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Clause 2 - Labour market enforcement strategy

Part of Immigration Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 11:15 am on 27th October 2015.

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Photo of James Brokenshire James Brokenshire Minister of State (Home Office) (Security and Immigration) 11:15 am, 27th October 2015

We have today announced an extension to the consultation period. It was originally due to close at the beginning of November, and it has been extended by about four weeks—I can come back to confirm that. I want to ensure that we get the provisions right on some of these detailed points. The consultation may inform later parts of the Bill. Our judgment is that we should ensure that the consultation is framed to get the right responses from those actively engaged at the front end. That is why we have announced a time extension, which I believe will be welcomed by the different sectors.

There were comments about redefining the term “worker”. The clause and the proposed amendment do not redefine “worker” for the purposes of the Employment Agencies Act 1973, the National Minimum Wage Act 1998 or the Gangmasters (Licensing) Act 2004. The coverage of those respective Acts continues to apply. That means that the Employment Agency Standards Inspectorate and the GLA will still tackle non-compliance by employment agencies, businesses and gangmasters, regardless of whether the affected workers have the right to be or to work in the UK.

We see the director as being focused on improving the way we enforce labour market and employment law rules. The Bill is not about extending labour protections to illegal workers, and we think that the director’s focus should be on making sure that workers who are properly here are better protected.

However, we are committed to tackling serious crimes against individuals, whatever their status. We have set out in the modern slavery strategy and the Modern Slavery Act 2015 enhanced powers and an improved approach to tackling slavery and human trafficking, whether victims are trafficked for sexual exploitation, exploitation involving criminal activity or indeed labour exploitation.

That is why we have implemented life sentences for modern slavery offences, new preventive orders to stop harm before it takes place and improved protections for victims such as a statutory defence. We see an important but specific role for the director in supporting this crucial work. The director’s remit includes modern slavery offences where they are committed against a worker or person seeking work, or where a person is subject to slavery, servitude or forced or compulsory labour. We are also consulting on additional powers for the Gangmasters Licensing Authority to include tackling such offences in their proposed enhanced enforcement role. I draw Members’ attention to that.

We think the balance is right. The director’s role is focused on workers who are here legally, although he can include in his plans action against forced labour as well. Trafficking people from around the world to work in brothels in the UK is an absolutely unacceptable crime, but we judge it is right for the director of labour market enforcement to tackle those aspects that are within the remit outlined in the Bill.