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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 Keir Starmer Keir Starmer Shadow Minister (Home Office) 11:00 am, 27th October 2015

I do not want to lose the central concern—a concern that gives rise to the amendment and that was in all the evidence, both written and oral evidence given to us last week. The existing agencies  have their budgets and their funding. Funding streams will be set by different parts of the Government and different bodies. Although HMRC is an example of where there has been an increase, budgets are being cut. The real concern being expressed across the board is that the resources at the moment for the existing agencies are such that the likelihood of any inspection or action being taken is very low. I am the first to accept that some of the statistics about one visit every 250 years and a prosecution once every million years have to be put into proper context; if it is intelligence-led, that gives a different perspective. I completely understand that, but the point made by independent body after independent body is that the likelihood of inspection and enforcement action is so low that it does not operate as much of a deterrent for most of those who may be involved in abuse of the market. That is a real concern. The Migrant Advisory Committee has been mentioned, but plenty of others charged with overseeing some of these issues are extremely concerned about the resources.

In that context, and understanding that it will not be the director’s role to require resources to be used in a particular way, what assurance can we be given that there will be a shift—a step change—in approach? Without providing the resources necessary to give some assurance to the many people, including Opposition Members, who have raised their voices on this issue, it is difficult to see how the strategy will achieve the desired objective and be the positive step forward that it needs to be. Accepting the constraints and the framework in the Bill, what assurance can be given in response to the powerful evidence about the lack of resources and the limited likelihood of inspection and enforcement action being the real problem, rather than the penalties after the event?