Sir, The Modern Slavery Act has received Royal Assent. It is a credit to the Government and to both Houses of Parliament. Many improvements have been made during its passage, for example large companies must now certify that their suppliers are not using slave labour. The role of the Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner has been strengthened. The same will, I trust, be true of the Gangmasters Licensing Authority, after promised consultations.
I have been concerned with domestic workers from overseas, tied to one named employer. Because they are unseen when living in employers’ households, many have suffered serious abuse and exploitation, amounting to domestic slavery. The Government has moved some way on this issue. There will be a new Model Contract, pointing out the National Minimum Wage. Interviews overseas for employer and worker will be compulsory before the visa is granted.
Both parties will be given information cards about rights and responsibilities. Once the worker is in Britain, he or she can be helped by the National Referral Mechanism (originally designed for victims of trafficking), giving access to Employment Tribunals and the Courts. It may provide accommodation, and social and psychological support. James Ewins is to conduct an official Review of the Overseas Domestic Workers Visa, to report by July 2015. Kevin Hyland QC is the new Anti-Slavery Commissioner and he is aware of the domestic workers’ needs for protection in post and rescue from bad employers.
I would like to thank the Minister of State at the Home Office, Lord Bates, for his part in improving the Bill and related issues. I pay tribute to a range of voluntary organizations, who have lobbied effectively.
House of Lords