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Clause 2 - Labour market enforcement strategy

Part of Immigration Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 11:00 am on 27th October 2015.

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Photo of James Brokenshire James Brokenshire Minister of State (Home Office) (Security and Immigration) 11:00 am, 27th October 2015

I thank all hon. Members for their contributions in this mini-debate. Equally, I should celebrate and recognise the contribution from the hon. Member for Paisley and Renfrewshire North. I appreciate that this may be a rare moment in the consideration of the Bill—he is supportive of the measures—but, in good spirits, I welcome his comments and the support he has given. I think that there is a shared recognition that we need to deal with exploitation and to achieve better co-ordination, and that we need the strategic response that is provided by the Bill. I welcome his comments in the spirit in which they were made.

The hon. and learned Member for Holborn and St Pancras asked me at the outset about organised criminal activity and the evidence base. It is feedback from enforcement officers that tells us that the incidence of forced labour may be growing at a faster rate than other types of exploitation. It appears to be due to criminal gangs infiltrating the supply chain, which I know is a broader issue that was debated during the passage of the Modern Slavery Act. I will not stray widely, but perhaps that will give him a sense of what we have been looking at.

Amendments 57 and 58 relate to the contents of the director’s annual strategy to address non-compliance in the labour market in the forthcoming financial year. Although I agree entirely with the intention behind the amendments, they are unnecessary because it is the  Government’s expectation that the director will feed information of that nature into the planning and reporting cycle. Page 24 of the consultation document says of the strategy:

“It will set out, for the financial year ahead: the priorities for enforcement; the outcomes required from the enforcement bodies; and the budgets for the enforcement bodies, within the total envelope of available funding.”

So we have been quite clear about our expectations.

The issue of how non-compliance in the labour market should be addressed is at the heart of the strategy, which is why clause 2(2)(b)(i) requires the director to propose how labour market enforcement functions should be exercised, or, to put it another way, how the three enforcement agencies under the director’s remit should operate to address non-compliance.

The Government would not consider the strategy to be effective if it did not identify the threats and obstacles to effective labour market enforcement. We expect the director to turn over stones to tell us where the gaps are and to propose how they can be addressed. That is a crucial and valuable aspect of the role. Similarly, the Government would not consider any strategy or report to be effective if it did not examine the important issue of securing remedies for victims, which would naturally include recovering wages owed to workers and sanctions against employers for labour market offences.