To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, what assessment she has made of the potential merits of making noncompliance with Part 6 of the Modern Slavery Act 2015 a criminal offence.
8 March 2022
Section 54 of the Modern Slavery Act 2015 established the UK as the first country in the world to require businesses to report annually on steps taken to prevent modern slavery in their operations and supply chains. To comply with the requirement, statements must be:
- Published annually via a prominent link on the organisation's homepage;
- Approved by the Board of Directors or equivalent;
- Signed by a Director or equivalent.
To assess compliance with the legal requirements, the Home Office contracted the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre (BHRRC) to undertake an audit on the Home Office's behalf. The audit findings on levels of compliance were published on 17 September 2020 in the Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner's annual report (available here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/independent-anti-slavery-commissioners-annual-report-2019-to-2020).
The Secretary of State has the power to bring civil proceedings in the High Court for an injunction requiring an organisation to comply with the duty to produce a modern slavery statement. This power has not been used to date.
In July 2018, the Home Secretary commissioned the Independent Review of the Modern Slavery Act. The aim of the Review was to identify where the Act is working well, what can be improved in the implementation of the Act and whether specific areas of the legislation need to be strengthened. The independent review recommended that Government should strengthen its approach to organisations failing to comply with section 54 of the Modern Slavery Act 2015 and recommended use of a civil penalty scheme to penalise non-compliance.
The Government has committed to strengthen section 54 of the Modern Slavery Act, to ensure businesses and large public bodies report transparently on action they have taken to address modern slavery risks in their operations and supply chains. These measures were set out in the Government’s response to the transparency in supply chains consultation, published on 22 September 2020.
In addition, in January 2021 the Foreign Secretary announced that financial penalties will be introduced for organisations who fail to meet their statutory obligations to publish annual modern slavery statements. These measures require primary legislation and will be introduced when parliamentary time allows. The Government will publish guidance to help organisations prepare for the new reporting requirements when timings of legislation are clear.