Clause 8 - Offence of illegal working

Part of Immigration Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 3:00 pm on 27th October 2015.

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Photo of Sarah Champion Sarah Champion Shadow Minister (Home Office) 3:00 pm, 27th October 2015

I thank the hon. Lady for her intervention; she is always fantastic on detail. My answer is yes, but I am not a lawyer, so I would like the Minister to lay out, in language that a former charity worker can understand, the protections for people who are exploited. To be honest, I am unclear. A number of our witnesses said they were unclear, although I recall that clarification was sought on this point.

I will give the hypothetical example of a woman who paid a criminal gang for her passage here and came expecting a job. She was given a job, but then told that she had to pay additional costs, which took away all of her income, effectively making her a slave without legal protection under our current system. She could be  beholden to that employer for an indefinite period and be too terrified to speak out, because I can guarantee that the employer would use the fact that she would be reported and become a criminal if she did.

I do not see how clause 8 helps that person in any way. I would like clarification from the Minister about how that person could have the confidence to come forward when their employer is telling them that they will be criminalised if they do so. Surely the best approach is to stick with clause 9, under which the employer becomes liable for the actions and will be criminalised for those actions.

We know where the employers are. They will be registered at Companies House and they will be filing their taxes. It will be a lot easier to follow that trail to get the prosecutions, particularly with limited resources, rather than spending an indefinite period trying to track down illegal workers when we do not know who they are, where they are working or their status, just on the off chance that we might catch and criminalise them so that we send out the right message. Surely it is better to go for the employers.