Select Committee on European Scrutiny Third Report


COM(00) 854


Commission Communication: combating trafficking in human beings and combating the sexual exploitation of children and child pornography:

—  Draft Framework Decision on combating trafficking in human beings; and

—  Draft Framework Decision on combating the sexual exploitation of children and child pornography

Draft Framework Decision on combating trafficking in human beings

Legal base: (a) Articles 29, 31(e) and 34(2)(b) EU; consultation; unanimity
(b) Articles 31(e) and 34(2)(b) EU; consultation; unanimity
Document originated: (b) 27 April 2001
Deposited in Parliament: (b) 1 May 2001
Department: Home Office
Basis of consideration: EM of 11 October 2001
Previous Committee Report: (a) HC 28-vii (2000-01), paragraph 11 (28 February 2001)
(b) None
To be discussed in Council: 6-7 December 2001
Committee's assessment: Politically important
Committee's decision: (Both) Cleared


8.1  The previous Committee considered document (a) in February. That document comprises two Framework Decisions, one related to trafficking in human beings and the other to the sexual exploitation of children and child pornography, and a Communication which sets them in context. The Committee did not clear the document, but asked for a progress report before the May Justice and Home Affairs Council, at which political agreement on the proposal was to be sought.

8.2  Although document (b) was deposited in May, the Explanatory Memorandum was not submitted until 11 October. The document was discussed at the Justice and Home Affairs Council on 27 and 28 September. Provisional agreement was reached on it, subject to consideration of the European Parliament's opinion and to parliamentary scrutiny reservations from five Member States, including the United Kingdom.

Document (b) and the Government's view

8.3  Document (b) is the revised Framework Decision on combating trafficking in human beings. In a helpful Explanatory Memorandum, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Home Office (Mr Bob Ainsworth) details the main amendments to the previous text, indicating what the Government thinks of them and referring back to the concerns of the previous Committee and of the sister Committee in the House of Lords. He says:

    "Article 1 has been set out differently from earlier versions of this Decision in order to reflect the complexity of the proposed offence. Previously, trafficking for the purposes of exploiting victims' labour on the one hand, and exploiting them sexually on the other, were set out separately in Articles 1 and 2. The two Articles have now been combined on the basis that the acts concerned are the same, although their purpose can differ. The Government welcomes this clarification.

    "Article 1 begins with the statement that the acts which follow should be punishable. It then sets out the acts which might comprise or form a part of the offence when they are committed in one of a list of circumstances, and for particular purposes, which are also cited (e.g. 'recruitment ... when ... use is made of coercion, force or threat ... for the purpose of the exploitation of that person's labour...').

    "References in Article 1 to a person being trafficked for the purpose of exploiting his '...fundamental rights ... in infringement of labour standards governing working conditions, salaries and health and safety...' have been deleted and replaced with a reference to trafficking for the purpose of '... exploitation of that person's labour or services, including at least forced or compulsory labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery or servitude...'. This amendment addresses one of the significant concerns expressed in the earlier Explanatory Memorandum on this instrument and by the Committees.

    "The words '... a misuse of authority, influence or pressure' in Article 1(1)(c) have been replaced by '...there is an abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability...'. Article 1(1)(d) 'there is another form of abuse' has been deleted and replaced by 'payments or benefits are given or received to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person...'. This terminology is borrowed from the Trafficking Protocol to the United Nations Convention on Transnational Organised Crime, which the United Kingdom has signed but not yet ratified.

    "A new paragraph 2 has been inserted providing that the consent of a victim is irrelevant when any of the means listed has been used. This addresses one of the concerns raised by the Committees and the Government agrees with this amendment. A new paragraph 3 has been inserted providing that when the victim is a child the acts shall be punishable even when none of the means listed has been used. The Government agrees with this approach. A new paragraph 4 has been inserted providing that a child means any person under the age of eighteen. This is consistent with international instruments to which the UK is a signatory.

    "Article 8 has been replaced by two new paragraphs. The first paragraph provides that a prosecution or investigation of a trafficking case must not depend on the victim's testimony. The second reads across to a parallel Framework Decision relating to the standing of victims in criminal proceedings and provides that child victims of trafficking will be considered particularly vulnerable in the terms of that Framework Decision. The Government believes this appropriately balances the rights of the victims and defendants."

8.4  In relation to the Government's view of the proposal as a whole, the Minister comments:

    "As stated in the previous Explanatory Memorandum, the Government is keen to combat this horrific trade in human beings on every front. The Government has accepted by signing the Trafficking Protocol to the United Nations Convention on Transnational Organised Crime that there is a need for a specific offence of trafficking in human beings. We also consider it desirable to harmonise offences and penalties in this area on a EU basis. Implementation of the offences in this Instrument will require primary legislation. We are not yet in a position to comment on the responses to consultation on these proposals in Setting the Boundaries, resulting from the review of sexual offences."


8.5  We are disappointed that it took the Minister so long to provide an Explanatory Memorandum on this proposal. Had we received it earlier, the Government might have avoided having to give provisional agreement in Council to an uncleared document.

8.6  However, the Explanatory Memorandum itself is helpful, and the text appears to have been improved in several respects. In particular, we welcome the fact that Article 1, about which the previous Committee had concerns, has been amended so that it is now clear what behaviour is to be criminalised.

8.7  We clear both documents, since, although the scope of document (a) is broader than that of document (b), the Explanatory Memorandum provides a satisfactory response to all the questions raised on it.

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Prepared 12 November 2001