Committee (1st Day)

Immigration Bill – in the House of Lords at 3:30 pm on 18th January 2016.

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Relevant documents: 7th Report from the Constitution Committee, 17th and 18th Reports from the Delegated Powers Committee

Clause 1: Director of Labour Market Enforcement

Amendment 1

Moved by Baroness Hamwee

1: Clause 1, page 1, line 5, after “State” insert “for the Home Department”

Photo of Baroness Hamwee Baroness Hamwee Liberal Democrat 3:40 pm, 18th January 2016

My Lords, I also have Amendments 2, 3, 6 and 13 in this group. My noble friend Lord Greaves commented the other day that it has become something of a custom—not as much as a convention—for the early speeches on amendments in Committee to turn into something like Second Reading speeches. I do not intend to make a Second Reading speech, and the comments with which I shall preface my remarks on Amendment 1 could not have been made at Second Reading.

I do not suppose that having to deal with 112 amendments at such a late stage was easy for the Minister or for officials. Indeed, I suspect that the officials who have had to deal in very short order with what is in effect a new Bill as regards the provisions for labour market enforcement have had a particularly difficult time, so I am sympathetic to all of them. However, others of us who have been involved in the Bill have not found it easy and, in particular, those outside this House who are involved in the sector and whose comments are always so valuable to us have had a really hard time. Frankly, this is no way to legislate.

A member of the Public Bill Committee in the Commons commented on how good the process had been, although he did say, “Pity about the content of the Bill”. The Minister has also commented on the evidence sessions in the Commons, saying that more detailed scrutiny was undertaken than is often the case. However, these new clauses dealing with the role and remit of the GLA affect the structural arrangements and the relationships of actors in the sector. They also introduce new measures and more, and I cannot see that anyone could describe this as best practice.

I apologise to the Committee for the late tabling of amendments to the government amendments—I tabled a number on Friday—but I wanted to look at them, with my own responses to them, at this stage rather than repeat the process on Report, as might have happened had I left it until then. As I said, how can the NGOs and others respond, presented with amendments in effect less than a week ago? It is not just their problem; it is ours as well, because we cannot do our job well if we are in a vacuum. I am sure the Minister will say that the consultation on the labour market sector, which closed in December, trailed the proposals, but it did not; not in the way in which we now see them. We are making law and therefore we have got to make it right, not just have a general narrative discourse on the arrangements.

Part 1 of the Bill, on the labour market, has no place in immigration legislation. The issues do not apply universally to immigrants and, conversely, are very relevant to many people who are not immigrants. Even without the new version, as I will call it, the Bill would be difficult enough. The Constitution Committee of your Lordships’ House has commented scathingly that immigration law stands out as a particularly byzantine field, saying that the Bill’s complexity is exacerbated by much of it amending existing, already highly complex pieces of immigration legislation which are subject to frequent changes. It comes in the wake—although the wake has not subsided, of course, but we will come to that later—of the 2014 Bill, which itself is substantial and complicated. The Constitution Committee expresses its,

“real concern from a rule of law perspective”,

describing immigration law as inaccessible and not fit for purpose—whinge over.

Amendments 1 and 2 seek an understanding of how the new regime will sit within government. I appreciate that it is quite usual to refer to a Secretary of State without designating a department, for obvious reasons. However, this situation is unusual, which is why I have referred to the Secretary of State “for the Home Department”. That is the sponsoring department for the Gangmasters Licensing Authority, but the consultation to which I have referred was a joint consultation involving the Home Office, which focuses on protection and enforcement, and BIS, which focuses, among other things, on deregulation. Of course, the

Treasury is also involved, and the debate in the Commons suggested that the director will report to the Home Office.

I had better pre-empt any teasing about my criticising joined-up government. I am not doing so. I have argued often enough for that myself, so I do not want to complain about cross-departmental working. However, if the powers are to be exercised jointly, it is important to have an on-the-record explanation of how that is going to operate.

Amendments 3, 6 and 13 would put the involvement of the devolved Administrations on the face of the Bill. I had a look back at the Modern Slavery Bill, which seems to deal with this issue in the way that I have dealt with it in these amendments. I have picked up that progress has been made on this, and I hope it has. It hit my consciousness only last week during a visit to the Scottish Parliament. Although the Governments continue, the Scottish Parliament, the National Assembly for Wales and the Northern Ireland Assembly will go into purdah in about nine weeks’ time because of their elections. This adds another dimension to our consideration of the Bill, because clearly these things need to be sorted out quickly, and not just in respect of this clause. I beg to move.

Photo of Lord Alton of Liverpool Lord Alton of Liverpool Crossbench 3:45 pm, 18th January 2016

My Lords, I support the amendments that the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, has laid before the Committee of your Lordships’ House this afternoon. In particular, I support her remarks about Scotland and the need for proper and adequate consultation. She is right to say all those things.

The noble Baroness referred to the Gangmasters Licensing Authority, an issue to which we will return in the later group of amendments dealing with government amendment 39 and those connected to it. However, it is linked in some ways with these amendments. I will not pre-empt remarks on the amendment by addressing it in detail, other than to note that, as the noble Baroness said, 112 government amendments have been tabled. There has been no pre-scrutiny of this legislation by both Houses, and these amendments have been introduced for the first time here in Committee, which is asking an awful lot in terms of producing good quality legislation. I know that this is not the Minister’s fault, but I raised that issue with him in the excellent meeting that he organised for all Peers. To make legislation on the hoof is always a mistake.

I am not alone in thinking that. The Immigration Law Practitioners’ Association has written to us to say:

“The volume of these amendments, the late stage of their introduction and the time available means that both ourselves and the House will be limited in our ability to provide the scrutiny that this detailed legislation requires”.

That was a point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, a few moments ago. We simply cannot do our job properly when we are stampeded into having to make decisions on major questions of this kind with so many amendments being placed before us at once. The ILPA also says:

“We note that new clauses introduced by the Government contain a range of new delegated legislation which will not have been subject to scrutiny by the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee which reported earlier on the Immigration Bill”.

That issue will surface again when we come to the question of the Gangmasters Licensing Authority.

I do not want to be churlish, either, because the legislation that we considered last year—also introduced by the noble Lord, Lord Bates—was classic and admirable of its kind, and benefited from having been scrutinised by both Houses. It was showpiece, showcase legislation and the Government should be justifiably proud of having introduced it—as should Parliament for having enacted it. The danger in some of these amendments, and we will come to this in due course, is that they may undermine some of the excellent legislation that we enacted last year. I hope that when the Minister replies, he will therefore address the concerns raised by the noble Baroness and the Immigration Law Practitioners’ Association. The noble Baroness did not describe this as hybridity, but effectively inserting an entirely new Bill inside an existing Bill at this late stage in parliamentary proceedings amounts to that. I hope her amendment will be taken in the spirit in which has been offered, and that the Minister will address all those points.

Photo of Lord Ramsbotham Lord Ramsbotham Crossbench

My Lords, I endorse what the noble Lord, Lord Alton, has just said. This is not the first time during the passage of this Bill that a vast number of government amendments has been inserted. The same thing happened in the other place immediately before Report, and the same complaints were made that none of the amendments had been scrutinised properly. Indeed, there was no time to do so before the other place had to vote on amendments in Committee that they had not had time to scrutinise. Remembering my own time in the Ministry of Defence, if I were faced as a civil servant with such a huge and complex piece of legislation, with additional complexities, I would have complained to the Secretary of State and to the Permanent Under-Secretary that legislation was being made so complex that it was simply undeliverable.

We have to realise that the immigration system in this country is currently under stress. There are said to be some 600,000 unrecorded migrants in the country now and we will face not just a flood of people coming here from the Middle East but an additional flood of people from places such as Africa thanks to climate change. Therefore, we should be simplifying our legislation so that it can cope with pressure rather than complicating it in this way.

Photo of Baroness Afshar Baroness Afshar Crossbench

My Lords, I speak in support of the views expressed. If eminent Members of the House who are familiar with these matters are finding this legislation difficult, what can immigrants do with it? They are not British and many of them are possibly already here. These changing laws will be whirling around their heads just as they arrive. It makes it impossible for them to abide by the law when even this House cannot understand what the law is. Is it not possible to have something simple and clear that immigrants can abide by?

Photo of Lord Kennedy of Southwark Lord Kennedy of Southwark Shadow Spokesperson (Housing), Opposition Whip (Lords), Shadow Spokesperson (Communities and Local Government), Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs)

My Lords, I shall start my remarks by associating myself with the introductory remarks of the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, who talked about the unsatisfactory way the Government have handled the Bill so far. I also agree that the first part of the Bill, which concerns the Director of Labour Market Enforcement, has no place in this legislation and is a separate matter. The lack of pre-legislative scrutiny was referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Alton—whose remarks, again, I very much agreed with. This is no way to legislate. It reflects poorly on the process and risks undermining other legislation such as the Modern Slavery Act 2015.

When the noble Lord, Lord Bates, responds to the debate, I think that he owes it to the Committee to give a proper explanation of why we are in this situation. Let us be clear. The Government are in charge of the Bill and of the timetable, and their legislation should be dealt with much better than this. As I say, I hope that he will give a full explanation to the Committee when he responds.

This first group of amendments seeks in the main to improve what is presented here by putting into the Bill clarifications and duties to consult. The noble Lord, Lord Bates, may be suggesting something similar shortly, but that has not necessarily been implied. I am generally supportive of what is being proposed in the amendments tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, and the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, while Amendment 11 has been proposed by myself and my noble friend Lord Rosser. I will deal with Amendment 11 first. We are seeking to put a clear duty on the Director of Labour Market Enforcement to consult with civil society and voluntary organisations in the preparation of the annual report that he will have a duty to present to the Secretary of State each year. If a proper report is to be prepared for the Secretary of State, information will need to be gathered and assessed, and it is often voluntary organisations and civil society that will acquire the information that will be vital to the production of a report of substance to ensure that the duties of the director remain relevant and can identify the modifications which are necessary to achieve that.

As has been said, the amendments in the names of the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, and the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, clarify that it must be the Home Secretary who appoints the Director of Labour Market Enforcement, and that the Business Secretary and relevant Scottish and other departmental Ministers must also be consulted. They also place a duty on the Director of Labour Market Enforcement to consult with Ministers in the devolved institutions and various officials exercising powers under labour market legislation on the preparation of a labour market enforcement strategy that will be submitted to the Home Secretary. Again, if in his response the noble Lord, Lord Bates, is going to suggest that this is not necessary, can he please tell the Committee how the Secretary of State will ensure that the report they receive is both timely and relevant to the matters in hand, and give us some direction as to how they should be consulted?

Photo of The Earl of Sandwich The Earl of Sandwich Crossbench

My Lords, I was waiting for the noble Lord to mention his Amendment 11 before saying that I am delighted to see it here.

The Government will recognise the role in the Modern Slavery Act of the coalition of NGOs which really helped to put the Bill together. It should be emphasised that we want to see the same thing again with the director in this case. I hope that that will borne in mind throughout the consideration of these amendments.

Photo of Lord Harries of Pentregarth Lord Harries of Pentregarth Crossbench

I also rise very briefly to support Amendment 11 in the names of the noble Lords, Lord Rosser and Lord Kennedy of Southwark, for the simple and obvious reason that voluntary organisations are the key players in this. They are the eyes and ears of what is going on, and if they are not consulted, the Government are simply not going to be in a position to understand the realities of the situation.

Photo of Lord Bates Lord Bates The Minister of State, Home Department 4:00 pm, 18th January 2016

I begin, as I have been invited to, by apologising to the Committee for the late tabling of these amendments, but let me try to explain that a little further. We were faced with a particular challenge. Noble Lords will recall that we had the Second Reading on 22 December, and one issue raised at that point was that the scheduled date for the first day in Committee was 13 January. In the light of the likely publication of our response to the consultation, we agreed to see whether the start date could be put back—which it was until today, 18 January.

We were then faced with a challenge regarding the publication of the report, referred to by the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, in response to the consultation document on tackling exploitation in the labour market. We said that we would have a period of consultation, which ran from September through to December, and that we would legislate on the back of that consultation, which seems to me to be general good practice. The question was then: at what stage should the amendments be introduced? There was a little debate—I am looking at the Box, but it is probably best that I do not—as to whether they should be introduced on Report, or in Committee. My noble friends Lord Ashton, Lord Keen and I took the view that if they were introduced for the Committee stage, at least they could receive a thorough airing, which could be reflected on before Report.

There is a large number of amendments. We had a meeting with all interested Peers and again, we tried to listen carefully to the points that were being raised. One was that because the amendments were tabled, it was not easy for an opposition spokesman or any Member of the House, let alone the Minister responding, immediately to correlate the amendment to the specific recommendation. A suggestion was made that we should produce a schedule, which was done within 24 hours of that meeting. That then went out to noble Lords who had attended the meeting, through the usual channels to the official party groupings and to Cross-Benchers, of course.

I am trying to explain some of the thought process. It was not intended to be discourteous to your Lordships’ House but sought to be helpful. The other point is on the nature of these amendments. I think that 59 relate to the consultation document. There is also a vast swathe—I did not manage to calculate the number—linked to the licensing of private hire taxi companies. We shall be coming to that issue in later groups. I did not realise that it seems as if every locality in the entire country has its own regulation for private hire taxi companies, so one amendment cannot apply across the entire country but needs to amend legislation pertaining to a particular area. That deals with the large tranche of the amendments.

I add to the previous debate on the minimum wage regulations my appreciation and that of the whole House to the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee for its incredibly speedy work, even if it did introduce a bit of a riposte by stating that,

“the Government tabled a substantial number of amendments—54 pages’ worth!”.

I think that is the first time I have seen an exclamation mark in one of its reports. The point was made eloquently by symbol on the committee’s feelings on that. I offer my apologies, and hope that this is by some way of explanation. I also express our appreciation to the Select Committee on the Constitution for its very helpful report, which I know we will be coming to in later stages.

With that attempt at setting out the position, which I know is not ideal, I now turn to the amendments before us. The noble Baroness has rightly noted that the Director of Labour Market Enforcement’s remit covers the work of enforcement bodies that sit under two departments: the Gangmasters Licensing Authority reports to the Home Secretary while the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills is responsible for the work of the Employment Agency Standards Inspectorate and the HMRC’s national minimum wage team.

The Government have been clear in the consultation that we published and our response to it, as well as in assurances made by my right honourable friend James Brokenshire in Committee in another place, that the director will be a joint appointment by the Home Secretary and the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills. They will jointly appoint the director and receive the strategy. The noble Baroness may have concerns about how the two Secretaries of State will reach agreement, but I reassure her that preventing abuse of labour market laws is a priority for both departments. Subject to parliamentary approval of the role, they will both be looking to appoint a director with the necessary skills and experience to make a difference.

The requirement to consult Scottish and Northern Irish Ministers in Amendment 3 brings me to the territorial extent of this role. Employment law is broadly reserved as the UK operating as a single labour market brings great benefits to workers and employers. Therefore, the director’s remit will be UK-wide. However, there are parts of the remit where the policy is not reserved. To deal with this, we are legislating to ensure that the director can set the strategy to enforce labour market legislation only to the extent that it already applies and is reserved. That is: the whole of the UK in respect of the national minimum wage; Great Britain for the Employment Agencies Act 1973 and the Gangmasters

(Licensing) Act 2004; and England and Wales in respect of the Modern Slavery Act 2015. Therefore, there will be no need for Ministers formally to consult Scottish Ministers or the Department of Justice in Northern Ireland.

However, to allow the strategy to be successful, the legislation requires it to be evidence-based and include the director’s assessment of the scale and nature of non-compliance in the labour market. To do this, the director will draw on the widest possible range of sources. This will include the intelligence hub provided for in Clause 6, but will inevitably include engaging non-governmental organisations, as the noble Lord, Lord Kennedy, requested, bodies representing employers, bodies representing workers and other organisations to develop the fullest possible picture. These will include charities, the enforcement bodies themselves, and other organisations such as the police.

Amendments 6 and 13 would require the Director of Labour Market Enforcement to engage certain people in the development of the labour market enforcement strategy, while Amendment 11 would require the Director of Labour Market Enforcement to engage with civil society and voluntary organisations in the development of the labour market enforcement strategy. It is not yet clear how the director would be able to discharge the legal requirement to,

“engage with civil society and voluntary organisations”,

which is not defined. I fear that putting this duty on the director would be unhelpful as it does not specify the full range of organisations that the Government expect would need to be consulted as part of that provision. These include non-governmental organisations, bodies representing employers, bodies representing workers and other organisations not specified in the amendment. Therefore, my opposition to it rests on it being unnecessary, while risking unhelpfully to narrow the director’s focus.

Amendments 12 and 14 appear to limit the director’s proposed role by not permitting his strategy to alter the strategies set out by any of the other enforcement bodies, or binding the enforcement bodies to delivering the director’s strategy. The director’s strategy is not intended to undermine the strategies of the enforcement bodies, or to take precedence. Rather, we expect those strategies to be informed by the director’s strategy as they deliver their contribution to tackling labour market exploitation.

On the GLA, the GLA board will continue to be responsible for the delivery of the GLA’s functions. What will change is that the delivery of those functions will sit within a wider vision of tackling labour market exploitation. While I will address this in due course, the Government’s amendments will add the functions of the GLA board to the list of labour market enforcement functions as specified. Furthermore, the GLA board will have a duty to exercise its functions in accordance with the director’s strategy. We believe that this will ensure that the enforcement bodies and the director work together more effectively.

The final amendment in this group, Amendment 38, brings me to the intelligence hub. Clause 6 as drafted gives the new director the duty to lead an intelligence hub that forms a coherent view of the nature and extent of exploitation and non-compliance in the labour market.

Photo of Baroness Hamwee Baroness Hamwee Liberal Democrat

I think the Minister may have turned over two pages and gone on to the next group.

Photo of Lord Bates Lord Bates The Minister of State, Home Department

Well, I have to say in that respect, I have not turned over two pages, but I may well be on to the next group. If so, and with that helpful prompt from the ever-helpful Baroness, I give way.

Photo of Lord Kennedy of Southwark Lord Kennedy of Southwark Shadow Spokesperson (Housing), Opposition Whip (Lords), Shadow Spokesperson (Communities and Local Government), Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs)

I thank the Minister for his helpful explanations of his remarks. Will he confirm that, because of the situation we find ourselves in with these amendments coming at such a late stage—civil society will want to look at them again—there will be plenty of time outside the Chamber for noble Lords and campaigners to meet the Minister to discuss these things in more detail?

Photo of Lord Bates Lord Bates The Minister of State, Home Department

I can certainly say that. That is a very helpful intervention on a number of levels. I know that officials found our meetings last week and before Christmas very helpful. I think that that will continue to strengthen the work of the Committee. With that, I will pause my remarks and hope that the noble Baroness will feel able to withdraw her amendment at this stage.

Photo of Baroness Hamwee Baroness Hamwee Liberal Democrat

My Lords, I certainly will. It would not be profitable to continue the discussion now about the tabling of these quite considerable changes. I. too, am grateful to the officials who have been very helpful in the most difficult circumstances.

It is extraordinary to me how many people outside this House read the report of our proceedings in very considerable detail, particularly those who have an interest in the subject matter. For them, I will say that I checked with the Public Bill Office this morning and it was confirmed to me that, provided we do not divide but merely agree the government amendments, there are no bars to our tabling amendments to what will then be part of the Bill on Report. I apologise to the Minister and officials if that prompts a flood of further amendments—but so be it.

My only other point, with regard to the Minister’s remarks on taxis, is to offer him a piece of advice. He should never tell a taxi driver that he is a Minister in the Government—or indeed a Member of this House—because he will not get out of the taxi without a most difficult conversation.

On Amendment 11, I understand the technical points that the Minister makes, but the third sector is hugely important. As has been said, it is the linchpin of the way in which our immigration service—if that is the right word—deals with asylum seekers and some other immigrants. It is absolutely central. It should not need saying that there will be the contact with the voluntary sector and other organisations that has been spelled out. I think that it says a lot that it was felt necessary to put that down.

With regard to my amendments and which departments do what and how they work together, we are told that the legislation is a priority for both departments, but I would say that each department has its own distinctive and different priorities. That is where I see problems, perhaps, coming. I beg leave to withdraw Amendment 1.

Amendment 1 withdrawn.

Amendments 2 and 3 not moved.

Amendment 4

Moved by Lord Rosser

4: Clause 1, page 1, line 8, at end insert—

“( ) The primary purpose of the Director is to secure the enforcement of labour market legislation, as defined in section 3(3) of this Act.”

Photo of Lord Rosser Lord Rosser Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs), Shadow Spokesperson (Transport)

Before I start, may I say that I certainly do not wish to comment adversely if the Minister got a little confused as to where he was in his notes, if only because I am pretty confident that that is going to happen to me on probably more than one occasion through the passage of the Bill. It is nice to know that I am already in good company.

As we pointed out at Second Reading, the Explanatory Notes to the Bill say:

“The purpose of the Bill is to tackle illegal immigration by making it harder to live and work illegally in the UK … The intention behind the Bill is that without access to work, illegal migrants will depart voluntarily, but where they do not, the Bill contains other measures to support enforced removals”.

Those two sentences are not tucked away at the back of the Explanatory Notes, almost as an afterthought, but are in the second of two short paragraphs at the very beginning of the Notes that constitute the first section, “Overview of the Bill”.

Since the clauses dealing with the new post of Director of Labour Market Enforcement, which we are discussing, are the first seven clauses of the Bill, it is not unreasonable to ask the Government what the role of the Director of Labour Market Enforcement will be in delivering the purpose of the Bill in making it harder to live and work illegally in the UK, in increasing the number of migrants who will depart voluntarily and, if they do not, in supporting enforced removals.

In his welcome and helpful letter of 8 January 2016, responding to points raised at Second Reading, the Minister said, on behalf of the Government, that the new director’s role did not cover immigration control, that nowhere in the Bill was he or she given the purpose or power to do that, and that, if they did, they would be acting outside their statutory powers. That clarifies the issue in relation to immigration control, although it begs the question of what activities or roles the Government do or do not regard as being covered by the words “immigration control” and therefore outside the statutory powers of the Director of Labour Market Enforcement.

I appreciate that the Director of Labour Market Enforcement will not have staff at points of entry to the UK making decisions on who can and cannot be allowed to enter, and will not determine asylum claims or applications for extended leave. But that does not mean that the director and his organisation can play no part in what many might regard as part of the immigration control process. As has already been said, the new post is, after all, being introduced in an Immigration Bill and a Home Office Bill. The director must surely have some part to play in the immigration enforcement system because, if he or she does not, how will they contribute to the declared purpose of the Bill as set out in the Explanatory Notes, to which I have already referred?

The purpose of our Amendment 4 is to seek to ensure that the functions of the Director of Labour Market Enforcement are exercised primarily for the purpose of protecting those vulnerable to labour market exploitation, and to make that clear on the face of the Bill. The Government’s argument against doing this appears to be that Clause 3 defines the director’s role by reference to the legislation and enforcement functions that will be within the remit of the post, including the three enforcement bodies for which the director will set the strategy: namely, the Employment Agency Standards Inspectorate, HMRC’s national minimum wage team and the Gangmasters Licensing Authority.

That, of course, is correct but it is also a problem since the Bill, in particular Clause 3, sets out a range of functions but does not set out what the primary function should be, which, for a Director of Labour Market Enforcement, one would have thought would be the protection of those vulnerable to labour market exploitation through the enforcement of labour market legislation, with the primary role of this post being a protective one.

In the other place, the government Minister said that the purpose of the Director of Labour Market Enforcement was to tackle labour market exploitation across the field. But he was not prepared, for reasons that are not clear, to say that that was the primary purpose of the director, and to put that in the Bill, in line with our amendment. The need to make clear in the Bill that the primary purpose of the director is to secure the enforcement of labour market legislation and tackle labour market exploitation was further highlighted by the observation of the government Minister in the other place that while the role of the new director,

“was not intended to stray into the separate issues of immigration enforcement”,

if he or she came across people who were here illegally,

“the director would be duty-bound to report that and to pass on intelligence”.—[ Official Report , Commons, Immigration Bill Committee, 27/10/15; col. 166.]

It is quite likely, one would have thought, that the director could on this basis prove to be a not insignificant player in finding people who are here illegally. It is precisely because of this, and the fact that the post is being established on a statutory footing in an Immigration Bill whose declared purpose is to tackle illegal immigration by making it harder to live and work illegally in the UK, that it is so necessary to spell out in the Bill what the primary role of the director is if we are to avoid any misunderstandings or wrong assumptions from those who might come into contact with the director’s organisation that the post is also about immigration checks rather than just about labour market enforcement.

There is clear evidence from the Netherlands and the USA of the dangers if there is any confusion over, or merging of, the roles of labour inspection and immigration enforcement. Research in the Netherlands shows that dual labour inspection priorities to identify undocumented workers on the one hand and victims of trafficking on the other have negative impacts on the uncovering of trafficking cases, since victims of trafficking are too scared to come forward and the labour inspectors also fail to identify them.

The Anti-Slavery Commissioner has also made the point that many people have fled from countries where confidence in the rule of law and the authorities is low. If they come here and are exploited, they are going to be fearful of going to the authorities because of previous experience. If we are not careful, this could be an unintended consequence of the Bill as it stands, in relation to the Director of Labour Market Enforcement.

Three other amendments in this group relate to the strategy that the Director of Labour Market Enforcement will set out. Amendment 7 would ensure that the labour market enforcement strategy would include an assessment of the threats and obstacles to effective labour market enforcement and the remedies secured by victims of labour rights infringements and labour market offences. The Bill requires the director to make an assessment of non-compliance in the labour market, but there is no requirement to assess the threats or obstacles to effective enforcement which could, of course, include powers and resources, human and financial, which would impact on non-compliance, or a requirement to examine remedies secured by victims of non-compliance in the labour market which, likewise, could also impact on levels of non-compliance. A strategy is not just about making an assessment of non-compliance and its extent. It is also about looking at how enforcement could be done better and at what actions need to be taken, or changes made, to achieve that objective. The Minister will, no doubt, also wish to say something, either now or in a later group of amendments if he finds that more appropriate, about the resources that will be made available to the new director.

The Modern Slavery Act is victim-focused and victims of labour exploitation ought to be a key focus of this Bill. This is why the amendment provides for the enforcement strategy to cover the issue of remedies. Information on compensation for infringement of labour market standards is currently limited. For example, HMRC does not keep data in a format that provides statistics on the amount of arrears paid—or not paid—to working people. Data on civil claims and damages awarded are, likewise, not available. During the financial years 2010-11 to 2012-13, there were no prosecutions by the Gangmasters Licensing Authority resulting in compensation orders for victims of human trafficking, and data on compensation secured through the criminal injuries compensation scheme for such victims are not recorded. With the present dearth of information, how can anyone know whether progress is being made on meeting the needs of victims of exploitation in the labour market if data on remedies are not being collected, as would be required in future under the terms of Amendment 7?

Amendment 35 seeks to ensure that labour market offences committed against all workers are included within the scope of the enforcement work of the Director of Labour Market Enforcement, irrespective of immigration status. That should include all those who may be in the labour market, including undocumented victims of trafficking—hence the wording of the amendment. Finally, Amendment 36 refers to the annual report from the Director of Labour Market Enforcement and is intended to ensure that it links with his or her assessment about non-compliance in the labour market the remedies secured by victims and the threats and obstacles to effective enforcement. This is not provided for in the Bill, as drafted, and nor is linking the director’s strategy with his or her assessment of non-compliance in the labour market. The amendment aims to ensure that the strategy covers everything that it should and that the annual report is tied into the same process.

These amendments were also considered in Committee in the other place. The government Minister maintained that Amendment 7 was unnecessary because the Government expected that the director would feed information of the kind called for in the amendment into the planning and reporting cycle, and that this would be covered by the director’s labour market enforcement strategy. He then went to say that the director’s strategy,

“is about setting out information and issues concerning the work of different bodies and agencies, including some themes of non-compliance”.—[ Official Report , Commons, Immigration Bill Committee, 27/10/15; col. 180.]

That seemed a rather less specific commitment that the director would be assessing the threats and obstacles to effective labour market enforcement, including powers and resources. Why not put this clearly in the Bill?

There is an issue with resources, particularly since the Government intend that while the relevant Secretaries of State will take the new director’s proposals on resources into account, the Government will set the overall level of resources devoted to labour market enforcement, and that the director should then recommend how resources should be allocated within the total envelope of funding available to the three enforcement bodies coming under the director, namely the Gangmasters Licensing Authority, the employment standards inspectorate and HMRC’s national minimum wage enforcement teams. A number of independent bodies, including the Migration Advisory Committee, have expressed concern that the resources at the moment for the existing agencies are such that the likelihood of any inspection or action being taken is very low and that, as a result, there is not much of a deterrent to most of those who may be involved in abuse in the labour market. One example is that Gangmasters Licensing Authority investigations dropped from 134 in 2011 to 68 in 2014.

Despite a recent increase in the funding for HMRC to enforce the national minimum wage, it still does not match the scale of the task. For example, the TUC estimates underpayment of the national minimum wage to be in the region of at least 250,000 workers. The number of front-line enforcement staff at the Gangmasters Licensing Authority has been cut by 25% since 2010-11 and the Employment Agency Standards

Inspectorate now has nine inspectors, compared to 20 at its peak. Millions more workers will come within the remit of the HMRC team when the national living wage is introduced.

The Government are also proposing to create a new authority out of the GLA, which will be responsible for prosecuting a new offence of aggravated labour law breach across the whole economy. The Government will need to commit to increasing significantly the funding available for enforcement work if it is to be effective and act as a deterrent. Without providing the necessary resources, any strategy from the new Director of Labour Market Enforcement will not achieve the objectives set out in the Bill. Accordingly, the issue of any threats or obstacles to effective labour market enforcement is one which the director should be required to address in his labour market enforcement strategy.

On Amendment 35, the Minister in the Commons was less than clear in Committee. He said that the labour enforcement agencies would tackle non-compliance by employment agencies, businesses and gangmasters regardless of whether the affected workers had the right to be or to work in the United Kingdom, and that the Government were committed to tackling serious crimes against individuals whatever their status. However, the Minister then said that the amendment was not attractive because it,

“appears to take us in a direction that would apply new rights to those who are here illegally, whereas there are other mechanisms through the linkages, through the rights that the Gangmasters Licensing Authority will have, and through the consultation. It is about the extension of those aspects through other means”.

The Minister in the other place also said:

“The director’s role that we have proposed supports our wider strategy on modern slavery, enhancing the response to labour exploitation”.—[Official Report, Commons, Immigration Bill Committee, 27/10/15; col. 184.]

It would be helpful if the Minister, the noble Lord, Lord Bates, could interpret the seemingly contradictory and complex comments by the Minister in the other place by spelling out what protections, if any, are provided under the Bill to workers irrespective of immigration status, and what role the Director of Labour Market Enforcement will play in respect of labour exploitation and abuse in the workplace of those who do not have the required immigration status to be in this country. I beg to move Amendment 4.

Photo of Baroness Hamwee Baroness Hamwee Liberal Democrat 4:15 pm, 18th January 2016

My Lords, my noble friend Lord Paddick and I have Amendments 5, 8, 10, 25, 28, 32 to 34 and 37 in this group. Our names are also put to Amendments 7 and 36, tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, like whom I think it is important that the legislation is clear as to the director’s purpose. In other words, what is the point of the director? The director’s strategy is, in my eyes, a mechanism for implementing his purpose, and unless we spell out the purpose in a succinct fashion then we go straight to the strategy and that does not seem to be logical.

My Amendment 5 would go further than Amendment 4 by saying that,

“The primary function of the Director shall be the protection of workers from exploitation”.

It would not tie their status down to or specify other legislation. I appreciate of course that the director is not going to be able to act unless he is formally able to do so by reference to other legislation, but he should be in a position to see what is going on right across the labour market, so that he can advise on a cross-governmental basis and monitor access to remedies across the labour market. If this approach is attractive it would need other amendments, but at this stage I would simply say that although a single regime is welcome, if the objective is protection from exploitation, the legislation should say so.

I would also ask whether there is a place for a relationship with the Health and Safety Executive and with local authorities, which have duties in enforcing health and safety legislation and the rights of children at work. We also want to make clear, as has been said, that although this is in an Immigration Bill, it is not about immigration enforcement. Employers have duties towards the whole of the workforce, whoever they are, and although immigrants—including legal immigrants who do not understand their rights—may be particularly exploitable, what we must not do, as the noble Lord said, is deter immigrants from seeking help to escape abuse. The Minister in the Commons did agree to continue to reflect on this, and we now have the government extension of functions in the new schedule, but I think, if anything, that might add to the risk of deterrence that the noble Lord and I are concerned about, by associating inspection and immigration.

Our Amendments 25 and 28 would insert a reference to the “protection of workers” in the provisions which allow the Secretary of State to prescribe additional labour market enforcement functions and offences. This is asking for an assurance from the Minister, which I am sure he will find it easy to give, that the provisions are not primarily aimed at immigration enforcement. The question is what enactments or offences are in the Government’s contemplation.

Amendments 33 and 34 are also about which workers are protected. Again, time was spent on this in the Commons, but it is obvious from the briefings that I and, I am sure, other noble Lords have received that there is still some confusion. This is not only about cases where there is no right to be in the UK. Under the Employment Rights Act, whose definition is imported here, a worker is a defined as someone who has entered a “contract of employment” or another contract, which I assume means a contract for services where someone is self-employed. One question is whether, in a situation of exploitation, there is always a contract, but particularly important is that Amendment 33 replicates the definition of a worker in Section 26 of the Gangmasters (Licensing) Act, which includes the fact that a right to be in the UK is irrelevant. Switching from a definition which the GLA has been accustomed to work with raises issues in itself.

As for Amendment 37, Clause 5 says the Secretary of State can remove material from the director’s strategies and reports, on the basis set out, for example if it would,

“be against the interests of national security … jeopardise … safety … or … prejudice the investigation or prosecution of an offence”.

That is fair enough. I have seen that elsewhere in legislation. However, Clause 5(2) says that the Secretary of State must not then put that material back when he lays the report before Parliament. I am puzzled as to why that is necessary. If the Secretary of State has taken it out, is he likely to put it back before laying the report before Parliament? Is this because the Home Office fears a future Secretary of State might lose the plot, or is it to protect against a change of Government or what? I was curious.

Amendments 8 and 10 are on resources, and again I was confused as to where to deal with this. However, the means as well as the ends need to be willed; fine words about objectives are not enough. This has been such an issue throughout discussions not just on the Bill but on the remit of the Gangmasters Licensing Authority. Quite rightly in previous debates, the point has been made that it would be very good to extend the remit, but we must make sure that they have the money to do so; otherwise, we risk damaging the good work currently done. It is essential that the director takes resources into account. Otherwise, what is said is effectively meaningless.

Photo of Lord Alton of Liverpool Lord Alton of Liverpool Crossbench 4:30 pm, 18th January 2016

My Lords, these amendments, which I support, raise both the role and resources available, as the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee and the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, described, to the Director of Labour Market Enforcement. Reading though the exchanges in another place, it is clear that the Government were uneasy at Report stage about the lack of clarity in the Bill. Otherwise, why would the Minister, Mr James Brokenshire, have given an assurance to the House of Commons that they would go away and reflect on the matter? Therefore, it would be interesting to hear today the outcome of those reflections.

Certainly, looking at what was said in another place, there are some contradictions obvious to anyone who reads those exchanges. The Minister said, for instance, in Committee:

“We intend the director’s remit to cover labour market breaches, not immigration offences”.—[Official Report, Commons, Immigration Bill Committee, 27/10/15; col. 163.]

That is very straightforward. However, at a later stage, he said:

“The provision is not intended to stray into the separate issues of immigration enforcement, but if cases of people who are here illegally are highlighted, the director would be duty-bound to report that and to pass on intelligence through the hub that is being created”.—[Official Report, Commons, Immigration Bill Committee, 27/10/15; col. 166.]

I would therefore like to know what happens when there is a contradiction between those two roles. Where there is a protective role and an enforcement role, what would be the director’s expected priority in those circumstances? We said throughout the proceedings on the modern day slavery and human trafficking legislation that it should always be victim focused. Is this a derogation from that, or are we simply being consistent with what we did before? The House needs to know before we give this the green light.

I was surprised when the Minister in another place, in refuting the arguments that have been put forward again in your Lordships’ House today, said,

“I simply do not think it is necessary”.—[ Official Report , Commons, Immigration Bill Committee, 27/10/15; col. 166.]

I wonder why he came to that conclusion, because clarity in legislation is always highly desirable. Otherwise, why would he have wanted to go away and reflect; why would these amendments have been moved in another place; and why would they be here again today? Clearly, something is necessary. Will the Minister, if he cannot put it right today, be agreeable to doing so on Report?

Photo of Baroness Ludford Baroness Ludford Liberal Democrat

My Lords, I share colleagues’ concerns about the lack of clarity of the remit and purpose of the Director of Labour Market Enforcement and the indications of a lack of resources for the organisation so far. The Migration Advisory Committee has already been cited, but it is worth mentioning the remarks of Sir David Metcalfe in evidence to the Committee in the other place. He said that funding remains an issue, particularly for the Gangmasters Licensing Authority, and that:

“In the low-skilled report, we calculated that you would get an inspection from HMRC once every 250 years and you would get a prosecution once in a million years”.—[Official Report, Commons, Immigration Bill Committee, 20/10/15; col. 20.]

The odds of bad employers being caught, let alone prosecuted, seem slim. It comes to something when the US State Department is moved to mention the lack of resources. In its Trafficking in Persons Report 2015 it mentioned concern that there needs to be an increase in funds for the Gangmasters Licensing Authority. It is a little galling to have to be told by another Government that there are not enough resources, but we could take that to heart. That report also stated that government funding for specialised services for victims of trafficking remains limited. We are judged to be falling down on resources.

I, too, was confused by the exchanges in committee in the other place about the director’s focus outside workers who are here legally. The suggestion seems to be that a labour market offence can be committed only against persons legally in the country, which suggests that others are going to be dealt with through an immigration lens. I add my voice to those who have asked for clarity about whether the director will be focused on employers who most exploit workers, including those without leave to be in this country and to work. Without that wider remit outside legal workers, the director cannot be effective against the worst employers.

I am confused by the number of definitions of worker. We can add to them the definition under EU free movement law, but perhaps that would unnecessarily complicate the matter in hand. However, there seem to be at least three definitions of worker, and it might be sensible to have one.

Photo of Lord Horam Lord Horam Conservative

I understand the questions raised by noble Lords and the dangers of a lack of clarity in this area, but we may be making a bit of a meal of this issue. In the House of Commons, James Brokenshire made the situation fairly plain. Referring to the comment quoted by the noble Lord, Lord Alton, clearly, offences are matters not for the Director of Labour Market Enforcement but for immigration officers. Equally, the director may well want to look at intelligence arising from offences relating to immigration in the context of the strategy he is trying to devise to avoid labour market exploitation. There seems to be a difference between people on the ground who are trying to deal with immigration offences day to day, and the director, who is trying to enact a supervisory role on a rather larger scale.

If I am right about that—I may be wrong, and I fully agree that the situation is confusing and difficult and should be simpler—the amendments put down by the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, are mistaken because they tie the director down too much. In practice, we may want the director’s remit to go rather wider and to take into account what he may learn as a consequence of the information he acquires from immigration officers operating on the ground. That is a sensible way to proceed administratively. I may be wrong, and I will listen to what the Minister says, but it seems to me that the situation is rather clearer than we seem to be suggesting.

Photo of The Earl of Sandwich The Earl of Sandwich Crossbench 4:45 pm, 18th January 2016

My Lords, we may be in danger of making a meal of this group of amendments. I quite understand that the noble Lord, Lord Horam, has pointed out a connection between the two, but it is a very serious issue to describe the difference between them. I go back to the Modern Slavery Act, which was an excellent example of pioneering Government and listening Ministers. A welcome number of Government amendments on both that and this Bill shows that the law is constantly in need of review. As many NGOs are actively demonstrating, there is much more to be done on illegal working, as we work through this Bill and beyond. Part 1 does not adequately reflect human rights concerns. The noble Lord, Lord Rosser, pointed out the big confusion here that comes up under several amendments between labour regulation and immigration law enforcement, and the improper use—or potentially improper use—of employers and landlords as immigration officers, making migrant workers especially vulnerable. Some with more legal training than me are concerned about the likelihood that this encroachment is inconsistent with the ILO Convention No. 81, the Labour inspection convention of 1947. I hope someone will confirm that that is a difficulty. Do the Government agree that to ensure protection these two areas must be kept separate?

Photo of Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts Conservative

I have to say that I have some sympathy with my noble friend Lord Horam about the importance of not narrowing the gateway too much in terms of the work of the Director of Labour Market Enforcement. The wording in Clause 2(2)(a)(i) allows for a very wide remit: it seems to me to be important to preserve this. It is very easy of course to see this only through the prism of the victims—and indeed there are terrible victims who need protection—but the director should surely be able to identify practices, behaviours and trends not only relating to the protection of workers.

I am a keen supporter of employee share ownership. Every year the Employee Ownership Association has a dinner in your Lordships’ House, which I am proud to sponsor. Last year I was sitting next to one of the biggest companies in the field of imports, which brings a lot of stuff across the Channel in containers. He said to me, “Do you know that up to about a year ago, once a year a container would have people inside it; two or three times a week now, you open the container in Calais and six or seven people jump out and disappear into the dark. They have a baseball bat and you can’t stop them—and talking to my colleagues in other firms this is an increasingly prevalent practice”.

It seems to me that this is the sort of issue that ought to be publicised and the director ought to be able to raise. It is not about protection of workers, though that is a very important part of his job. It is about what is happening in the labour market generally. It would be a grave mistake if we allowed ourselves not to think about these activities as well, and make sure that the director could comment on them and make suggestions for improvement. It is in the interests of everybody, but particularly those who are victimised, that this should be publicised—and the other side of the coin should be publicised as well. I hope that my noble friend will bear that in mind when he comes to consider his reply to this set of amendments.

Photo of Lord Bates Lord Bates The Minister of State, Home Department

I first thank the noble Lord, Lord Rosser for moving this amendment. I am glad we are on the same page in terms of tracking the amendments. As I do that, let me remove another lever-arch file, with a message from the Box, which I thought was a very timely one: if noble Lords would kindly tell us when they plan to degroup an amendment, then we will try to do better at telling people when we intend to lay an amendment. But I suppose it is the first day in Committee and we are all finding our way through that postbag.

This has been a useful exchange. Under this particular group, as I see it, the Committee is seeking to understand better the nature of the role of the new Director of Labour Market Enforcement and to flesh it out, to understand something more of the resources and to understand where the immigration enforcement boundary and the role of standards in the labour market actually connect. While I appreciate the desire to include upfront a strong statement of the remit of the Director of Labour Market Enforcement, a role that has been welcomed on all sides of the House and in the other place, I believe that amendments on the subject are unnecessary. The role and remit of the director are clearly set out already in Clauses 1 to 7. We want the director to bring co-ordination across the whole spectrum of breaches in employment law, from employers who do not know the rules right through to the organised criminal exploitation of workers.

I should say here—this is relevant to the contributions from a number of noble Lords, particularly the noble Lord, Lord Alton, and the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich—that we often find that the rogue employers, underpaying employees with regard to the national minimum wage, and the unscrupulous employment agencies that deduct far more than they should from employees’ salaries are often the same people, who will be guilty of abuse across a whole range of different headings. That is the essential value that the information gives us, and the essential value of the overall role.

I will send around to noble Lords a very useful schematic. I know that schematics are not favoured by your Lordships’ House because of the difficulties that they convey to the Official Report in communicating them, but this one is a good way of illustrating that at the moment a number of disparate functions are prosecuted in different silos. We are seeking to be much more effective by bringing those silos together, not just in terms of their strategy but by placing the Director of Labour Market Enforcement above them to ensure that scarce resources are allocated most efficiently, and that we learn the maximum that we are able to about exploitation.

Where we set the director’s primary purpose in legislation as enforcement, as the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, seeks in Amendment 4, we are prejudging the best way to secure compliance. The noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, seeks in Amendment 5 to give the director the purpose of protecting workers from exploitation. Exploitation is not universally defined and means different things to different people. Concerns have been expressed that the director will get involved in enforcing our immigration laws. I reassure noble Lords that that is not part of the role of the Director of Labour Market Enforcement. I know that there was some discussion about the exchanges in Committee in another place on this, but I am happy to place on record again my remarks in my letter of 8 January:

“I want to reassure colleagues”,

following Second Reading, that immigration control,

“is not part of the role of the Director of Labour Enforcement. Nowhere in this Bill is the Director given the power or purpose to do that … they would be acting outside of their statutory powers”.

It is useful to get that very clear statement on the record in Committee. Concerns have been expressed that the director will get involved in enforcing our immigration laws, and I want to ensure that that is not the case.

I turn to the annual labour market enforcement strategy. The Government’s position is that it will be successful only if it includes an assessment of threats and obstacles by “turning over stones”, telling Ministers where the gaps are and making proposals for how they can be addressed. Similarly, a successful strategy will be based on the evidence of what enforcement has happened in previous years, including what remedies were secured for victims. These are both already covered by the Bill so Amendment 7, in our opinion, is unnecessary.

Amendments 8 and 10 cover the director’s role in the funding arrangements for the enforcement bodies. It is the Government’s intention that Ministers in the Home Office and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills should continue to set the overall envelope of spending available for labour market enforcement and should recommend how best to allocate this between the three bodies and the different activities they undertake, based on their assessment of the likely nature of non-compliance in the following year. I cannot support these amendments. While the Government intend that the relevant Secretaries of State will take the director’s proposals on resources into account in their discussions with the Treasury about funding, it is right that the Government set the overall level of resources devoted to labour market enforcement in the context of the totality of pressures on public spending.

Amendments 18, 25, 28 and 32 relate to the power to change the scope of the labour market enforcement strategy by regulations. While at present we believe that the director’s remit is sensibly defined, it may make sense in the future to extend this if it becomes clear that the risk of abuse and exploitation is changing. It is appropriate for such extension to be made by secondary legislation to ensure flexibility and to enable us to act quickly, subject of course to the appropriate degree of parliamentary oversight.

Amendments 33 to 35 relate to the director’s strategy-making role in respect of offences committed against workers under the Modern Slavery Act 2015. The clause or the proposed amendments would not redefine “worker”—as mentioned by the noble Baroness, Lady Ludford—for the purposes of the Employment Agencies Act 1973, the National Minimum Wage Act 1998 or the Gangmasters (Licensing) Act 2004. The existing coverage of the respective Acts continues to apply. This means that the Employment Agency Standards Inspectorate and the GLA will still tackle non-compliance by employment agencies, businesses and gangmasters regardless of whether the affected workers have the right to be—or work—in the UK. We see the director’s focus as improving the way we enforce labour market and employment law rules—making sure workers who are properly here are protected better. However, we are committed to tackling serious crimes committed against individuals, whatever their status, as the noble Baroness will know from the work she and others did on the Modern Slavery Act last year—a landmark piece of legislation.

I turn to the contents of the director’s annual report. The Bill already requires the annual report to include an assessment of the extent to which the strategy had an effect on non-compliance in the labour market. There is no need to specify the other details. If the strategy identifies threats and obstacles to effective enforcement and makes proposals to address them, the effectiveness of these throughout the year must be covered in the annual report. Similarly, as the strategy will set out how the enforcement bodies are to exercise their functions, including seeking remedies for victims, the success of this must be covered by the annual report. Therefore, I believe the majority of Amendment 36 is unnecessary.

The point was made that we need to focus our attention on victims. Victims have been protected, for example, by the recovery of unpaid earnings, by making sure that employment agents who persistently abuse contracts or unfairly treat their employees are no longer allowed to register as agents, and by the Gangmasters Licensing Authority not renewing certain licences.

The final amendment in this group concerns the publication of the annual strategy and annual report. The legislation as drafted states that any strategy or annual or other report prepared by the director and laid before Parliament must not contain material that has been removed for very specific reasons. These reasons are where the publication of such material,

“would be against the interests of national security, … might jeopardise the safety of any person in the United Kingdom, or …might prejudice the investigation or prosecution of an offence under the law of England and Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland”.

These are pretty standard exclusions that we have come across in previous legislation. The Bill as drafted requires the Secretary of State to remove information from a publication if he or she considers it to fall into those categories. The Government believe that this is essential and strikes the right balance between transparency and safety. Indeed, it replicates provisions in Section 42 of the Modern Slavery Act regarding the strategic plan and annual report prepared by the Independent Anti-slavery Commissioner. I hope that my answer will reassure noble Lords on that point.

Finally, we have put on the face of the Bill, in Clause 1(4):

“The Secretary of State must provide the Director with such staff, goods, services, accommodation and other resources as the Secretary of State considers the Director needs for the exercise of his or her functions”.

That is a statutory statement. My noble friend Lady Neville-Rolfe announced in the previous debate that the amount of money that has gone into national minimum wage enforcement has increased by £4 million. While it is right to press us to spell out in more detail exactly what is intended for the role, I think that there is a logic there, which my noble friends Lord Horam and Lord Hodgson have reinforced. I hope that, with that reassurance, the noble Lord will feel able to withdraw the amendment.

Photo of Baroness Hamwee Baroness Hamwee Liberal Democrat 5:00 pm, 18th January 2016

My Lords, before the noble Lord responds, perhaps I may take some of those comments but in something of a reverse order. On the question of resources, the Minister referred to Clause 1(4), but that relates to provision for the director. Of course, we are concerned not just about the director but about the organisations—if that is the right term for the various entities—which will be implementing the strategy. Whoever’s strategy it turns out to be is the subject of another debate. So, although I accept the point that the Minister has made, I do not think that it goes all the way, as some of us were seeking.

Photo of Lord Bates Lord Bates The Minister of State, Home Department

If it would be helpful to noble Lords, I should be happy to set this out in writing. However, I can tell them that the 2015-16 budget for the Employment Agency Standards Inspectorate is £0.5 million and it has 8.6 full-time-equivalent staff. For the same period, the Gangmasters Licensing Authority has funding of £4.268 million, including £100,000 for Northern Ireland enforcement, and it has 66 full-time-equivalent staff. The budget for the national minimum wage enforcement team was increased by £4 million to the current figure of £13.2 million, and it has 230 full-time equivalent staff. We are saying that the helpful part of the role of the Director of Labour Market Enforcement will be to look at those three groups and the current basket of resource, which has been increased substantially over the past year, and to see how it can be most effectively deployed to tackle the types of wrongs that we are seeing.

Photo of Baroness Hamwee Baroness Hamwee Liberal Democrat

My Lords, the figures are interesting. Nobody is ever content and no one will say, “That’s enough”, but my impression—I say this as somebody who hears those figures, although they do not really mean anything to me; I am not an expert in any of those fields—is that there are organisations struggling to do the job that they have and which in some cases they do absolutely extraordinarily. Just hearing figures expressed in millions does not advance the argument in the way that I know the noble Lord and I are concerned with.

Photo of Lord Alton of Liverpool Lord Alton of Liverpool Crossbench

Before the noble Baroness leaves the point about resources, she may recall that during the proceedings on the modern slavery and human trafficking legislation we were told that between 2011 and 2014 the Gangmasters Licensing Authority saw a reduction of 17% in its budget—a figure that I think we can all comprehend very easily. I wonder—this is directed at the Minister partly through the noble Baroness—whether the figures that he has just given represent a real increase on those reductions and whether we are seeing a reinstatement of the moneys that were cut.

Photo of Baroness Hamwee Baroness Hamwee Liberal Democrat

My Lords, I am looking to the Minister, but he has not received inspiration on that yet.

Photo of Lord Bates Lord Bates The Minister of State, Home Department

I have not received inspiration, but I do not doubt for one minute what the noble Lord rightly observes. He refers to a time when we were having to tackle some pretty sizable problems in the public finances, and that continues to be a pressure. That is one reason why, I think, we are bringing these resources together. It would be helpful—and I will certainly undertake to do this—to set out in one letter to Members of the Committee in your Lordships’ House the situation on resources, perhaps in a way that is easier to assess. However, the point is that when you have different pots in different areas with different groups of people, it makes it all the more important that they are joined up, that there is co-ordination and that we get the maximum effect for every taxpayer pound that is spent. That is, of course, what the remit of the Director of Labour Market Enforcement is envisaged to be.

Photo of Baroness Hamwee Baroness Hamwee Liberal Democrat

But within the budgets set by the two departments, as we have just heard. I do not think that anyone is arguing against efficiency, but those budgets are being spent, I assume, to their maximum now. So it is a discussion that will go on.

With regard to the point about the regulations and the possibility of extending the scope of the director’s work, the Minister mentioned parliamentary oversight. Of course, that is a very current issue, because oversight only goes so far. Indeed, one might say that it is “sight” but not “change”, because we cannot do anything about secondary legislation.

I want to comment on the points that have been made about trends and the work, other than that to which the noble Lord and I have pointed, on the protection of workers. I realise that the way in which I have worded my amendment was perhaps not the most felicitous. I did in my speech mention things such as monitoring and trends, and I meant that in a very wide sense. I understand, for instance, that the GLA—this is a very important part of its work—has been extremely successful in its relationship with employers and runs a liaison group with employers and agents in the sectors in which it currently works. One might take any survey with a pinch of salt, but a 93% approval rating—I think I have got that right—from employers in their view of their own regulator strikes me as being pretty high, and I for one certainly do not dismiss the points that have been made by the two noble Lords on the other side.

Photo of Lord Rosser Lord Rosser Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs), Shadow Spokesperson (Transport)

My Lords, I will be brief in responding, with just one or two points to make. I have listened carefully to what the Minister has said in response but, frankly, I think that we are making a meal out of not being willing, as far as the Government are concerned, to put the primary purpose of the Director of Labour Market Enforcement in the Bill. I certainly do not accept any argument that it would somehow restrict the functions of that particular post.

I appreciate what the Minister has had to say about his willingness to send a letter relating to resources, and I am sure that that will be extremely helpful. It is certainly my intention to come back to the issue of resources in a later group of amendments.

On the issue of the involvement or otherwise of the Director of Labour Market Enforcement in the immigration system, the Minister repeated the part of his letter that I also referred to: that the new director’s role did not cover immigration control and that nowhere in this Bill is the director given the purpose or power to do that, and if he or she did they would be acting outside their statutory powers. This is a genuine question and not a challenge, but if the Minister is going to send a letter on resources, will he consider adding to it an indication of which clauses of the Bill would preclude the director from being involved in any aspect of immigration enforcement and control? I ask that partly in the context of Clause 2, which states that

“A labour market enforcement strategy … is a document which … deals with such other matters as the Director considers appropriate”.

What happens if the director considers that a strategy relating in part to some involvement in the immigration process is appropriate? Is he entitled under that particular subsection to get so involved? It would be extremely helpful if in his letter the Minister would address that point. With those comments, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 4 withdrawn.

Amendment 5 not moved.

Clause 1 agreed.

House resumed. Committee to begin again not before 5.45 pm.