THE Government's Modern Slavery Bill will introduce new offences
of holding a person "in slavery or servitude" and requiring
somebody "to perform forced or compulsory labour". It will also be
an offence to "arrange or facilitate the travel of another person .
. . with a view to [that person's] being exploited", regardless of
whether that person consents to the travel. Those guilty of the new
offences face life imprisonment.
The Bill has been welcomed by Parliament's Joint Human Rights
Select Committee but, in a report last week (just before the second
reading of the Bill in the House of Lords), the MPs and Lords on
the Committee have said that it does not go far enough.
They welcomed the introduction of a new statutory defence for
crimes committed by victims of trafficking while being held as
slaves, but said that the proposed defence could be improved "by
making clear on the face of the Bill that a child victim does not
have to prove compulsion".
The Children's Society and UNICEF have both called for such a
measure, arguing that "a statutory non-punishment provision is
necessary, not only from a child safeguarding perspective but also
to prevent the risk of secondary traumatisation to the child."
The committee also welcomed the creation of the post of a new
Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner, but argued that the position
envisaged in the Bill (of advising on good practice relating to law
enforcement) is too limited and, as currently defined, cannot be
described as independent of Government.
A government amendment at the Bill's Report Stage earlier this
month incorporated "world leading provision" which will require
businesses above a certain size-threshold that supply goods and
services to "disclose each year what they have done to ensure that
there is no modern slavery in their supply chains" or in any part
of their own business. Companies will also have to include the
statement on their websites, with a "prominent link" from their
"There is a great deal to commend in the Modern Slavery Bill;
and we welcome many of its provisions," Dr Hywel Francis MP, who
chairs the committee, said, as the report was published. "However,
there is much that can be done to make the Bill even better."
Speaking in the Bill's Second Reading debate in the House of
Lords on Tuesday, the Bishop of Derby, Dr Alastair Redfern,
welcomed the Bill and the Government's amendment, but questioned
the level at which companies would be required to do this, because
of "the way our economy is developing, with the devolution of much
activity into very small-scale, local subcontracting enterprises".
He said that this is where "much slavery happens, and it is well
out of the purview of major operators, which have a vast scale of
He gave the example "as basic as a car wash, and a traded group
of people who are doing that labour. It is very difficult to catch
that kind of gangmaster activity, where people gather a group of
people, force them to do the job, pay them peanuts, often
confiscate their passports, and entrap them where they do not know
the language and do not have connections."
He welcomed the nomination of the former head of the
Metropolitan Police Human Trafficking Unit, DI Kevin Hyland, as the
first Anti-slavery Commissioner, saying that he had "been at the
forefront of putting victims at the front of this legislation and
the work of the Metropolitan Police".