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Baroness Williams of Crosby: I should like the noble Baroness to confirm or deny one matter. Having carefully read the research which I believe was carried out by the Institute of Public Policy, my understanding is that in 1994 there were 12 cases involving illegal working. That research provided no later figures. Given that the estimate of the cost of this exercise is approximately £11 million recurring, at nearly £1 million per prosecution, it seems awfully expensive.

Baroness Blatch: I do not know about the cost of £1 million per prosecution, if that is what the noble Baroness suggests. If an employer is found to have been giving work to an illegal immigrant, that seems to be an extraordinary estimate of the cost.

Baroness Williams of Crosby: Perhaps I should try to put it more clearly. I agree with the noble Baroness completely. My understanding--I may be wrong--from reading that research quite carefully is that in that year in the entire country there were 12 prosecutions--they were not even successful prosecutions--brought for illegal working. If that is correct and the cost of this method of dealing with the problem will run at about £11 million a year--that understanding may or may not be correct, although that is what all of the research indicates--and the initial cost is some £30 million, does the noble Baroness agree that it is an awfully expensive way of going about it?

Baroness Blatch: I now know how the noble Baroness arrived at those figures. I have been at the Home Office since the middle of 1994, and I happen to know that more people than the noble Baroness mentioned have been rounded up in searches in the London area; for example, while cleaning offices during the night and working at airports. There was a lively scheme going at airports. People stepped off aeroplanes wearing coats and carrying buckets and brooms and changed places with others. That happened in greater numbers than the noble Baroness said. It can be a problem.

2 May 1996 : Column 1818

We want to see all employers taking the normal documents, recording them and putting them away. I believe that it costs something like 65p per employee to record that document. It may be part of the other information that employees have to give to an employer when they are accepted for employment. For some employers it will cost no more. It is part of their normal system for employing people.

I have just been handed some information which may help. Any estimate of the extent of illegal immigration, including people working in breach of their immigration conditions, of its nature can be no more than speculation. So we do not have specific estimates, but we know that in 1994 over 10,000 people were detected by the Immigration Service working while here illegally or while prohibited from working. In 1988, the comparable figure was 4,000. That is a large number of people who we know could be working for employers in this country. We know that a large proportion of those people will be working for employers who do not know that they are illegally in the country. There will be some employers who are part of the marriage racket and other organised rackets where they are the end of the chain. People having come in for payment--often for extortion--those employers will give people employment. In such cases it would be different.

8.42 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 84A) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 46; Not-Contents, 21.

Division No. 3


Addison, V.
Balfour, E.
Belhaven and Stenton, L.
Blaker, L.
Blatch, B.
Bowness, L.
Brabazon of Tara, L.
Brougham and Vaux, L.
Carnock, L.
Chesham, L. [Teller.]
Courtown, E.
Cumberlege, B.
Denton of Wakefield, B.
Dixon-Smith, L.
Elton, L.
Fraser of Carmyllie, L.
Gardner of Parkes, B.
Geddes, L.
Glenarthur, L.
Goschen, V.
Harris of Peckham, L.
Hemphill, L.
Henley, L.
Howe, E.
Jenkin of Roding, L.
Kingsland, L.
Long, V.
Lucas, L.
Lucas of Chilworth, L.
Lyell, L.
Mackay of Ardbrecknish, L.
Mackay of Drumadoon, L.
Marlesford, L.
Miller of Hendon, B.
Monk Bretton, L.
Northesk, E.
Park of Monmouth, B.
Rankeillour, L.
Rawlings, B.
Renton, L.
Seccombe, B.
Stewartby, L.
Strathclyde, L. [Teller.]
Trumpington, B.
Wilcox, B.
Wynford, L.


Addington, L.
Allenby of Megiddo, V.
Avebury, L.
Berkeley, L.
Cocks of Hartcliffe, L.
Craigavon, V.
Dormand of Easington, L.
Dubs, L.
Falkland, V.
Graham of Edmonton, L.
Haskel, L. [Teller.]
Kilbracken, L.
Lawrence, L.
McIntosh of Haringey, L.
Monkswell, L.
Russell, E. [Teller.]
Sandwich, E.
Seear, B.
Weatherill, L.
White, B.
Williams of Crosby, B.

Resolved in the affirmative, and amendment agreed to accordingly.

2 May 1996 : Column 1819

8.50 p.m.

Lord Dubs moved Amendment No. 85:

Page 6, line 14, leave out ("before the employment began") and insert ("within 2 months of the commencement of the employment").

The noble Lord said: What will be the situation when a small employer wishes to recruit an individual for his workforce? Let us suppose that as a result of an advertisement a potential employee arrives on the scene, and when the employer says to him, "I need to check some of your documents" he says, "I haven't brought them with me. I didn't know that I had to. I don't know where they are". The employer will then be faced with the choice of keeping the job open while the prospective employee looks for the documents or risk being prosecuted for employing someone without documents. Either way, the small businessman will lose out. Surely it cannot be the Government's wish to penalise small businessmen in that way.

The merit of the amendment is that an employer could take on an employee provided that the documentation demanded by the Government under the Bill is produced within two months. If that were done, it would be proper for the employer to have the applicant working for him during that two-month period. If by the end of that period the employee cannot produce the documents, the employer will be obliged by law to terminate the employment.

The amendment does not seek to undermine what the Government purport to do. We seek to make the procedure more workable because in the real world small businessmen have to take on people quickly as they cannot afford to run their businesses with a vacancy. They cannot afford to leave a post unfilled while an employee is obtaining documentation.

I wish to raise another important aspect which has already been mentioned. If an employer has three people applying for the same job but two have difficulty in finding their documents he will naturally go for the person who already has the proper documents. In the real world some employers would say to a black applicant, "No, if you do not have the documentation I am not prepared to wait and take a chance". Therefore, the effect of the provision would be discriminatory against black people. If rumours are correct, that was the fear in Cabinet when the matter was discussed.

We are suggesting a very simple change which reflects the way in which small employers wish to do business and to fill vacancies quickly. They would have a period of time during which the employee could

2 May 1996 : Column 1820

produce the necessary documentation. The proposal is simple and straightforward and would help small employers a great deal. I beg to move.

Baroness Seear: I support the amendment because it brings into the proceedings an air of reality which has been totally lacking in most of the previous discussions on employment.

Baroness Seccombe: I have two difficulties with the amendment, which has nothing to do with whether one is black or white. I sit as a lay magistrate and know that often people are asked to bring their driving licences. They never appear to have a sense of urgency but it is amazing how, if they are told that the case will be adjourned until the next day, they turn up with the licence. To allow a period of two months would be a stupid way in which to operate.

My second difficulty is that by having any delay one is playing into the hands of an employer who, perhaps for the wrong reasons, will say, "I shall employ you for one month and 29 days", and then employs someone else. That is not what any of us want and I cannot support the amendment.

Lord Dixon-Smith: I listened to the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, with interest; but there was an air of unreality and of times past. Even in the world of small employers I am not aware of people who openly advertise a job and have only one applicant whom they feel they must employ. In the present state of the labour market--which is better than it used to be--it is not the situation that some people would desire.

In 1961 or 1962 when unemployment was at only 2 or 3 per cent. perhaps there would have been some validity in the argument that is being advanced. However, in the current climate it is completely unreal. For the life of me, I am unable to understand why a request from a potential employer to produce some documentation to show that a valid application is being made is not entirely reasonable. That applies to any employee; it is not a matter of prejudice. I cannot support the amendment.

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