Parliamentary considerations of slavery

On Tuesday 8 April, the Archbishop of Canterbury issued the Press Release Archbishop welcomes draft modern slavery bill which stated

“The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby has welcomed the publication today of the report and draft Bill by the Parliamentary Joint Select Committee on Modern Slavery … We owe a debt of gratitude to the Committee’s members for their efforts, and I would like to extend particular thanks to my colleague Alastair Redfern, the Bishop of Derby, for his participation in the Committee’s work.

I very much hope that the Home Office, as it prepares to publish its own Bill on Modern Slavery, will take the Committee’s recommendations extremely seriously. These include putting the rights of victims at the heart of the Bill; including effective provisions to recognise the increased vulnerability of children; and a clause that would encourage quoted companies to do more to ensure that their supply chains are free from slave labour. The Home Office has been a leader in the field of tackling modern slavery, and the determination of their approach is notable.”

It is therefore useful to place these initiatives into their parliamentary context, and this post provides the some of the background and links that may be useful for future discussion of these issues.

“Committee Bill”

The Parliamentary Joint Committee on Modern Slavery published its Report, Draft Modern Slavery Billon 8 April, pages 5 to 40 of which contain a Bill which it refers to as the “Committee Bill” in order to distinguish it from the Government’s draft Bill, below.  The Committee Bill was produced as a revision to the Government Bill “to illustrate the ways in which [its] recommendations might be translated into legislation.”  The 14-member Joint Committee was appointed by the House of Commons on 9 January 2014 and by the House of Lords on 15 January 2014 to examine the Draft Modern Slavery Bill, published in December 2013, and to report to both Houses by 10 April.  Evidence considered by the Committee is reported here.

Draft Modern Slavery Bill[1]

On 16 December 2013, the Secretary of State for the Home Department (Theresa May): announced the establishment of a new Modern Slavery Unit in the Home Office, with the responsibility “for ensuring that we tackle this problem from every angle, whilst always keeping the plight of victims at the very heart of our policies and everything we do.” In addition, a White Paper including a draft Modern Slavery Bill, was published. The objective of the Bill is to “simplify legislation, toughen sentences for slave drivers, and enable the courts to restrict activity where individuals may be at risk. This will mean that more traffickers are pursued, disrupted and brought to justice. The Bill will also create an Anti-Slavery Commissioner who will galvanise law enforcement’s efforts to tackle modern slavery.” A Memorandum addresses issues arising under the European Convention on Human Rights (“ECHR”) in relation to the draft Modern Slavery Bill, and an Impact Assessment has been undertaken.

Slavery Bill 2013-14

Peter Bone MP’s Slavery Bill, introduced under the Ten Minute Rule, SO No 23, which received its first reading in the House of Commons 10 July 2013 has now been withdrawn.

[1] “A Draft Bill is published to enable consultation and pre-legislative scrutiny. After consultation and pre-legislative scrutiny has taken place, the Draft Bill may be introduced formally in House of Commons or the House of Lords. Most Draft Bills are examined either by select committees in the House of Commons or in the House of Lords or by a joint committee of both Houses of Parliament.”

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