HC Deb 27 November 1973 vol 865 cc191-2
3. Mr. Thomas Cox

asked the Secretary of State for Employment if, in the allocation of work permits for the hotel and entertainment industries, he will take account of the level of wages paid to permit holders in those industries.

The Under-Secretary of State for Employment (Mr. Dudley Smith)

This is done in all cases. Before a work permit is issued my Department must be satisfied that the overseas worker will receive the same level of wages as do British workers in the district doing the same job.

Mr. Cox

In spite of that reply, is not the hon. Gentleman aware that there is ample evidence to prove that many people who are allowed into the country are working extremely long hours for extremely low rates of pay? Unfortunately, many of them are frightened to do anything about it because of their status as immigrants. They are told that if they complain they will be sacked and deported. Is it not time that the Minister ensured that people coming into the country to work in catering, entertainment and other industries received trade union rates for the job?

Mr. Smith

We give all the guidance we can to those who come into the country. Our impression is that overseas workers are well informed about rates of pay and conditions, and we rarely get complaints. If the hon. Gentleman or anyone else has specific examples I shall be happy to look into them.

Mr. Gurden

Will the Minister not be led into a short-term solution by increasing the number of Commonwealth immigrants to satisfy the need for more workers?

Mr. Smith

I think that my hon. Friend knows that for hotel and catering workers there is a limit of 5,000. We have offered to look at the reallocation of permits in view of representations we have received from the trade.

Mr. Driberg

Does the hon. Gentleman know anything about the conditions of non-English-speaking workers from Hong Kong, many of whom are employed in Chinese restaurants in London? Is he aware that in some cases their pay and hours of work are appalling? As they do not speak English, they do not know what is the situation here and what are their rights.

Mr. Smith

I have given individual attention to the so-called sweat shops and, as the hon. Member for Ealing, North (Mr. Molloy) knows, I have received deputations about them. I am not aware of allegations about Chinese restaurants, but if the hon. Gentleman will either see me or send evidence, I guarantee to look into the matter.