§ 3.10 p.m.
§ The Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Dr. Shirley Summerskill)
I beg to move,That this House takes note of Commission Document No. R/2655/76 on illegal immigration and employment.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Oscar Murton)
Mr. Speaker has selected the amendment standing in the names of the hon. Member for Newham, South (Mr. Spearing) and his hon. Friends.
§ Dr. Summerskill
I welcome the debate, which gives hon. Members an opportunity to express their opinions on this extremely important subject. I am sorry that I shall not be able to stay to the end of the debate, but my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Employment will reply. I assure the House that 1996 all the points that are made in the debate will be carefully examined. Everything will be taken into consideration.
Although the Government have taken no final position on the draft directive, the subject to which it refers has been of great concern to the Home Office for some time. In his statement about the Franks Report, my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary made it clear that he was determined to deal with unauthorised employment. He told the House thatMethods of ensuring that all applicants for employment are entitled to take it will be discussed with both sides of industry."—[Official Report, 9th February 1977; Vol. 925, c. 1434.]I know that this subject is a matter of particular concern to the TUC, especially at a time of high unemployment. Any abuse of immigration control must be dealt with firmly.
The issue before us is not whether the problem needs a cure or, indeed, whether the Government are committed to searching for one. These matters have already been established. The issue is whether the specific proposals put forward by the Commission are acceptable in principle and likely to prove effective in practice.
The proposals originated in the EEC's Migrant Workers Action Programme of February 1976. Following this, in November last year the Commission put forward its draft directive aimed at the harmonisation of laws in member States to combat illegal immigration and illegal employment. The Commission called on the Council to take action on the proposals during the second half of 1977. It also sought the views of the European Parliament and the Economic and Social Committee on the proposal.
In accordance with normal practice, in December the Government circulated for the information of hon. Members an explanatory memorandum about the proposal. It was considered by the Scrutiny Committee of the House, which, in its Fifteenth Report dated 30th March expressed the opinion that the draft instrument raised questions of legal and political importance. The Committee recommended that it be further considered by the House. That is what we are doing today.
The present position is that since the Commission's proposals were tabled in Brussels they have been considered by 1997 officials of member States in the Social Questions Working Group of the Council. It has become plain from discussions in Brussels that the draft presents problems of one kind or another for most of the member States and that it will not be easy to reach agreement on the type of instrument to be adopted or on the details of its text.
The Council Secretariat will make a progress report to the Social Affairs Ministerial Council, which is to meet next week, but there will be no attempt to reach any decisions then. The Economic and Social Committee has already expressed itself broadly in favour of the proposals. But the European Parliament —the opinion of which is a prerequisite to any final decisions, as I am sure my hon. Friends will agree—still has the matter under consideration. I understand that it is not expected to make its views known until the autumn.
§ Dr. Summerskill
Members' views will therefore be received at an early and influential stage.
A preliminary but major point which has been raised in the discussions concerns the type of instrument. Doubts have been expressed about whether it should be a directive. A directive would be binding on the member States as to the objectives to be achieved in it. If it were to be adopted member States would be obliged to comply, albeit within a fairly generous time limit. As a result of these doubts, it may be that the outcome will be a different type of instrument such as a resolution. A resolution, unlike a directive, would not bind member States legally but would impose obligations upon them.
A number of points have been raised about the details of the Commission's proposals. It seems probable that the wording of any instrument that eventually emerges will differ markedly from the original draft.
The Government accept and support the broad aims of the Commission's proposals. In our view, there can be no doubt that it is desirable to reduce the incidence of illegal immigration and illegal employment. It is a serious prob- 1998 lem in almost all the member States of the EEC.
§ Mrs. Dunwoody
I am sorry to interrupt my hon. Friend so early. However, she has just said firmly that the Government accept the directive's aims on illegal employment. Is she saying that they accept the definition in the directive as it stands concerning what constitutes illegal employment?
§ Dr. Summerskill
The Government accept and support the broad aims of the Commission's proposals. As I said at the beginning of my remarks, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State is determined to deal with abuse of immigration control. Illegally-employed nationals of third countries can have the effect of reducing the scope for free movement of nationals of member States, one of the main pillars of the whole Community idea. In the preamble to the draft directive the Commission states that illegal employment can occur under conditions involving exploitation and be accompanied by discrimination in remuneration and the misuse of social security laws.
§ Mrs. Dunwoody
I apologise to my hon. Friend for intervening again. I must bring her right back to the question I asked. The directive has supposedly created a new criminal offence called illegal employment. Leaving aside all the other issues that my hon. Friend has raised, I ask her once again whether it is the policy of Her Majesty's Government to accept the concept of a new criminal offence called illegal employment.
§ Dr. Summerskill
The Government have not come to a view on what my hon. Friend is asking. They have taken no final position on the draft directive. That was what I said at the beginning of my remarks. That is why the debate is extremely important. It is at a preliminary stage when the views of hon. Members are being sought.
§ Dr. Summerskill
I have said that my right hon. Friend is determined to deal with abuse, as he said in his statement on the Franks Report. That is as far as we have gone. If my hon. Friend 1999 wants me to commit myself and the Government on the draft directive, I can assure her that I shall not be doing that this afternoon. The whole purpose of the debate is to discuss the draft directive.
§ Mr. Nigel Spearing (Newham, South)
Perhaps I can help to clarify the issue. The prevention and detection of illegal immigration anywhere is something on which there can be universal agreement, but is it not a fact that the proposals before the House in the draft directive are radically different from the system that is at present applied in this country? Perhaps my hon. Friend will say whether that is so. If she continues in the present vein, some of my hon. Friends will accuse her of Home Office newspeak.
I have five more pages and I ask my hon. Friends to hear me out. I was coming to all the issues that have been raised.
In the preamble to the draft directive the Commission says that illegal employment can occur under conditions involving exploitation and be accompanied by discrimination in remuneration and the misuse of social security laws. By its very nature that is not a matter on which reliable statistics are likely to exist, but we accept that there is evidence that some nationals of third countries who are prohibited from taking employment are doing so.
The TUC has expressed great concern about such illegal employment, especially its extent in the hotel and catering industry. I have received a deputation from the TUC and I know that my hon. Friends are aware of its views. I am sure that it is right, especially at a time of high unemployment, to do all we can to deal with those from outside the Community who either come here illegally and take employment or break the conditions upon which we granted them entry by taking jobs. We therefore support the broad aims behind the Commission's proposals. That is as far as I am committing the Government today.
However, the proposals create for us a number of practical and legal problems. Article 2 would require member States to disseminate information among immigrants both at home and abroad. The main idea of making information available abroad is to try to dissuade 2000 people from coming to member States on an illegal basis, and to brief those who are entitled to come here as to national conditions and their rights so that they shall not be exploited.
This is obviously very desirable, but it is expressed in general terms. In our experience there are, for example, several practical problems in many countries in making information available to people, and we do not want to be obliged, in times of economic difficulty, to spend money where there will not be a return or where there will be only a minimal return. We feel that member States should be left to use their own discretion in this area as to where and how they provide information.
Article 2 would also require member States to ensure that there were effective controls for the purpose of preventing and identifying illegal migration and illegal employment at places of entry or at places of employment. We consider that we already have a reasonably effective control at the ports of entry, but control at the place of employment does not exist in this country.
This requirement links up with another in Article 3, which would require the imposition of sanctions on employers who employed people who did not have permission to work. This would need legislation, and before introducing it we should need to be satisfied that it was workable, that it would be fair to all concerned and that there would be no question of its becoming an excuse for discrimination. We regard that last point as extremely important, and I know that there is great concern, among both hon. Members and others, about the possible misuse of these provisions if they were introduced.
I fully understand those feelings, and I assure the House that they will be taken fully into account before any decision is reached. We will do our utmost to ensure that any powers that we might take in this area could not be misused to the detriment of any minority body. It is worth noting, however, as a piece of information for the House, that within the Community we appear to be the only State in which such fears have been voiced. Most, if not all, of our fellow member States already have powers which enable them to apply controls at 2001 the place of employment and to impose sanctions on employers.
§ Mrs. Dunwoody
That is an extraordinary suggestion. Is my hon. Friend saying that, because ours is the only Parliament which democratically looks at the rubbish coming out of Brussels at great speed, we are therefore the only people who should be censured? Many other States in the Community have political police with the right to stop people and demand identity cards in the street. That is not an idea that is generally acceptable to the British people, who are rather fond of their freedom. May I ask my hon. Friend to consider the tone in which her speech is being made?
§ Dr. Summerskill
First, my hon. Friend is putting words into my mouth. Second, she is anticipating what I was going to say anyway. In the first place, I have not implied what she suggests. I am not criticising our system as compared with the systems of most other countries. On the contrary, I am constantly defending our system of controlling immigration at the port of entry and not controlling it once people have come into this country; other countries pursue immigration control when someone has already entered. None of us would wish to see that here. That is why our system is different from that of the other member States.
Article 3 also calls for sanctions to be available against traffickers in and organisers of illegal immigration and against employers. We already have strong sanctions against traffickers and organisers, but some member States have objected to the requirement in the draft directive that the sanctions to be applied against traffickers, organisers and employers must include the possibility of imprisonment, on the ground that that intervenes in the penal practice and policy of member States.
There is a point of substance here in that criminal law and penal arrangements within each State need to be internally coherent, although they may differ as among States. That integrity should not, as a point of principle, be impaired significantly by penalties imposed under Community regulations and legislation, except for essential Community purposes.
2002 Article 3 also includes the requirement that there must be a possibility of imposing on the employer the cost of removal of an illegal worker. Some member States already have such powers, but they do not exist in the United Kingdom and, again, legislation would be needed. We do not, for the purposes of our immigration control, consider such provisions to be essential, although they might be useful and justified in individual cases. At present in this country, when someone is deported the cost almost always falls entirely on the State, although there is a provision under which a deportee himself may be required to contribute to the cost of removal.
Our present feeling on this proposal is that, if there is to be such a provision, it should not be automatic but should be confined to employers who are plainly culpable. It could, for instance, be limited to a case in which a court made an order following a conviction.
It has been suggested that the subject of reserved rights for workers should be included in the directive. The intention behind that proposal is that member States should protect the benefits and similar rights of workers relating to work in which they have engaged, even if they are not entitled to take that work.
The suggestion has been made in an attempt to comply with another part of the text of the Migrant Workers Action Programme. It is primarily a matter for my right hon. Friends the Secretaries of State for Social Services and for Employment, and it seems clear that clarification of the scope of the proposal and further discussion will be needed before any conclusions can be reached on it.
§ Mr. Alexander W. Lyon (York)
Surely the proposal in this draft directive is only part of the total Migrant Workers Action Programme. If it is to be introduced at all, surely it should be introduced as a package, so that a migrant worker has the rights as well as the penalties which will follow from the directive. It is not good enough simply to say that the matter comes under another Department and that it will have to be considered. If the Government are thinking of complying with the directive in this respect, surely they should also say that they will comply in the other respects in the action programme.
§ Dr. Summerskill
I know that that point is being studied by the other two Departments in their consideration of this matter. Perhaps my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Employment will be able to speak for his Department on this point when he replies.
Finally, the Commission's proposals include provisions relating to rights of appeal for illegal workers. The rights of appeal under the Immigration Act 1971 already existing in this country are very wide-ranging and may be enough to comply with anything which finally emerges from this exercise. But I should say now that we have no wish to be obliged to extend these appeal rights further than they already go to include, for example, people who have actually entered the country illegally.
I think I have shown that the issues raised by these proposals are far from straightforward. I appreciate the great concern and anxiety in the House. A great deal remains to be discussed, and there is, as I have said, no certainty that a directive will be the eventual result. We must see whether we can comply with any provisions that the draft directive or any other type of instrument is likely to contain. We shall, therefore, press ahead with the investigations that I have mentioned.
Meanwhile, I look forward with great interest to hearing the views of hon. Members, which we shall take very carefully into account in considering our attitude to the Commission's proposals and in the implementation of the Government's firm undertaking to tackle the problems caused by illegal employment and illegal immigration in this country.
§ 3.31 p.m.
§ Mr. Christopher Price (Lewisham, West)
I beg to move, at the end of the Question to add:'but since implementation of its proposals would mean major changes in the present systems and create new offences for employers, calls on Her Majesty's Government to re-submit this Regulation to the House prior to any decision being made in the Council of Ministers'.The amendment seeks to obtain from the Government a guarantee that before any decision is taken on this matter the issue comes back to this House, via the Scrutiny Committee, as it normally would do and, assuming that the Scrutiny Com- 2004 mittee recommends, as I am sure it would on an issue of this importance, on a substantive motion which is amendable so that this House can give its view to the Government. Unless we can get an assurance in those terms, I am sure that my hon. Friends and I will wish to divide the House on this question.
I found very great difficulty in following what my hon. Friend the Undersecretary said. I find similar difficulty in following all Home Office briefs. This one seemed to be written by at least three people, and probably more. At one point, my hon. Friend seemed broadly in favour of the aims of the directive. At another point, clearly when some other fonction-naire—membership of the European Assembly causes one to adopt a different nomenclature for these people—had contributed a bit to the brief, my hon. Friend appeared to be totally against the method proposed in the directive. At other points, she appeared to be her well-known, good old neutral self on the matter. I am afraid that I formed no clear view of the Government's position from what she said. However, I thank her for all five of the pages that she read, because they gave us a little meat to get our teeth into, although not very much.
One of our eminent judges—I forget exactly which of them it was—
§ Mr. Price
He spoke of EEC legislation entering all the nooks and crannies of our society like a river sweeping back up from the sea. This directive is one of the first times that EEC legislation has entered this nook and cranny of our society, and it is one which many of us believe to be a wholly inappropriate area for a directive of this kind from Brussels to be imposed upon our legislation, forcing us to amend Britain's criminal law.
Some doubt was expressed before the House of Lords Select Committee whether it is in the Treaty of Rome at all. It is worth reminding ourselves that on this occasion the Commission has not gone to the European Court of Justice to get 2005 a decision that it is within the treaty, as it could have done.
I wish to make another point, which may seem trivial but which I think is very serious. Copies of the directive are available in the Vote Office in Xerox form. It is not difficult to read most of it, but the crucial clause, paragraph 2 of Article 1 on page 2 of the directive, is wholly illegible on every copy in the Vote Office. One cannot read a single word of the paragraph.
This means that no hon. Member has had the opportunity of reading the paragraph that is the crucial thread on which this legislation depends. If it were not for one or two of the pleasanter fonctionnaires in the Home Office I would not know what the paragraph said. However, I went behind the Chair and got another copy from a Home Office source. When I inquired at the Vote Office I was told that it was the fault of the Ministry, because copies were made on the Ministry's Xerox machine and not on the Vote Office machine. There are two things different about the copy that I obtained from the Home Office. The first is that the copy is legible and the second is that it has "Restricted" stamped all over it, as the Home Office does with all its papers.
§ Mr. Price
Yes, on principle. I should not be surprised if the Home Office did not also do it with its toilet paper.
This is just a reminder of the narrow gossamer thread of the capricious vagaries of Rank Xerox machines on which our legislation on Europe hangs. We are now discussing a crucial directive in which the term "illegal employment" is mentioned in the House for the first time, and in a document that is wholly illegible. That is typical, and worth remembering.
We ought to accord great thanks to the House of Lords Select Committee, which examined this directive with great care and went through the paragraphs one by one. I wish to draw attention to one or two points in the Committee's report. I turn first to the point made in paragraph 5, that illegal immigration, although it is a serious problem and has the effects mentioned by my hon. Friend, 2006 is less of a problem in Britain than in other countries in the Community. Therefore, why we should adopt their method of control rather than our own is beyond the wit of anyone to understand. It is a massive problem in Europe, but the European system of control through employment does not solve it and does not make it any better. We in this country have a very good system.
The point that the Committee makes in paragraph 6, with which I very much agree, is that we have had a good deal of discussion recently about illegal immigration in this country. It is right that we should do so, but to have constant discussions on this subject year after year does not do race relations any good. We have had our debates and come to our conclusions about how we should deal with it, and there is a good case for not continuing the debate endlessly.
The next point that the Committee makes, and in this it is backed by the opinion of the CBI, is that this is a completely new area. It creates a wholly new criminal offence for employers. It nominates sanctions, including imprisonment, against those employers. But there are no methods known in this country whereby those sanctions could be applied in order to make this work.
If we accept this directive it means identity cards in Britain. There is no doubt about it. It will perhaps need a police computer of illegal or legal immigrants. It means a massive step into those areas of State control which some of us who believe in civil liberties have been fighting against day in and day out for a very long time. I believe that the directive is wholly and completely redundant and unnecessary, because we have a workable system of immigration control in Britain.
The legal principle is particularly important and the Lords laid great stress on that. The principle that Europe will be able to pass directives which compel us to add a whole new area to our criminal law, which then affects other new areas of our criminal law and which changes the whole delicate balance of the relationship between employee and employer, is something that I think we should fight against. I hope that this House will fight against that. The amendment which I and my hon. Friends have tabled 2007 is designed to fight against it, so that next time this issue comes to the House we have a chance to express Parliament's view on it.
The final point that I should like to make relates to the actual illegality of this process within the Treaty of Rome. The House of Lords Select Committee on the European Communities—Sub-Committee C—examined this with very great care. Once again, it had the benefit of the advice of the Home Office civil servants and it asked them about this point. On page 18 of the Committee's report a Mr. Taylor says:If I can speak perfectly frankly and privately".That was an extraordinary thing to say in public evidence taken before a Select Committee, but that is what he said. He went on to say that there were some areas where there was a proper relationship between EEC law and our law but other areas where there was very great doubt, and added:I think one would find colleagues … who would argue that a directive for general immigration matters was outwith the provisions of Article 100, but the Brussels lawyers—I do not know whose those Brussels lawyers are—have argued that the particular proposals they have put forward do fall within it, because the button is not sufficiently removed from the trousers at this stage".That was a continuation of a joke which had been running through the proceedings but which I shall not pursue.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Myer Galpern)
Order. It may lead to an unfortunate situation if we start removing buttons from trousers.
§ Mr. Price
I think it is a phrase to which lawyers are accustomed but which I do not understand. The general point is that there is grave doubt not only whether this is a sensible directive to apply to English law but whether it is even a legal directive within the Treaty of Rome. In spite of the fairly conciliatory speech of my hon. Friend, unless we get an absolute guarantee that we shall have another debate on a motion which is amendable before a decision is leached, I am sure that my hon. Friends will wish to press this matter to a Division.
§ 3.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Roger Sims (Chislehurst)
The House will be grateful to the Minister for leading us through the intricacies of this document. It is a draft directive. They are not firm proposals and they are open to discussion, hence our debate. The Minister was in the unenviable position that if she had announced a firm Government policy, she would have been criticised for not giving us the chance to debate it but even when speaking in general terms and not committing herself she was open to an equal amount of criticism.
It is right that this important matter should be discussed and that the Government should have the opportunity of hearing views from all sides. This is a difficult and delicate area and, to some extent, a technical subject.
If we are to work towards complete freedom of movement in the Community, it is important to consider all the implications of doing so, on employment as much as on social services, and the general social fabric, and on how these can be integrated into our immigration policies. We have to take into account not least the social considerations and the fact that illegal workers in the Community are open to blackmail and having imposed on them unreasonable pay and conditions.
In considering the draft directive, we have to bear in mind that this problem, by its very nature, is virtually impossible to measure. The Home Office has talked in terms of about 200 illegal immigrants a year, but it is referring to people such as those who wade ashore at Dover. We do not know how many people enter as visitors or students and overstay, or the extent to which they are employed here.
Our present system of control differs from that on the Continent and is much more effective, for the very good reason that we do not have the constant crossborder traffic of countries in mainland Europe. We have advantages, because we are an island. Our problems are also different from those on mainland Europe, where there is much more immigration of large groups of organised workers. Immigration of workers here is almost entirely on an individual basis.
2009 Article 2 of the draft directive suggests that there must be adequate control of workers entering the country either at the place of entry or at the place of employment. We operate the first system and I hope that we shall continue to do so because it has the further refinement that there is also a degree of control in the country of origin.
It is one thing to crack down on those, including some agencies, who traffic in illegal immigrants, but quite another to make the employment of illegal workers a criminal offence, as would be required if we followed the second alternative in the draft directive. There are certain attractions in being able to deal with illegal immigrant workers at that end of the spectrum, but Parliament should consider carefully before embarking upon such a step.
§ Mrs. Dunwoody
Will the hon. Gentleman comment on the suggestion by the Commission that the wages council machinery and factory inspectors should be used as a method of checking whether immigrants working in a particular firm are there legally or illegally? What is his view on that suggestion?
§ Mr. Sims
It does not appeal to me as the way in which this matter should be pursued. There are ways in which it could be pursued, but that is not one.
I query whether an offence consisting of employing an illegal immigrant would be enforceable. How could we obtain adequate evidence to convict an employer of knowingly—I emphasise "knowingly" —employing an illegal immigrant? As the hon. Member for Lewisham, West (Mr. Price) implied, that could mean some kind of identification for everybody in order to identify the illegal immigrant.
Incidentally, the Immigration Act 1971 contains a provision for sanctions against a personknowingly concerned in making or carrying out arrangements for securing or facilitating the entry into the United Kingdom of anyone whom he knows or has reasonable cause for believing to be an illegal immigrant".That offence can be dealt with by a fine of up to £400 and six months' imprisonment if dealt with summarily and seven years on indictment. That provision is normally used against the so-called traffickers in illegal immigration. But I 2010 wonder whether the wording would be adequate, if necessary, to cover employers. The wording suggests that it could be. To the best of my knowledge, it has not yet been done. Perhaps the Minister will refer to that aspect when replying to the debate.
In any event, if we were to create a new offence along the lines that have been indicated—I have expressed my doubts about it—I should object to the suggestion that we should be told by Brussels exactly how to punish the offenders. As I read the directive, it could involve imprisonment. I suggest that it would be for the British Government, or, indeed, for each of the national Governments affected, to decide the appropriate sanction for dealing with offenders. That, to the best of my knowledge, is the general practice in most Community matters. That is particularly true if imprisonment is likely to be involved, because, without going into the details, we all know that the nature and régime of prisons in different EEC countries differ considerably.
Having said that there is a problem of illegal immigration, particularly in the sense of students and visitors who overstay and get jobs, I wonder whether, although the Home Office assures us from time to time that it has this matter in hand and there are adequate controls, these controls are adequate and to what extent the Home Office has found it possible to ensure that the cases of those who stay over their time are followed up.
One of a number of my constituency cases, which the Minister has dealt with on my behalf, concerned a person who, on what seemed reasonable grounds, asked for an extension of stay, and the Home Office, in giving consideration to that person's application, had to ask for my co-operation in getting correspondence to the lady concerned because the officials did not know where she was. I understand that there may have been good reasons for that. However, I wonder whether there is an adequate degree of control in respect of this overstaying problem.
In some EEC countries there is provision for visitors and students who are admitted for a short time to report from time to time, not necessarily at a police station but at an appropriate office. 2011 Something along those lines would certainly appeal to me far more than anything more rigorous, such as has been suggested. It would be one way of dealing with the problem.
I am not at all happy about the suggestion that the employer should be made responsible for the cost of returning to his base the illegal immigrant worker. That could be unjust as between employers, depending on the country of origin of the immigrant worker, whether it be Spain or somewhere in the Far East. It would also have the undesirable effect of making employers reluctant to take on anybody who was, or appeared to be, an immigrant for fear that he might turn out to be an illegal immigrant worker.
As to the question of the distribution of information to would-be immigrants, the wholesale distribution of information is simply not practicable. It would mean that the British Government would have to send out details of employment circumstances in this country on a worldwide basis. I cannot see that that is on, but there is a strong case for ensuring that individual applicants seeking to enter this country for employment should be supplied with as much information as possible.
Finally, on the right of appeal, there are, as the Under-Secretary indicated, certain categories for which there is an appeals procedure. But the straightforward illegal immigrant can be deported forthwith without any right of appeal. Such a man may have a genuine case in claiming his belief that he was a legal immigrant. Whilst I would not want to commit the Opposition on this point, I hope that the Home Office will look further at the practicability of extending the appeals to cover some of the sort of cases that I have indicated.
To sum up, there are several aspects of the directive which, to put it no higher, are cause for concern, certainly in their efforts to alter our present system, which we on the Opposition Benches believe works reasonably well. I hope that the Minister will ensure that the Commission is fully informed of the views expressed in the debate today. I equally hope that she will keep us all well informed of developments.
§ 3.57 p.m.
§ Mr. Ivor Clemitson (Luton, East)
Like my hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, West (Mr. Price), I have had great difficulty in reading this document, not because my eyesight is fading or because I need to enroll in one of the adult literacy classes for which he has campaigned for so long.
The whole question of immigration controls, permits to work and the rest of it is an extremely important one and one that affects many of my own constituents very closely and intimately. Of course, we are opposed to illegal immigration. Of course, we are opposed to those who cruelly exploit their fellow human beings. Of course, we want to see promoted and maintained the highest possible standards of employment, in terms of both pay and conditions and the rights of workers, individually and collectively. But, as the explanatory memorandum more or less says, the effect of this piece of Common Market harmonisation would be much greater on this country and on the Republic of Ireland than on the other EEC countries.
We can argue whether one system is better than another. But our problems are not necessarily the same problems, and are not necessarily in the same context, as those of the other EEC countries, and they are therefore not necessarily amenable to the same type of solutions. To make an obvious point, we have the whole question of our relationship with the Commonwealth, which puts us in a totally different context from that of, for example, West Germany. Our treatment of people who have come to this country to work has been markedly different from the treatment meted out to migrant workers in, for example, West Germany and France.
In my view, with all our faults we are much more humane than West Germany, for instance, in the treatment of its immigrant workers. We are told in the document that it is estimated that there are 600,000 illegal immigrant workers in the Community—10 per cent. of the immigrant work force. But there is no breakdown of those figures at all.
Are we dealing with a problem which is more prevalent on the mainland of Europe than it is here? Could it be that the directive is primarily designed to deal 2013 with the particular problems of countries like France or Germany and is being foisted upon us? The reason for this is perhaps much more doctrinal than we think. On page 3, the document states:As regards the organisation of such controls, the Commission is of the opinion that effective control at the internal frontiers of the Community is becoming more and more unreliable. This will become increasingly the case when the Community achieves a passport union, with the subsequent easing or removal of all internal control on Community territory.The document clearly envisages a Euro-passport area within which movement will be unrestricted and around which there will be created high barriers, not only of tariffs but of immigration control as well.
The context is not only one of dealing with particular problems; it is also a question of imposing a certain doctrinal view. That is what seems to be behind these proposals. In other words, the whole question of immigration control, however it is handled, will be taken out of our hands. Clearly, we are dealing with extremely important issues and we should not proceed with them or accept them lightly.
Clearly, all kinds of bodies and people have an interest and an expertise in this field, and they must be fully consulted before any changes are even contemplated, let alone legislated for. Have such consultations taken place, and, if so, what has been the reaction?
§ Mr. Spearing
A few minutes ago my hon. Friend mentioned registered immigrant workers and he went on to describe how the document envisaged free movement by Euro-passport throughout the Community. Does he infer that such a person as a registered immigrant worker may be introduced in this country? If so, this would be the biggest innovation and the biggest implication of the document.
§ Mr. Clemitson
That is a question for the Government Front Bench. Clearly, it raises important issues about the holding of a Euro-passport. The point may be taken up by the Front Bench spokesman in reply.
The proposal to make it a criminal offence for an employer knowingly to 2014 employ a worker who has no permission to work involves very difficult complex and sensitive problems of race relations, community relations and industrial relations. It raises all kinds of questions about whether this might open the door to all kinds of probes and investigations which could disadvantage all kinds of bona fide people, immigrants included, and whether or not this might make employers more reluctant to employ immigrant workers. All such questions must be asked.
We are in a delicate area of community and industrial relations and we need all the advice and expertise we can get. The area covered by the document is important and complex and intimately affects many people, including many of my constituents. It would be wrong to proceed with these proposals without the most rigorous consultation and debate.
§ 4.5 p.m.
Mr. Ivor Stan brook (Orpington)
I, too, think that the position of the European Economic Community on this subject is a very interesting one. This is the first time that we have had a draft directive on such a subject in the realm of home affairs. It raises many questions as to just how far the House is prepared to accept directives from the Common Market in an area of activity which, one would have thought, was almost by definition inherently within the sovereignty of this Parliament.
I do not share the views of the hon. Member for Lewisham, West (Mr. Price). I am a supporter of the concept of a united Europe. I therefore believe that what is proposed in the draft directive should at least be considered on its merits. If one does not have the fanatical hatred of everything emanating from Brussels that Opposition Members have, it is possible to look at these subjects more objectively and ask, as I always ask about Common Market matters—is it in the interests of the United Kingdom?
There is much to be said in favour of this draft directive. At first sight the language of the directive—I am sorry that other hon. Members have not been able easily to read their copy; the copy which I obtained from the Vote Office and which was supplied by the Home Office is perfectly legible—gives the 2015 impression that we will vote upon ourselves a whole new apparatus of bureaucratic control and regulation of a type which it is difficult for even pro-Europeans to stomach. Therefore, one starts with an adverse opinion of the likely effects of the draft directive.
It is necessary to consider the probable changes that will be required if the draft becomes a substantive directive and the Government of the United Kingdom are obliged to make these changes in our law. They are, first, the extension of control over employers and the place of employment and, secondly, the proposal that there should be a new and extended form of appeal procedure. These are important questions as they raise the whole question of the status of the Commission as an inspiration for changes in United Kingdom law.
It is possible to argue that some of the changes in these proposals will, or may, be beneficial. Let us consider, first, the question of the extension of the immigration control apparatus to the place of employment. I had the good fortune when I was visiting the United States in 1973 to be invited to see over, purely as a temporary visitor, the immigration control department in New York. It has come to New York from the famed Ellis Island. It is a very large organisation. American experience and practice in immigration control are vastly different from ours. America is a country of tremendous size. It has no effective border controls between it and Canada or Mexico. The main means of illegal entry is to walk over the border anywhere between the towns where one has to submit oneself to examination.
I was told that the immigration department dealt with 500,000 illegal immigrants each year. That is half a million found and half a million deported. That takes the issue outside our experience. It is big business. In New York there is an integrated system of immigration control which incorporates the detection of offences and the judicial disposal of offenders. Both are dealt with under the same roof. At the top of the building is what is called a "facility" where people who are arrested are kept in detention pending deportation. One hopes that we shall never come to that.
The Americans have mobile patrols, which are allied to the police system. They 2016 operate in the poorer areas of the cities, because that is where illegal immigrants are to be found. In the poorer areas there is also less State and local authority control over conditions of employment. I was told by the deputy-director that when one goes into the kitchen of a large establishment one can recognise illegal immigrants from the expressions on the faces of the staff.
Of course, the American experience should not be compared with ours. The scale of our problems is not as great. However, we should not reject out of hand the extension of control to employers. That could be helpful in preventing exploitation of workers. At present, any employer who knowingly employs an illegal immigrant may pay him low or no wages. He may subject his worker to intolerable conditions because no complaint can be made. If a complaint were made, the illegal status of the worker would be revealed to the police.
Only a few employers would be involved in an extension of the system because only a few are in the racket. It would not be possible to extend immigration control to include offences of this kind without certain difficulties, one of which would be how to protect the innocent employer of an illegal immigrant. It would be difficult to define what reasonable steps an employer should take to ensure that an employee was entitled to be in the country.
Turning to the second question, a new appeal procedure is suggested in the draft directive. We have a large apparatus for appeals under the present immigration control system. Overstayers have a right of appeal, but there is a clear distinction in principle between those who have that right and those who do not. Those who have stayed on after the condition imposed upon their entry has expired or has been contravened have been lawfully admitted to the country. They have been granted the right to live and work here and they have rights. They have worked here, paid taxes and subjected themselves to the normal duties and obligations of all residents, including British citizens.
As to those who might be described as the criminal type of illegal immigrant, which is not a very happy phrase, we are-dealing with those who usually have been 2017 smuggled here, who have obtained clandestine entry and who are usually participants in a criminal conspiracy. Very often they have used forged documents. They are practising a fraud upon Britain. I do not believe that they are entitled to the same rights. They have done nothing for Britain. They know the consequence of their act. The unceremonious packing-off of such persons back to where they came from is entirely justified. In that respect I do not agree with the suggestion in the directive that the appeal procedure should be applied.
When we consider the time and expense occasioned by appeals—one or two notorious cases will come to mind—it is intolerable that Britain and the British taxpayer should have to put up with them.
§ Mr. Alexander W. Lyon
Is that not a good reason for getting rid of the criminal courts, the lawyers and all that paraphernalia? After all, if a man is charged he must be guilty and, therefore, we should not pay the hon. Gentleman high fees to represent him and defend him.
§ Mr. Stanbrook
The hon. Gentleman can speak for himself. He does not pay me any high fees. He is talking about British citizens—people in this country who are entitled to be here, who have nowhere else to go and who by law are entitled to all the laws, rights and obligations of those lawfully in this country. I am talking not of those people but of those others who have come from outside, who have not come lawfully. British subjects are entitled to a privileged position in their own country.
§ Mr. Alexander W. Lyon rose—
§ Mr. Stanbrook
No, I shall not give way.
I have already spoken of the American experience, and I must say at once, because I want to be fair, specially to the hon. Gentleman, who I think has been very unfair on many occasions in dealing with this subject, that it provides an almost universal system of appeal. It is all under one roof. Administratively they have achieved a system that provides for appeal at all stages at the minimum cost, considering the huge numbers 2018 with which they have to deal. Their courts sit for 24 hours a day. There are shift-working judges and court staff. Lawyers are available on a sort of legal aid system for every person who appears before a judge. In that respect, perhaps, the Americans are operating the best appeal procedure if one has to be operated for those who, in my opinion, are not entitled to appeal but to whom the hon. Gentleman would like to give that right. Perhaps the American system would be the best way of providing it.
Will the new rules, as suggested in the directive, assist us in our illegal immigration problem in future? Once we have adopted the directive, if we ever do, how will it help our problem? First, we must consider how great is our problem. No meaningful figures are available. That is perhaps one reason for there being no justification in saying that it is a big problem. In so far as we have a problem at all, it would appear to be comparatively small. Certainly the numbers detected and removed are laughable.
The Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department told me on 24th June 1976 that in 1972 59 illegal immigrants were removed. She told me that in 1973 176 were removed, 139 in 1974 and 154 in 1975. Clearly the figures of those who are found to be illegal immigrants are very small. On the other hand, those who travel around the country know that the problem, at least in the public's mind, is far greater than officials and the Government would have us believe.
One need only go to the report of Mr. Hawley for confirmation. He said— and I think that this is a fair summary —that there was a widespread industry in the Indian sub-continent devoted to the evasion of British immigration control. We also have the advice and opinion, if we care to obtain them, of individual police officers who have to deal with the problem. Their view, in my experience, is that the proportion of illegal entrants among the immigrant community is substantial. Indeed, that opinion has been cheerfully confirmed by many representatives of the communities concerned, especially when discussing the question of amnesty.
Nor is public suspicion allayed by official protestations when the public can 2019 see for itself that the figures for immigration produced by immigration control are not reliable. We had for some time what was called the "net balance" figures—the difference between the total number of those coming into the country and the total number of those going out. The net balance should, of course, be roughly equivalent to the number of those allowed to stay. But the figures never coincided. Indeed, the 1973 figures were obviously untrustworthy. They were subsequently found to be inaccurate to the extent of 70,000. That was bad enough, but the figures themselves were even more revealing.
For example, the correct figure for 1973 for the balance between those who came in and those who went out was 83,000-odd; the figure for those allowed to stay here was 32,000. So in that year, 54,000 immigrants were unaccounted for. The figures for 1974 were 97,000-odd net balance, and for those allowed to remain, 42,000-odd. Thus, 55,000 immigrants in that year were not accounted for. The figures for 1975 were 67,000-odd net balance, and for those allowed to remain permanently 53,000-odd. In that year, therefore, 14,000 immigrants were not accounted for. Perhaps it is not surprising that the Government decided thereafter to stop publishing the figures, because of the public anxiety that they aroused.
§ Mr. Stanbrook
No. No doubt the hon. Gentleman intends to make a speech. He can deal with these points then.
The Home Secretary at the time said that he was abandoning the practice of publishing embarkation figures—those leaving the country—in the returns of immigration control, on the ground that the method of collection made the figures unreliable. That may be so, but it clearly reveals a defect in our immigration control, which the public is bound to view with a great deal of worry and concern.
Will the adoption of the directive correct the situation? It deals with future immigration, by and large, so one can say that, broadly speaking, it is too late. Most of the people I have been talking about are already here, and the directive 2020 therefore would not make a great deal of difference.
But when we are dealing with employment, we must consider those other authorities that have the power to issue passports affecting the status of immigrants. I refer particularly to the Pakistan Embassy and their Consulate-General in Bradford. There was an interesting case in the Court of Apeal on 26th May this year which the House might like to know about—
§ Mr. Stanbrook
No, I will not.
The case was reported in The Times on 27th May. One must appreciate that between Britain and Pakistan there is something that does not exist between Britain and India—dual citizenship. A man may legally hold a passport issued by Pakistan, claiming him as a citizen of Pakistan able to come and go as he pleases, and also a passport issued by Britain with the same endorsement. Therefore, what is endorsed upon the one may not be endorsed upon the other.
The case to which I refer is Regina v. Secretary of State for Home Affairs, Ex parte Hussain. The immigrant concerned had come into this country in 1970 subject to a condition, which presumably was endorsed upon his passport. I say "presumably" because the court has not seen that passport. What we do know is that in 1972 he obtained from the Pakistan Consulate in Bradford a fresh passport. It made no mention of the condition under which he had entered Britain two years before, although there was evidence of the fact that he had been continuously resident in Britain—by the very fact of its issue from Bradford.
Thus, when he visited Germany in 1974 and returned to Britain, he presented immigration control with a passport appearing to suggest that he was entitled to remain in this country indefinitely—as a perfectly legal resident. In fact, he was an illegal immigrant. In that case, I am glad to say, the court was satisfied that 2021 as an illegal immigrant he should not have been here at all.
This case raises an important question with regard to the issue of passports in this country by the offices of foreign Governments. In 15th June this year I asked the Home Secretary:what safeguards exist to ensure that passports issued to Pakistanis resident in Great Britain by the Pakistan Consulate in the United Kingdom correctly record the terms on which the holder is in Great Britain ".The answer was:The issue of Pakistani passports to Pakistani nationals resident in Great Britain is solely the responsibility of the Pakistani representatives here. Officials have from time to time discussed with the Pakistani representatives the need to prevent abuse of the United Kingdom immigration regulations and they have co-operated in various ways to achieve this."—[Official Report, 15th June 1977; Vol. 933, c. 211–12.]It seems that the co-operation did not extend properly to at least that one case, and one wonders how many more there are beneath the surface.
I refer finally to the information that we have. In this connection, I think that all recent Governments are guilty of misleading and confusing the people of Britain about the true position on immigration. I refer to the amnesty granted to illegal immigrants who arrived here before 1st January 1973. That was granted in 1974, and it is still open. The interesting feature is that the numbers concerned are very small. Out of 1,990 applications submitted by 24th June 1976, when the Question about them was asked, 1,376 had been granted, 216 were still under consideration and the others had been rejected.
One wonders whether that amnesty should not now be ended. I believe that it has to be ended in the light of the draft directive if we are sincere in our desire to be strict, as we should be, about all future immigration.
§ 4.31 p.m.
§ Mrs. Gwyneth Dunwoody (Crewe)
If I do not follow the parade of bigotry which has just been displayed, it is not because I do no think that there are very strong and straightforward arguments to refute most of the nonsense talked by the hon. Member for Orpington (Mr. Stanbrook). It is mainly because his speech was an abuse of the short period of time in which we 2022 are supposed to be discussing a directive which has a great many implications for this House.
I am Vice-President of the Social Affairs Committee of the European Assembly, which has been considering the terms of this directive. Because I was deeply concerned about some of the suggestions not only on the part of the Commission but also, it seemed to me, implicit in the wording of the directive. I approached the Home Office at a very early stage to ask for its view on the wording of the directive.
My reasons for doing so were simple. I believe that we in this country have more than adequate immigration controls. Although I was perfectly content to see the definition of "illegal immigration" which was written into the directive, what I found extremely disturbing was a number of suggestions not the least of which was that we were actually creating a new criminal offence of illegal employment. I pointed out not only to the Commission but also to the Home Office here that I believed that the wording of the directive was so deficient that in no way would it be acceptable to the House of Commons as the basis for what will, in effect, be a piece of legislation which would carry with it very considerable difficulties for those of us who wish to see race relations in the country improve and not deteriorate.
If we are to have a directive which suggests, in effect, that anyone who knowingly employs an illegal immigrant is himself guilty of a crime and which goes on to suggest sanctions against that employer, we shall very soon get ourselves into extraordinarily deep water.
When I approached the Home Office this seemed to be accepted fully, but I was told that the Department of Employment also had a specific interest and was taking part in the discussions which were being held. I have been endeavouring since then to obtain from both Government Departments a clear statement of the attitude of Her Majesty's Government to the directive.
During discussions in the European Assembly, the Commission suggested that, if we felt that it was difficult to apply checks at the place of work, we should seek to use our existing machinery. The Commission's representative implied that 2023 the wages machinery was very suitable for this kind of control and that the factory inspectors should also be used to check whether immigrants had entered the country illegally. I pointed out to the Commission in the European Assembly, and I repeat it now, that the first factory inspector who was even suspected by management or trade unions of abusing the right by which he enters commercial premises in that manner would find it exceedingly difficult to continue his job in the future.
I should be totally opposed to what I should regard as the misuse of powers given by Parliament to the Factory Inspectorate for a very specific purpose. Nor do I know what the attitude of the factory inspectors themselves would be if they were asked to extend their present work. They are already carrying out a good deal of useful work and they might be very much opposed to doing something very much outside their normal functions.
I have still not obtained from the Government any indication of how they view the directive. I have in my hand a letter from my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, Central (Mr. Grant), who is Under-Secretary of State for Employment, dated 21st June. The letter states:It would in my view be misleading to describe any checks which could be introduced as a result of the proposed instrument as political, as they would be designed only to prevent abuses of legislation concerning entry to the country and concerning the right to take employmentThe letter goes on:we certainly have no intention of doing anything which would undermine the new race relations legislation, would damage the employment prospects of workers from racial minority groups …".I welcome that assurance, but I would have preferred the Government to come to the House today and say that the directive is ill-conceived and ill-written and that in order to apply it we should have to change many of the basic assumptions that we make in this democratic country.
If one applies immigration controls at the point of entry, as we do, it would caused considerable exacerbation of existing race relations if one then attempted not only to extend those controls to the place of work but actually to involve the employer and say that if the employer was in any way employing anyone who 2024 had entered the country illegally he would be guilty of an offence. I believe that that extension should be wholly unacceptable to the House, and I hope that after the Government have listened to the debate they will take the matter away and come back with some definite decisions.
For example, the directive suggests that we should undertake to ensure that immigrants in the country of origin are given full information about the country to which they are going to work. I pointed out to the Commission at the time that in India alone, as far as I am aware, there are about 19 official languages and 149 other subsidiary languages in use. Is it seriously suggested that we should be bound by this directive to issue detailed instructions in about 160 Indian languages at the point of origin? If so, I suspect that the Commission is not only being unrealistic but being so superficial as to be guilty of the crime of absurdity. The directive wavers between the two. On the one hand it seems to suggest measures which can only exacerbate race relations, and on the other hand it brings in all sorts of subsidiary points which can at best be described as unimportant and at worst as positively misleading.
The directive is still in the Social Affairs Committee of the European Parliament, and it will remain there for some months because it has to be discussed line by line—
§ Mrs. Dunwoody
Indeed, word by word. When we see the copies of the proposed directive which have been issued by the Vote Office, we can see why it is important that it should be discussed in the European Parliament, because no one will be able to read the definition contained in the piece of paper which has been handed out today.
I would finish on this note. Anyone who seriously believes that the House of Commons should accept wording which saysFor the purpose of this Directive the migration as defined … shall be termed 'illegal migration' and any employment arising as a result shall be termed 'illegal employment'is guilty of a misunderstanding of the democratic principles on which this Parliament is founded.
2025 If people are to live and work in decency in this country, they must certainly enter it legally. Of that I have no doubt. But if we are to attempt to deal with some specific problems on the Continent of Europe by creating wholly dangerous and quite misconceived legislation, far from convincing the people of this country that the EEC is considering their best interests we shall frighten them with the suggestion that the Commission is actually spreading its net into areas in which it has neither direct nor real responsibility.
I oppose the wording of the proposed directive because I believe that it is not in the interests either of the British people or of the immigrants who are working here. I believe that Parliament has a responsibility to make sure that all the rights of workers are properly protected. There is no suggestion that this proposed directive will do anything of the sort.
I therefore hope that the Government will not accept it without coming back to the House of Commons and taking note of what is said here. If that is not to be so, we shall have another of the sort of farce where the House of Commons expresses a point of view but nevertheless the Commission pushes through the directive as originally worded. That is not in the interests of any of us, either the migrants or the natural-born members of the British nation.
§ 4.43 p.m.
§ Mr. Alexander W. Lyon (York)
I am glad that my hon. Friend the Undersecretary of State—the hon. Member for Halifax (Dr. Summerskill)—has now departed, because it was my intention to begin by taking the buttons off her trousers. However, that might have been an embarrassing situation for her. I say that because I subscribe to the charming sentiments of Mr. Taylor, in his evidence before the Select Committee of the other place, for being perfectly frank and speaking privately to the world that this recommendation for a directive "is outwith Article 100".
Indeed, that was the view of the Select Committee. It thought that it might be able to bring it within Article 235, but having looked at Article 235 I do not think that it advances the situation any further. It shows that if it is a view of the Council of Ministers that some 2026 remedy is required to subscribe to the aims of the treaty the Council ought to declare whatever remedy it is. The same issue arises under Articles 100 and 235.
Just what are the aims of the Community and how far are they relevant to the proposed directive? The argument that Mr. Taylor was advancing before the Select Committee was absolutely right. There is no way in which one can argue that the control of immigration is, in fact, related to the creation of a common economic policy and to the elimination of artificial incentives to unfair competition within the Community. The argument is put on the basis that if we allow unrestricted legal immigration we provide a source of cheap labour which gives us a competitive edge over the other members of the Community. Therefore, it is in the interests of the whole Community that we should have a clear and harmonious policy for dealing with illegal immigration.
The argument falls down when we consider that the major source of new labour entering the Community, over and above the indigenous population, is legal immigration. If that argument is used in relation to illegal immigration, it has to be used in relation to legal immigration. This country could introduce increased powers for dealing with illegal immigration and then increase dramatically the number of quota vouchers issued to foreign labour each year in order to improve our labour position vis-à-vis the other countries of the EEC. If that happened, the other Community countries would say that we were competing unfairly and that a common harmonisation policy was needed in relation to legal migration and the number of vouchers issued.
Clearly, we should be getting so far away from the major objectives of the Community that if this directive were tested before the European Court there would be a strongly arguable case— which would probably be successful— that Article 100 was being abused in the directive. The Government should veto, on the basis of principle, any proposal that this should become a directive of the Community. I say that also in relation to the merits of the proposal.
Article 2(b) indicates that powers should be introduced at the place of entry or at the place of employment. The use 2027 of the disjunctive suggests that we could comply with the provisions if we used our perimeter controls as at present and did not introduce new controls over the place of employment. However, there is some doubt about that, particularly in the minds of Home Office officials who have discussed it in Europe. That was reflected in the evidence to the Select Committee of another place and the Committee itself was in some doubt whether this was the case.
This opens up the possibility that we shall move beyond perimeter controls to controls at the place of employment. In my two years at the Home Office I thought that some employers should be prosecuted because they were clearly encouraging illegal immigration, and although a case, which was the basis of the wild hysteria reflected by the hon. Member for Orpington (Mr. Stanbrook), came to public notice and came to be known as the London Eating Houses case, I sweated for three months to try to settle that case before it became a major confrontation. It was almost entirely due to the proclivities of a. Turkish employer who wanted to bring in Turkish help illegally in order to undercut the rate of his employees. When we cracked down on him and made him pay the proper rates, he went out of business. I suggested that he should have been prosecuted under the existing powers. That is how we should deal with these matters.
There are one or two such employers, and it is right that they should be prosecuted. The occasional prosecution would have a salutary effect, but I fear that if we introduced a general overall requirement for employers to vet carefully who they were employing among the immigrant community it is likely that they would tend not to employ them and they would have a cast iron reason for being in breach of the Race Relations Act by refusing to employ coloured people.
I am opposed to controls at the place of employment, on grounds that might appeal even to the hon. Member for Orpington. The reason that we do not have these controls is that, apart from the fact that we are an island, our traditions are different from those that have arisen with the internal security on the Continent. Other European countries have a different sort of policing and a different attitude to the way in which 2028 people move about and are free to move within those countries. We do not register people at hotels as they do on the Continent and we have no identity cards and internal checks. The reason why it is easy to get into countries on the Continent is that their controls on the perimeter do not operate in the same way as ours. It is more difficult for people to get into this country, but once they are here they are fre to do as they like. I am anxious to protect that characteristic of the British way of life.
From the Opposition Benches we hear a lot about law and order and the British way of life. One of the most valuable parts of the British way of life is that, within the context of our society, basically people are free to do anything within the law and to move about as they please, whether they are visitors, immigrants or indigenous. I should be loth to give that up.
I am a little sceptical about the tentative idea put forward by the hon. Member for Chislehurst (Mr. Sims), namely, that people who are here for short stays should report. That also would go against the fundamental principle that, once we allow people in, up to the time when their time runs out they should be free to do more or less as they wish. We should change British society fundamentally if we went along that road.
I do not want to put the matter too strongly, but that would open up the whole apparatus for a police State. One reason why it is easier to establish a police State in Europe than in this country is that we have never gone along that road. Therefore, a fundamental principle is involved in the directive, and for that reason I should be opposed to it. On grounds of legality, morality and practicability—because it is difficult to see how the directive could be enforced—I think that the Commission has produced a non-starter, and we should strongly oppose it.
This proposal comes out of a carefully considered package that was put into the migrants' charter by people who were anxious to alleviate the deplorable plight of migrant workers in the Community. Here, again, there is a fundamental difference of philosophy between our immigration control and that in Europe. By and large, European countries do not allow people in to work and to settle. They allow them in for a temporary 2029 period and then send them out. Permission to enter does not carry with it any implied right to stay or, indeed, to bring in a family. There is no implied right to vote, and no citizen's rights.
These matters have seriously concerned other members of the EEC, because some of the abuses in Holland and Germany have been quite frightening. Therefore, a policy grew up to create a charter that would give protection to people in that situation.
People in this country do not need such protection. By and large, our workers came from the Commonwealth. But, even if they came from foreign sources, they were treated not as migrant workers but as people who came for settlement.
The 1971 Act has created a situation in which people who come here for work can be treated like migrant workers. It is a question of policy, still to be decided, whether they are to be treated as migrant workers. We said that they could come for 12 months, extendable, and that at the end of four years they might be allowed to remain. But since the Act came into force in 1973—we are now in 1977—it is not entirely clear whether we shall automatically remove the conditions at the end of the four years or retain the old system of allowing workers who come here and give what they can in their initial probationary period the right to settle.
If we do that, we shall proceed along a different path from that of the Continental countries and not have the problems that the migrants' charter was designed to settle. If we do not, we may need the migrants' charter in order to give the migrant worker the same kind of rights as the existing settler.
I would prefer to have the settler rather than the migrant worker. Therefore, I would prefer to go along an entirely different path. For that reason, I do not think that one can harmonise the immigration policies of the Community.
The concept of the Community is to have one unit in which there is free travel, and not to have passport control. That is one of the marks of the Community. It is perfectly all right for nationals. We know what a national 2030 is, or we shall know when we have the citizenship law tidied up. But when we have done that there will still be people who are not nationals but who are settlers in our country and have not yet taken naturalisation. That will go on for ever, as far as I can see.
There is no reason why, for people who are not nationals but who have settled in a country, there should be one uniform law for the whole of the EEC. It is perfectly possible to have separate laws, because they will not have free right of movement, and therefore they cannot undermine the migration policies of the other members of the EEC.
I think that this whole thing is misconceived, and that the Government should veto it in the Council of Ministers, if it ever gets that far. Meanwhile, they should put up unstinted opposition, which so far they have not done.
§ 4.57 p.m.
§ Miss Jo Richardson (Barking)
Before I add to what has been an excellent debate, with the exception of one contribution, I want to say how glad I am, in spite of my opposition to the European Economic Community, that we have someone with as sharp an eye as my hon. Friend the Member for Crewe (Mrs. Dunwoody), on her European Assembly Committee, to watch out for the interests of those who could very well be affected by this draft directive. I hope that she will be as good as what was almost her word, in keeping the directive in her Committee for as long as possible.
I am not as familiar as are some others with the initimate workings of directive-making or drafting in the EEC, but it is a great pity that the first directive to emerge from the Council's resolution of 9th February 1976 on an action programme for migrant workers and their families should be the most restrictive part of it, and that we should not first have had some consideration.
There may be some suggestions— although I have seen no directive about them—on how to settle people and help them to work within their host communities, wherever they may be. It seems to me a great pity that we should come out with what could turn out to be, if they were ever put into effect, Draconian difficulties and an entire change in the emphasis of our law on immigrants.
2031 What will happen, in effect, if we carry out this directive is that because of the difficulty of trying to decide on a method of ascertaining whether a prospective employee is an illegal immigrant, employers may set their face against anyone with a black or brown skin. That will be a sort of immediate yardstick. They may come a cropper in another direction, but they will at least feel safer if they have rejected the black or the brown worker on the list of applicants for the job that they are advertising. We hear a great deal about unemployment these days and about the difficulties, particularly in the inner cities, resulting from coloured unemployment. The directive, if it ever became law here, could do nothing but add to it.
The hon. Member for Orpington (Mr. Stanbrook) made a curious speech, in which he tried to build up a sort of anti-immigrant, racialist case. He does not seem to have read the submissions of the Confederation of British Industry to the Select Committee in the House of Lords.
The CBI statement was full of criticisms of the draft directive from a number of points of view—from points of view of principle in some areas, and practicality in others. It said:The draft is much lacking in the clarity of expression which may even lead to differences of view about some of the underlying concepts.We have already referred to the fact that we cannot read the directive because of the bad Xeroxing—it is lacking in clarity there as well. The CBI submission went on:In Article 2(a), how can 'workers subject to the provisions of the present directive be duly and accurately informed of employment, living and working conditions …' when their intended entry is clandestine and illegal and for obvious reasons such persons cannot be identified?From the point of view of practicality and morality and in terms of sheer common sense this thing is nonsense. I hope that the House will think very seriously before it allows this draft to go through.
All hon. Members who read the report of the Select Committee on the European Communities of the House of Lords will realise that it makes really good sense. The report spells out the adequacies of our present immigration controls and points out the dangers and difficulties 2032 which the adoption of the draft directive would bring to immigrant workers in this country. It also points out the dangers which any implementation of a change in the law might bring. The report says that our highly effective immigration control at the point of entry is such as to render unnecessary further control at the place of employment. The whole report is studded with such phrases in specific terms.
I am very glad that we have had this debate this afternoon. It has enabled us to register our objections to having very important debates like this at the fagend of the night or on Friday afternoon. I hope that when the Scrutiny Committee look again at this directive in its final form—if it ever gets there—and reports back to the House, we shall debate it at the proper time and more hon. Members will take part.
§ 5.3 p.m.
§ The Under-Secretary of State for Employment (Mr. John Grant)
I, too, welcome the fact that we have had this debate this afternoon. Contrary to what some hon. Members sometimes think, Ministers do go away from the debates having taken account of what has been said. They go back to Brussels to negotiate on directives bearing in mind the opinions expressed in the House. Frequently this strengthens a Minister's hand in the debate that he has with his European colleagues.
This debate has clearly highlighted the immense difficulties in reaching any form of agreement at all on any kind of instrument, let alone a directive. The debate has given us an opportunity of hearing hon. Members' views at first hand, particularly the views of my hon. Friends who have been responsible for most of the speeches.
I repeat that we are nowhere near any kind of decision-taking situation. There is a great deal of dissension within the Community on all the major proposals in this draft directive. Next week at the Council of Social Affairs Ministers this matter will be on the agenda in a purely take-note form. There will be a progress report to Ministers attending, and that report will show very clearly that on all the major questions there is no agreement.
There is no agreement on the form of the instrument or its legal basis—whether 2033 it should be under Article 100 or Article 235. There is the whole question of sanctions and curbs on illegal immigrants and their employment, including penal sanctions, and the liability for the cost involved in removing illegal immigrant workers from a member State. There is also a question about the protection of the rights of workers and the rights of appeal against measures taken against them. There is no agreement on any of these matters. It will thus be seen that finalisation will take a very long time.
I repeat that I have on previous occasions made it clear in the Council of Ministers that this draft directive poses the United Kingdom Government with very special problems and, above all, that there is no question of our taking any action which could undermine our race relations legislation and give rise to the charge that we were engaging in a witch hunt. It is important that that be on the record not only of the House but in the Community.
The Commission will be reporting on progress to the Council next Tuesday. It might be better described as lack of progress. As my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary said earlier, the opinion of the Assembly will not be received on this question before the autumn, and only at that stage can the matter be considered by the Committee of Permanent Representatives before that body in turn decides whether it should be returned to the Council of Ministers. So we have a long way to go.
My hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, West (Mr. Price) said that there was no clear view of the Government's position. I confirm that he is right. A great deal of discussion remains to be undertaken. My hon. Friend described the directive as a river sweeping up from the sea. I do not think that it is a tidal river, because it is coming along very slowly and will take much longer.
Incidentally, I apologise to my hon. Friend for the poor results from the Home Office Xerox machine. Before she left, my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department assured me that she will investigate the performance of the machine. I do not apologise for the poor quality of production of 2034 the Tory paper mentioned by my hon. Friend.
Several of my hon. Friends mentioned the report of the Scrutiny Committee which points out that it is not clandestine immigration but the overstayers who are the serious problem. It is right to comment that, if the Scrutiny Committee regards that as a problem—and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Home Department has said that it is a problem—it does not deal with it in its concluding remarks. The Committee, having raised the issue as a major one, then seems to have ignored it.
My hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, West also raised the whole question of sanctions and such things as identity cards and a police computer. We have no intention of treading that path. There have been no discussions about the use of identity cards as a practical proposition. I, like my hon. Friend, believe that identity cards would be totally unacceptable in Britain.
My hon. Friend said that he thought we had a workable system. There must be doubts about that, and I repeat that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary has himself raised doubts about it. My hon. Friend then argued that we should not allow Europe to compel us to accept the directive. The short answer is that Europe cannot so compel us. If at the end of the day we are not satisfied, we are entitled to refuse to implement the directive.
The hon. Member for Chislehurst (Mr. Sims) and several of my hon. Friends raised the question of criminal sanctions and referred to that proposal as being a radical departure. It certainly is a radical departure. This is one of the matters which is concerning us.
My hon. Friend the Member for Crewe (Mrs. Dunwoody) asked the hon. Member for Chislehurst about factories and wages inspectorates. I was glad that the hon. Member dismissed the idea. He said that he objected to Brussels telling us how to punish offenders. That is a valid objection. It is among the obstacles that we shall encounter when we discuss this issue at ministerial level.
I turn now to the speech made by my hon. Friend the Member for Luton, East (Mr. Clemitson), who was particularly 2035 concerned about consultations. My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary has made it clear that he wants to have considerable consultation throughout industry, particularly with the TUC and the CBI. The CBI has been mentioned freely this afternoon, although the TUC has not. There will be widespread consultation. I am not sure whether the Home Secretary has said this before, but I have no doubt that he will want to consult not only the CBI and the TUC but other bodies such as the Commission for Racial Equality. Organisations such as that will have legitimate views to express about these issues.
The hon. Member for Orpington (Mr. Stanbrook) said—and I agree with him— that we should consider the directive on its merits. Some people might say that today we have discussed it on its demerits. I am sorry that the hon. Member then turned his contribution into a general discussion on immigration. That was not desirable. It is better to avoid doing that in a debate on a draft directive. The Select Committee said that this was one reason for avoiding discussion on the directive. I agree, but it is not something that we can avoid. The document has been tabled for consideration within the Community. We cannot pretend that it is not there. We must debate it, and it is sensible to debate it in the way we have done.
The hon. Member for Orpington suggested that the directive involved only future immigration. That is not so. One of the major problems in applying a directive of this kind is that it would affect immigrants who are here on illegal terms now.
My hon. Friend the Member for Crewe is particularly familiar with the situation because of her Assembly rôle. She has written to me and to other Ministers on more than one occasion. She referred to a letter that I wrote to her and she mentioned the suggestion that there should be "political checks"—those are her words. It depends on what one means by "political". I thought that political checks meant checks on people's politics. I do not think that that follows from the directive. I took my hon. Friend's point that there are political police in many countries, but that does not follow from the directive.
2036 My hon. Friend also suggested that somebody at the Commission had said that we should use our existing machinery and employ our Wages and Factories Inspectorate machinery. I am not sure whether that suggestion came from a Commission official or was made in the Assembly. I agree that to use the Factories Inspectorate would be totally irrelevant. It is inconceivable that it could be used in that way, even if it had the capacity. The Wages Inspectorate is different. One could argue—although I do not—that, because the Wages Inspectorate is involved in low-pay industries and because there are many immigrants working in those industries, it would be possible for wages inspectors to be used in that way.
In practice, I do not believe that it is a practical proposition. First, the Wages Inspectorate is limited in its work to industries that are covered by wages councils. That would cover about 3 million workers but would leave millions of others entirely uncovered. We could not make that sort of discrimination. An even greater practical point is that at its present strength the inspectorate is grossly over-stretched. We need more inspectors, for example, to tackle cases of low pay. We could not conceivably use them in the way that has been suggested.
I must tell my hon. Friend that when the matter comes for final decision, the decision will not be taken by me. It will be a collective decision. There are a number of Departments involved. Should it go to the Cabinet, it may be that in its infinite wisdom it will decide that what I am saying is wrong. However, I put my views on the record. I do not think it is conceivable that the Wages Inspectorate or the Factories Inspectorate could be used in such a way. If some Commission functionary has suggested that to my hon. Friend, I suggest that she tells him where to go if he should repeat the suggestion.
§ Mrs. Dunwoody
If a directive is brought before a committee of the European Assembly, that committee examines the directive in the presence of the Commission officials, who are responsible both for the initiation and the discussion. These remarks concerning Wages Inspectorate and the Factories Inspectorate have been repeated inside the European Assembly committees not by one official but by two 2037 on two separate occasions. I hope that my hon. Friend will be clear that I am not referring to a private conversation between myself and some unnamed functionary. This is a specific policy of Commission officials in relation to British machinery. I hope my hon. Friend will be aware that on that basis, if there should be any suggestion of Her Majesty's Government accepting such an idea, considerable offence would be felt by many hon. Members and the idea would be strongly opposed.
§ Mr. Grant
Whatever may be said by Commission officials within the Assembly, those officials do not make policy for the United Kingdom Government. I have responsibility within the Department of Employment for both Wages Inspectorate and Factories Inspectorate inspectors. I agree with what my hon. Friend has said about the use of the inspectorates. I suggest that next time she goes to Brussels she takes with her the report of our proceedings this afternoon which appears in the Official Report. As two Commission functionaries are concerned, perhaps she should take two copies so that she may give one to each of them. I hope that that dispenses with that argument.
My hon. Friend referred to the problem of ensuring that full information is available in the countries of origin. I agree with her remarks. Without going into detail, I merely say that immense practical difficulties are raised. My hon. Friend mentioned some but there are others. Again, this is a matter that we should find extraordinarily difficult to swallow.
My hon. Friend the Member for York (Mr. Lyon) had a great deal to say about which of the articles was appropriate. As I said earlier, there is great dissension within the Community. There is no agreement between the Governments as to which of the articles might be appropriate. I think I am right in saying that my hon. Friend suggested we should oppose the whole thing in principle on that ground. I do not think I can go that far with him. He said in the end that if there was something to be tested it would be for the European Court to do that as the final arbiter. There is no question of any early agreement on that point either.
2038 My hon. Friend also referred to prosecutions. As in the area of low pay, I should like to see more prosecutions take place where there are offences. However, I am not at all sure that that would be much of an answer to the problem, if we consider that it is a problem. It is true that last year in wages council industries—that is the sector my hon. Friend was talking about when referring to London Eating Houses—there were no prosecutions. This year, because of a fairly stringent review of policy, that situation has been changed. Already there have been a number of prosecutions and there will be more.
I do not think that that would be an answer to the problem, not least because, although it is true that if there were a problem many of the workers would be in industries such as hotels and catering— industries covered by wages councils— there would still be many other workers outside those industries in which there was no statutory minimum wage and no possbility of prosecution. There would be a large gap. Although it has an increased rôle to play, I do not think that that prosecution policy is an adequate answer.
§ Mr. Sims
The problem I had in mind was the extent to which employers of illegal immigrant labour might be prosecuted under the Immigration Act itself as being parties to illegal immigration.
§ Mr. Grant
I take the point. I understand, however, that the harbouring provision has not been used, or, at least, has been only sparsely used. However, it is not a matter for me to answer. Perhaps my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department could have done so. I think that there are difficulties in applying such a provision and making it stick. No doubt the point will be looked at.
My hon. Friend the Member for Barking (Miss Richardson) referred to the CBI's view. No one has referred to the TUC's view, but it has expressed one. It is very concerned about people who have in the main been overstayers and are employed, particularly in the hotel and catering industry, and are ripe for exploitation, in many cases being exploited. It is on record, as is the European TUC, as wanting some action. It is right that 2039 the House should take that into account also.
The TUC has also made it clear that it would not wish for any action to be taken which might be bad for race relations. Again, therefore, we come back to the situation that the Government face. If any action on this front is to take place, we have to ensure that it does not undermine our race relations machinery and that it is not bad for race relations. It is a difficult task to find even a potential solution to the problem.
The directive is, we believe, important, and the amendment recognises that. We are debating it at an early stage in the negotiations so that hon. Members can express their views and the Government can take those views fully into account. I remind the House of the procedures that the Government have set up to cater for amendments to proposals during negotiations in the Council of Ministers. My right hon. Friend the Leader of the House announced last August, confirming arrangements made by his predecessor the previous November, an arrangement whereby the House would be informed of changes of substance in proposals involving major policy developments so that the Scrutiny Committee could report further on them to the House.
This second-stage scrutiny is in operation and has been welcomed by the Scrutiny Committee, most recently in its First Special Report of the Session. The illegal immigration directive would obviously represent a major policy development. I have mentioned some of the ways it may change in future negotiations. The Government regard this proposal as an obvious candidate for the second-stage scrutiny procedure and will play their part by providing a second explanatory memorandum to the House on the proposal in the light of future discussions, and it will be for the Scrutiny Committee to decide whether the proposal, in view of the further information, should be recommended for consideration by the House. If that recommendation were that it should be so considered, it would be on the basis suggested by the amendment. I can therefore give my hon. Friend the assurance he seeks.
§ 5.23 p.m.
§ Mr. Christopher Price
In view of the assurance that it wil be debated, and be 2040 debated in this House, on a substantive motion, which is amendable, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Main Question put and agreed to.
That this House takes note of Commission Document No. R/2655/76 on illegal immigration and employment.