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Lord McNally: My Lords, I am glad that the Minister confirmed those figures because my ever assiduous noble friend Lord Avebury slipped them to me during the course of the debate. However, I was hesitant about using them because I was not sure whether the figure one in the statistics referred to 1,000. However, the Minister has just confirmed that the relevant figures for cases proceeded against are 10, five and two and for those found guilty four, one and one. The Minister referred to industries involving literally hundreds of thousands of organisations, agencies and employers. Therefore, the figures that he mentioned are lamentable. How can we expect to establish any kind of deterrence when the chance of someone being even proceeded against is something like one in 100,000?
Lord Bassam of Brighton: Exactly, my Lords. We have strengthened the means of enforcement and tried to increase the rate of enforcement activity. I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, on having rapidly reinforced my research with his own.
The noble Baroness referred to the position of local magistrates. She was really raising the issue of how experienced they might be, and the relevance of that to the low conviction rates that have been confirmed and that I made clear on the record. She also asked what discussions we had with the Magistrates' Association. The low conviction rate and level of fines are probably a consequence of a number of different factors. The Home Secretary is to write to the Sentencing Guidelines Council about the low fines imposed in recent cases, which greatly concern us.
We have taken action to address the previous frailty of Section 8. As I said, it was very vulnerable to the use of forged documents by illegal workers, and it is important to remember that, in many cases, successful Immigration Service operations against illegal working depend very much on co-operation with, or information received from, employers. I fully acknowledge that dialogue with the Magistrates' Association on the matter is important, but we should use the recently enacted Sentencing Guidelines Council as a means of ensuring greater understanding of the seriousness of the offences and the way in which the Government approach them.
The noble Baroness raised the issue of the CBI. I ought to congratulate the CBI on its help and support as it has been very constructive in its discussions with us. She also asked about the measures taken by government to improve the service to employers. I am happy to respond on both those points. Through the illegal-working steering group, we have been working closely with the CBIit has a representative on that groupto address compliance support issues. We sent summary guidance on the recent
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Section 8 changes to 1.4 million employers on the Inland Revenue PAYE register. We have produced more detailed guidance and made it available on the IND website, or on request from the employers' helpline, which includes high-quality photographic images of the documents that employers can check, together with other information.
The Immigration Service continues to make educational visits to employers to raise awareness of their legal obligations. We have also improved the technology supporting the employers' telephone helpline. I am told that the helpline answered a total of 7,515 calls from employers in April this yearmany about the recent changes to Section 8. So that service is obviously well used.
The noble Baroness asked about the recommendations made by the CBI and what more we might do. As I said, we welcome the CBI's contribution, and we hope that the five points that it has raised can be addressed as fully as possible. The new material on the IND website includes clear photographic images of identity documents, immigration stamps and vignettes. Staff operating the helpline have been trained on the new legislation, and calls are recorded so that complaints about the quality of service can be investigated and further training needs can be identified if there is a decline in the quality of service.
In regard to the specific suggestion that the helpline should give information about the immigration status of individuals, there are two reasons why it cannot do so. First, there is no current central record of those entitled to work in the United Kingdom. We are taking steps to build the legislative base for such a register, with consultation on the draft identity cards Bill. Secondly, we would be prevented by law on confidence and data protection from disclosing a detail from a person's immigration record to their employer without that person's consent.
Helpline staff, however, provide employers with guidance on what stamps mean in people's passports, and they refer cases to the Immigration Service for investigation where appropriate. That service is obviously very important in determining whether someone's legal status as an employee is correct.
There is a lot going on. I hope that I have fully answered the points raised. If I have missed something, which is always possible, I shall happily pursue it and ensure that a fuller response is made available.
"INFORMATION AND EVIDENCE AGAINST TRAFFICKERS Notwithstanding the provisions of the immigration rules, the Secretary of State shall have discretion to facilitate the giving of information and evidence against those who have committed offences under section 4, and such facilitation may include providing subsistence and the right to remain in the United Kingdom (including the permanent right to remain) but may not exceed compatibility with the interests of justice."
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The noble Lord said: My Lords, in moving Amendment No. 19, I shall speak also to Amendment No. 20, both of which are tabled in my name. I warmly welcome the Government's action to make all forms of trafficking for exploitation serious offences. The noble Baroness, Lady Scotland, stated that the Government would continue to do all that they could to end this dreadful practice. I welcome that, but I reply that trafficking will not decrease or be ended unless there are many successful prosecutions. We have a duty to care for and rehabilitate the victims of trafficking, both adults and, especially, children.
Recent trafficking into Britain began to be noticed only in about 1995. Nine years later, we have only a hazy notion of its extent. Reliable Romanian sources, known to me personally, have estimated that 300,000 people per year may be trafficked westwards from or through eastern Europe. If only one in 20 of such people came to Britain, that would be 15,000 people a year. West Africa and Asia are other sources that could easily increase the annual total, as we have sadly seen both at Dover and in Morecambe Bay. It is probably necessary for one criminal to traffic only one woman per year into prostitution in London to gain for himself an easy life.
Apart from reports from UNICEF and the American State Department, I know of only two serious studies into trafficking to this country. Both appeared this yearthe first by ECPAT UK and the second by the Poppy Project. The problem seems to affect asylum applicants and other incomers, with more female victims than males. It touches on all ages from about 30 downwards.
African child cases have increased recently. They are often masked by informal, non-registered fostering, which may cover as many as 10,000 children. Faced with the problem, social services do not always realise that they are dealing with victims of organised crime; nor do they always distinguish between smuggling and trafficking. Sometimes they find it difficult to share information among themselves. Quite often, there is still a lack of co-operation between police and social services as regards child protection.
The Kent protocol, involving immigration, police, social services and NGOs, is a model that should be helpful elsewhere. Other good inter-agency work is under way in Sheffield. I ask the Government to promote best practice everywhere, given that the main London airports are now better watched, thus diverting traffickers elsewhere. In that context, I welcome the start last month of a national service for trafficked children, called HM2.
I turn now to adult victims of trafficking. It appears that women who have suffered abuse in their own families are the most likely subject of trafficking. In a small sample, some 50 per cent had been raped before being trafficked, and 77 per cent had been beaten before escaping or being released. As a result, 92 per cent of the sample suffered some form of mental illness or acute distress, while 27 per cent had developed a sexually transmitted disease and 65 per cent had continuing physical problems.
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At this point I must ask the Government whether they have studied the co-ordinated approach, adopted in Belgium, to all forms of trafficking for exploitation. That brings together administrative and labour law and the criminal code, together with full victim support. An annual report on trafficking is made to the Belgian Parliament. Grace periods for victims are provided for up to six months. Belgium co-operates with the International Organisation for Migration on voluntary returns or moves to other countries.
The key to the whole system is to be found in the bi-monthly meeting of the anti-trafficking task force, which ensures that all relevant departments really do co-operate and that depersonalised case information is properly shared, with NGOs included in the sharing. If that system has not been studied I urge that it should be done as a matter of urgency, as it shows what is possible in a serious attempt to respond to acute human needs.
I very much hope that the evidence I have provided goes some way to indicate the daunting scale of the problem and the terrible damage that it does to both adults and children. As I said earlier, we have to convict the traffickers and we have to rehabilitate their victims. These are national responsibilities which cannot entirely be passed off to local authorities and voluntary bodies, even though the latter may be best suited to establishing relations of trust with individual victims.
I turn now to the text of my amendments, which I have tried to revise from those that I moved in Committee in a strenuous effort to make them more acceptable to Her Majesty's Government. The first amendment concerns the giving of information and evidence by persons of all ages so as to secure convictions. I have included the words,
to avoid suggestions that witnesses have come forward only because of the benefits that they have received. The point is to make it physically possible for evidence to be given and to remove obstacles and impediments that witnesses may encounter.
I realise that the Government may reply that the discretion that I seek for the Secretary of State already exists. I want to make it known as widely as possible that such discretion does exist and to do so by direct mention in the text of the Bill. We all know that the Secretary of State cannot personally exercise discretion in each case. He must act on advice so that the way in which officials in direct contact with cases actually operate is critically important. Do they always know of the existence of reserve and discretionary powers? If they know, do they use those powers? I suggest that they should be sympathetic and use discretion at an early stage, before victims of trafficking have made up their minds in full and have definitely stated, "we will co-operate". This is the whole point of the period of reflection during which relations of trust and confidence can be built up. This is the time when fears, blockages and impediments to the giving of information and evidence can be resolved.
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The second amendment uses the language of the Palermo Protocol, which Britain has signed and will soon be able to ratify. The amendment is in two parts. The first deals with children, because of their vulnerability and special needs. That is why the mandatory word "shall" is included. The word "suspects" is important because cases arise where there is a strong probability of trafficking for exploitation, but cannot immediately be proved. The second part of the amendment is permissive, because it deals with adults. I must point out that the Poppy Project, to which the noble Baroness, Lady Scotland, previously referred contains only 25 places funded by the Home Office. This is a useful start, protecting and making possible recovery for some women trafficked for sexual exploitation. It is, however, unique and I understand that all of its places are fully occupied at present. There is now no special provision for when those trafficked for labour or domestic exploitation escape or are freed from their oppressors. My amendment would enable the Secretary of State to make provision for them and I am sure that many housing associations and other voluntary organisations up and down the country would like to be co-operative on this matter.
We understand that enforcement and protection are two of the Government's four prongs in dealing with this difficult subject. The drafting of my amendment may be far from perfect, but I hope that I have said enough to persuade the Government to produce, if they fall out with my wording, their own formula to place in the Bill. I beg to move.
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