Dawn Primarolo's response to constituents regarding the Modern Slavery Bill and overseas domestic workers:
"Thank you for contacting me regarding overseas domestic worker visa arrangements and the Modern Slavery Bill.
I fully support the introduction of the Modern Slavery Bill currently being considered by Parliament. Modern slavery is a heinous and all too prevalent crime and the complicated nature of tackling it requires special legislation. However, I believe that this Bill could go further in a number of areas to help victims and survivors of modern slavery. One area of concern has been regarding Overseas Domestic Workers (ODWs).
In April 2012 the Government changed the Immigration Rules to prevent ODWs from changing their employer in the UK, and limiting the length of time they can stay here to six months. I recognise the serious concerns that organisations such as Kalayaan and others have raised about these changes, and the effect they are having on protections for ODWs against potential abuse and servitude under tied visa arrangements.
These changes to the Immigration Rules made things worse for ODWs and have led to more domestic workers being trapped in slavery. Kalayaan’s work has also found that domestic workers on tied visas are twice as likely to report significantly worse conditions and fewer freedoms.
I was therefore pleased that an amendment, supported by my Labour colleagues in the House of Lords, was recently added to the Modern Slavery Bill which would have effectively reversed the Government’s 2012 changes to ODW visa arrangements. The victory in the House of Lords on this matter followed several attempts by my Shadow Frontbench colleagues to address this issue in the House of Commons. Unfortunately these previous attempts were opposed and outvoted by the Government on each occasion.
Yesterday the Government sought to remove and replace the Lords’ amendment when the Modern Slavery Bill returned to the Commons. Labour MPs supported the Lords amendment but unfortunately were outvoted by the Government and as a result concerns remain regarding the tied visa for employment. A transcript of the interesting debate is available to view here.
As you may also be aware, the Government has recently announced plans for an independent review into ODW visa arrangements. This comes in light of the concerns that have been raised inside and outside of Parliament on this issue for many months. I believe, however, that this review is too late, unnecessary and that it does not tackle head on the plight of many ODWs who are subject to forced labour and exploitation.
Thank you very much for taking the time to write to me and share your views on this important issue.
Labour MP for Bristol South"