HC Deb 24 July 1990 vol 177 cc284-5
6. Mr. Stern

To ask the Secretary of State for Employment how many work permits were issued to Hong Kong nationals in the latest available year.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Employment (Mr. Robert Jackson)

The number of work permits issued to Hong Kong nationals during the 12-month period ending on 30 June 1990 was 868.

Mr. Stern

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that answer, and should like to take this opportunity to congratulate him on his latest appointment. Will my hon. Friend offer some reassurance to those who are concerned about the total number of permits to be issued under the British Nationality (Hong Kong) Bill, that the issue of work permits to people coming to this country and applying for permits once here will not be used as a means of circumventing the provisions of that Bill?

Mr. Jackson

I think that I can give my hon. Friend the assurance that he seeks. The strict conditions of the main work permit scheme will not be relaxed for Hong Kong citizens. Under the main scheme, work permits will continue to be issued only to those Hong Kong nationals who are recruited by employers for employment in high-level jobs that employers are unable to fill from resident labour.

Mr. Madden

Will the Minister confirm that, come the single market, 300 million EEC nationals could—I emphasise the word "could"—seek employment in this country without the need to obtain a work permit? Against that background, does he agree that the number of work permits issued to Hong Kong nationals pales into insignificance?

Mr. Jackson

Of course, European Community nationals will be able to seek jobs in this country and British nationals will be able to seek jobs in European Community countries.

Mr. Dickens

Is my hon. Friend aware that a few years ago a lot of illegal work permits were issued from his Department? Has he been in the Department long enough to know for certain whether that practice has ceased?

Mr. Jackson

I thank my hon. Friend for that question. When I have got my feet under the desk—when I have even seen the desk—I shall look into that point.