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Clause 1 - Director of Labour Market Enforcement

Immigration Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 9:30 am on 27th October 2015.

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Photo of Keir Starmer Keir Starmer Shadow Minister (Home Office) 9:30 am, 27th October 2015

I beg to move amendment 55, in clause 1, page 1, line 6, after subsection (1) insert—

‘(1A) The primary purpose of the Director of Labour Market Enforcement is to secure the enforcement of labour market legislation, as defined in Section 3(3) of this Act.”

To ensure that the functions of the Director of Labour Market Enforcement are exercised for the purpose of protecting those vulnerable to labour market exploitation and to make this explicit on the face of the Bill.

I preface my remarks on amendment 55 by indicating that Labour supports a director of labour market enforcement, provided that the purpose of the director is effective enforcement of labour standards and that the relevant agencies are properly resourced to that end.  That is the in principle position. With that, there should be no overlap with or merging into inspectorate or immigration enforcement functions. Part of the Bill and the Government’s associated consultation document suggests that the role is a director of labour market enforcement in name but not in design. The aim of amendment 55 is to resolve that issue.

The purpose of the amendment is to ensure that the functions of the director of labour market enforcement are exercised for the purpose of protecting those vulnerable to labour market exploitation and to make that explicit in the Bill. I will not go through the wording unless that is necessary. It is proposed that the director will report to the Home Secretary and to the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills. That is welcome, but the position is being created via an Immigration Bill sponsored by the Home Office. Therefore, that concern, and particularly the overlap between immigration enforcement and labour market enforcement, gives rise to the amendment.

Immigration enforcement threatens the success of labour inspection. A better approach to reducing illegal working is effectively to enforce labour standards, thereby reducing the demand for illegal workers, who are more vulnerable to being exploited due to their irregular immigration status. The OSCE has said:

“A rising challenge to effective labour inspection is an increasingly widespread imposition of measures that compel labour inspectors to conduct immigration enforcement activity as part of their workplace inspection agenda.”

That is the concern that we have about the Bill—hence, amendment 55.

The International Labour Organisation said:

“the primary duty of labour inspectors is to protect workers and not to enforce immigration law.”

Other countries have experienced the dangers of merging those two functions. For example, research in the Netherlands shows that dual labour inspection priorities to identify, on the one hand, undocumented workers, and, on the other hand, victims of trafficking have negative impacts on the uncovering of trafficking cases. There are two reasons for that. One is that victims of trafficking are too scared to come forward and the second is that labour inspectors fail to identify them. In the Dutch research, there is a classic example of that, involving an individual who was trafficked into commercial cleaning in the Netherlands. Labour inspectors came to his workplace on many occasions, but he did not come forward; in fact, he claimed not to work in the establishment rather than come forward and be identified as an employee. For that reason, he was missed by the inspectors. As I say, this is a classic example of its type.

It is not just in the Netherlands where there is such evidence. In the USA, there is now a memorandum of understanding between the Department of Labor and the Department of Homeland Security, the purpose of which is to ensure that immigration control does not interfere with the protection of workers’ rights. For example, when the Wages and Hours Directorate investigates a case of unpaid wages, its officials must not ask for immigration documents. So there is a clear separation of roles, and the fact that workers’ rights are protected in the USA regardless of immigration status prevents retaliation and intimidation by employers, who could otherwise threaten to report undocumented workers if they exercised their labour rights. Our position is that in order to tackle labour exploitation effectively, there  must be a strict firewall between immigration control and labour inspection. That offers the best prospect of success for this director of labour market enforcement.

We have some questions for the Minister, and I will just run quickly through them; he may be able to pick up on them in his remarks. First, how will the director of labour market enforcement prioritise non-compliance in the labour market when non-compliance constitutes a range of offences in relation to requirements set out under the labour market legislation, and what assurances are in place to ensure that the work of the director will prioritise the protection of vulnerable workers from abuse and exploitation? Secondly, what overlap will the director’s consideration of non-compliance have with the work of the Home Office to control immigration and identify undocumented workers? Thirdly, what is the intended overlap between the twin aims of tackling the undercutting of British workers by undocumented workers and addressing worker exploitation, and how does the Minister see those two aims being achieved in unison?

I have set out the principal reasons why we have tabled the amendment. It may be helpful at this stage, Mr Bone, if I indicate that although we will not push a number of amendments to a vote, we will push this one to a vote. I hope that is helpful.

Photo of Emma Lewell-Buck Emma Lewell-Buck Labour, South Shields

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Bone.

I will speak briefly about amendment 55, which has the modest aim of making it explicit that the new director of labour market enforcement should have a duty to stand up for those who are at risk of exploitation. This amendment has been tabled because Labour Members believe that if such a position is going to exist, whoever holds it should be responsible for enforcing all aspects of labour market law and not just some of them.

If they accept this amendment, the Government will signal that part 1 of the Bill is truly about improving labour market enforcement and not simply about grabbing headlines to bolster their credentials of being tough on immigration. If the Government are willing to make that commitment, I think we will all welcome the creation of the new director.

The amendment is important because without it there would be a worrying ambiguity in the new role of the director, which could see the resources allocated to the director directed primarily at illegal migrants in work rather than at those who employ them.

There is a tonal shift in the Bill towards criminalising the employee over the employer, which is concerning because it seems to focus on the symptom rather than the cause; the focus appears to be on the workers rather than on the organised gangs who traffic and exploit them. That approach will not have a lasting impact on illegal labour market activity in Britain. The reason is simple: if workers are arrested and deported, employers will find others to take their place. If you strike at employers, however, that market soon disappears. There is even a risk, as witnesses told us last week, that an emphasis on criminalising workers will actually be counterproductive in fighting illegal working. If people fear that they will be harshly punished if their immigration status is discovered, that can be used by their employers as a threat, driving them even further underground and opening them up to worse forms of exploitation.

The Government therefore need to make it explicit that the new director will have powers and duties that allow them to act in all areas of the labour market and that the role will be used to tackle exploitation at its source. Without that commitment, the director is unlikely to be an effective office because it will be limited to clearing up the symptoms, rather than the root causes, of labour market exploitation. Such an approach might bring some great headlines for the Home Secretary, but it will do little to prevent trafficking and abuse or to reduce the number of illegal migrants working in this country. I am sure that the Minister will agree that if public money is going to be spent establishing a new agency, we need to be sure that it is going to get results, and that is why he and his colleagues should back this amendment today.

Photo of Paul Blomfield Paul Blomfield Labour, Sheffield Central

It is a pleasure to serve on the Committee with you in the Chair, Mr Bone. I echo the comments made by my hon. Friends, save that I have one caveat in relation to the point made by my hon. and learned Friend the shadow Minister. I hope that we do not need to push the amendment to the vote. I hope that there can be agreement, because we are on the same page on several of these issues, in the wider sense in relation to an effectively managed immigration system, and particularly on labour market enforcement. Many Opposition Members commended the Government on their work on the Modern Slavery Act 2015. We had differences on points of detail, but very much agreed with the main thrust of that legislation. There is strong support for the principle of more effective labour market enforcement. The Prime Minister spoke powerfully about that when he spoke, at that stage, not about a director but about the establishment of a labour market enforcement agency. Clearly, the Bill has a slightly different, but nevertheless welcome, approach to seek to co-ordinate the efforts of those agencies dealing with more effective enforcement in the labour market.

However, it does not sit comfortably that our debate about labour market enforcement is in the context of an immigration Bill—so there is perhaps a point of confusion. At the heart of this clarificatory amendment is the desire to be absolutely clear on the role of the director of labour market enforcement. The post—the function—should do what it says on the tin: it should be focused on labour market enforcement. My hon. and learned Friend the shadow Minister has cited international examples. It is useful to learn from other countries, though we do not do it as often as we might. There are powerful examples of where confusion between labour market enforcement and immigration control and enforcement is counterproductive. It neither supports effective immigration enforcement—because it drives undocumented workers underground and out of the way of the authorities—and does not help with labour market enforcement either.

Photo of Sarah Champion Sarah Champion Shadow Minister (Home Office) 9:45 am, 27th October 2015

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship. If I may add to what my hon. Friend is saying, Caroline Robinson, the policy director of Focus on Labour Exploitation, said in her witness statement,

“The point about the protective purpose of the director is very important. For us, the core purpose of that role should be the protection of vulnerable workers and the prevention of exploitation.”––[Official Report, Immigration Public Bill Committee, 20 October 2015; c. 27, Q54.]

That is what the amendment is trying to get at.

Photo of Paul Blomfield Paul Blomfield Labour, Sheffield Central

I thank my hon. Friend for her helpful intervention. Throughout our deliberations, we should seek to draw on the evidence that we heard. The evidence cited by her and by my hon. and learned Friend the shadow Minister has powerfully made the case that the confusion of immigration functions and labour market enforcement is damaging and counterproductive to our objectives for the labour market and for immigration. The amendment seeks to provide absolute clarity. I hope that the Government will accept it.

Photo of Anne McLaughlin Anne McLaughlin Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Civil Liberties)

The Scottish National party tabled the amendment with Labour because we believe that the primary purpose of the director of labour market enforcement should be to enforce the rights of workers and protect people from exploitation. Indeed, the Government’s background briefing states that the new labour market enforcement agency will be established to protect people against being exploited or coerced into work. The Immigration Law Practitioners’ Association has said:

“Where those working or living in very poor conditions are deterred from accessing assistance because of their immigration status”— this will clearly make it harder for them—

“or because of their vulnerability to threats by unscrupulous employers in relation to their immigration status, agencies will be restricted in their ability to gather the intelligence needed to exercise their regulatory functions and protect against labour market exploitation. A lack of clarity over the protective function of the labour market enforcement agency may therefore undermine its aims.”

It would be good to have a little more clarity.

Last week, one of the Conservative Members really shocked me with a statement about illegal workers. On reflection, I wonder whether there is a genuine, fundamental misunderstanding about some of these people that might need to be addressed. The comment was that if people knew that the Bill was being introduced and that it was going be so much harder to work here illegally, they would be less likely to allow themselves to be trafficked. That really shocked me. We are talking about the most vulnerable people, who are taken from other countries against their will. They do not choose or allow themselves to be trafficked. They are used and abused. The Bill will make it so much worse for them. Does the Minister believe that people are trafficked here because they choose to be or not? If there is a belief that there is an element of choice to trafficking, I understand where the measures come from. I would like to know that the Minister intends to protect the most vulnerable people.

Photo of Simon Hoare Simon Hoare Conservative, North Dorset

If the hon. Lady accepts the premise that the trafficker is the conduit for the individual to go from A to B, does she accept that if the individual understands that entry to B is now harder and tougher, it is likely that they will not be sought to be  trafficked in the first place or that they will ask the traffickers to traffic them elsewhere? It is all about signal and message.

Photo of Anne McLaughlin Anne McLaughlin Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Civil Liberties)

So there is the answer to my question. I really would love the Minister to respond and to understand that people do not choose to be trafficked. They do not say, “Please kidnap me, tie me up, bundle me into a van, and take me to a country that I’ve never been to where I can’t speak the language.”

Photo of Simon Hoare Simon Hoare Conservative, North Dorset

That is kidnapping; it is not trafficking. Trafficking, in my judgment, is when somebody goes to somebody else who is providing that service and says, “I want to get from A to B. Will you get me there?” That might be in a private motorcraft, an aeroplane or whatever it might happen to be. When I talk about trafficking, that is what I am talking about, not about kidnap, which is illegal.

Photo of Anne McLaughlin Anne McLaughlin Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Civil Liberties)

In legal terms, the hon. Gentleman is wrong. That is not what trafficking is. He needs to look up the legal definition of trafficking because trafficking happens against somebody’s will. We have to protect those people. Now that the hon. Gentleman understands, perhaps he will support this amendment.

Photo of Byron Davies Byron Davies Conservative, Gower

Does the hon. Lady accept that when I worked as a police officer in Romania, young ladies who wanted to come to the UK through Spain would look for a trafficker to facilitate that journey to Spain and the UK? That is trafficking, contrary to what the hon. Lady is suggesting.

Photo of Anne McLaughlin Anne McLaughlin Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Civil Liberties)

I think the hon. Gentleman is making the decision to do what a lot of today’s media do, which is to focus on people who have an element of choice. Most people who are trafficked—well maybe not most people, but a significant number—are trafficked against their will. They are the most vulnerable people and the people we have to protect. This amendment is asking only that the new director pays attention to the rights of the most vulnerable people. We cannot say that one person has had an element of choice but another person has not, so we will not protect the second person. So no, I do not accept what the hon. Gentleman says.

Photo of Craig Whittaker Craig Whittaker Conservative, Calder Valley

The premise of the amendment is:

“To ensure that the functions of the Director of Labour Market Enforcement are exercised for the purpose of protecting those vulnerable to labour market exploitation and to make this explicit on the face of the Bill”—

Where in the Bill is that purpose not explicit? Clause 3 refers to non-compliance and the interpretation of it. It specifically refers to the Employment Agencies Act 1973, the National Minimum Wage Act 1998, the Gangmasters (Licensing) Act 2004 and anything else prescribed by the Secretary of State.

Photo of Anne McLaughlin Anne McLaughlin Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Civil Liberties)

If the hon. Gentleman thinks that it is already explicitly stated, surely he will have no problem supporting this amendment.

Photo of Paul Blomfield Paul Blomfield Labour, Sheffield Central

I wanted to develop the point, because I think that some of the discussion about trafficking is a diversion. Does the hon. Lady agree that the primary purpose of this amendment is simply to clarify the role of the labour market enforcement director and make it clear that there is no disagreement on either side of the House that such a director should focus on preventing those vulnerable to exploitation in the labour market?

Photo of Anne McLaughlin Anne McLaughlin Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Civil Liberties)

If the hon. Gentleman was asking me to agree with him then I agree with him.

Photo of Sarah Champion Sarah Champion Shadow Minister (Home Office)

It is a clarification, courtesy of Google. The UN defines trafficking as

“the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability”.

As my colleague has just said, this gets to the nub of the problem. My understanding, and perhaps the Minister could provide clarity, is that when we are talking about trafficked people, the legislation is in place already so it can be enforced. What we are saying here is that a large number of people are in a grey area. They might, as in the example given by the hon. Member for Gower, have paid to come into this country to work but then, very quickly, find themselves in an exploitative situation.

We need clarity about the role of the labour market enforcement director. Is he very clear that he is responsible for enforcing good labour practice? Does he have the resources to do that and can he work collaboratively with the other agencies to make sure that when something like the Modern Slavery Act 2015 is enforced, that vulnerable person is taken care of?

Photo of Peter Bone Peter Bone Conservative, Wellingborough

Just before we move on, I want to say that I have allowed the debate to go fairly wide of the mark on trafficking as it does indeed go to the heart of the Bill. If you recall, I did ask for one of the witnesses to define trafficking. I myself was none the wiser after she had finished speaking, unfortunately.

Photo of James Brokenshire James Brokenshire Minister of State (Home Office) (Security and Immigration)

I welcome you to the Chair, Mr Bone, and other members of the Committee to our consideration of part 1 of the Bill, which deals with labour market enforcement. I look forward to the debates that we will have in the coming sittings to, I hope, improve the Bill and to reflect on significant issues relating to labour market enforcement and immigration more generally. I look forward to debate that I am sure will be wide ranging and well informed and that I hope will be good natured. These Committees are about scrutiny of the detail of the legislation. There will be strong views on certain issues, but the approach that I always take on Bill Committees is to listen and to reflect, and I hope to be able to inform and provide evidence and further background to the Committee during the detailed consideration of this Bill. With those words of introduction, I will move on to clause 1 and the amendment tabled by the hon. and learned Member for Holborn and St Pancras.

The effect of the amendment would be to specify the primary purpose of the director of labour market enforcement in clause 1. Although I appreciate the desire to include a strong statement up front on the  director’s remit, I believe, for reasons that I will explain, that the amendment is unnecessary. The director’s role and remit are already clearly set out in clauses 1 to 7. When we look at the provisions in clauses 2 and 3, which we will debate in the course of this morning, and the specific definitions of “labour market enforcement functions” and “labour market legislation”, we see that that provides a clear framework as to the intent behind the creation of the director, but I will explain this a little further.

We are creating the director of labour market enforcement to lead efforts to tackle abuse and non-compliance in the labour market. As we will explain in the debates on later clauses, that will include setting the strategy for the Government’s work to tackle all types of labour market exploitation and creating an information hub to facilitate better sharing of tactical and operational intelligence. I think that that is equally important. On some of the issues of vulnerability that have already been flagged in terms of identification, it is important to be able to share that information and get it to the right agencies so that they are able to act. I think that that goes beyond the remit specifically of the director, but I certainly understand and respect the points that have been made.

Photo of Paul Blomfield Paul Blomfield Labour, Sheffield Central

I want to push the Minister on that point. As I said, the confusion arises because a director of labour market enforcement is being proposed in the context of an immigration Bill and it is a post that will report to the Home Secretary. Were the director of labour market enforcement sitting in a different Department, reporting perhaps to the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, the necessity for this absolute clarity might be diminished. Does the Minister agree that the fact that the labour market enforcement function is within an immigration Bill and the post reports to the Home Secretary means that it would be helpful to have absolute clarity on the purpose, so that this post holder is not distracted by other—quite legitimate but other—considerations of Government?

Photo of James Brokenshire James Brokenshire Minister of State (Home Office) (Security and Immigration)

I welcome the hon. Gentleman’s welcome for the creation of the director of labour market enforcement and what he said about the way in which it is framed and the intent behind it. I will go on to respond to his direct point, but let me address the issue about whom the director reports to. It is to the director of business and to the Home Secretary. Let us look at the agencies in relation to which the director has a remit. One of those is the Gangmasters Licensing Authority. That sits within the Home Office and therefore it is appropriate for the director to report to the Home Secretary in respect of the overarching work; the GLA is a Home Office-sponsored and led agency. The hon. Gentleman may want to engage in a broader debate as to whether he thinks that that is appropriate, but it is important that it is structured in that way.

Photo of Keir Starmer Keir Starmer Shadow Minister (Home Office) 10:00 am, 27th October 2015

Obviously, one of the concerns is where the director reports to. I understand the point about the need to report to the Home Secretary as some of the other agencies do. I am trying to explore where we have common ground. The experience in other countries is that merging labour market enforcement with immigration is counterproductive. There is a concern that this is an  immigration Bill and therefore there is the potential for that merger. Other countries have experienced a practical problem in exercising the primary function because it has been merged with immigration control and enforcement. Does the Minister accept that there are real examples in other countries of action which started with a good intention but went wrong because it morphed into what was, in truth, immigration control and enforcement?

Photo of James Brokenshire James Brokenshire Minister of State (Home Office) (Security and Immigration)

I would point to the fact that immigration enforcement—the directorate within the Home Office that is responsible for the enforcement of immigration rules—is not one of the structures that the director has responsibility for. I will cover in turn the point about remit because there is an important aspect to this. When hon. Members have heard what I have to say, I hope that they will understand that the hon. and learned Gentleman’s concern about some sort of merger is not what this is about. We intend the director’s remit to cover labour market breaches, not immigration offences. The director and the enforcement bodies will work closely with Home Office immigration enforcement wherever labour market breaches are linked to illegal immigrants or people working in breach of their visa conditions, but that is an adjunct and not the purpose of the director.

I was asked why this measure was in an immigration Bill. There are two reasons. First, immigrant workers can be particularly vulnerable to exploitation by rogue employers, a point that has been flagged by hon. Members already this morning. I am sure that that will be a continuing theme during our consideration of the Bill. Secondly, by ensuring that workers are treated fairly, we are preventing businesses bringing in cheap labour that illegally undercuts the wages of people already in this country. Good labour market enforcement has knock-on effects.

Modern slavery has been a theme of some of the contributions this morning. With the Modern Slavery Act, Britain is once again at the forefront of the fight against the inhuman crimes of slavery and forced labour—the hon. Member for Sheffield Central and others made comments on this—but it is important to understand that exploitation occurs in many forms and can start with abuse of employment law. We must step in to protect not just the vulnerable—I will address the point about vulnerability—but also local workers and responsible businesses affected by those who are prepared to exploit cheap labour. That is why there is the need for this strategic approach and for the director to work with the different organisations that are in place. This is not a merger, as the hon. Member for Sheffield Central highlighted in his contribution, but rather we have an over-arching strategy of looking at ways in which we can promote good practice.

I would direct hon. Members to the consultation published alongside the Bill to set out some of those details. It says that:

The Director will lead and co-ordinate work to promote compliance by employers and labour providers with labour market legislation, and to encourage and enable people to report infringements and exploitation.”

We are conducting a consultation at the moment around the director. We look forward to receiving feedback and input so that we are able to reflect fairly and appropriately.

Our employment law framework guarantees decent minimum rights for workers, including from next April the national living wage for over-25s, and promotes fair competition between businesses. The majority of employment law is enforced by individuals taking their employer to an employment tribunal to seek redress if they believe they have been wronged. State enforcement bodies step in to enforce legislation where there is a higher risk of exploitation or vulnerability.

As I have indicated, clause 3 already defines the director’s role by reference to the legislation and enforcement functions that will be within his remit. It makes it clear that the three enforcement bodies for which the director will set the strategy are the Employment Agency Standards Inspectorate, HMRC’s national minimum wage team and the Gangmasters Licensing Authority. We want the director to bring co-ordination across the whole spectrum of breaches of employment law—from employers who do not know the rules right through to organised, criminal exploitation of workers. That will be the director’s broad remit. However, I am concerned about some of the pictures we see of organised immigration crime and organised criminality more generally that seeks to exploit labour markets and uses the front of employment. We are dealing with a broad spectrum, which ranges from vulnerability all the way to good practice and compliance. It is right that the director should have that remit—setting up strategy, commenting on the balance of resources across each of the three agencies and reporting to the relevant Secretary of State.

Photo of Sarah Champion Sarah Champion Shadow Minister (Home Office)

Could the Minister give clarity on how the director would work in collaboration with the Independent Commissioner for Modern Day Slavery? Whether it is in guidance or within the Bill, it would help if the two roles could be clarified, because there is a grey area.

Photo of James Brokenshire James Brokenshire Minister of State (Home Office) (Security and Immigration)

It is important to stress that they are separate roles. We make that point clearly in the consultation document, where we say that the director will have a role that is distinct from the commissioner’s role. Obviously, the commissioner looks at all types of modern slavery, whereas the focus of the director will be on labour market exploitation and enforcement. The practical roles are equally different:

The Director will set the strategic plan, priorities for targeted action and overall approach”, whereas

“the Commissioner has a broad role to look at the effectiveness of all the bodies engaged in the fight against modern slavery, encourage best practice, and make recommendations for improvements. That role will in future include looking at the effectiveness of the new Director and the reformed GLA”, which we are consulting on now. I hope that is helpful and explains that these are complementary roles. I think that the commissioner, Kevin Hyland, is doing an excellent job. He has a great deal of practical experience from his time in law enforcement. I remember a couple of years ago going out with Mr Hyland on an enforcement raid to do with trafficking, so I know the real passion he has for that job. I think that he will use and work with the new director in a very positive way to continue to confront the appalling evil that is slavery and trafficking,  with people being horribly exploited and enslaved for gain. We continue to need to shine a light on this, so that it is seen for what it is.

Photo of Paul Blomfield Paul Blomfield Labour, Sheffield Central

I endorse the points that the Minister made on enforcement, but I want to come to the issue he raised about the review of the Gangmasters Licensing Authority. I agree that effective enforcement is important. The opportunity for exploitation in the labour market is growing. Can he reassure us that the review of the GLA will not mean that we will be moving to voluntary licensing?

Photo of James Brokenshire James Brokenshire Minister of State (Home Office) (Security and Immigration)

I think that the hon. Gentleman may be straying a little from the specific amendment. He will have seen the clear manner in which the consultation document is set out and the various questions that are being asked about the licensing function in ensuring that that is conducted appropriately, is evidence-based and is used as a tool to prevent exploitation in the highest-risk sectors. I direct right hon. and hon. Members to the relevant sections on pages 40 and 41 of the consultation document, which set that out. Obviously, we will reflect carefully in the context of the feedback we receive around the consultation.

Photo of Keir Starmer Keir Starmer Shadow Minister (Home Office)

Before the Minister moves on from that point, he has understandably set out the functions in clause 3(3) that are of primary relevance. I understand that. The purpose of the amendment is to say that, among those purposes or functions, this is the primary one and it is protective. That is the sole purpose of the amendment. His point is that it is not needed in the light of clause 3(3). The concern is that there is no clear reference in the Bill to the primary purpose. The measure comes in an Immigration Bill that, a few clauses on, includes offences of illegal working. Does he understand that, although we do not quarrel with the functions or why he has chosen them, we want to underline what I think is common ground, that the primary purpose is protective? In this environment, and given other international examples, it is helpful for all concerned to have that included in the Bill.

Photo of James Brokenshire James Brokenshire Minister of State (Home Office) (Security and Immigration)

I think I have already explained that the functions of the director of labour market enforcement are by their nature framed within the context of the various pieces of legislation that the hon. and learned Gentleman set out. I have also explained, as set out in the consultation document, that the measure is about promoting good practice and highlighting issues where employers can equally comply. That is why I responded as I did to a number of hon. Members about the spectrum of activity engaged here.

We are very clear that the purpose of the director of labour market enforcement is to tackle labour market exploitation across the field. We believe this measure will give the stronger drive to deliver that step change in tackling exploitation. The director will have that purpose set out in terms of appointment and, in delivering that, will be accountable to the Home Secretary and Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills.

We also believe that the requirement to publish the strategy and annual report—it will not be a private document but will be visible according to the legislative  framework—will demonstrate the clear commitment to protecting the vulnerable and tackling exploitation. That is again why we are clear on the remit, role and function. From a tactical operational perspective—I am sure we will come on to the information hub—that will support the activity.

Photo of Paul Blomfield Paul Blomfield Labour, Sheffield Central

I am grateful to the Minister for being generous with his time. I have listened carefully to his comments and there is little in them that I can disagree with. Given that we are seeking to be on the same page as far as we can on all these issues, will the Minister explain why he feels that the Bill would be diminished by the amendment?

Photo of James Brokenshire James Brokenshire Minister of State (Home Office) (Security and Immigration)

As I have already indicated, I simply do not think it is necessary, because the Bill is already framed so as to cover the points hon. Members are highlighting. I have always taken the approach in legislation that, if the situation is clear through other mechanisms, adding provisions that are not needed is not appropriate. I had hoped in my comments to assure the Committee why the amendment is not necessary, the purpose of the provisions and the intent of the Government. Transparency will be provided through the annual reporting to see what is happening in practice, and therefore the amendment as expressed is not needed. The director’s strategy will be evidence-based, which will allow the plan to be from year to year, based on where non-compliance is most likely to cause harm. That will be reflected in the plan.

Photo of Emma Lewell-Buck Emma Lewell-Buck Labour, South Shields 10:15 am, 27th October 2015

I have also listened carefully to the Minister, but I am confused and puzzled. If the purpose of the measure is to tackle labour market exploitation across the board, why did the Government see fit to include it in the Immigration Bill?

Photo of James Brokenshire James Brokenshire Minister of State (Home Office) (Security and Immigration)

I have already responded to that point by mentioning the vulnerability faced by people who are here through immigration. Equally, the measure can be a means of ensuring that we have a good, regulated labour market that therefore does not add to exploitation, nor encourages people to come here illegally or through trafficking, which is why it sits in the overall framework of an immigration Bill. I hope that I have explained that the purpose and remit of the director is labour market enforcement. 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. We will no doubt have a separate debate about that when we reach the relevant provisions.

Photo of Keir Starmer Keir Starmer Shadow Minister (Home Office)

I am sorry for intervening again. Although I disagree with very little of what the Minister is saying, that last point is a cause for concern. Of course it makes sense for the director to have these primary functions and to co-ordinate with other action on immigration, but the concern is that when we put the two functions together and do not clarify the primary purpose, there will be a misunderstanding about how this works.

We support this good initiative of having a director, but the good work—the head of steam—will be lost if the primary purpose is not clear. People will feel that the measure is, on the face of it, about labour market enforcement, but it carries with it immigration checks and it is in an immigration Bill. What the Minister says makes perfect sense, but that concern is the cause of our discomfort and the reason behind the amendment, which would make the provision much more powerful.

Photo of James Brokenshire James Brokenshire Minister of State (Home Office) (Security and Immigration)

In many ways, the purpose of a Bill’s Committee stage is to tease out some of these issues, and to get the Minister—in this case, me—to set out and clarify the purpose and intent of a Bill’s provisions. We strongly believe that the Bill gives certainty and clarity about how the director will provide co-ordination.

The measure is about existing agencies that are already carrying out functions. If intelligence is already discovered by those agencies, sharing will already take place. This does not change anything about operational practice; rather, the director will provide strategy, co-ordination and an overarching response. We need good work on enforcement between agencies so that we do not—I do not think we have this, but the provision ensures that that is the case—have a silo-based approach, given that there is an overlap and that we need to look at this as an overall market. Those are the reasons why we do not believe the amendment is required, so I ask the hon. and learned Gentleman to withdraw it.

Photo of Keir Starmer Keir Starmer Shadow Minister (Home Office)

As I have already indicated, I am grateful to the Minister for setting out so clearly the purpose behind the director of labour market enforcement. In one sense, there is nothing between us on that. Our concern is clear: this positive development comes in an immigration Bill, yet there is clear evidence from other countries that unless we are clear about the primary purpose of such a measure, we run the risk of losing everything that we have tried to gain.

As I have said, the offences of illegal working in relation to employers and employees are set out just a few clauses later in the Bill. When such measures are together in one Bill, a clear explanation of the primary purpose of the director would cut through a lot of the concern and help that person to devise a strategy that focuses on that primary purpose, rather than other possible purposes. I welcome the comments of the Minister and other members of the Committee, but I will not withdraw the amendment.

Question put, That the amendment be made.

The Committee divided: Ayes 8, Noes 10.

Division number 1 Decision Time — Clause 1 - Director of Labour Market Enforcement

Aye: 8 MPs

No: 10 MPs

Ayes: A-Z by last name

Nos: A-Z by last name

Question accordingly negatived.

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Photo of James Brokenshire James Brokenshire Minister of State (Home Office) (Security and Immigration)

I shall be brief, given that we have had quite a wide-ranging debate about the purpose of clause 1. I underline that the purpose of and the rationale behind the appointment of the labour market enforcement director is that the three main enforcement agencies work together. They are well respected, with distinct expertise, knowledge and skills, and collectively they span the spectrum of infringement from the simplest forms of non-compliance to exploitation that may include some form of slavery. There has been a shift in the nature of such exploitation from individual abuses of employment regulation towards organised criminal activity, which is why it is important that we have an overarching response that ensures that we join the work of the bodies together.

To enable the enforcement bodies to address the problem collectively, we have determined that there is a need for greater co-ordination among them, as well as the need for a single set of priorities. We want to ensure that there is strong, effective co-ordination of the three enforcement bodies, but we also want to achieve that with minimal disruption and while avoiding significant structural change.

We believe that the key lies in establishing effective overarching leadership and co-ordination of the enforcement bodies, so the clause creates the position of director of labour market enforcement. The director will lead efforts to tackle abuse and non-compliance in the labour market. As we will debate later, that work will involve setting the strategy for the Government’s work to tackle all types of labour market exploitation, and heading an information hub to enable better sharing of tactical and operational intelligence, as well as to build a stronger evidence base to inform future interventions.

Creating a director provides the greatest scope for achieving the strategic integration of the three enforcement bodies without losing their different specialist skills. It is vital that those skills are retained to deal with not only day-to-day compliance issues, but serious criminality. If the system focused exclusively on either serious exploitation or lower-level breaches, it would not provide the necessary protection for vulnerable workers, which is why we have drafted the Bill in such a way.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 1 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.