Clause 22

Part of UK Borders Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 3:00 pm on 15th March 2007.

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Photo of Joan Ryan Joan Ryan Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Home Office, The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department 3:00 pm, 15th March 2007

The clause is a minor technical amendment to ensure that there continues to be a power of arrest for the new offence of knowingly employing an illegal  worker when the existing similar offence under section 8 of the Asylum and Immigration Act 1996 is repealed. This amendment will add the power of arrest with warrant.

Knowingly employing an illegal worker is a significant offence. The offence was introduced in the Immigration, Asylum and Nationality Act 2006, and we have already toughened up the offence. A person convicted of employing an illegal worker under the 1996 Act can only be fined, whereas under the new offence in section 21 of the 2006 Act, those convicted face a maximum of two years imprisonment and an unlimited fine or both.

It is indeed the case that many people we have taken evidence from have made a clear and significant point, as we do ourselves, about the role of illegal employment and the need to bear down on illegal employers. But I would say to the hon. Member for Ashford that our view is that the two-year maximum is an adequate and proportionate way of dealing with these offenders. It is comparable to other maximum sentences for non-violent crimes. His colleagues and, I presume, he himself supported the 2006 Act. This is a new offence. They made no objection at the time to the two years. He will also know that we have not yet implemented this measure, so it has not yet been tested as it is recent legislation. There is no current evidence that four years would be a better deterrent than two, so our view is as it was when that Act was introduced in 2006—that two years is the appropriate response and already represents a significant toughening of the measures.