Clause 34 - The Anti-slavery Commissioner

Modern Slavery Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am 4:00 pm ar 9 Medi 2014.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Diana R. Johnson Diana R. Johnson Shadow Minister (Home Affairs) 4:00, 9 Medi 2014

I beg to move amendment 117, in clause 34, page 24, line 19,  leave out “a person as the” and insert “an independent”.

This amendment asserts the independence of the Anti-Slavery Commissioner.

Photo of David Crausby David Crausby Llafur, Bolton North East

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

Amendment 112, in clause 34, page 24, line 20, at end insert—

‘(2A) Before making this appointment the Secretary of State’s preferred candidate must go through a pre-appointment hearing with the Home Affairs Select Committee.”

Amendment 118, in clause 34, page 24, line 23, leave out “may” to end of line 30 and insert—

“shall pay remuneration and allowances to the Commissioner and—

(a) shall before the beginning of each financial year specify a maximum sum which the Commissioner may spend on functions for that year

(b) may permit that to be exceeded for a specified purpose, and

(c) shall defray the Commissioner’s expenditure for each financial year subject to paragraphs (a) and (b).

(4) The Commissioner may appoint staff.”

Clause stand part.

New clause 19—Establishment of the Anti-Slavery Commissioner—

‘(1) There is to be an office of Anti-Slavery Commissioner (in this section “the Commissioner”).

(2) The Commissioner shall be appointed by the Secretary of State, following a pre-appointment review by Parliament of the candidate proposed by the Secretary of State.

(3) The Commissioner may appoint their own staff.”

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

We now move on to part 3 of the Bill. The clauses in part 3 all relate to the role of the anti-slavery commissioner. First, on the amendments to clause 34 in this group, I am pleased that the Government have brought forward clauses to establish the anti-slavery commissioner. The Government have previously said that that is one of the most important aspects of the Bill. I refer to the Centre for Social Justice’s report of March 2013 into modern-day slavery in the UK, “It Happens Here”. That report said:

“Measures to address modern slavery…and provide support for…victims and survivors in the UK are the remit of numerous government departments, local government agencies and a wide range of NGOs from across civil society. Such diverse activity requires independent oversight and coordination for it to be effective.

There is significant need in the UK for the appointment of a single individual to oversee efforts to fight modern slavery in the UK, in light of the disparate national response”.

Leading on from that, the report “Establishing Britain as a world leader in the fight against modern slavery”, which came out of the work the Home Secretary commissioned from my right hon. Friend the Member for Birkenhead (Mr Field) and other right hon. Members, also made it clear that there was an important role for the anti-slavery commissioner. The report said that the role should be,

“independent from Government and accountable to Parliament”; that it should,

“act as a bridge between civil society and Government”; and that it should represent and be a voice for victims.

It was clear from the evidence witnesses gave to the Joint Committee on the Bill that there was a real need for coherent leadership on modern slavery. It was felt the independent anti-slavery commissioner could bring that to the role. I also noted that the Joint Committee,  in its pre-legislative scrutiny, raised two issues. The first relates directly to the clause before us on setting up the role, and concerns,

“the absence of statutory protection to secure the…stated intention of independence” in the way the Bill is currently drafted.

I read very carefully what the Joint Committee said, because it paid tribute to the current Home Secretary and her commitment to an independent anti-slavery commissioner. I know the Minister has made it clear she wants a strong anti-slavery commissioner to do a lot of the work she has discussed in her contributions to the Committee, to ensure there are far more prosecutions and that victims see justice being done. However, the Joint Committee made the point that there is no guarantee that any future Home Secretary or Minister would take a similar approach to the current Home Secretary or Minister. The Committee therefore felt it was vital that the Bill explicitly stated that this role was independent.

The Joint Committee also raised concerns about the narrowness of the role as defined in the Bill. We will come on to that when we look at clause 35 next. The focus was far too narrowly on the prevention, detection, investigation and prosecution of offences; it needed to have a wider remit, but we will come on to that.

I would like to test the view of the Committee on amendment 117. The amendment is a simple one, which seeks to set things out clearly. As drafted, the clause reads:

“The Secretary of State must appoint a person as the Anti-slavery Commissioner”.

The amendment would replace “a person as the” with “an independent” to make it clear that the role is that of an independent anti-slavery commissioner. For the reasons set out by the Joint Committee, it is important to include that word.

Amendment 112 seeks to require a pre-appointment hearing before the Home Affairs Committee in advance of the Secretary of State appointing a commissioner. Amendment 118 deals with the remuneration and allowances of the commissioner and gives permission to the commissioner to appoint staff, to beef up the independence of the role. We have used the text that was set out in the alternative Bill produced by the Joint Committee in amendments 117 and 118. Also, my hon. Friend the Member for Foyle has tabled new clause 19, which is included in this group. It has a similar effect to our amendments, so I will come on to that in a moment.

On the independence point, it is worth looking at the evidence taken by the Joint Committee on the role of an independent anti-slavery commissioner. The Joint Committee report, at paragraph 145, refers in particular to what the Dutch national rapporteur said. Her role

“illustrated the importance of statutory independence for a UK Anti-Slavery Commissioner when she told us that the long-standing effectiveness of her own role lay in its statutory independence and the trust engendered as a consequence.”

The Joint Committee, which spent a lot of time looking at the matter, was concerned and wanted to see something similar to the Dutch model in the Bill.

As hon. Members recognise, there is a lot of good will and support from charities, voluntary organisations, churches and non-governmental organisations. It is  important that the anti-slavery commissioner is seen to be independent of Government and to have the credibility to co-operate with all those other groups, organisations and sectors that we rely on to work with victims to ensure that prosecutions are brought whenever possible.

I wanted to mention the Finnish model to the Minister as well. That has been held up as an example of the best way to set up an anti-slavery commissioner. In Finland, the Ombudsman for Minorities is an independent and autonomous authority located administratively within the Ministry of the Interior. The national rapporteur on trafficking human beings within that organisation analyses and evaluates the implementation of legislation and activities to combat trafficking in human beings, and issues recommendations to make the Finnish Government’s actions against human trafficking more effective.

The main duties of the national rapporteur are to monitor issues relating to human trafficking such as the fulfilment of international obligations and the effectiveness of national legislation; to issue proposals, recommendations, statements, opinions and advice; to keep in contact with international organisations; to provide legal advice to and assist victims of trafficking as necessary; and to report annually to the Government and every four years to Parliament on human trafficking and related issues.

I will be grateful if the Minister could say why the Finnish model—or the Dutch model, as preferred by the Joint Committee—is not appropriate in this country. Obviously, this arrangement is being set up from scratch. It seems to me that we should look at good practice from around the world to see what is working, and if people think there is a case for using those models here.

I turn now to the amendment on pre-appointment hearings. It is important because Parliament should be involved in the process for two key reasons. Parliament has an opportunity to have a role in scrutinising appointments otherwise made by the Executive. Although we recognise and accept that the Secretary of State will make the appointment and does not have to follow any Select Committee recommendations about a pre-appointment hearing, we think it is an important role for Parliament to exercise.

Many hon. Members will recall when the Children’s Commissioner had a pre-appointment hearing with the Education Committee, and that Committee chose not to say that that person should be confirmed in post, but the Secretary of State at the time went ahead and appointed that person. In a way, this is not saying that the Secretary of State would be bound. It is just an opportunity for Parliament to ask some questions.

That leads me on to the second point. A pre-appointment hearing would ensure that hon. Members felt that they could question and see for themselves, and ensure that Ministers were not deliberately appointing candidates who might be less challenging to them in the role of anti-slavery commissioner.

The point is to give Parliament that opportunity. It follows the line of the Wright proposals in giving Back Benchers more of an opportunity to have their say. In Committee on what is now the Justice and Security Act 2013, there was much interest in having the heads of the intelligence services come before the Intelligence and Security Committee for a pre-appointment hearing. If  the Government are minded to consider such hearings for that type of appointment, it would seem sensible to consider them in this case. I look forward to hear what the Minister has to say about pre-appointment hearings.

Amendment 118 provides an opportunity to amend the Bill to give more independence to the anti-slavery commissioner in staffing, accommodation, equipment and facilities. As the Bill is drafted, those are all to be provided by the Secretary of State. The Joint Committee on the Bill did us a great service by looking at this area and making some comments. Paragraph 147 of the report is on evidence of the Independent Police Complaints Commission. It stressed the importance of freedom to appoint to the commissioner’s independence.

“The perception of that independence, if not its reality, may be affected by its statutory closeness to the department. Unlike the Prisons Inspectorate or the IPCC (or indeed the Victims Commissioner), the Anti Slavery Commissioner…will be unable to engage his or her own staff, or be located outside the department. He or she will therefore be relying on negotiating the right number and expertise of departmental civil servants, whose careers and ultimate accountability lie within the department. In my view, this is unfortunate, as it does not provide the Commissioner with any visible separation from the department.”

The Joint Committee went on to consider other domestic and international commissioners, and focused particularly on the independent reviewer of terrorism legislation, David Anderson. He was able to appoint a specialist adviser. Given his role, he said that it was essential that he should be allowed to make that decision.

The independent chief inspector of borders and immigration, who at that time was John Vine—I think he has since left—told the Joint Committee that his staff

“were largely civil servants from across the civil service but that he was ‘able to advertise for staff in newspapers in order to get a good mix of skills’.”

The Joint Committee also noted that

“under the UK Borders Act 2007, section 49, ‘the Chief Inspector may appoint staff’.”

On the basis of the information provided to the Joint Committee it seems eminently sensible that the anti-slavery commissioner should also be able to appoint the staff that he would feel confident with, and be able to get the right skill mix. I ask the Minister to consider that again. I looked carefully at page 15 of the Government’s response to the Joint Committee on the issue of staff, explaining why the commissioner should not be able to appoint his own staff. Perhaps the Minister can help me, as I am not sure it is the best answer I have seen.

The response states:

The Commissioner role will be supported by a small team of analytical and support staff. It would not be effective or efficient for such a role to be supported by an independent human resources function.”

I did not quite follow that. It seems to me that it cannot be beyond the wit of man, or woman, to provide assistance to an independent anti-slavery commissioner in the appointment of staff, without creating an independent human resources function. Perhaps the Minister can help the Committee on that point.

The amendments are intended to make it clear that the commissioner should be independent, should be subject to a pre-appointment hearing, and should have flexibility with respect to the appointment of staff and their budget.

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, 9 Medi 2014

As the hon. Lady has suggested, I want clause 34 to be deleted and replaced by new clause 19, which would be the hanger for new clause 20. That deals much more comprehensively with the role and functions of the anti-slavery commissioner.

I agree with the Opposition spokesperson. As she said, my new clause is intended in large part to achieve the same purpose, with the same principles, as her amendments. On that basis, I would not want to press matters or set up a rival context. However, I want to take the opportunity to reinforce the key point about making the appointment subject to a pre-appointment hearing.

In my new clause, I deliberately did not specify that the hearing should be held by the Home Affairs Committee because I believe that Parliament could devise a wider way of having the hearing, to make sure that, unlike with the Home Affairs Committee, the interests of the different devolved areas were reflected, out of sensitivity to the position in law of the devolved authorities. The hearing could also have proper regard to what I want to see, which is a wider and more effective remit for the Anti-slavery Commissioner than that in the Bill at present.

It seems that there is a sense—as we heard during the opening stages of our proceedings, when concerns were expressed that the position had already been advertised—that the job has already been decided. Inevitably, people will have suspicions that the job spec means that a likely candidate is standing. One reason why I sought to take the approach in new clause 19 is that, notwithstanding the fact that the Secretary of State would make the appointment and have a leading position in the process, people would be suitably assured about the basis on which the appointment was made.

Similarly, as the hon. Lady indicated, there is the issue of actual authority, in terms of the remit and competence of the commissioner. Under the Bill at present, the commissioner does not seem to be independent enough even in relation to their own competence in terms of determining staff arrangements and so on. Again, I have sought to improve that with new clause 19. I am glad to see that my hon. Friends are also trying to improve it with amendments 118 and 111, which assist us on that key word, “independent”.

As the hon. Lady said, and as has been shown in evidence to the all-party group of which I have been a member for a number of years, when we look at best practice and world-leading examples, we find ourselves talking about the Netherlands and Finland. What the Government are proposing is a poor shadow of what those countries have. We need to do better if we are to maintain the idea that this is world-leading legislation or that we are even keeping pace with other countries. The Joint Committee found that to be the case, also, when it looked at these issues. Although there have been some improvements on the envisaged role and remit of the commissioner in response to the Joint Committee, the Bill still falls short of what was recommended. All members of this Committee will have received evidence submissions from many groups that work diligently and thoroughly in the field. They, too, have pointed out inadequacies they have identified in and concerns they have with the Government’s provisions.

I know that these issues will be dealt with more substantively when we discuss other clauses and my own new clause 20, but, for the sake of establishing a  bridgehead argument about the need to beef up the role of the commissioner, the scope of the brief and, most importantly, the commissioner’s standing, I am glad to hear that my hon. Friends are prepared to press some of their amendments.

Photo of David Burrowes David Burrowes Ceidwadwyr, Enfield, Southgate

I welcome this debate, particularly on clause 34. There is utter consensus on how important it is to have an anti-slavery commissioner. It will be an important appointment. The commissioner’s functions will lock in on and hold close to the fire, in the Home Secretary’s words, those agencies responsible for ensuring there is good practice, as we will debate later on clause 35, in

“the prevention, detection, investigation and prosecution of offences”.

Covering all those functions gives the commissioner a wide remit, which is very welcome.

The anti-slavery commissioner and indeed much of the Bill has come about as a result of a lot of effort by a lot of people on a lot of sides, not least the Centre of Social Justice, which in its important report, “It Happens Here”, calls for an anti-slavery commissioner to

“offer independent oversight across the whole of the UK’s government and non-government response to modern slavery, helping to improve its strategic coherence and continuity.”

Amendment 117 looks to provide what the Joint Committee refers to as tangible evidence of independence. It is important to the debate to ensure that we are on the same page, which I think we all are. The explanatory notes, at paragraph 127, state:

“Subsection (1) provides for the establishment of an Anti-slavery Commissioner (‘the Commissioner’ who will be an independent office holder appointed by the Secretary of State…)”.

We therefore all agree on the need for independence; it is how we get to that point of being assured of the tangible evidence.

The reality, as I understand it, is that the Government’s intentions, as expressed through the explanatory notes, are that the commissioner should be independent, whether that is shown in the Bill or in practical effect. Nevertheless, I welcome the amendment, because I look forward to hearing from the Minister about that independence, which is what we all want. We have other commissioners, such as the Children’s Commissioner or the Victims’ Commissioner, but it is important to recognise that the anti-slavery commissioner is unique and important. It must stand alone and we must ensure that it does the job that we all want it to do.

I was also struck by other evidence to the Joint Committee, not least from the Dutch national rapporteur. I appreciate that we are not seeking to mirror the rapporteur system. Nevertheless, she said:

“in my view, independence is quite an important element. Why is it so important? If you worked for the Government, you could not pull off what I did with my research on the judiciary—the judges would not really believe you or care for you meddling. They would see that as political, which would make it difficult. Being independent, for me there was no restriction in doing that.”

Whatever happens with the amendment, no one is suggesting that there would not be sufficient independence to allow the commissioner to hold to account all those  responsible for ensuring that we increase the prevention, detection, investigation and prosecution of offences. I am not suggesting that we have a rapporteur system. We have a good history, with good models, not least some of our commissioners who are independent. Some things depend on who holds the post. The characteristics of independence are often dependent on particular individuals and how they hold everyone to the fire. It will therefore be interesting when we debate amendment 112 on the process of appointment and how it ensures that we get the right people for the job. Whatever we put in the Bill, the office holder will be important.

It is important to be sure that independence is very much at the heart and soul of the commission. That is important for all the agencies and people looking on, all of whom are involved in the worldwide issue of modern-day slavery, so that they understand that we mean what we say by independence. The debate has been a useful and important beginning, but partly we will do that when discussing subsequent amendments to clause 35, which is on the functions of the commissioner, how that clause demonstrates independence and how it does what we and the Minister all want to achieve in ensuring good practice. I look forward to hearing from her about amendment 117, which has much to commend it.

I understand the aims of amendment 112 on the appointment process, although I am not sure that it is necessary to give statutory effect to a pre-appointment process. A statutory basis for such a process for all the appointments around is unnecessary. It is healthy for there to be transparency in the appointment process and wide confidence built up around the office holder, but the provision does not need to be in the Bill to achieve that. It is important for Parliament to be involved with that vital office holder.

Photo of David Burrowes David Burrowes Ceidwadwyr, Enfield, Southgate

I hear the point being made. That is one way, but it is not the only way for us to have both transparency and confidence in the process. Nevertheless, it would be good to hear the Minister’s response to that point.

It is important that we recognise that, on the issue of the anti-slavery commissioner, we are very much on a similar page. We must ensure that we give proper effect and evidence to the reality of what we all want, which is to ensure that the commissioner will be independent and do the job that we want.

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

I apologise if I take some time over these provisions, but I keep referring back to the fact that I get the feeling that we on the Joint Committee wasted 12 weeks of our time and the time of the 112 people who submitted written evidence, as well as the time the other members and I took over drafting our recommendations, because the Government have entirely ignored the thrust of what we tried to absorb and then draft into recommendations in the draft Bill we submitted.

In the evidence from people from the Centre for Social Justice, the Children’s Commissioner, the Finnish Ombudsman Eva Biaudet, the ombudsperson for the Netherlands and all the aspirant organisations that  wrote to us—such as Queen’s university—the key word that came up again and again was independence. We were told that the commissioner must be someone who stands outside the remit of Government and who can criticise and assist the Government. That was the key to it.

The role was supposed to be bigger than what I described in a parliamentary debate as the Home Secretary’s poodle, but that is what has been designed into the Bill. The role is not independent and it is not appointed independently. As the hon. Member for Foyle said, there is no parliamentary scrutiny of the appointment in the sense of the role answering to Parliament. We might say that that is how things operate in Parliament: people get appointed by Ministers and are somehow answerable to Ministers. I am not against that idea, but I do not like the idea that the Minister becomes the conduit through which they operate.

Quite honestly, the role is like that of some sort of prosecuting assistant on behalf of the Home Secretary. The remit is not what the Joint Committee discussed; it is about this obsession with the idea that we can prosecute our way out of the unbelievable, growing scandal of the abuse of human beings. Everyone tells us that we cannot do that. We have to build a bigger allowance and have a wider remit. If those things are not there, it is clearly not going to work. That is the point: the Bill is not going to work and the role of commissioner is not going to work. If the Government do not change, we are wasting the Committee’s time and Parliament’s time.

Photo of David Burrowes David Burrowes Ceidwadwyr, Enfield, Southgate

I am reluctant to be too critical of the hon. Gentleman, because we all agree about the need for independence. Nevertheless, the explanatory notes say that the commissioner

“will be an independent office holder”.

There is merit in the hon. Gentleman’s argument—we are all concerned about independence—but to go to the point of saying that the intention is any way to have the commissioner as the Home Secretary’s poodle and that we are completely on different pages is just protesting too much. It is important to look at where we can show the tangible evidence. We all agree—it is in the explanatory notes as well—that we want an independent office holder; the issue is how that is going to be achieved practically.

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

The point is that what is in the Bill does not achieve what the Joint Committee recommended or what was suggested by the people who gave us evidence—people who are already in post and are independent, and who have had to fight off the Government to ensure that no one interferes with how they do their job. Other jurisdictions, such as Finland, the Netherlands and as others, respect the fact that sometimes we have to drive Government in a different direction. The Government are obsessed with prosecution. It is clear that all these clauses lead towards an assistant to prosecution. That is what it is about, not the other things that were recommended.

We will come to this when get to later clauses, but the question at the moment is one of independence. I go back to the words of Lord Judge. We should say what we mean, not something that has to be interpreted. If we mean “independent,” we should say “independent.”  If we mean “answerable to Parliament,” we should say “answerable to Parliament.” If we say “answerable through the Home Secretary”––not even “to the Home Secretary” but “through the Home Secretary”––we are saying that the Home Secretary will decide what the commissioner can do, so there is no independence in reality. Later clauses even say that the Home Secretary can amend what is said in a report. Is that in case a report criticises the Government? Is that the case? Someone is not independent if they cannot criticise the Government. If the Government are getting it wrong, as they are at the moment—over and again we find statistics about failures to prosecute, failures to arrest and failures to save children and other people—we will be in the same position.

The purpose of having a commissioner is properly to implement the recommendation of the directive. The directive recommended an ombudsman, a commissioner or something similar. What did we end up with? A joint ministerial committee that was often not attended by ministers but by civil servants. Some people from the Scottish jurisdiction tell me that they participated by telephone, and it was not the Minister but a civil servant. It was a deliberate attempt not to implement the directive. Looking back at the history, we have to remember that we dragged the Government to implement the directive. They fought it off for months, and I certainly embarrassed the Prime Minister on three occasions by being lucky and having parliamentary questions come up on the Order Paper, so I asked him again and again when he was going to find his moral compass and implement the directive.

It is not unusual to find me suspicious that the clause seems to do whatever it can to push the recommendation away from independence and from a commissioner who would drive the Government and the authorities across the board and who would link up with the NGOs, which are currently deeply suspicious of working with Departments, the national referral mechanism, the border police and everyone else because of the history of what they see as the diminution of the rights of victims and an increase in prosecutions, particularly for immigration breaches, and the dispatching of people back into the hands of the traffickers who sent them here in the first place. That is all history that should have been addressed by the clause, and we could have done that by saying that we want someone who will assist the Government on their own terms, not on the terms that the Government find acceptable.

When I studied business at university, I was told, “Finding a problem is like finding a gem in the works because, by solving the problem, you can make things work better.” My worry is that, as described in the clause, the commissioner is so constrained by the Home Secretary’s wishes that we will end up with someone who does not have the power to help the Home Secretary, the Government, Parliament or the process. The amendments are correct, and they are in the spirit of the Joint Committee’s recommendations. But from all we have done so far, I do not get the feeling that the Government are willing to listen. They will just blunder on, forcing through the view they already had, which is that they want a prosecution Bill and someone who will come in to assist the Home Secretary on those prosecutions and just go on with it. They did not want the person to go outwith that remit in case the Government were  diverted from their equation, which is to get harder by pulling all these offences together and hitting people who are making money from trafficking over the head with them, and somehow we will win. But we are clearly not winning. Unless someone has a bigger vision, which would be the commissioner, the Government will never win and we will never win—we will have failed the people who sent us here.

Photo of Fiona Bruce Fiona Bruce Ceidwadwyr, Congleton 4:45, 9 Medi 2014

I welcome the Bill’s provision for an anti-slavery commissioner, which will be a specific role to lead the charge against modern slavery and a key to reaching the goal of identifying and supporting more victims and prosecuting more criminals. However, such an important and strategic role must be equipped with the status and resources to enable the commissioner to speak critically to the Government, law enforcement agencies, Parliament and elsewhere in the public sphere. I hope that the Minister will take note of the concerns expressed across the House regarding these issues, particularly independence.

Stating from the outset that the commissioner must be independent, as amendment 117 does, has merit, and I hope the Minister will take note of this concern. The wording of the Joint Committee report on the draft Bill was quite strong. The report said:

“the statutory safeguards intended to ensure independence for the Commissioner fall short of those applicable to comparable roles, such as the Independent Reviewer of Terrorism and the Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration. The draft Bill does not offer sufficient protection for the Commissioner’s independence in the long term. Failure to do so will undermine the Commissioner’s credibility”.

If the anti-slavery commissioner is to encourage good practice in identifying victims and in prosecuting offenders, they will need to interact with a variety of agencies overseen by different Government Departments, as well as with health professionals, teachers, social workers, prison officers, and with a range of non-governmental agencies and international experts. So their credibility is essential in ensuring good working relationships with that range of partners. Central to achieving that credibility is that the commissioner is, and is seen to be, an independent voice, able to be a critical friend who can challenge, where necessary, the Home Office, other Departments and indeed Government as a whole.

The process for appointing the commissioner set out in clause 34 also concerns me. It appears to be a process more like that used to fill an in-house civil service position than that required to create an independent commissioner. Again, I would appreciate it if the Minister could address concerns about that issue, which have been expressed across the House.

It is particularly concerning that under the existing provisions the power to appoint the commissioner rests solely with the Secretary of State. I ask the Minister to give careful thought to the alternative approach set out in new clause 19 and amendment 112. A role of such importance deserves to receive the scrutiny of Parliament, and it is essential for the credibility of the commissioner that the appointment process is seen to take place in public, and in a fully transparent manner.

On Second Reading, the Home Secretary suggested that other independent commissioners were

“fiercely independent regardless of the method of their appointment.”—[Official Report, 8 July 2014; Vol. 584, c. 176.]

While that might be true of those particular officers, we need to bear it in mind that relying on the “fiercely independent” nature of an individual post holder is perhaps not always an adequate approach.

The right hon. Member for Hazel Grove reminded us that the Home Secretary also said that she wanted this Bill to be a “world-class Bill”, perhaps setting a precedent for other legislatures to consider. That being the case, it is important that the statutory framework and the appointment process underpin and support the commissioner’s independence, and that that independence does not necessarily rely on an individual office holder.

In earlier sittings, I raised a point of order about the recruitment process for a commissioner-designate, which is already under way. I repeat the point that by recruiting for a position that does not yet exist, and that has not yet been defined or endorsed by Parliament, we risk getting ahead of ourselves. I hope that the Minister will re-reassure the Committee that the Government are committed to listening to concerns and questions about the role of the commissioner, for example from NGOs, that they are willing to engage actively with those concerns and that the ongoing recruitment will not hinder that discussion and the possible development of the role of the commissioner, or indeed comments from this Committee.

In that regard, a pre-appointment scrutiny process by Parliament would perhaps be welcome, to offer the opportunity to establish a degree of transparency and review regarding the appointment, once the final form of the role has been confirmed. That can only benefit the commissioner’s credibility.

I turn to new clause 19, tabled by the hon. Member for Foyle in his characteristically thoughtful manner, and to amendment 118, both of which would enable the commissioner to appoint staff. The chief inspector of borders and immigration, who has similar statutory powers, told the Joint Committee that the ability to advertise publicly for staff was a key factor in enabling him to gather a team with what he described as

“a good mix of skills”.

Ultimately, the commissioner’s staff will be funded by the Secretary of State, who should naturally be able to set the budget. If the commissioner is to carry weight as the head of his or her team, however, thought must be given to empowering the commissioner to appoint their own team. The staffing provision in clause 34(4) sets out that the Secretary of State will discuss with the commissioner how many staff are required and select them from existing Home Office staff. That might be required initially, but in the long term the commission may be better served by developing a staff team strategically and bringing in people with the necessary skills to achieve the commissioner’s objectives in a truly robust way. I would be grateful if the Minister would reassure us of the expected involvement of the commissioner in recruiting staff under subsection (4), to allay our concerns.

Photo of Andrew Stunell Andrew Stunell Democratiaid Rhyddfrydol, Hazel Grove

I want to say by way of introduction that we should not talk the Bill down. It is extremely important in concept, and it can deliver a great deal of  good and tackle many of the evils that we all want to tackle. From the discussion that we have had in Committee so far, however, it is clear that someone will have to—

Sitting suspended for a Division in the House.

On resuming—

Photo of Andrew Stunell Andrew Stunell Democratiaid Rhyddfrydol, Hazel Grove

I was making the point that the Home Secretary has every reason to be congratulated on introducing the Bill. In many respects, it is excellent and can do a good job. We earlier noted that there are a number of aspects of the Bill that clearly require refinement, of which consent has been one. I will not rehearse them all because I would be out of order if I did.

One thing we can be clear about is that, however good the Bill, it is not on its own going to do the job. It is about ensuring that as part of the process of tackling the evils of modern slavery, we have somebody—a body or a person—who is dedicated 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year to ensuring that we do not lose the focus on tackling modern slavery.

That is why the commissioner is so important. That person and office is going to be the body that year after year, Government after Government, says, “Hang on a minute, that is not working properly. Hang on a minute, victims are not getting the respect and support they need. Hang on, we have identified a gap in the law.” That is exactly the kind of thing that the Children’s Commissioner, the chief inspector of borders and immigration and the chief inspector of prisons do at the moment.

We need such a person to be there and to be able to speak truth to power. If any Government get it wrong, they need to hear that and so does Parliament, from the person who has been appointed to oversee the process. It is really important that this be an independent anti-slavery commissioner—not just in the intention of this Government or in the explanatory notes, but in the Bill. That will make it clear that that is the nature of the post we are creating.

The second important point, which is more a matter for the next string of amendments, relates to the scope the commissioner has. Whether the Minister is comfortable with my saying it, the truth is that the way it has been presented in the Bill is different from the vision set out in the Joint Committee’s report. It is different in that it appears on the face of it to cramp the scope the commissioner will have for investigating and reporting on every aspect of modern slavery. I will not rehearse all the issues, but that is the criticism.

The problem is that at the moment the independence is not there explicitly and transparently, and the scope does not appear to have the breadth and width that the Joint Committee thought it should. In the long term, the role of the commissioner is not just to ensure that the job gets done, but to keep Governments honest and focused on the job. I am not suggesting for one moment that there is any lack of honesty or focus from the current ministerial team—from the Home Secretary or the Minister here—nor from the Government corporately. However, Governments change, their focus and emphasis change and it is important that the  commissioner is there, through thick and thin, making the case for keeping the issue under control and tackling it properly.

The Home Secretary herself, in setting this is train—she and her colleagues deserve to be congratulated for doing so—spoke of the UK creating a world-leading Bill. Although it is not exactly going to be a unique anti-modern slavery Bill, it will certainly be one of the first and it could be one of the best. Our colleagues across the Commonwealth and in the United Nations are all struggling with the same issue and we have an opportunity to provide leadership. That is another good reason for us ensuring that we produce a Bill that is not just adequate or sufficient, but excellent. I hope the Minister will take note of that.

The Joint Committee took direct evidence from the gentleman who performs a similar role in the United States, from the lady who has the rapporteur role in the Netherlands and from our colleague in Finland. All of them value their independence from their respective Governments and their capacity to report directly to their legislative chambers as being fundamental to their ability to do their job in their political environments. Our political environment is somewhat different. We have systems in this country which, when written down on paper, make it unclear how it can possibly be said that people are acting independently. We have a system of appointing people inside the system who then, it seems, can turn round and, so to speak, bite the hand that feeds them.

To build that independence into a model that we believe is going to match international standards and be the one we would want to advocate to our Commonwealth colleagues—let us say in Nigeria or other areas where slavery is a significant problem, and where trafficking often originates from—and say that they should do as we do, strongly suggests to me that we should be saying to them, “What you need is an independent anti-slavery commissioner, not one appointed by your Minister of the Interior to sit inside your Interior Ministry.” There are reasons to do so at the local and the practical level of operations here in the UK—or in England and Wales—and also in achieving the Home Secretary’s ambition for us to be world-leading and trend-setting.

I mentioned the prisons inspector, the chief inspector of borders and immigration and the Children’s Commissioner, all of whom have the capacity to appoint staff. That appears to be denied, or at least obscured, in clause 34. Therefore, it is important that the Minister give us some reassurances about what she has in mind. There is a certain amount of talk behind hands, and whispers that the Home Office does not want to create somebody who dares to be as independent as the Children’s Commissioner. I hope that is not true, and it is not the fear that they might get somebody a bit stroppy or difficult to handle that is making the Home Office reluctant to accept the reality of what is needed here.

That brings me to a point that is in amendment 112 but particularly in new clause 19, tabled by the hon. Member for Foyle: ensuring that this person is answerable to Parliament. I want to see a process, and I am more interested in this person reporting to Parliament directly than I am in the pre-appointment review, although I do not see any objection to that. By the time we get to next year it might well be so routine that it is not even built  into legislation. What is important is that this person report directly to Parliament, without their reports and reviews being filtered through the Home Office.

I want to make it clear that if there is debate about whether the Bill creates a glass that is half full or half empty, I believe it is more than half full. However, I also believe that, before it leaves Committee and certainly before it comes into law, we should ensure that we make it full. The new clause tabled by the hon. Member for Foyle is excellent in practically all regards, and measures my view quite well. Amendment 117, which adds the word “independent”, is a statement of the obvious that I hope the Minister can indicate she is minded to take very seriously indeed. I do not think amendment 112 does a great deal, as the Home Affairs Committee is a creature of the House. I would like to see the version that appears in new clause 19, which is that the House should hold that pre-appointment hearing, and that it would be for the House to decide how that hearing should be conducted.

I am taking a pick-and-mix approach to what is before us, but what I am trying to get across to the Minister and the Committee is that we are at the heart of the mechanism for ensuring that this process continues beyond the length of this Parliament and the people elected and serving in it, and that it becomes and remains a core activity in tackling modern slavery. If we do not have that independent commissioner, with a wide scope in the form set out in new clause 20, I fear we will fail to do that.

Photo of Karen Bradley Karen Bradley The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department 5:15, 9 Medi 2014

I thank members of the Committee for their contributions. I will address my comments to the amendments and new clauses tabled, and to clause 34 itself. A number of other points have been raised relating to later clauses. I hope I will cover all the points that have been raised, if not during this contribution then in contributions to debates on later clauses and groups of amendments. If I fail to do so I will, as always, endeavour to write to the Committee to put on the record any points that have not been covered.

I am grateful to all members of the Committee for the amendments and new clause they have tabled, and for speaking to them. The amendments and new clause in this group seek to amend the appointments process for the role of the anti-slavery commissioner, how the commissioner’s budget is set and how staff are appointed.

The creation of the anti-slavery commissioner is a very important provision in the Bill and marks a critical step forward in our collective fight to stamp out modern slavery in this country. Our debates over the course of the Committee, on Second Reading and during much of the pre-legislative scrutiny centred on the fact that this crime, while not unique, has an unusual aspect. The victims are so vulnerable that they need special protection and special provisions to be able to give the information and evidence we need to convict the slave masters. We keep talking about whether we catch and convict to protect, or whether we protect by catching and convicting. I do not think it matters which emphasis we apply. Ultimately, if we are to protect victims and make the UK an unwelcoming place for anybody who wishes to  abuse other human beings, as slave masters do, we need to catch and convict successfully. The role of the commissioner is integral to co-ordinating the efforts of all bodies and agencies involved in protecting victims by catching and convicting, and in providing victims with the protections they need. I am pleased that we are talking about introducing a commissioner and that there is support across the Committee for the idea, although I appreciate that views differ about how the role should look.

Clause 34 establishes the role of the commissioner. For the first time, there will be a senior figure dedicated to tackling modern slavery and ensuring that law enforcement agencies do all they can to target and bring to justice those who seek to profit from the misery of others. We will debate the commissioner’s remit in detail during our debate on clause 35, but I want to mention briefly that in making provision for the commissioner role, we have deliberately focused the role on the area in which it will have the greatest impact: encouraging good practice in the prevention, detection, investigation and prosecution of modern slavery offences, and improving the identification of victims.

We looked at a number of roles to establish the best framework. We purposely did not want to create a role that replicated that of existing commissioners and duplicated their work, nor did we want the commissioner simply to engage in general advocacy without a clear focus. To date, operational agencies have not done enough to understand modern slavery or establish the mechanics to drive an effective response, and I want the anti-slavery commissioner to change that.

My hon. Friend the Member for Congleton touched on the process of appointing an anti-slavery commissioner designate. Yesterday morning I attended our modern slavery operational leads meeting, which I hold regularly at the Home Office with representatives of all the bodies and agencies that are involved in operations to find and help victims, and find perpetrators. Sitting at that table, it was clear that there is a gap and that we need somebody who can come to those meetings and deal with the agencies and bodies beyond the regular operational meetings.

We need someone to ensure that the bodies all talk to each other and exercise best practice, so that we can get the prosecutions we want, prevent risk orders from being used instead of prosecutions, ensure that victims have the support and protection they need, and make sure that prosecuting authorities are not, as Christine Beddoe described in her evidence, looking for coercion or a “perfect victim”. We need someone to ensure that that does not happen, and to make sure that the CPS knows that it needs to take on such cases and develop a track record of achieving successful prosecutions. Only when there is confidence in the criminal justice system will people start to see this crime as one that we can tackle and on which we can achieve results.

Photo of Mike Kane Mike Kane Llafur, Wythenshawe and Sale East

The key point is about comparable roles. I would love to understand the thinking of the Minister and the Department on the difference—she just mentioned this point—between the new commissioner and the independent reviewer of terrorism or the independent chief inspector of borders and immigration.

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

I will come to that. I have looked carefully at how the different roles compare and I have a full analysis of the differences, so I will cover those points. We want a dedicated individual who will work tirelessly to resolve some of the problems surrounding the lack of investigations, awareness and prosecutions, which we debated last week when we considered offences. I also want an individual to focus on the prevention of modern slavery offences, working with agencies and organisations, including the strong and active NGO sector. Preventing people from becoming victims in the first place is paramount, but it is also critical to identify quickly and seamlessly those who become victims. Those are vital elements of the commissioner’s role. We intend the role to have the autonomy and authority to work with senior ranks across law enforcement agencies to corral them into action. Ultimately, locking up more slave masters and traffickers is paramount.

Although the commissioner will be appointed by the Secretary of State, they will be independent from the Government. In practice, the commissioner will work independently with a number of partners and agencies to meet their objectives and deliver their plan without interference from the Secretary of State or Parliament.

If I may, I will compare the anti-slavery commissioner with the Victims’ Commissioner, the Children’s Commissioner, the independent reviewer of terrorism legislation, the independent chief inspector of borders and immigration, the surveillance camera commissioner and the biometrics commissioner. There are small differences in the way in which they operate, but in all cases they are appointed by the relevant Secretary of State, they are located in offices provided by the Departments, their remuneration and expenses are provided as determined by the Secretary of State—these are in subsection (4) for the anti-slavery commissioner—and they all send their reports for the Secretary of State for them to lay in Parliament. There are similarities in how this role fits with those of other commissioners.

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

Will the Minister repeat what she just said? She referred to clause 34(4), which sets out that the Secretary of State will provide staff, accommodation, equipment and other facilities in respect of the anti-slavery commissioner, but I did not catch what she said about the other commissioners that she referred to. Are all of them treated exactly the same as the anti-slavery commissioner?

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

All of them have the same provision. The Secretary of State pays remuneration and expenses as determined in the clause.

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

I was referring specifically to the staff, accommodation, equipment and other facilities.

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

I apologise; I will come to that point later if the hon. Lady will permit me.

Photo of David Burrowes David Burrowes Ceidwadwyr, Enfield, Southgate

Following on from the Minister’s comparison of the anti-slavery commissioner with the other bodies, and drawing on the earlier intervention, is the word “independent” referred to in statute for the other bodies—not least the independent reviewer of terrorism—and is that necessary?

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

I thank my hon. Friend for that contribution. I was going to come to that point. I checked the legislation, and although we do refer to the independent reviewer of terrorism and the independent chief inspector of borders, in both cases the term “independent” does not appear; rather, they are widely referred to in that way. We will come to amendment 117 and the need for the word “independent”, but there is no reason why the commissioner could not use that term, in the same way that the reviewer of terrorism is known as the independent reviewer of terrorism, even though they are not called that in statute.

Amendment 117 seeks to include the word “independent” in the title of the role. I understand why right hon. and hon. Members have suggested such an amendment. Given that the word does not appear in the legislation for roles that are known by everyone as independent, I want to check whether putting it in statue would be problematic or without harm. I have heard the points made, and at this stage I would like to reflect on them. However, I can reassure the Committee that the commissioner’s role will be independent, whether it says so in the name or not, despite their being, as with the other commissioners, physically located in the Department and appointed by the Secretary of State.

Photo of Andrew Stunell Andrew Stunell Democratiaid Rhyddfrydol, Hazel Grove

I very much welcome the Minister’s approach, but approach is one thing and time scale is another. How long does she think it will take for the Home Office to decide whether including the word “independent” would be a cause of harm? Does she feel that it is something that might come by way of a Government amendment on Report?

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

I am sure that my right hon. Friend, who has ministerial experience, will know that the important thing is to get it right. I will therefore not give a time scale, but I will ensure that we look at this point carefully. I understand the strength of feeling across the Committee that it must be clear to all that the role of the commissioner is independent.

New clause 20 and amendment 112 seek to amend the appointments process in slightly different ways. New clause 20 suggests that the Secretary of State can appoint a commissioner only following Parliament’s pre-approval. Will the hon. Member for Foyle clarify whether, by “Parliament”, he means the Home Affairs Committee or some other body?

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) 5:30, 9 Medi 2014

I indicated that I was deliberately not prescriptive. The right hon. Member for Hazel Grove picked up on the fact that my amendment would enable Parliament to decide exactly how the process was done. My reservation about giving that role to the Home Affairs Committee relates to sensitivities around the devolved field—I would like the commissioner to look at areas of devolved responsibility as well—in that the amendment would leave it open for more involvement for those conducting the pre-appointment hearing than the Select Committee would allow.

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

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his comments; I thought that was what he had said, but wanted to be sure.

Amendment 112 suggests that the commissioner can be appointed only following

“a pre-appointment hearing with the Home Affairs Select Committee.”

Before explaining the appointment process outlined in the Bill, I want to return to the other commissioner roles. The shadow Minister referred to the Children’s Commissioner, which is different from the other commissioners, in that it is set up as a corporation sole—it is a non-departmental public body. It therefore has a different relationship with Government from the other commissioners, which are all statutory office holders. None of those has a pre-appointment hearing with the Select Committee or other bodies of Parliament. As is normal for an arm’s length body, the Children’s Commissioner does have a pre-appointment hearing. That is why there is a slight difference.

Photo of Andrew Stunell Andrew Stunell Democratiaid Rhyddfrydol, Hazel Grove

The Minister says there is a slight difference, but there is a rather fundamental difference between the person being appointed by the Home Secretary and then Parliament getting told, and Parliament having a look and the Home Secretary then appointing the person. Why should the approach to the anti-slavery commissioner be different from the Children’s Commissioner?

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

As I explained, the Children’s Commissioner is the only one of these bodies that is an NDPB—an arm’s length body. The normal process with arm’s length bodies is a pre-appointment hearing by the relevant Select Committee. For all the other commissioners, there is no pre-appointment hearing and they are appointed by the relevant Secretary of State. As this role is a statutory office holder—as are the Victims’ Commissioner, the independent reviewer of terrorism and the biometrics commissioner—it will go through the same process. I will ask my officials to check whether any statutory office holders go through a pre-appointment hearing, but I believe it would be highly unusual to have one in this case.

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

Will the Minister say whether any thought was given to the creation of the anti-slavery commissioner as an NDPB? Why was the commissioner role created as a statutory role?

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

I will come to that point, but I will first answer the question about the other statutory office holders. There is no parliamentary pre-approval for any statutory office holder. In the case of the Children’s Commissioner, there is a requirement in statute to do so, which has been decided by Parliament. That is not, however, the case with statutory office holders.

The reason why the anti-slavery commissioner is a non-arm’s length body lies in the approach across Government to arm’s length bodies and government bodies. We consider that this role can be carried out by a statutory office holder, and there is therefore no need to create a new NDPB.

Photo of Andrew Stunell Andrew Stunell Democratiaid Rhyddfrydol, Hazel Grove

I am very sorry to intervene again, especially as the Minister is being so helpful and constructive. I am encouraged that she is able to produce  evidence to show that the word “independent” does not appear with the other statutory office holders. I hope she will not use that as a convincing and conclusive argument not to consider it in this case, bearing in mind the assurance she gave earlier.

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

I want to reassure my right hon. Friend. I want to check that there was no need to put the word “independent” into the legislation that set up and created the independent reviewer of terrorism and the independent chief inspector of borders. I want to check why that was done in that way, given that they are known colloquially as the independent reviewer of terrorism, for example. I want to check whether there was any particular reason why the word “independent” was not put in, and whether putting that word in leads to unintended consequences. I want to ensure we are absolutely clear on that point. Then we can obviously consider the implications of that finding. I hope my right hon. Friend understands.

Let me return to the appointments process envisaged in the Bill. A number of safeguards are already built into the appointment process for the anti-slavery commissioner. First, the appointment must be made through a fair and open competition. Secondly, the appointment can be made only following a clearly established public appointments process set out by the Cabinet Office. Thirdly, an appointment can be made only once all candidates have been sifted against the criteria for the role, interviewed by a panel, including an independent member, and, where appropriate, interviewed by the Home Secretary. Finally, in appointing the commissioner, the code of practice set out by the Office of the Commissioner for Public Appointments must be adhered to. Given the strategic importance of the role, the Prime Minister will also take an active interest in ensuring that the successful individual has the right experience and skills to perform the role effectively and make a real difference on the ground.

I want to make a point about scrutiny of the commissioner. A number of right hon. and hon. Members have talked about parliamentary scrutiny. It is highly likely that the anti-slavery commissioner designate will be called before the Select Committee on Home Affairs, as has happened in similar circumstances. We would not be surprised if that Committee wished to interview the commissioner designate and ascertain the role to be carried out. I believe the existing safeguards are sufficient to ensure that the right candidate is appointed to the role, and I hope that right hon. and hon. Members will see fit not to press their amendments.

Proposed new clause 19 and amendment 118 would give the commissioner statutory power to appoint his or her own staff. I fully understand the objective to ensure the commissioner’s independence and I share the concern. I am grateful for the chance to explain to the Committee why I do not believe these changes are needed—and why, therefore, the extra cost involved would not be justified. The commissioner role will be supported by a small team of analytical and support staff. Following normal Government practice for roles of this nature, we would expect staff to be recruited from the civil service using Home Office human resources. By that we mean that having an independent work force or staff would require the recruitment process, the payroll and the HR procedures all to stand alone. That seems an  unnecessary expense at a time of austerity, when we are all looking to ensure that things are done efficiently and effectively.

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

I referred earlier to the fact that the chief inspector can appoint his own staff. Will the Minister explain why it is possible to make payment to staff and have payroll and HR functions to support the chief inspector appointing his own staff, but not possible for the anti-slavery commissioner to have the same powers?

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

In line with typical practice, we would expect the commissioner to take part in the selection process, to ensure that he or she has confidence in the team. We have looked at the support provided to the Victims’ Commissioner, the Biometrics Commissioner and the Surveillance Camera Commissioner. That works in practice at an effective and efficient cost to the public purse, but it also ensures that the commissioner has a role in selecting staff. Given the role the commissioner will have, we feel they will play an important part in selecting their staff. There will be no fettering of independence—staff will not be imposed on the commissioner.

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

I am sorry to press the Minister, but I am not clear about why the chief inspector can advertise in newspapers for staff and appoint them, but we are being told that the anti-slavery commissioner cannot because the human resources support is not available and some whole new apparatus would have to be set up. How come the chief inspector can get away with it but the anti-slavery commissioner cannot? I just do not understand that.

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

We have taken the view that that is the most efficient and cost-effective way to do all this while still enabling the commissioner to be independent. It should be remembered that the chief inspector is running a substantial organisation—it is a full inspectorate—whereas we envisage a relatively small number of staff for the commissioner. The cost of setting up a stand-alone HR function, payroll and so on, would be prohibitive for that small number of staff. It is probably also worth saying that what is envisaged will mean that the staff themselves will have civil service pay grades, benefits and so on, which I am sure will be attractive to them.

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

The wording I used in my new clause 19 was that the commissioner “may” appoint their own staff. It does not have an absolute “will”, or mean that from day one the commissioner has to have appointed staff. There are many situations where staff are in place, on secondment or otherwise from the civil service, and where responsibilities are worked up and a work programme is developed. Staff appointments are then made according to the scope of that work programme and the necessary capacity.

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

Given the size and scale of the operation we are talking about, we consider what we are proposing to be the most cost-effective and efficient way. In practical terms, the commissioner will have a say over the staff working in his or her team. The provisions are a way of achieving that in a cost-effective and efficient manner.

To go back to the pre-appointment hearings, I want to clarify something. I am concerned that I may have given the impression that provisions for the Children’s Commissioner include pre-approval hearings. Having checked through all the legislation, there is no requirement in statute for any pre-appointment hearing for any of the other commissioner roles that we have been discussing or that I have set out in our consideration of the framework for the anti-slavery commissioner. That includes the Children’s Commissioner: there is no requirement for a pre-approval hearing in the statutory provisions for that post. I wanted to put that clearly on the record.

Amendment 118 would require the Secretary of State to specify how much the commissioner may spend on performing his or her functions, would enable the commissioner to overspend where it is for a specified purpose and would require the Secretary of State to pay the commissioner’s expenditure for each year. The Bill already includes provisions for the Secretary of State to pay expenses, remuneration and allowances to the commissioner. In practice, those will be agreed with the commissioner upon appointment for the term of office and set out in the framework agreement that sits alongside the formal terms of appointment governing the role. That agreement will also include the support staff, resources and equipment available to the commissioner, which will be agreed between the commissioner and the Secretary of State.

The hon. Member for Linlithgow and East Falkirk made a point that I know we will come on to later, but I want to make sure that the Committee is aware of this fact. He suggested that the Home Secretary would be able to amend the commissioner’s reports to remove criticism of the Government through redaction, but that is absolutely not the case: the only redaction will be concerned with people’s safety and with making sure that prosecutions or national security are not put at risk. There is no suggestion whatever that the Home Secretary will be able to amend the reports to take out criticism of the Government—that is absolutely not the case.

To return to amendment 118, I do not believe it is necessary. It is right and proper to have the appropriate checks and balances in place when setting up a statutory office holder, to ensure that the role adds real value, the post holder is provided with the necessary tools and resources for their specific role, and the role is cost-effective.

Photo of Michael Connarty Michael Connarty Llafur, Linlithgow and East Falkirk 5:45, 9 Medi 2014

In clause 36, which we will come to, the strategic plan can be modified or amended by the Secretary of State. If someone is given a remit that is then amended before they start, it is quite easy to decide what kind of report comes at the end.

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

As the hon. Gentleman rightly says, we will discuss that in detail shortly, so we will leave that until then. On the basis of the discussion that we have had and the comments on clause 34, I hope that hon. and right hon. Members will withdraw their amendments and support this important clause, which sets up the anti-slavery commissioner.

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

This has been a very helpful debate, aided by the fact that we have number of hon. and right hon. Members who sat on the Joint Committee and  could bring their experience of listening to all the witnesses’ evidence to the issue of the independence of the anti-slavery commissioner. As amendment 117 was tabled some time ago, giving Home Office officials time to consider whether inserting “independent” into clause 34 would cause trouble or problems for them further down the line, I am not particularly persuaded that the Home Office is now going to suddenly decide that it can look at this and report back at a later date. I still take the view that it is important that we say loudly and clearly on the face of the Bill that this is an independent anti-slavery commissioner.

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

I want to be clear that I am reflecting the strong views that have been expressed in the Committee. The Government are firmly of the view that the word “independent” is not necessary but because I understand the strong views that have been expressed, I want to check whether putting that word in would have a detrimental effect. I want to reflect on and consider the views expressed, which is why I wish to look at that issue further.

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

I am grateful that the Minister has listened to views reflected on both sides of the Committee. That is very welcome. I am sure, having read the evidence to the Joint Committee, its recommendations and noting the hour upon hour of time that it spent looking at the particular issue, it is necessary for this Committee to take a view on whether adding “independent” to clause 34 is the best thing to do to make the views of the Committee very clear. New clause 19, tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Foyle, is a good clause. We will not be able to vote on that clause at this stage but if that is pressed to a vote, I will support it.

The Minister talked at great length about pre-appointment hearings and went through a number of the statutory office holders and the children’s commissioner, who has a slightly different capacity, and said that there was no requirement for any of them to have pre-appointment hearings. She needs to be mindful that Parliament now is trying very much to assert that it has a role to play in holding the Executive to account. Most hon. and right hon. Members would think that it was good practice for the Home Affairs Committee or other Committees of the House to have the opportunity to question and to listen to the answers of people who are being appointed to important roles by the Executive. Although it may not be a statutory requirement, it is good practice. On being able to appoint staff, I am not with the Minister. There is a case, as in new clause 19, for the term “may” to be included in the responsibilities of the anti-slavery commissioner—that they

“may appoint their own staff” where appropriate. On that basis I will press amendment 117 to a vote.

Question put, That the amendment be made.

The Committee divided: Ayes 7, Noes 8.

Rhif adran 7 Decision Time — Clause 34 - The Anti-slavery Commissioner

Ie: 7 MPs

Na: 8 MPs

Ie: A-Z fesul cyfenw

Na: A-Z fesul cyfenw

Question accordingly negatived.

Clause 34 ordered to stand part of the Bill.