Clause 39 - Appeals against penalty notices

Part of Immigration Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 9:15 am on 12th November 2013.

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Photo of Mark Harper Mark Harper The Minister for Immigration 9:15 am, 12th November 2013

I will resist the temptation to rush ahead to the debate on the Opposition’s new clauses, which we will discuss later. I will make a couple of points in answer to the hon. Lady’s remarks about clause 39 and, since she mentioned it, clause 40 as well.

The hon. Lady is quite right. There is some agreement about the need to crack down on unscrupulous employers for the reasons that she set out. One is their exploitation of individuals in the United Kingdom; another is that by treating individuals in the way they do they undercut legitimate employers who obey the law and follow the rules. That is wrong. Unscrupulous employers also help to facilitate one type of illegal migration, in which individuals are, frankly, duped into coming to the United Kingdom with the promise of a better life only to end up working in unsatisfactory conditions and not receiving a good income, and so would have been better off if they had never made the journey here. That type of path, which sometimes also involves organised crime, is something that we all want to crack down on. Clauses 39 and 40 will improve the position.

Clause 39 is about appeals against penalty notices. Employers will first have to use the administrative review process before bringing an appeal, streamlining the process. That will improve how the system works.

Clause 40 is about making it easier to enforce the recovery of civil penalty debts. At the moment, where we encounter employers who are employing people illegally, even when we use our immigration powers to issue them with a penalty, it can be difficult to recover the penalty. The clause will improve that situation.

The hon. Lady talked about enforcement. One of the reasons why the Home Secretary split up the UK Border Agency this year was to ensure not only—as we debated earlier when we discussed welcoming the best and brightest to the UK—that the visas and immigration parts of the business are focused on customer service for those who pay to come to the UK, but that the immigration enforcement part of the operation, which is effectively a law enforcement command, has a culture that is more focused on the enforcement role. Since we did that, we have seen some improvements—an increased focus on dealing with illegal working operations, increased arrests, and more penalties issued.

Enforcement is welcome. It will make it more difficult for unscrupulous employers to employ people illegally and improve the position of those who choose to follow our laws and not exploit people, because they will not face unfair competition.

The clauses will move the position in the right direction. Obviously, we can have a full debate when we reach the new clauses tabled by the Opposition, but I hope that the Committee will be content to allow both clauses 39 and 40 to stand part of the Bill.