Illegal working: EEA and Swiss nationals

Part of Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 4:00 pm on 5th March 2019.

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Photo of Stuart McDonald Stuart McDonald Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Immigration, Asylum and Border Control) 4:00 pm, 5th March 2019

These new clauses relate to the offence of illegal working, which we heard about in the evidence to the Committee. The substance of that evidence was essentially that the offence of illegal working is driving people into exploitative employment relationships. Obviously, that is complete anathema to the Government’s stated anti-slavery objectives.

We heard from Focus on Labour Exploitation, whose research has clearly shown that undocumented people are unlikely to come forward to labour inspectorates about abuse if they fear immigration repercussions, which has a triple effect. First, they are not identified as victims or supported. Secondly, abusive employers can operate with relative impunity because the immigration regime effectively hands them exploitable workers. Thirdly, that serves to undercut other workers, who have legal rights, thereby dragging the whole labour market down.

I am loth to see the offence extended to EEA and Swiss nationals. This offence is a year or two old now; has the Home Office done any research on the impact of its creation? What have been the implications on the Government’s efforts to tackle modern slavery? At the very least, we need to be reassured that the Home Office is alive to these concerns and will take them seriously. In the absence of such reassurance, we cannot just head off and extend the scope of those offences further.