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Baroness Blatch: No, my Lords, the Government are not abdicating their responsibility. First, it is very important to understand the reasons why these people enter the country in the first place. They enter as specific workers of somebody making a specific visit to this country. Approval for entry is given on the basis that they come as employees of that employer. When they are here, they have full protection under the criminal law, and absolute protection under employment rights law. In addition, we have improved and tightened up the entry requirements. We make absolutely certain that the employee coming in is given, in his or her own language, access to help, information and advice, and contact points in this country. We make sure that they are given as much information about their rights as employees as it is possible for the Government to give. I believe that the Government have honoured their obligations to these young people.

Lord Gisborough: My Lords, does that also apply to all the ladies of the harem?

Baroness Blatch: My Lords, if the ladies of the harem are bona fide domestic workers of the visitor, if they have gone through the entry clearance requirements and conform to all the criteria, then yes, it would apply.

Lord Dean of Beswick: My Lords, in her reply the Minister referred to these people as having protection under British employment laws. The Minister must be aware that there have been reports of extremely low rates of pay, and of these people being outrageously exploited. Will the Government look into this matter and see if there is any way to prevent it?

Baroness Blatch: My Lords, the noble Lord raises an important point. The Government's responsibility is to make sure, by questioning and getting written assurances from the employer, how he will pay and whether he will look after the needs of the employees while they are here—in other words, providing them with proper accommodation and ensuring that they are fed. We do not, nor should we, enter into the contract between the employee and the employer. However, in interviewing the employee quite separately from the employer, which is part of the process, we try to ensure so far as is possible that the employee is freely entering into the contract with the employer. Therefore, once the contract is established, it must be a matter between the employee and the employer.

Lord Hylton: My Lords, will the Minister ask her right honourable friend the Home Secretary to consider why imported domestic workers sometimes kill their

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employers, even in London? Is it because they are driven to desperation by abuse and exploitation? Will the Home Secretary make it possible for such domestic workers to change their employer?

Baroness Blatch: My Lords, abuse is abuse, and the criminal law is there to protect people. We are doing what we can to make sure that the employees understand all the help, advice and information contact points to which they can go if they believe they are being abused. The prerequisite is to let them know at the point of entry what their rights will be when they arrive here, and when they arrive to avail them of all the protection that any citizen of this land should have. The Government are honouring their obligations. We cannot allow entry as a domestic employee of a specific employer to be a mechanism for coming into this country and taking jobs that are otherwise for the resident labour force.

Lord Avebury: My Lords, has not the Minister given the game away by saying that these rights are explained to the domestic worker at the point of entry? Do not the problems arise after the undertakings have been given by the employer, as she has described, and when nobody is there to check what is happening within the domestic environment? In any other form of employment, would not the employer be subject to periodic visits from inspectors to make sure that the undertakings had been honoured? Why do not the Government try to do the same in relation to domestic workers, so that months afterwards, when employees are having to endure a form of domestic slavery, they can at least talk to somebody outside the household in their own language?

Baroness Blatch: My Lords, as I explained, the Government have gone a very long way to make sure that young people who enter the country as domestic workers for a specific employer know their rights. They are given leaflets to help them. Other than that, they have the full protection of the criminal law and the full protection of employees' rights. The employers, too, have obligations. But it would create a bureaucracy that was disproportionately costly to have a policing system for every domestic servant in the land.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, the Minister gave a number of answers about the nature of the additional measures announced in December 1994. That is now more than six months ago. Will she tell the House whether there has been any decrease in the number of cases of abuse and mistreatment coming before the courts?

Baroness Blatch: My Lords, the noble Lord reminds me that it is very early days—only six months. I cannot give specific statistics, but if information is available I will certainly write to the noble Lord. The fact that we hear about such cases proves that the criminal law applies.

Baroness Seear: My Lords, the Minister said that we cannot have people coming in from outside taking jobs that local people want. Does the noble Baroness have any evidence that there are queues of people wanting domestic work in this country?

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Baroness Blatch: No, my Lords, that was not the context of the question. They seek entry into the country as employees of a specific employer who is coming for a temporary stay. That is the reason that they are allowed to enter this country. We simply cannot have people who have entered changing their employer, and thus changing the terms upon which they entered. It would turn into a mechanism for entering the country and then becoming a general employee and taking work that properly belongs to the labour force here.

Baroness Robson of Kiddington: My Lords, will the Minister assure the House that the pamphlet to which she referred that is handed to these poor girls on arrival is printed in their own language, and not in English?

Baroness Blatch: Yes, my Lords, I can give that guarantee. More than that, it is explained to them and they are talked through it in their own language.

"Bull Bars"

3.18 p.m.

The Earl of Kinnoull asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How soon they will introduce a ban on "bull bars" on cars.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Transport (Viscount Goschen): My Lords, we are currently carrying out a study of pedestrian accidents involving vehicles fitted with bull bars to assemble evidence on the injuries caused to pedestrians or other road users. That analysis, which should be complete later this year, is needed as a basis for deciding how to take matters forward.

The Earl of Kinnoull: My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that reply. Is he aware that bull bars originated in Australia to fend off kangaroos; and, despite the fact that not too many were found on the M.25, the consequence was that they were copied in the late 1980s as an ornamental design? Does he agree that they have proved to be a dangerous, serious menace to pedestrians in particular and especially to children? Is my noble friend further aware that the Government's own research laboratory in 1992 highlighted the dangers; police figures in 1994 disclosed disturbing evidence of serious injuries; the RAC and the AA have been campaigning for over two years to ban bull bars; and even a European transport commissioner not unknown to Members opposite is sympathetic? What further evidence is required before this menace is removed from our roads?

Viscount Goschen: My Lords, we take very seriously indeed the issue of bull bars—"roo" bars, as my noble friend called them, or cow catchers, however one wants to describe them. That is why we commissioned that additional research. The work that my noble friend described in his supplementary question was not based on examination of actual incidents but on predictions developed from testing. I feel that we must have the proper information in front of us before we can make an informed decision on how to act, if at all.

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Lord Allen of Abbeydale: My Lords, can the noble Viscount say whether we would be able to ban the use of these bars, irrespective of what happens in the rest of Europe?

Viscount Goschen: My Lords, indeed we could ban bull bars in this country under the Construction and Use Regulations; but we should have to allow bars that complied with the European Type Approval Directive.

Lord Clinton-Davis: My Lords, can the Minister say why the Government originally asserted that they were constrained from taking prompt action by reason of European legislation, when the commissioner concerned, Commissioner Kinnock, has made it abundantly plain that the Government are free to act when the personal safety of people is involved? Why must we have all this study taking place at the present time, when it is plain that such appendages to vehicles constitute a grave danger to people and to other vehicles? Will he accept that prompt action is required, not all the study that the Government envisage?

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