Clause 8 - Offence of illegal working

Part of Immigration Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 4:15 pm on 27th October 2015.

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Photo of Keir Starmer Keir Starmer Shadow Minister (Home Office) 4:15 pm, 27th October 2015

I want to move on to the question of defences and the guidance that the Director of Public Prosecutions may issue. I am not concerned about the defence under the Modern Slavery Act—we had that exchange earlier and I understand the position—but the wider point of when that defence is unavailable. There is no defence of reasonable excuse in the Bill, so the individual in the example I cited earlier, who may not know that their leave to remain has ceased to have effect but therefore becomes a criminal, has no escape route. Does the Minister accept that in such circumstances it is not right to leave it to the DPP’s discretion? In other words, should not the DPP’s discretion be exercised according to the known offence and known defences? If there is a case for a defence, that ought to be in the Bill,  rather than left to the discretion of the DPP. That is not to suggest that discretion does not operate in many cases, but if there is a proper case for having a defence, it ought to be for Parliament to write that into the Bill and then for the DPP to exercise discretion as to how it operates in individual cases. The alternative is the DPP effectively introducing a back-door defence, which has not been thought to be an appropriate use of guidelines.