Clause 44 - Duty to notify NCA about suspected victims of slavery or human trafficking

Part of Modern Slavery Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am 2:45 pm ar 14 Hydref 2014.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Karen Bradley Karen Bradley The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department 2:45, 14 Hydref 2014

I will attempt to cover the points that have been raised, but first I will speak more generally about the clauses. Clause 44 concerns the duty to notify about suspected victims of slavery or human trafficking. We all know that modern slavery is largely a hidden crime. If we are to improve our operational response, protect more victims and bring more traffickers and slave drivers to justice, we need to get a better understanding of the scale and nature of the problem.

While the national referral mechanism does provide some important information about human trafficking, the data are not complete. Adults can opt not to be  referred, and the NRM currently covers human trafficking rather than all forms of modern slavery. Clause 44 will help to resolve these problems with our data and understanding by introducing a duty on specified public authorities to notify the National Crime Agency where they have reason to believe that a person may be a victim of human trafficking or slavery. The duty will apply to specified public authorities in England and Wales. These bodies will be specified in regulations by the Secretary of State, and it is envisaged that they will include national referral mechanism first responders who are also public authorities, such as the police and Border Force. The shadow Minister asked whether there is a list of those bodies. The list of public bodies that currently act as first responders includes UK police forces, the National Crime Agency, the Home Office, the Gangmasters Licensing Authority and local authorities. NHS professionals are not first responders. Adult victims will be able to remain anonymous if they wish.

During pre-legislative scrutiny, we heard concerns about the way the clause would work in practice. We have carefully considered those concerns and made changes to ensure that the needs of victims are paramount. It is now clear in the Bill that a notification in respect of a potential adult victim must be anonymised unless the individual concerned has given their permission to be identified. Specified bodies must also be careful to ensure that any disclosures are in line with the Data Protection Act. This measure will not apply to any non-governmental organisations. We will work with them to explain the advantages to be gained from better data and encourage them to notify, but we will not take a statutory approach.

The better a picture we can gain of modern slavery in the UK, the better we will be able to tackle it. I therefore hope that Committee members will feel able to support the clause’s inclusion in the Bill.

Clause 45 is a technical provision defining a number of terms used elsewhere in the Bill. The most significant definitions relate to the meaning of victims of slavery and trafficking. A number of important provisions relate to victims of trafficking, or both slavery and trafficking. For example, these terms are used in the duty to notify and the provision for guidance about identifying and supporting victims. The clause makes it clear that a victim of slavery is a person who is a victim of conduct which constitutes an offence under clause 1—the slavery, servitude or forced labour offence. The definition also covers the same conduct before the Bill becomes law.

The clause also makes it clear that a victim of human trafficking is a person who is a victim of conduct which constitutes an offence under clause 2—the human trafficking offence. The definition also covers the same conduct before this Bill becomes law. Given the transnational nature of the crime, the definition also covers the same conduct where it is not an offence simply because the perpetrator is not a UK national. This clause supports the important provisions of the Bill to protect victims of modern slavery.

Clause 46 is a technical provision that provides for minor and consequential amendments to other legislation required due to the provisions of this Bill. The clause introduces schedule 4, which contains the required series of minor and consequential amendments. The clause also enables the Secretary of State to make further  consequential amendments by statutory instrument, in case we later identify a requirement for such amendments. Under clause 47, any statutory instrument made under clause 46 will be subject to the negative resolution procedure if it does not amend primary legislation, and the affirmative resolution procedure if it does. I hope the Committee will support the clauses.