4 - supplementary provision).

(3) In the Coroners and Justice Act 2009, omit section 71 (slavery, servitude and forced or compulsory labour).”

New clause 17—Offence of exploitation—

‘(1) A person commits an offence if they exploit a person 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.

(2) A person may be in a situation of exploitation whether or not—

(a) escape from the situation is practically possible for the person; or

(b) the person has attempted to escape from the situation.

(3) The consent or apparent consent of the person to the exploitation is irrelevant where any of the means set forth in section 9(1) has been used.”.

New clause 18—Offence of child exploitation—

‘(1) A person commits an offence if they exploit a child.

(2) It shall be such an offence even if there was no threat or use of violence, other forms of coercion, deception or any abuse of a position of vulnerability.

(3) A child may be in a situation of exploitation whether or not—

(a) escape from the situation is practically possible for the child; or

(b) the child has attempted to escape from the situation.

(4) The consent or apparent consent of the child to the exploitation is irrelevant.

(5) “Child Exploitation” includes but is not limited to, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation; the exploitation of labour or services including begging or practices similar to slavery, servitude or forced or compulsory labour; the exploitation of or for criminal activities including benefit fraud; the removal of organs; forced or servile marriage or enforced surrogacy; exploitation for unlawful adoption; and exploitation by enforced drugs smuggling, manufacture, production or distribution.”.

Photo of Fiona Mactaggart Fiona Mactaggart Llafur, Slough

I want to start with the point that the hon. Member for Enfield, Southgate ended on and with my concerns about the first words of clause 3:

“For the purposes of section 2”— that represents a narrowing of the exploitation offence, because it links it not only to the international definition of trafficking, but to travel—

“a person is exploited only if one or more of the following subsections apply.”

My concern is that the compass or impact of the law will be narrowed at every point. There are opportunities to make it broader. The reason that I felt frustrated by the Minister’s arguments that trafficking has to include an element of travel when we were discussing clause 2 is that we are signatories to a convention that says, “Trafficking shall mean”—and “shall mean” must have its normal meaning—“the recruitment”––that is the first word, not “travel”––then

“transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons”.

The first thing is the act—it “shall mean” those things. The second thing is the means—

“by means of…fraud…deception…the abuse of power or 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, for the purpose of exploitation. Exploitation shall include, at a minimum”.

That is the opposite of “only if”. It then describes the forms of exploitation. It seems that that is internationally agreed. We are trying to frame, within that international agreement, a piece of legislation that meets our requirements to that convention and to the directive, to which we are signed up. I fear that we have not done that. That is why I have tabled these clauses.

I wish to press new clauses 5, 6 and 10 to a vote because all the children’s charities, such as UNICEF and ECPAT, clearly say that there is a need for legislation for a child exploitation offence. The second reason is that we need to define exploitation. The purpose is not just that people are moved from one place to another; it is done so that people are exploited. I fear that this definition of exploitation is not flexible enough to take into account changes of circumstances and ties it only to the issue of travel. We need to change things.

When Chief Inspector Carswell gave evidence to the Joint Committee, he said of his concerns about the Bill:

“It does not make it clear that this includes but is not wholly X, Y and Z.”.

That, in many ways, is my concern about the Bill. By saying,

“only if one or more of the following…apply” it says that it is wholly this; it does not say “at a minimum”.

Chief Inspector Carswell continued:

“If I was reading this from a lay perspective, I would not read into this Bill that a child begging, or using children to obtain fraud which is to their detriment, or putting a child out on the street to steal for sometimes 12 to 18 hours a day is trafficking and exploitation.”.

That is a Chief Inspector who is very involved in prosecuting. I believe that the Minister wants to help the police to prosecute. I am quite certain that that is the reason for the publicity campaign and so on. It is one of the reasons that the Bill has been drafted but the Bill is likely to mean that over the next three years, we will probably get fewer than 41 successful prosecutions.

The Minister keeps saying that we have to listen to the Crown Prosecution Service because it says it is easier with this. The Crown Prosecution Service, over the past three years, has prosecuted more victims of trafficking than it has prosecuted traffickers. That is why we should not always just listen to what it says. We need to listen to those people who day in, day out are in the courts and are advocating for victims, prosecuting as independent lawyers and are, in some cases, acting for the defence. They all agree that the Bill is flawed. In the light of the view of everyone apart from the Crown Prosecution Service that the Bill is flawed, we should listen to them. For example, we heard Nadine Finch, who spoke to the Joint Committee saying:

“What needs to be understood is that the traffickers may not be sophisticated and children do escape. I have a number of clients who were trafficked here. I will give you one example. There is a Bangladeshi boy who was clearly trafficked here in a rather amateur way by his great-aunt. He escaped but then he was exploited in a whole series of restaurants. From his perspective, he was on his own in the country and some nice person offered him a bit of pin money and somewhere to stay, but he was seriously exploited. He was not at that point trafficked, so there is nothing in this legislation that would protect him.”

She goes on:

“I think it would be quite easy to draft a clause” and I hope that the clauses that that Committee drafted, which I have tabled, actually do achieve our aim.

We have spent a long time on this and it is hot and stuffy in here, but it is important to ensure that we catch the exploitation that is at the heart of this. Without new clause 6, which defines an offence of exploitation, many such offences will not be caught.

I cannot see how anyone does not believe that these things should not be criminal—I used a double negative there and I did not mean to. I think we all agree that it should be an offence to exploit a person with: the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion; abduction; fraud or deception; abuse of power; abuse of a position of vulnerability; and the giving or receiving of any payment or benefit with a view to securing the consent of any person having control over the second person.

New clause 6 would cover the example suggested by my hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow and East Falkirk. In that case, those young men who were collecting charity bags to which they were not entitled from doorsteps  were victims of fraud or deception. They believed that what they were doing was perfectly lawful. Their exploiter should be held responsible in criminal law for that exploitation, but, without new clause 6, under the Bill they would not be—it is as simple as that. Arguably, they would be if they had engineered their travel—not certainly, because of the rather narrow frame of clause 3—but, if they had not in any way, clearly they would not be responsible. It therefore behoves the Committee to accept new clause 6.

The evidence given to us by lawyers about the impact of the decision in L & Others suggests that the courts are now capable of going through a process of deciding a child’s status without the lengthy arguments that used to occur, which disproves some arguments. However, we do need to have an offence of exploitation because often the victims do not know that they are being exploited. It is not just children who do not know that they are being exploited; there are people from different cultures and elsewhere who are ignorant of their own exploitation.

I have shared with the Committee my experience and frustration about the woman who is being exploited by her son-in-law. I have tried to find an offence of which he is guilty. Of course, she is not keen on bringing him to court, because he is her son-in-law, but the police ought to be able to recognise that she is being exploited by him for use of her pension.

She does not have anyone else to turn to, but, if she was seen as a victim of trafficking, there would be alternative accommodation available for her. She could be supported by the Salvation Army, she would be identified by the national referral mechanism as a victim of trafficking and, instead of her coming and sitting in my office, hoping that I have a magic wand to fix things for her, we could put processes in place. It behoves us at least to make this kind of exploitation of one human being by another unlawful—a criminal act—because I am certain that if we do not do that, in order to provide a tidy, easy-to-prosecute law, that will mean that fewer of these criminals who are exploiting other human beings are ever convicted. I do not believe that a single hon. Member in this room wants that.

That is why I think that this new clause is so important. It is probably the most important of all the new clauses that I have put forward. Hon. Members know that I have used clauses that were included in the pre-legislative scrutiny, because I thought that that was the right thing to do. However, if I had just one thing to move, it would be this provision in new clause 6 that makes exploitation of one human being by another a criminal offence, because if we do that, we will really make this law fit for purpose, and if we do not do it, we will continue to consent to a situation in which one human being who uses another person for their own benefit—not necessarily enslaving them, not forcing them to do labour and moving them across continents, but using them for their own benefit, exploiting them, exploiting their ignorance and other things about them—is not doing anything criminal. That is the situation in Britain today.

It seems to me that we need to make all those things criminal. Some of those things are, of course, criminal at the moment. Abducting a person is usually criminal. However, in the context of this offence, it is clear that  we are connecting this to the issue of obtaining a benefit through the use of a second person. It is that which is at the heart of the Bill. If we added in that clause, we really would be beginning to pass a modern slavery Bill that was fit for purpose. Without that, we will not do so.

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) 4:15, 4 Medi 2014

This debate is on clause stand part as well as the new clauses that have been tabled for our consideration. On clause stand part, questions obviously arise—I hope that the Minister will address them—about the language of clause 3, which is entirely dependent on clause 2. Clause 3 can be read only in the context of clause 2, which relates to trafficking as defined as directly associated with travel and so on, as we heard in the previous discussions; I do not wish to rehearse any of that.

The questions that I hope and perhaps am confident that the Minister will address are obviously in relation to the scope of clause 3 territorially. There are a number of references in clause 3 to England and Wales, but of course they are not always absolutely restrictive, because in one case we are talking about something

“which would involve the commission of such an offence if it were done in England and Wales”,

so the interpretive standard would be the law in England and Wales. However, in other cases, in other aspects, where the geographic reference appears, that is not so clear.

It seems to me that if this legislation is about consolidating and clarifying, we need to ensure that in relation to these references, which are quite complicated, we are not creating confusion. I would be interested in whatever the Minister can address or clarify in relation to those questions about the geographical applicability. Again, to return to clause 2, it can clearly have effect in relation to offences or actions that take place in different parts of the UK and indeed outside it, but the scope and nuance of clause 3 are not as clear. If the Minister could enlighten us in the course of her remarks, it would help.

It is precisely because I have such questions that I am struck by new clause 10, for instance. We need to address those questions. Some of the provisions in new clause 10, tabled by the hon. Member for Slough, directly provide for actions and activities that take place in Northern Ireland in ways that would not be seen as intrusive on devolved authority or competence in any way that could be deemed insensitive or controversial, and they seem quite competent and balanced in how they do so. Those provisions relate to the definition of “exploitation”. All the amendments to this section tabled by the hon. Member for Slough relate to having a clear definition of the offence of exploitation.

New clause 5 relates specifically to child exploitation. I know that the Minister has said that she believes it is better to have general offences rather than offences relating specifically to children. If we do not want an offence of child exploitation for that reason, what is wrong with new clause 6, which gives us a general exploitation offence? It would be an exploitation offence in its own right; it should be against all its own wrongs. Exploitation should not simply be a sidelight of clause 2 as it refers to trafficking; it should absolutely be an offence in its own right, because it is so wrong in all its forms.

I see no reason why that should not be part of what is meant to be a Modern Slavery Bill. The Government have made the case all along that they do not want just to pass a Bill that is all about recodifying existing law on trafficking; they want to address modern slavery in all its forms and all its features. It seems to me, if people accept the Minister’s argument about child-specific offences, that new clause 6 does that. It would be supplemented by new clause 10, which would remove some of the geographic and jurisdictional ambiguities and confusions that could come from the legislation.

Earlier, we discussed the apparent gaps between clauses 1 and 2. We want to ensure that we do not create any rat run of legal and jurisdictional chicanery for any of the people engaged in this heinous criminal activity; I share the revulsion that the Minister has expressed in all her contributions. I know that she has told us that the Government will be in a position to indicate their further understandings in relation to the devolved authorities and administrations, but there are ways at this legislative stage for us to accommodate and anticipate without detonating any transgressions under the Sewel convention or anything else. It seems to me that that is available to us through some of the amendments.

Similarly, the new clauses tabled by the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull North and others address the issues in a way that is cogently and widely cast in the geographic sense. They avoid the geographic and jurisdictional tripwires, although I understand why some of those are in the original Bill. In terms of introducing this sort of definition, we know that partial legislation on these matters is passing through some of the devolved jurisdictions, but often the legislation passed in this House is accepted and becomes a benchmark for predictive legislation. Sometimes I do not like how that happens; other times I am glad when it does and we here can have the effect of setting predictive legislation. The campaign for this Bill has been supported in every part of the United Kingdom, including the devolved parts. Many local campaign groups have been involved in Northern Ireland and elsewhere. No one would take it as untoward if we try to ensure that the Bill is as robust as possible and proofed against any difficulties. I will further address some of those issues in relation to other amendments and new clauses that I have tabled. I know that the many geographical references are not absolutely restrictive in how the law applies—they are meant to be interpreted—but nevertheless there is a serious risk of confusion that will lead to evasion by those whom we are trying to stop.

Photo of Sarah Champion Sarah Champion Llafur, Rotherham

I speak in support of new clause 18, which would introduce a specific offence of child exploitation. I therefore also support new clause 17, which would introduce an offence of exploitation that does not refer to children, thereby making a distinction between exploiting a child and exploiting an adult.

Through my work chairing an inquiry into the effectiveness of child sexual exploitation law I have come across many child victims of exploitation. Although in that context the exploitation is mostly sexual, I have learned much about child exploitation more generally, with reference to things such as forced begging, child labour and forced criminality, about which my colleagues have spoken. Additionally, through recent events in Rotherham, child exploitation has very much come to the fore. The dominant narrative frequently refers to  how perpetrators of such abuses rely on exploiting the vulnerability of victims as children—not just as vulnerable and impressionable people but as children.

A strong emphasis is placed on the word “child” that permeates throughout all local and national narratives on Alexis Jay’s report into Rotherham’s failings. Rotherham is the largest child exploitation scandal in a string of UK towns. The failure to respond adequately to the widespread sexual exploitation of children highlights an endemic issue across the UK. In communities throughout our country, including Oxford, Rochdale and Peterborough, we have been confronted with overwhelming evidence of repeated and multiple failures to protect children from exploitation. The Rotherham authorities, the police and social services all had a role to play in protecting and safeguarding children, but they failed to react to exploited children and victims of serious abuse. Despite the shocking revelations over the past few years, not just in Rotherham but elsewhere, statutory agencies continue to disregard and misunderstand the horrific and coercive conditions of child exploitation.

In Rotherham, the victims were often seen as perpetrators, or just troublemakers. Some people in authority even went so far as to hold the children themselves accountable for what happened. That culture of disbelief has to end before thousands more young lives are damaged and ruined by exploitation. Child victims of trafficking and exploitation are often unable to recognise that they are victims. Indeed, they often blame themselves for the abuse that they suffer. They have been groomed to think that their worth is valued by sex, degradation or activities that cause them to expect to be used and exploited by other people. Those attitudes are only compounded by the authorities’ failure to act and inability to provide protection. There is no single action to address such an entrenched problem, but authorities must take responsibility for a woeful lack of action in these cases that served only to create a culture of impunity for abusers.

We have an opportunity here today to put the slate right by saying that we recognise that child exploitation exists in its own right, rather than as part of a string of other offences. By doing so we would recognise the vulnerability of exploited children; we would recognise that perpetrators are preying on precisely the vulnerability that comes with youth. The children who have suffered must be given the appropriate support to recover and an opportunity to access justice. The men who abused them, or who allowed that abuse to happen, should know that their crimes will not be overlooked for any reason.

Trafficked children cannot consent to being exploited. International law makes that clear, so we must reflect it in our domestic legislation to ensure that the message gets home to practitioners and young people themselves. Training, resources, proactive policing and effective multi-agency working are vital to improving disclosures of child exploitation, protecting children and ending the culture of children being used as commodities, be that for sexual purposes, labouring or conducting criminal offences. We know that child exploitation is widespread and that many young lives are at risk. Authorities must introduce measures to train their staff adequately to  recognise the indicators of trafficking and take bold action. The Government must allocate proper resources to that, as well as putting robust policies and legislation in place. That includes the need for a proper offence in law to tackle child exploitation in all its forms, be it sexual, forced labour, domestic servitude or forced criminality. An offence of child exploitation offers the possibility to recognise that child exploitation is, in its own right, an issue so severe that the Government must turn their attention to it as a matter of urgency.

Practice has shown that too few trafficking prosecutions for child cases are brought, let alone successfully convicted. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of children who have been identified as victims of trafficking but whose cases have not been properly investigated. Their exploiters have therefore not been prosecuted or convicted because the current legislation does not allow for that. That is particularly the case for those children trafficked for forced labour, domestic servitude and forced criminality, despite the fact that forced labour is as prevalent as sexual exploitation for children.

The shocking picture reflected in the Crown Prosecution Service data is that there have been no cases where the victim was a child at the time of prosecution since the introduction of section 71 of the Coroners and Justice Act 2009. We must all acknowledge that that does not reflect the reality. Additionally, of the 59 defendants charged with human trafficking offences in 2013-14, only one case was not sexual exploitation in cases relating to child victims. We have a situation where the Refugee Children’s Consortium, which is made up of over 40 organisations, is urgently calling on the Government to act on this gap in the law by creating an offence of exploitation in the Bill. I completely and wholeheartedly back those calls.

The scandalous revelations of Alexis Jay’s report into Rotherham only serve as a tragic example of why more must be done to prevent offenders from going unpunished. Children make up around a quarter of all known victims of trafficking and modern slavery in the UK, and the number of victims of child exploitation grows year on year. They are specifically targeted because of their age and vulnerability to being controlled and groomed. As a country, we must unite to ensure that there is not another Oxford, Rochdale or Rotherham. The effects of such abuse will stay with the affected children and young people for ever. I urge the Committee to accept new clause 18.

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

May I start by saying how compelling a case my hon. Friend the Member for Rotherham made for ensuring that we have a specific offence for child exploitation? Following the findings of the Jay report into Rotherham and the cases we know about in other parts of the country, we must all reflect very hard on what else needs to be done to ensure that the majority of these perpetrators are brought to account.

On that basis, I speak to new clauses 17 and 18. As my hon. Friend the Member for Slough did, I will set out why it is important for the Bill to have separate offences for exploitation. Let us be clear: exploitation, in itself, is not an offence in the Bill as drafted. The prosecution would need to establish the behaviour described in clause 3, where exploitation is set out, simply as a necessary condition for achieving a conviction under clause 2. Behaviour that simply meets the criteria of  clause 3 is not dealt with by the Bill unless it also meets the higher threshold set out in clause 1. We must all be clear about that. There are three problems with the approach that the Government have decided to adopt. First, as we discussed on the previous group of amendments, there are concerns about the definition of exploitation. Secondly, making those two conditions necessary for a conviction sets a very high bar, for which it is extremely hard to compile evidence. It prevents convictions in a number of cases, where we could get convictions if we had a separate offence for trafficking and a second one for exploitation. Finally, such an approach fails to recognise the special nature of child exploitation and the particular vulnerabilities that children face. In order to address these points, there are a number of differences between new clause 17 and clause 3. Additionally, there is a special provision for children in new clause 18.

As with our discussions on clause 2, in principle and in structure I agree with the new clauses and arguments put forward by my hon. Friend the Member for Slough. The tabling of specific offences to deal with exploitation completes what has been described as a hierarchy, or cascading, of offences. We have the offence of servitude and slavery as set out in clause 1. We should have the specific offence of trafficking and a separate offence of exploitation. Such an approach is clearly different from that proposed by the Government in the Bill, but it has the strongest legal input.

Photo of Chloe Smith Chloe Smith Ceidwadwyr, Norwich North

Will the hon. Lady clarify why it is also different from the new clauses tabled by the hon. Member for Slough? I do not mean to cause mischief; I genuinely want to know whether the proliferation of new clauses tabled by Opposition Members is significant.

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

I would never accuse the hon. Lady of causing mischief. We have tabled new clauses because we have had the benefit of looking at the clauses that the Joint Committee proposed. We also looked at the Government’s criticisms. We have had the opportunity to work with a wide range of voluntary and charitable organisations. The Anti-Trafficking Monitoring Group came up with an alternative Bill, from which we selected clauses to use as our new clauses on the basis that they best fit the concerns that the Government raised with the Joint Committee’s proposals and its draft clauses. We therefore believe that our proposals better deal with the problems that were highlighted in the previous initial draft clauses. That is why we have tabled new clauses 17 and 18. Obviously, they are similar in detail, and I will deal with any specific differences. To be clear, the clauses—I think this has been sent round to all members of the Committee—came out of the Anti-Trafficking Monitoring Group’s alternative Bill.

Lord Judge has been quoted extensively in our deliberations. Of course, we all recall he was the Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales, one of the most senior criminal judges in the country. It is worth reflecting on what he said about the Bill. He said there is

“another aspect of the Bill that troubles” him. He added:

“We are making provisions for slavery, servitude and compulsory labour in clause 1 of the Bill. In clause 2, trafficking is the offence. It becomes an offence because you do it with a view to exploitation—knowing, believing or whatever words are chosen to be used. You could have an offence of trafficking, full stop, and a separate  offence of exploitation. As it stands at the moment, you have a single offence with two parts—here is the trafficking, and it is with a view to exploitation. My own view, for what it is worth, is that trafficking in people is a dreadful thing to do, trafficking with a view to exploiting them is a more serious thing to do, but exploiting them is also serious. My concern reading clause 2 and the various subclauses is, “Is this really what we want?”—a single offence that has two ingredients, rather than two separate offences and, possibly, a third offence, which would put the two together.”

The Committee might be relieved that we are not arguing for a third offence to be identified, but we are proposing separate offences for trafficking and exploitation. We are advocating the approach suggested by Lord Judge for the reason that establishing both trafficking and exploitation is often difficult and prevents prosecutions for exploitation on its own, which is also a serious matter.

The issue that Lord Judge identified was also picked up by the police in evidence to the draft Bill Committee. Detective Inspector Roberts of Kent police said:

“Certainly within Kent, we have had quite considerable difficulty in working out what is criminal exploitation, particularly labour exploitation, where people are working very, very long hours in difficult circumstances. If you asked an average member of the British public whether that person was being exploited, they are, but because of their circumstances they are allowing themselves to be exploited and to remain within circumstances of exploitation.”

It is because of that mismatch between the experience of the police, who are encountering what they think to be exploitation and slavery, and what the CPS is prosecuting, that new clause 17 does not replicate the approach of clause 3. We do not intend to have an exhaustive list of specific forms of exploitation. We accept that that will never work. Instead, the new clause gives a definition of exploitation and would let the court decide whether the case before it is exploitation.

In evidence, Detective Inspector Roberts gave an example of where that could work. He said:

“If I could give a very clear example, we came across Lithuanian chicken catchers. Twenty-nine males were put through a victim debriefing centre. Seventeen gave written evidence and statements, which included beatings; theft of their wages; living with anything up to 12 people in a two-bedroom house; bed bug-ridden mattresses; dogs being set on workers; being held within the back of a transit van for up to five to six days at a time without any ablutions—no washing or toilet facilities; being driven from job to job; and being paid only for the time that they were working.”

In the draft Bill Committee, Baroness Butler-Sloss asked how the CPS had dealt with that case. Detective Inspector Roberts responded:

“They said that that did not amount to forced labour within the legislation as it stood. As a simple soul—as most police officers are—we can deal only with what is in front of us. I would like to know what the bar is that we have to cross.”

That is the crux of the problem. The police are encountering exploitation—vile exploitation of a type that most people would consider criminal—but it does not meet the very specific and narrow offence that is in legislation and that is being transplanted into the Bill. That is why we have drafted new clause 17, which would cover that situation. It is also why we want the new clause to establish the offence of exploitation in its own right.

In the evidence Chief Inspector Winters of Cambridgeshire police gave to the draft Bill Committee, he described encountering the same situation:

“We have exactly the same experience as Kent. It is not small scale; it is widespread, certainly in the more rural parts of our county in the north-east. Core offences are committed in these  scenarios. Clearly, you have threats, assaults, blackmail and fraud, but when the CPS comes to look at the entire package it will deal with those core offences. If we were able to deal with it as exploitation and it was packaged up as exploitation, which would add that aggravating factor to it, it would be beneficial to us.”

It is a real problem that that type of conduct is not being prosecuted. Unless we add specific offences of exploitation, nothing in the Bill will enable the prosecution of the types of offences I have outlined.

The omission is even more glaring when it comes to children, which is why we have tabled a separate offence for children in new clause 18. The omission of a separate, specific offence of child exploitation has been one of the most commented upon aspects of the Bill. Members of the Committee will have seen the briefings from the coalition of children’s charities, including ECPAT UK, UNICEF, the Children’s Society, Barnardo’s and the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children. The charities are speaking with a single voice, and we should not ignore them.

My hon. Friend the Member for Rotherham talked about how children make up around a third of all known victims of modern slavery in the UK, and said that the number of child victims is growing year on year. We know they are specifically targeted because of their age and their vulnerability, yet, as she pointed out, according to Crown Prosecution data, there have been no cases in which the victim was a child at the time of prosecution since the introduction of section 71 of the Coroners and Justice Act 2009, which deals with slavery, servitude and forced or compulsory labour.

That is important because, as we have said, that section 71 offence has been transposed directly into clause 1 of the Bill. No children have ever come within the remit of that section. That is why we need the separate offence. New clause 18 differs from new clause 17 in that there would be no need to establish force or coercion when prosecuting an individual for child exploitation. The principle is clear: children cannot consent to their own exploitation and have the right as children to be protected from such abuse.

Because a number of charities have united on this point, I want to remind the Committee of their united briefing. They say:

“The introduction of a separate and specific offence of child exploitation would cover the variety of criminally exploitative situations that children suffer yet which are not easily prosecuted or cannot be prosecuted under the human trafficking or forced labour/slavery offences in the Bill. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of children who have been identified as victims of trafficking but whose cases have not been properly investigated and, therefore, their exploiters have not been prosecuted or convicted because the current legislation does not presently allow for this. This is particularly the case for those children trafficked for forced labour, domestic servitude and forced criminality, despite the fact that forced labour is as prevalent as sexual exploitation for children.”

Clear examples of that came to the Committee in the evidence of Nadine Finch, who has been referred to a number of times. We really need to listen to what that barrister is saying because of her extensive experience representing victims of such crimes.

I want to impress on the Committee again that, as the Bill is currently drafted, we have two offences, the first of which does not require the movement of clause 1. As I have just said, that was directly transposed from another Act under which there have been no prosecutions in relation to children. We need to reflect on that. The second offence of trafficking demands a complicated chain of behaviour to be proven. The evidence from the front line is that it is not going to work—it is not going to do what the Minister wants, which is to bring more convictions, particularly for those who have trafficked and exploited children.

I have one final point to make. It has been suggested without supporting evidence that an offence of child exploitation will lead to parents being prosecuted for making their child do the washing-up. I do not wish to dwell too long on that suggestion, as Peter Carter QC told the Committee, in his written evidence, that such an argument

“misses the significance of the word ‘exploitation’. It will not and cannot extend to sulky teenagers required to clean their rooms or do some washing-up.”

However, to put the issue beyond doubt, we have clarified what exploitation means in new clause 18(5). We have not attempted to create an exhaustive list of occurrences, as in clause 3. We have given clear examples of the serious but broad nature of exploitation, which will give clear guidance to the courts on how the measure can be applied.

We have already mentioned that the Director of Public Prosecutions could not tell the Committee how she would deal with cases of children forced to beg. New clause 18 would give all law enforcement officials the clear tools to protect children and prosecute perpetrators.

Photo of Mark Pritchard Mark Pritchard Ceidwadwyr, The Wrekin 4:45, 4 Medi 2014

Order. Before I call the Minister, I should say that, while it is not always the case, it is convention that we finish at around 5 o’clock. We are discussing important issues, but I am reminded through the usual channels that we hope to get to clauses 4 and 5. Members must feel free to speak as often as they like for as long as they like. I am sure they will be able to balance that in their own minds.

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

Very briefly, I wish to support the speeches and the thrust of the arguments made by my hon. Friends the Members for Slough, for Kingston upon Hull North, for Rotherham, and for Foyle.

The argument has been really well made and has consistently shown the lack of vision of the Government. In respect of a number of amendments in the last group, the Government have dug a few holes for themselves in denying the role of specification of children and then rejecting the overall, much advised and much supported, argument on behalf of offences to do with children—both trafficking and exploitation offences.

The quality of the amendments tabled after consideration by the Joint Committee, and as redrafted by the Labour Front-Bench spokesman, is undeniable. I know that the Government will have a brief and that the Minister will read it, but a point that was made very well is that the Bill is slowly but surely being revealed as being less useful. In fact, it would appear to be obstructive in terms of actually helping the victims that we were hoping to help when we set out on this journey.

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

I am grateful to the hon. Member for Slough for tabling new clauses 5, 6, 10 and 14, and to right hon. and hon. Members for tabling new clauses 15 and 16. The new clauses propose to add an offence of exploitation and an offence of child exploitation to the offences currently in the Bill. We are considering the new offences alongside clause 3, which sets out the meaning of “exploitation” for the purposes of the clause 2 offence of human trafficking. I will start by setting out why clause 3 is drafted as it is, and how it fits within the offences in the Bill, and then I will address the proposal for separate exploitation offences in detail.

I remind the Committee that the clause 1 offence targets those who hold a person in slavery, servitude or forced or compulsory labour in this country, without any requirement for movement whatsoever, so where serious abuse has occurred that equates to modern slavery, but movement has not taken place, law enforcement already has an effective offence available.

The human trafficking offence set out in clause 2 involves arranging or facilitating a person’s travel with a view to the victim’s exploitation. The offence targets the wrongdoing involved in moving human beings with a view to exploiting them. It is right that we have a separate offence targeting those involved in the movement of people who will be exploited, in line with the requirements of the Palermo protocol and the EU directive. That is what the offence achieves.

The definition of exploitation is set out in clause 3 and is deliberately wide, so that we capture the full range of types of exploitation that human trafficking victims could be subject to. However, it is not designed to be a stand-alone offence. First, the clause defines exploitation as including behaviour that, under clause 1, amounts to slavery, servitude and forced or compulsory labour. The clause ensures that equivalent conduct committed outside of England and Wales also comes within the definition, even though, for jurisdictional reasons, it would not be an offence under our law.

I want to deal with the point made by the hon. Member for Foyle about extraterritoriality. Clause 2 applies to everyone, where the travel is in, to or from the UK, or any part of the arranging or facilitation takes part in the UK. It also applies to UK nationals, regardless of where any of the conduct takes place. Clause 3 defines exploitation for the purposes of clause 2. Members will recall that the travel must be with a view to exploitation. Paragraphs (2)(b), (3)(b) and (4)(b) of clause 3 refer to conduct that would be an offence in England and Wales, because the exploitation may take place outside England and Wales. Under clause 2, it does not matter where the relevant exploitation is intended to take place, and subsections (2), (3) and (4) make that clear. The only relevant issue to establish jurisdiction is where the travel takes place, or where the arranging or facilitating happens. As I have said, for UK nationals those matters are irrelevant anyway.

Additionally, we are talking about a Bill that applies in England and Wales, but I repeat that we are discussing this with the devolved Administrations, to see how we can ensure that we might extend it appropriately and have the relevant legislation and powers required in each of those Administrations.

Returning to the offence, secondly, exploitation also includes sexual exploitation, which is defined by reference to conduct that would constitute the commission of any  of the sexual offences provided for in part 1 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003, including rape, sexual assault, prostitution and child pornography offences. The offence of taking, or permitting the taking of, indecent photographs of children is also specifically covered. Again, equivalent conduct outside England and Wales is within the definition. The clause sets out that exploitation includes trafficking for organ removal or for the sale of human tissue by references to offences in the Human Tissue Act 2004.

In addition, the clause sets out that exploitation includes where a person is forced, threatened or deceived into providing a service of any kind, providing a person with benefits or enabling another to acquire them. It is a wide provision and includes forcing a person to engage in activities such as begging, pickpocketing or shop theft. It is not necessary for that conduct to be a criminal offence. We are confident that the clause captures all possible forms of exploitation that a perpetrator might traffick a victim for.

I will now turn to the proposals for a new offence for exploitation and then to the issues raised by the proposal for a separate child exploitation offence. The key issue here is whether the offences in the Bill have left gaps where conduct that amounts to modern slavery cannot be prosecuted. The particular issue raised is that the trafficking offence requires some type of movement, as that is the offence. The concern is whether there are types of exploitation that should be a serious criminal offence even without being related to trafficking, but are not captured by the clause 1 offence or other serious criminal offences. I am convinced that every member of the Committee shares the objective of making sure that many more criminals who engage in modern slavery are caught, prosecuted, convicted and severely punished. Ever since the pre-legislative scrutiny report suggested that there could be gaps, I have taken it very seriously. I am still listening carefully to members of the Committee and looking at the evidence it receives. If any member believes that there is a gap in the Bill, they should, please, bring it to my attention. I am conscious of the points that have been raised so far and I want to ensure that those are looked at. If we find that there are genuine problems, of course I want to correct them.

The hon. Member for Rotherham talked about whether there were gaps in the criminal law on sexual exploitation. I have been provided with a long list of possible offences under which child sexual exploitation could be prosecuted. I am not going to read them all out because I am conscious of time, but we do not believe that there is a gap in the criminal law relating to sexual offences.

Photo of Sarah Champion Sarah Champion Llafur, Rotherham

I agree with the Minister that the legislation specifically on child sexual exploitation is okay. It is on child exploitation in general that it is falling down.

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

I thank the hon. Lady for her comments. If she has examples of child exploitation within the context of modern slavery, I ask her, please, to present them to us because we want to check that we are not leaving gaps in the legislation that could allow a serious criminal to find a loophole and escape prosecution. That is in no way what is intended. From all the work we have done, I am not convinced there are gaps that will prevent serious criminals from being prosecuted. I am open, of course, to looking in detail at any suggestions that are made.

One example that has been raised in the Committee is the issue of victims, often children, who are forced to beg. Let me make clear how the existing offences properly capture that conduct. First, if the child has been moved with the view to making them beg, that is captured by the trafficking offence. Secondly, if there is no movement, begging could constitute forced or compulsory labour under clause 1. As we debated under clause 1, the courts could look at all the circumstances and conclude the offence has taken place even if the child appeared to consent.

The CPS can also rely on the offence of child cruelty under section 1 of the Children and Young Persons Act 1933. That offence is committed where a person has responsibility for a child under the age of 16 whom they wilfully ill treat or neglect in a manner likely to cause unnecessary suffering or injury to health. The offence is punishable by up to 10 years in prison. Additionally, begging is, in itself, a criminal offence, as we have discussed numerous times today. A person who uses the child to beg will be guilty of aiding and abetting, conspiracy and/or assisting or encouraging, under the Serious Crime Act 2007.

The Director of Public Prosecutions will ultimately be responsible for prosecuting those offences so I have to take her view on the matter seriously. I remind the Committee that she stated that prosecutors

“much prefer the clarity of the offences in the Bill as drafted by the Government”––[Official Report, Modern Slavery Public Bill Committee, 21 July 2014; c. 4, Q2.]

compared to the suite of offences proposed following pre-legislative scrutiny. After that statement, the director was questioned at some length about whether there were gaps or whether the way the existing offences were drafted were causing cases to slip through the net. She made it clear that the problem was getting the evidence and the witnesses. She said:

“I do not think that cases are slipping through because the legislation is not there to prosecute; I think cases may not be brought before the courts because we have not got the evidence and we have not got the complaints in the first instance.”––[Official Report, Modern Slavery Public Bill Committee, 21 July 2014; c. 9, Q17.]

That is why we need to focus not only on the offences but on a comprehensive strategy to improve the law enforcement response, to identify more victims and support them, including when they give evidence. I am sure that we will learn much from the experiences of people in Rotherham that the hon. Member for Rotherham has spoken about.

We need the anti-slavery commissioner, with their role focused on improving the work of law enforcement agencies in identifying victims; we need the statutory defence for victims, and we need to ensure that special measures are available in court for vulnerable victims. We also need the child trafficking advocates to help vulnerable children, including during the criminal process.

There are many other difficulties with the exploitation offences as set out; they have been discussed already at length and I do not want to detain the Committee further on them. I will just say that we have the clause 1 offence to target the serious abuse involved in slavery,  servitude and forced or compulsory labour, and we have the clause 2 offence to target trafficking. These are very serious offences that can carry life imprisonment, and we have a wide range of offences that can be used to target offending that is not serious enough to be captured by a clause 1 offence. Also, adding entirely new exploitation offences could simply confuse law enforcement agencies and undermine the focus on what we have rightly described as modern slavery. Where we are dealing with less serious conduct, it is simply proper that we prosecute criminals using less serious offences.

We have already debated the value of a separate child trafficking offence, and the same arguments apply here so I will not repeat them. The current legislative framework relies on just two offences: trafficking, to tackle the movement of people to be exploited; and slavery, servitude and forced or compulsory labour, to tackle serious forms of abuse. I believe that framework is simpler and more familiar to law enforcement agencies, prosecutors and the courts than the alternative, and it has been designed specifically to enable effective prosecution of those who target children.

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) 5:00, 4 Medi 2014

I thank the Minister for accepting the point, and I appreciate the clarification that she offered earlier, which was partly what I had anticipated. However, it still means that clause 3—depending on clause 2, of course—rests on offence standards in England and Wales. What if someone is subject to treatment that would be an offence under Northern Ireland law? Would that mean that any pursuit of those people has no bearing in relation to clause 2 or anything else? I ask because we still have at the start of clause 3 the words:

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

Are we not creating a space for people potentially to bring people to Northern Ireland to be exploited for purposes that would be an offence under Northern Ireland law in future, but this Bill—when it is passed into law—would have no bearing for them?

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

May I ask the hon. Gentleman if he could provide outside the Committee examples of where he believes there is behaviour that would be criminal in Northern Ireland law that would not be criminal in England and Wales that may be affected by this Bill, so that we could consider that point? Off the top of my head, I cannot think of examples, but I am always keen to discuss such issues. So, if he can think of the examples, we can consider whether they would be covered or not.

As I have said many times before, this Bill carries a moral imperative: to rid our society of the scourge of modern slavery. I am sure that every one of us shares that intention. If we are to achieve that aim, we need to ensure we create clear offences that are focused on tackling the really severe abuse that amounts to modern slavery.

Given that, I hope that right hon. and hon. Members will feel that they do not need to press their new clauses, and I hope that when the Chair puts the question they will feel able to support the clause’s inclusion in the Bill.

Question put, That clause 3, as amended, start part of the Bill.

The Committee divided: Ayes 11, Noes 8.

Rhif adran 3 Decision Time — Clause 3 - Meaning of exploitation

Ie: 11 MPs

Na: 8 MPs

Ie: A-Z fesul cyfenw

Na: A-Z fesul cyfenw

Question accordingly agreed to.

Clause 3, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.