Migrant Workers: Romania and Bulgaria

– in the House of Lords at 2:41 pm on 23 October 2006.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Baroness Rawlings Baroness Rawlings Shadow Minister, Foreign Affairs, Shadow Minister, International Development 2:41, 23 October 2006

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What provisions they plan to make following the European Union (Accessions) Act 2006 concerning potential migrant workers from Romania and Bulgaria.

Photo of Baroness Scotland of Asthal Baroness Scotland of Asthal Minister of State, Home Office, Minister of State (Home Office) (Criminal Justice and Offender Management)

My Lords, the Government welcome the European Commission's recommendation that Romania and Bulgaria should join the European Union on 1 January 2007. The approach to labour market access for the new member states will be gradual. We will provide details to Parliament by the end of October of the transitional controls that will be put in place.

Photo of Baroness Rawlings Baroness Rawlings Shadow Minister, Foreign Affairs, Shadow Minister, International Development

My Lords, I thank the Minister for her Answer. In light of the leaks in today's Financial Times and the forthcoming Bulgarian elections, what discussions have Her Majesty's Government had with the Romanian and Bulgarian authorities with regard to the potential restrictions to prevent abuse on the right to employment in the UK?

Photo of Baroness Scotland of Asthal Baroness Scotland of Asthal Minister of State, Home Office, Minister of State (Home Office) (Criminal Justice and Offender Management)

My Lords, I cannot comment on speculation that there may be in the press. As I said in my Answer, we hope to answer this very shortly. Indeed, if the noble Baroness had waited with her Question just a day or so, I might have been able to give her a much fuller Answer.

Photo of Lord Anderson of Swansea Lord Anderson of Swansea Labour

My Lords, my noble friend will recall that the Government made a spectacular underestimate at the time of the last accession. Bulgaria and Romania are poorer than the countries that joined at that time, and there is the Moldovan question. Can my noble friend give some idea of the Government's estimate of the number of Moldovan citizens who have Romanian passports? Some estimates say that there are between 300,000 and 600,000 of them. Presumably, the Government and the European Union have some estimate of how many Moldovans have Romanian passports.

Photo of Baroness Scotland of Asthal Baroness Scotland of Asthal Minister of State, Home Office, Minister of State (Home Office) (Criminal Justice and Offender Management)

My Lords, there are no confirmed estimates. It is really a matter for the Government themselves to determine that figure. We know that appropriate measures have been put in place, and the question of how Moldovans may avail themselves of the appropriate citizenship has been a matter of debate for some time.

Photo of Lord Avebury Lord Avebury Spokesperson in the Lords (Civil Liberties), Home Affairs, Spokesperson in the Lords (Africa), Foreign & Commonwealth Affairs

My Lords, if nationals of Bulgaria and Romania are allowed to reside here on the same basis as A8 workers, they would not have a right to be here if they were unemployed or seeking work. As, in the last quarter, we have reached the highest number of people employed and hours worked since records began in 1971 and A8 nationals have made a significant contribution to the UK's economic success over the past two years, should not we build on that experience and admit workers from Bulgaria and Romania on the same basis as A8 nationals?

Photo of Baroness Scotland of Asthal Baroness Scotland of Asthal Minister of State, Home Office, Minister of State (Home Office) (Criminal Justice and Offender Management)

My Lords, the noble Lord is absolutely right about the contribution made by A8 nationals. I agree with him on that, but there are certain transitional issues to which the Government have given anxious consideration, and those considerations will be clarified once we publish how we are going to ensure that this gradual introduction is managed in a way that takes advantage of the opportunities of having new employees available to us and safeguards the best interests of the people of this country.

Photo of Lord Jopling Lord Jopling Conservative

My Lords, will the rights of migrant workers from Moldova be extended to Transnistria, which, while still Russian-occupied, is technically still part of Moldova?

Photo of Baroness Scotland of Asthal Baroness Scotland of Asthal Minister of State, Home Office, Minister of State (Home Office) (Criminal Justice and Offender Management)

My Lords, the issue is really whether the Moldovan national is also a national or citizen of Romania. That will determine whether they have access, not their Moldovan nationality or citizenship.

Photo of Lord Campbell of Alloway Lord Campbell of Alloway Conservative

My Lords, when does the noble Baroness think that a satisfactory Answer could be given to this Question after this "anxious consideration" by the Government?

Photo of Baroness Scotland of Asthal Baroness Scotland of Asthal Minister of State, Home Office, Minister of State (Home Office) (Criminal Justice and Offender Management)

My Lords, we are intending to publish, as I said, at the end of October. The publication of the Government's position is imminent.

Photo of Lord Stoddart of Swindon Lord Stoddart of Swindon Independent Labour

My Lords, have the Government received any communication from the Race Relations Board or elsewhere expressing concern that an influx of people from Romania and Bulgaria might lead to an influx of white racists?

Photo of Baroness Scotland of Asthal Baroness Scotland of Asthal Minister of State, Home Office, Minister of State (Home Office) (Criminal Justice and Offender Management)

My Lords, I assume that the noble Lord is referring to the Commission for Racial Equality, as we no longer have a race relations board to the best of my knowledge and belief. I know of no such assertion having been made, but of course I will check, and if I am wrong on that I will write to the noble Lord.

Photo of Lord Roberts of Conwy Lord Roberts of Conwy Shadow Minister, Wales

My Lords, have the Government learnt any lessons from the Polish accession experience that are relevant to Romania and Bulgaria?

Photo of Baroness Scotland of Asthal Baroness Scotland of Asthal Minister of State, Home Office, Minister of State (Home Office) (Criminal Justice and Offender Management)

My Lords, we have learnt a great deal. The Polish nationals who have come to this country have benefited us greatly, as many nationals will know. They have been only an asset.

Photo of Lord Teverson Lord Teverson Liberal Democrat

My Lords, is not the real challenge to have all other member states of the European Union give full rights to Romania and Bulgaria on accession? That is an opportunity, as well as a potential problem, for all those states. Would that then not give those citizens the true rights of freedom that they should have as European citizens?

Photo of Baroness Scotland of Asthal Baroness Scotland of Asthal Minister of State, Home Office, Minister of State (Home Office) (Criminal Justice and Offender Management)

My Lords, it is right to say that only four states welcomed the A8 in the way that we did and that that may have been an issue, but we have taken all those factors into account. We hope to put forward a scheme that will be welcoming but will also take advantage of some of what we have learnt from the accession of the other eight countries.