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Clause 6 - Information hub

Immigration Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 2:15 pm on 27th October 2015.

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Photo of Keir Starmer Keir Starmer Shadow Minister (Home Office) 2:15 pm, 27th October 2015

I beg to move amendment 61, in clause 6, page 4, line 31, after “market” insert

“to facilitate the labour market enforcement functions as defined in Section 3 of this Act”.

To prompt debate about the information hub proposed in Clause 6 of the Bill.

We have tabled the amendment to prompt a debate exploring how the information hub will work. We welcome the co-ordination and joined-up thinking that the hub will bring about, we hope, for the director of labour market enforcement, as that will lead to better enforcement. We raise the question against the backdrop of concern expressed earlier about the overlap between immigration enforcement and labour market standards enforcement, which brings the information hub into sharp focus. Page 23 of the consultation document states that the information hub

“will gather available data from the labour market enforcement bodies and other sources, such as Immigration Enforcement, the police, NCA, HSE, local authorities and the voluntary sector”,

which is a wide range of information.

Will the Minister allay concerns about the overlap between immigration enforcement and labour market standards enforcement? More specifically, will he indicate whether there will be extra funding for the information hub? If there is not to be, and if funding is coming out of the director’s budget, what is the necessary level of resourcing to make the information hub effective?

Photo of James Brokenshire James Brokenshire Minister of State (Home Office) (Security and Immigration) 2:30 pm, 27th October 2015

As the hon. and learned Gentleman has highlighted, the amendment seeks to clarify the role of the proposed information hub. In our ongoing  consultation on tackling labour market exploitation, we set out the intention behind our proposal for an information hub, which is to

“inform and support delivery of the Director’s strategic plan”.

The hon. and learned Gentleman highlighted the relevant section in paragraph 71 of the consultation document. We will continue to reflect on that as we receive submissions in response to the consultation.

I stress that there is already close co-operation between the different labour market enforcement bodies, often in tackling abuses. However, that is sometimes impeded by barriers to sharing data and because the bodies cannot share data. The clause therefore gives the new director the responsibility to lead an information hub, which will form a coherent view of the nature and extent of exploitation and of non-compliance in the labour market.

The director will use the hub to formulate the strategy. The information hub will gather available data from the labour market enforcement bodies and other sources, such as immigration enforcement, the police, the National Crime Agency, the Health and Safety Executive, local authorities and the voluntary sector. The hub will analyse information and develop a much richer picture of the nature, extent and impacts of exploitation in the labour market. It will identify where workers are at risk of abuse and use that information to formulate the enforcement strategy. It will also provide tactical intelligence to the enforcement bodies for use in targeting their enforcement activity. The hub is intended to help strategically and tactically. It will be able to assist in the tasking of operations and to see and understand what practice might inform strategy. It will assist in the promulgation of good practice and in employers fulfilling their duties and responsibilities.

The hon. and learned Gentleman highlighted resourcing. Resources will be provided by the Secretary of State and may include officers from the enforcement agencies, their parent Departments and the wider law enforcement community, so there is that sense of people, as well as of how data are provided and linked. We are giving further consideration to how things would work practically and who would be involved, but in fairness we also want to allow the consultation to inform further development. I am highlighting the nature of what we envisage that the hub will provide—a centre for the sharing of intelligence and data to inform the director and to inform, potentially, the tactical response.

Photo of Paul Blomfield Paul Blomfield Labour, Sheffield Central

I reassure you, Mr Bone, that this is a brief intervention. I thank you for your indulgence earlier; I thought that that was an important point that needed to be resolved.

On the question of funding, the Minister spoke earlier about the integrity of the budgets of the three separate agencies over which the director of labour market enforcement will have strategic overview. He pointed out that the agencies sit within individual Departments. He is obviously right—we agree—that data sharing and better use of data are critical to the effective development of the role, but that will presumably require, apart from people pooling, some additional resource. Is he saying that that resource will not be drawn from any of the three existing budgets and will, therefore, be found by the Secretary of State as an additional support?

Photo of James Brokenshire James Brokenshire Minister of State (Home Office) (Security and Immigration)

Matters of resourcing, and indeed the support that the director will require, are under careful consideration by Ministers. They are working on the recruitment of that individual and how that office will operate and be resourced. I would certainly wish to reflect further on the consultation, given its focus on the role and after hearing views in the debate on this Bill. We have not made final decisions about budgets or staffing—those decisions will be taken once there is agreement on the role and following the spending review. Clearly, the operation hub as part of that activity will be part of the overall examination of what is appropriate.

It is right that the consultation seeks views on the need for powers to share data and intelligence across the enforcement bodies and with other organisations. We are consulting a range of partners within and outside Government to understand what information they hold that might be of use to the director in designing the strategy to tackle performance and non-compliance and building the hub itself. We want to reflect further on how the hub is established, given what I have said about resourcing, the nature of the people who might need to be part of it, who would add the most value, and connections with different agencies. We have set the framework for this and I think that I have clearly set out the intent and what we wish to achieve. In implementation, we will certainly reflect on the further submissions received and the comments that have been made.

Photo of Sarah Champion Sarah Champion Shadow Minister (Home Office)

This really is not meant to be a difficult question. The Minister is putting a lot of weight on the consultation, as we are. Is there not the facility to pause proceedings on the Bill so that the findings of the consultation can actually affect the Bill and we achieve the best legislation, which is what we all want?

Photo of James Brokenshire James Brokenshire Minister of State (Home Office) (Security and Immigration)

No, the provisions of clause 6 state that the director must gather, store, process, analyse and disseminate information relating to non-compliance in the labour market. It is important that we provide this statutory mechanism. Equally, in terms of further development and implementation, it is not appropriate for us to legislate while constantly taking into account further submissions. I do not think that that cuts across the need for clause 6 or the manner in which the labour market enforcement director would conduct his duties. I do not see them in any respect as being at odds. I hope that in the light of those points the hon. and learned Gentleman will be minded to withdraw his amendment.

Photo of Keir Starmer Keir Starmer Shadow Minister (Home Office)

I am grateful to the Minister. As I said, the aim of the amendment was to enable us to understand better how the hub would work and be resourced. On that basis, I ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 6 ordered to stand part of the Bill.