We need your support to keep TheyWorkForYou running and make sure people across the UK can continue to hold their elected representatives to account.

Donate to our crowdfunder

Clause 2 - Labour market enforcement strategy

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

Alert me about debates like this

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

I would point to what Professor Metcalf said during the evidence session about checks taking place every 250 years. He said:

“I am exaggerating when I say once every 250 years for a visit. Of course, they will do it based on risk.”––[Official Report, Immigration Public Bill Committee, 20 October 2015; c. 21, Q40.]

Our reforms are about enabling better targeting of enforcement activity, to make best use of the resources available and, therefore, to best protect vulnerable workers.

I return to my point about the additional support that HMRC is providing in terms of the national minimum wage. Where the director feels that the overall level of resources available has had an impact on delivery of the strategy, he or she will be able to say so in the annual report, which is laid before Parliament. That report can be redacted only for reasons of national security or the safety of any person in the UK, or if an investigation may be prejudiced, so it would be open to the director to make any comments.

It is right that, overall, the director is able to prioritise between the different agencies, while the envelope must reside within Government. We are having to make savings, and that is well recognised across the House. We have to deal with the deficit and a number of other issues, which I will not rehearse in this Committee. This is about being more effective and about using collaboration and co-ordination to step up our response. Amendment 59  is therefore unnecessary, as the director would be unable to restrict or reduce the resources allocated to labour market enforcement functions overall.

Amendments 65 and 66 would extend the director’s remit. The enforcement bodies and pieces of legislation that should be included are those relating to workers who are most at risk of infringement of their labour market rights—workers on low pay, those engaged through agencies or those working in sectors deemed at high risk. They are most likely to be vulnerable to abuse by unscrupulous employers. The amendments would include other areas of state enforcement—namely, health and safety and the protection of child workers. We do not agree that those should be within the director’s remit, and I will explain why.

The Health and Safety Executive, the Health and Safety Executive for Northern Ireland and the health and safety functions of local authorities play an important role in ensuring that risks to health and safety are properly managed in a worker’s place of work. That is a wide responsibility; some of the requirements that those bodies enforce relate to labour market and employment rights, and others to different types of risk, from the storing of chemicals to the training necessary to operate machinery.

We want the director to remain focused on enforcement of the most relevant employment rights. The current way in which the Health and Safety Executive and the Health and Safety Executive for Northern Ireland use their specialist expertise to set their strategy is best placed to protect workers from workplace hazards. However, we are consulting on information-sharing powers for the director. Those will include the ability to share information with other enforcement bodies, including the Health and Safety Executive and local authorities. That will enable all enforcement bodies to take a shared view of risk, and that is the right way to approach the issue.

Similarly, the Children and Young Persons Act 1933 provides protections for those younger than 18 who work. It covers a range of scenarios, from very young children who may act or model, to older children who take a job in the school holidays. While the protections that it affords can be seen as employment rights, they are fundamentally about protecting children and their health, wellbeing and education. That naturally fits with local authorities’ other responsibilities towards children and young people. We do not believe it would be in the child’s best interest to separate this piece of legislation and enforcement and have it within the remit of the director. We think that local authorities are best placed to know the particular risks in their areas. As I have indicated, the sharing of information and intelligence is the most effective way in which the provisions in the Bill can contribute to that important work.