HC Deb 15 January 1976 vol 903 cc573-5
20. Mr. Arthur Jones

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what registration procedures are operative in respect of both Commonwealth and foreign workers entering the United Kingdom under work permits; what records are maintained with regard to their originally permitted and subsequent employment; and why no records are kept of foreign nationals who return to their native countries at the end of the period covered by their work permits.

Mr. Alexander W. Lyon

Foreign work permit holders given leave to enter the United Kingdom for more than three months must register with the police. Approved changes of employment are recorded in their police registration certificates. Commonwealth citizens are not required so to register but their work permit records, including authorised job changes, are maintained by the Department of Employment.

All foreign nationals leaving the country are required to complete an embarkation card, and this information is used by the Home Office and by the police to check that individual work permit holders have left on time.

Mr. Jones

Would the hon. Gentleman agree that from what he has said in correspondence on this subject there is evidence of a lack of follow-up to ensure that those who reach the end of their term on a work permit return to their own countries? Does he not agree that for all practical purposes there is little control on those entering the United Kingdom on work permits?

Mr. Lyon

I am sorry that my latest letter has failed to persuade the hon. Gentleman that he is wrong. There is a substantial check upon the progress of foreign workers subject to work permits. They have to apply for extensions at every level. The hon. Gentleman says that there is no check at the ports on whether they have gone out. Since 1st March 1975 they have had to fill in a card when they enter or leave. It is now possible, as it never was before, to check each card.

Mrs. Millie Miller

Is my hon. Friend aware that people who are in jobs other than those for which they were originally admitted to this country are liable to be exploited by employers when their work permits expire? Does he realise that it can be in an employer's interests and enable him to keep down wages and maintain such people in conditions which would not be acceptable to others working in this country?

Mr. Lyon

If anyone works without a work permit or in a job not authorised by the permit, he is committing an offence. It may be that the employer who takes him on is also committing an offence. Both are liable to prosecution.

Mr. Ian Gilmour

Has the hon. Gentleman seen a recent survey of the London catering trade which suggested that only 16 per cent. of those surveyed had work permits? Does he not agree that this is a small proportion? What is he proposing to do to rectify the situation?

Mr. Lyon

I have had some difficulty about seeing this survey, because the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants, which is alleged to have prepared it, tells me that the report never existed but that it simply sent out a questionnaire and talked to a reporter on the basis of that questionnaire. It has not yet got the report available. It was on the basis of the answers to 300 inquiries—and some of those were in relation to a particular Turkish undertaking, which caused some trouble last year—that these rather grand implications were read into what was somewhat inadequate evidence.

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