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Clause 2 - Labour market enforcement strategy

Part of Immigration Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 10:45 am on 27th October 2015.

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Photo of Paul Blomfield Paul Blomfield Labour, Sheffield Central 10:45 am, 27th October 2015

I meant amendment 57, Mr Bone. I apologise—I do not know where I got 14 from; you ought to see my notes!

It is important that the director has a broad oversight and is able to inform Government and the agencies, when they are taking work forward, of all the issues that are a challenge for us, in government and in this place, when trying to ensure effective labour market enforcement.

It is worth mapping out the scale of change within our labour market, as that causes some of the difficulties. For example, according to the Office for National Statistics labour force survey, from 2010 to 2014 jobs paying below the national minimum wage went up 14.8%, zero-hours contracts were up 343%, the number of agency workers went up 20% and bogus self-employment rose substantially.

We all celebrate the entrepreneurial spirit that leads to genuine self-employment, but the level of self-employment in the construction industry is of particular concern—66.7% of workers are now self-employed, which compares with 9% in the finance and insurance sector and 8% in manufacturing. There is concern in the construction industry, where we know that exploitation is rife, that about half those in self-employment are bogusly self-employed.

That sets part of the context for the need to ensure that we have a proper and comprehensive assessment. Kevin Hyland, the independent anti-slavery commissioner, who has been mentioned already this morning, talked about the scale of the problem in the Daily Mail, which I was reading last week—I note the Minister’s surprise, because that is not my habit, but I happened to be catching up with the paper last week. The article stated:

“Up to 13,000 people in Britain are forced to work in factories…sold for sex…or kept in domestic servitude, among other forms of slavery...But in 2014 only 2,340 potential victims were referred to the National Referral Mechanism…And there were only 39 convictions”.

The commissioner made the point that many people have fled from countries where confidence in the rule of law and in the authorities is low, which makes them reluctant to come forward in Britain. He said:

“Victims who come here with a promise of a better life and then become exploited, they’re going to be fearful of going to the authorities through previous experience.”

Such barriers and issues are precisely those that ought to be within the scope of the consideration of the director of labour market enforcement.

The amendment also relates to the remedies secured by victims. Compensation is of enormous importance. Earlier this year I asked the Secretary of State a written question about compensation for victims of trafficking identified by the Gangmasters Licensing Authority. The answer on 17 September was:

“During the financial years 2010/11 to 2012/13, no prosecutions”— no prosecutions—

“by the Gangmasters’ Licensing Authority resulted in compensation orders for victims.”

I find that shocking. Again, that sort of issue ought to be within the scope of the director of labour market enforcement and within the strategy. Amendment 57—not, indeed, 14—provides that clarity.

On amendment 59, the whole purpose of the director of labour market enforcement is to provide co-ordination, but we need greater clarity. I am interested in the Minister’s response about the relationship between strategic planning, co-ordination and line management. For example, the Gangmasters Licensing Authority is a non-departmental public body and has its own board, which sets its budget and defines its priorities. We want to see an overall strategy, but a number of us would be concerned if the integrity of the GLA as originally constituted was in any way undermined. Amendment 59 will, I hope, draw clarification from the Minister.

Amendment 65 is on the Health and Safety Executive. As the shadow Minister pointed out, we are seeking clarity. Why has the HSE, among others, been excluded from the director’s remit? The Minister will recall from the evidence we received from the chair of the Migration Advisory Committee that there is a real case to include the HSE, local authorities and, potentially, sections of DWP. When we look at the scale of labour market enforcement between different agencies, the Employment Agency Standards Inspectorate has nine inspectors, the GLA has 69, the national minimum wage inspectorate has 232, and the HSE has 1,047 staff, of whom 972 are front-line inspectors. If we are to have a coherent approach to labour market enforcement, it would be useful to have a clearer understanding of the Government’s thinking on why at this stage the HSE is excluded.

I am not sure whether this is an oversight on the Government’s part—again, clarification would be helpful—but amendment 64 is seeking simply to ensure that labour market offences committed against all workers are included, because the current definition of “worker” suggests that it would not include—