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Baroness Blatch moved Amendment No. 100:


Page 8, line 35, leave out (" "immigrant" ") and insert (" "person subject to immigration control" ").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, I spoke to this amendment with Amendment No. 76. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendments Nos. 101 to 103A not moved.]

Schedule 1 [Amendments of the 1971 Act and the Immigration Act 1988]:

Lord Hylton moved Amendment No. 104:


Page 10, line 16, at end insert ("but paragraph (c)(i) shall cease to apply where a person, who was subject to the condition in that paragraph and was employed as a domestic worker in the United Kingdom, is certified by a police officer, doctor or solicitor to have suffered substantial physical abuse or deprivation or serious economic exploitation, in the course of that employment."").

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The noble Lord said: My Lords, at the same time as moving this amendment, I wish to speak to Amendment No. 67 which was put down in mid-May. It has been in print since that time, and I might have expected the courtesy of the information that the Government's Amendment No. 64 would pre-empt my amendment by one line of text. The original amendment was withdrawn in Committee. It and its twin have been modified by me to meet criticisms made by the Minister and I have explained the intention and general thrust of the new amendments by letter to her.

The two amendments are designed to protect both the employer and the worker when a tied domestic worker takes a second job. The protection is tightly circumscribed by the requirement that the original employer must have abused or exploited the worker. That fact must be certified by a reliable professional person. It does not open, in the words of the noble Baroness, a "very real loophole" in immigration control. It merely helps to remedy an intolerable injustice. The amendment is far more restrictive than the pre-1988 work permit system. I am advised that the penultimate word in Amendment No. 67--that is "bonded"--may be incorrect in that in international law it refers to persons working in lieu of debt interest. No doubt the Home Office will be able to suggest better wording.

I should explain some of the other terms used in my amendment. "Substantial physical abuse" means, for example, beating, assault, threatened, attempted or actual sexual abuse or imprisonment on the employer's premises. "Serious economic exploitation" means, for example, non-payment of wages, payment of derisory wages, no holidays or time off or in general excessive hours. "Deprivation" in my amendment includes such things as no bed to sleep on, no individual bedroom and minimal provision of food.

During the period from 1992 to 1996 there have been many hundreds of cases of such abuse, exploitation and deprivation. An analysis of them has been made by one voluntary organisation which showed that 40 per cent. of its cases had been physically abused; two-thirds had had their passport confiscated; and on average those people were being paid £4 a day for 17 hours of work. That works out at a rate of £24 or £28 per week. It is not surprising, therefore, that a significant number of such workers continue to run away from their employers each year because of the serious abuse they suffer.

The situation has continued since 1981. I very much regret to say that it has not, as yet, been overcome by the leaflets provided by the Government or by their system of interviews at the point at which the incoming worker leaves another country, or even by a model code for a contract of employment.

In response to an earlier amendment, the Minister seemed to be expressing some tenderness and sympathy for people employed in the very seasonal occupations of fruit-picking and catering. I merely throw out the hope that she will show rather more sympathy this time round than she previously did to such domestic workers in their plight of being tied hand and foot to a single

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employer. Perhaps she will go so far as to offer me an interdepartmental committee to look at this matter and to report. I beg to move.

Earl Russell: My Lords, under the Mansfield Judgment, slavery is illegal on English soil. I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, on the abstemiousness with which he moved this amendment. There are many cases, which I am sure he has at his fingertips, where the exploitation to which the amendment refers has stretched to a point where it could very well be classified as slavery. The cruelties can be quite unimaginable. I shall not repeat the case I quoted in Committee. I am sure the noble Baroness remembers it.

The noble Baroness, Lady Rawlings, pointed out when we discussed this matter in Committee that the type of behaviour to which the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, draws attention is already illegal. But the parallel with slavery is genuine in that the main reason why people do not escape is that they cannot get any freedom when they do. What deters them from complaining about this sort of treatment is their inability to earn a living legally when they have done so. The effect of this amendment would be to except these victims from employment controls under Clause 8. I refer to Amendment No. 67. If that is not done, the power of the exploiter cannot effectively be checked. It is only if they can honestly earn a living in some other employment that the people concerned can be capable of escaping. If that is not done, all expressions of sympathy and compassion, and all repetitions that the conduct complained of is illegal, will be of no use. If you do not open the escape hatch when the ship goes down, it does not matter how sympathetic you are.

Baroness Williams of Crosby: My Lords, I hope that the Government will consider very seriously what might be done about this issue. It is a serious matter and one that in some ways shows signs of growing. At the United Nations Women's Conference in Beijing last year, Her Majesty's Government were among those governments who expressed themselves as being very concerned about child prostitution and the spread of issues concerning domestic violence. The House owes a debt of gratitude to the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, for once again persisting in raising this issue.

As the House will know, there are a number of countries whose ambassadors and consuls general have expressed particular concern on this kind of matter. One country that springs to mind is the Philippines, which has suffered very badly over the employment of young women as maids and au pair girls in different countries of Europe. They find out when they arrive here that they are being used for very different purposes and are exploited by their employers, sometimes for sexual reasons.

I hope that the Minister will think hard about this issue. It is not one that profoundly affects numbers. But, as my noble friend said, it profoundly affects the civil liberties of a relatively small number of extremely vulnerable people, many of them young women. I hope that she will look at this matter very closely. She will be aware that there are some cases sometimes of people

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living in this country who themselves come from other countries where the habit of what one might describe as forced indentured labour is not unknown. It would be a great shame if that kind of treatment became embodied and rooted in this country.

The noble Lord, Lord Hylton is absolutely right in saying that this amendment will go at least some way toward protecting people against that kind of exploitation.

1 a.m.

Baroness Blatch: My Lords, on the point raised by the noble Baroness, the people under the scheme about whom we are talking are people who have come to this country with their own employer, whom they know. They have worked for them and are part of the family staff when they arrive in this country. It is not as though they come to an employer in this country whom they do not know and who exploits them. They are the same people for whom they have been working. It also has to be said that they come here on that precise condition: they come with that employer and the condition of entry is that they remain with that employer. Any idea that it suddenly becomes a licence for the individual to be able to work anywhere and for anybody and for any employer for whom such a person works to be exempt from offences under Clause 8 is wrong.

Amendment No. 104 provides that the power to attach an employment restriction to a person's leave to enter or remain in the United Kingdom will be nullified once a police officer, doctor or solicitor certifies, in the manner described in the amendment that was not allowed--it was pre-empted this afternoon--that a domestic worker has been abused or exploited.

In practice, this would probably mean that these people would be able to stay here for good, because it would be very difficult to refuse them an extension of their stay once they had found another job, even if they had been here for only a short period. They would thus become part of the resident workforce, free to take employment of any kind, and neither they nor their future employers would be committing an offence.

I appreciate the sentiment behind these amendments. No one can possibly condone the abuse or exploitation of employees, no matter where and how it takes place. That is why we have criminal and employment laws to deal with such abhorrent behaviour. Overseas domestic workers have the same rights and the same protection under those laws as every other worker in the United Kingdom. That is made clear to them, and to their employers, before they even leave the country of origin.

But the effect of these amendments would be to confer on these people a privileged immigration status. They would be able to change jobs without hindrance, a right afforded to no other overseas national who comes to work here, including those with work permits. It would not, however, stop the abuse in the first place; nor would it stop the second or subsequent employers from behaving in just as wicked a manner.

It is for these reasons that the Government have sought to minimise the risk of abuse and exploitation of domestic workers by taking steps designed to ensure that

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only those who are willing to come here with their employers are allowed to do so. This is the very reason why we insist on entry clearances so that checks can be made before the visit. The entry clearance officer must be satisfied that adequate arrangements have been made for the domestic worker's accommodation and maintenance; that he or she understands his or her rights when in the United Kingdom; and that the employer is equally aware of all these. All this is contained in a leaflet which is given to the employee and which explains where to go for advice or help. A copy also goes to the employer with a note making it abundantly clear that domestic workers have full rights under our criminal and employment laws.

Under no circumstances do we allow domestic workers to be recruited from overseas by employers already here. They must have been employed by the person they are accompanying for at least one year, and for two years if anything more than a short visit is intended.

I am of course conscious that these arrangements, though designed to minimise risks, cannot eliminate them altogether. But the concession also means that domestic workers do not lose their jobs just because their employers wish to come to the United Kingdom. In the vast majority of cases the system works smoothly and uneventfully.

The noble Lord, Lord Hylton, referred to an inter-departmental committee. We see no need for that. We keep in close touch with colleagues in other departments, mainly of course the Department for Education and Employment and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. We will continue to keep the entry clearance arrangements under review. There is a constant liaison between the Home Office, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and of course, for employment purposes, work permits and other such related matters, we are constantly in touch with our colleagues at the Department for Education and Employment.


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