Nationality and Borders Bill – Interventions on why the Bill should not include Part 5 and the McColl amendment on support for victims

Feb 11, 2022 | Featured parliamentary activity

Nationality and Borders Bill – Interventions on why the Bill should not include Part 5 and the McColl amendment on support for victims

Lord Alton of Liverpool(CB)

My Lords, the Minister is dealing with these issues with great sensitivity and I welcome the tone of his remarks. He has—I think deliberately—left a number of questions hanging, saying that a lot of work is being done on this and that people are considering these sensitive and detailed questions and looking at them more thoroughly. This all begs the question: who has demanded this change in this legislation at this time, in advance of us having detailed information laid before us?

It seems that we have it the wrong way around. Given that his noble friend said earlier that there will be a Bill specifically to improve the modern-day slavery legislation, why cannot we hold this over until we see more clearly where the information is wrong, where it is right and what the evidence is? Is it not the nature of good government to look and examine the evidence before bringing measures forward? I do not see any evidence that this has happened so far.

Lord Stewart of Dirleton

(Con)

My Lords, I do not wish to appear to give a cursory answer to the noble Lord in a debate of this sensitivity, but my noble friend Lord Wolfson of Tredegar committed to write on the data—I am grateful to the noble Lord for nodding his head in recognition. I imagine that the point he seeks to raise will be discussed in any such correspondence. Does that satisfy him at this stage?

Lord Alton of Liverpool

(CB)

I am grateful to the Minister, but it seems to be the wrong way around. Normally, there is pre-legislative scrutiny of complex and sensitive issues, and this is a classic example where there should have been pre-legislative scrutiny, as there was before the 2015 legislation, in some detail and at some length. Why was it thought that in a Bill dealing specifically, as the noble Lord, Lord Deben, said, with nationality, borders and immigration, we should deal with an issue of this sensitivity? Would it not be better for the Government to withdraw this section of the Bill and come back with comprehensive legislation that we could all support?

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Lord Alton of Liverpool

(CB)

I am grateful to the Minister. In Clause 62, the phrase “bad faith” seems extraordinarily ambiguous. Can he clarify that? What jurisprudence does this phrase come from and on what basis will it be interpreted in the courts?

Lord Stewart of Dirleton

(Con)

I am grateful to the noble Lord for that intervention. I was proposing to deal later with the expression “bad faith” and its source, but, to help him at this stage, it is not drawn from any comparable legislation, nor from the authority of the courts. We do not hark back to that. Rather, the nature of the problems that must be confronted in relation to this is sufficiently protean and diverse that a need was identified to arrive at a broad expression in the Bill, and “bad faith” was the language selected after consideration among Ministers and officials to represent that.

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Lord Alton of Liverpool

(CB)

My Lords, with his usual clarity, the noble Lord, Lord McColl, has introduced his amendments to Clauses 63 and 64. I regard it as one of the privileges of serving in your Lordships’ House to have become a friend of the noble Lord, Lord McColl, over these last 20 years. I not only deeply admire everything he has done on the issue of human trafficking but have seen first-hand some of the extraordinary work he has done with Mercy Ships, where he has given so much of his life and time as a notable surgeon. I have no hesitation today in echoing the remarks he has made to your Lordships’ Committee. I am not sure I can echo the Zulu remarks he quoted, but I think Nelson Mandela once quoted a Zulu saying about “ubuntu”, meaning “brotherhood”, that

“we are only people because of other people.”

In many respects, that goes to the heart of what we are trying to express in these debates and amendments today.

Statutory support for victims in England and Wales during the time they are in the national referral mechanism—the recovery period—which was the subject of Amendments 156A and 156B, which I spoke to earlier, is long overdue. We are seven years behind Northern Ireland and Scotland, and I welcome the Government catching up with the rest of the UK. I would like to say with the noble Lord, Lord Morrow, in hearing distance that I deeply admire what he managed to achieve in Northern Ireland, and I look forward to hearing what he has to say about his Amendment 171B, which, again, I associate myself with. Indeed, I support all the amendments in this group.

I draw the Committee’s attention to the current version of the statutory guidance on victim support in England and Wales, which says:

“The Modern Slavery Victim Care Contract operates as a bridge, to lift adult victims out of a situation of exploitation and to set them on a pathway to rebuilding their lives. As such, it is important that no support provided through the Modern Slavery Victim Care Contract prevents potential victims or victims from accessing support they would otherwise be entitled to receive.”

The statement about what a victim is entitled to receive goes straight to the heart of Amendments 169A and 170A.

Under the Bill, what do the Government intend to provide in terms of support? The noble Lord, Lord McColl, said that without support, the Bill simply becomes a mirage—a good metaphor to use. What are the Government going to do to provide support during the recovery period? Will the support be in line with Article 12 of the European convention? Both Ministers talked earlier about the importance of compatibility in these areas. But, as the noble Baroness, Lady Ludford, said, we seem to pick and choose what we want to have compatibility with and what we do not.

The frequently referred to and admirable Joint Committee on Human Rights recently published its review of Part 5 and highlighted that

“clause 63 (new section 50A MSA) does not specify details as to what ‘any necessary assistance and support’ should include, leading to some ambiguity”—

a word I referenced earlier in connection with being in good faith—

“as to whether clause 63 (new section 50A MSA) will indeed adequately give effect to the UK’s obligations under Article 12 ECAT to provide the types of assistance specified in that Article.”

It is worth recording in Hansard what the Committee said:

“The Secretary of State should confirm whether ‘necessary assistance and support’ will include all of the types of assistance listed in Article 12 ECAT”.

We will all listen closely to the Minister’s response to these amendments and specifically on that point about whether the support will be in line with Article 12 of the European convention.

I have also co-signed Amendment 170. As I have already said, the stated objective of the Government’s support to victims is

“to lift adult victims out of a situation of exploitation and to set them on a pathway to rebuilding their lives.”

Who could disagree with that? All the evidence from those working with victims is that this goal is far from completed when a person is confirmed as a victim of modern slavery by the Government. To continue on the pathway to recovery, as the Government themselves have acknowledged, a victim needs much longer support.

The noble Lord, Lord McColl, has been making that case for many years in your Lordships’ House and I have been happy on previous occasions to give him support. 1am glad that he has taken the opportunity provided by the Bill today. If the Minister cannot agree to incorporate this now, will he tell the noble Lord, Lord McColl, and Members of your Lordships’ Committee that, when the putative legislation that was referred to earlier in this area is brought forward, it will at least be attended to then? I am glad that the Government have recognised the need, but they should now act to bring their commitment into a concrete reality.

I also want to touch briefly on the amendments to Clause 64 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord McColl, which seek to give victims who are eligible for support leave to remain. It is not just the right thing to do for these individuals, it makes policy sense to ensure that we are able to bring perpetrators to justice. It has been said again and again, by the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, and others who have re-emphasised this throughout today’s debate. Without evidence from victims, cases are much harder to prosecute. Here is an interesting point: it also makes economic sense.

A 2019 report from the University of Nottingham, which the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, will be well aware of, on an earlier version of the Modern Slavery (Victim Support) Bill introduced by the noble Lord, Lord McColl of Dulwich, showed that his Bill was “value for money”. I hope that the Minister’s officials have drawn that report to his attention, so I ask him: why would the Government not support the amendments in the name of the noble Lord, Lord McColl, and give this vital support to victims of modern slavery?

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