Clause 8 - Offence of illegal working

Part of Immigration Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 2:45 pm on 27th October 2015.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Keir Starmer Keir Starmer Shadow Minister (Home Office) 2:45 pm, 27th October 2015

I agree with my hon. Friend and am grateful for his intervention. What is important is that the objective behind the Bill is properly pursued. There is a real risk that introducing an offence against the employee will be counterproductive if it drives underground the very group of people who are the most vulnerable when there is little or no evidence that the offence is needed.

I want to go a little further than that, because this is an offence without any mental element in the Bill. It is strict in the sense that absent the right status, the offence is made out, and then it is an offence without a defence, which is an unusual combination in criminal law. For example, some people will be here working in the belief that they have the right status because they are sponsored by the employer or somebody else. However, unbeknown to them, they may not have status because their employer has not correctly completed all the necessary arrangements for sponsorship. They fall into a category of individuals who are here without the required status, but without any knowledge of that or any intention to be in that position. Given the inflexibility of the offence, they would be immediately criminalised without even the opportunity of raising a defence of reasonable excuse. Their defence would be, “I am working. I had understood that my employer or somebody else had completed all the necessary forms and legalities. It now transpires they haven’t, but I had absolutely no reason to think that to be the case.” At the very least, if the clause is to stand, such an offence—there could be many other examples—ought to have a reasonable excuse defence, and that argument lies behind the amendment.