HC Deb 21 February 1996 vol 272 cc449-66
Mr. Henderson

I beg to move amendment No. 51, in page 5, line 11, leave out 'subsection' and insert 'subsections (2A) and'.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

With this it will be convenient to discuss amendment No. 52, in page 5, line 21, at end insert— '(2A) Nothing in this section applies in relation to an employer who has fewer than 10 employees.'.

Mr. Henderson

The amendments relate to an important part of the Bill. The Government have made much play of their belief that there is considerable illegal immigration in this country and that significant numbers of illegal immigrants are working when they should not. The Government have not yet provided us at any stage in our consideration of the Bill with figures that would stick to the wall on the extent of illegal immigration. Some estimates have been made of the numbers of illegal workers and my view of the estimate of 10,000 is that it was made by throwing coins in the air and seeing which way they fell. I have seen no significant study that has suggested what the precise figures would be.

We can be sure, however, that the Bill will have many major implications for race and community relations. It seems clear to me that when employers are given the responsibility effectively to become immigration policemen, that must have an impact on the community in which those employers operate. People who live in that community will say, "Are there fair-minded employers in our community and is employer X fair-minded?" They will go on to ask whether some sections of their community are discriminated against by employers.

We must consider not only the damage that can be done to communities but the damage that will be done to individual groups.

I believe that black people, Asian people and other ethnic peoples in all parts of our country will not have the opportunity to get a job because employers will guard against their employment. Employers are well aware, however, that, in all probability, 99 per cent. of all potential employees are British citizens, who have every right to work here, and just 1 per cent. may not have leave to work in this country. In the same circumstances, however, employers will say, "We're not going to risk becoming criminalised by Government legislation." They will avoid that by not offering employment to certain people. They will not want to check passports and the 40 other documents required. If there is a possibility, even a remote one, that a person might not be entitled to work here, the employer will say, "He ain't working for my company." The consequences of such action will be extremely damaging to particular sections of the community. For example, 60 per cent. of young black men between the ages of 18 and 25 are unemployed. What will that unemployment level become should employers study the details of the Bill? Such is the likely impact of clause 8.

Hon. Members do not have to take my word for it because a load of evidence has been built up by organisations with all sorts of different backgrounds and representing all sorts of different industries.

We heard in an earlier debate about the importance that people attach to religious freedom in other countries. I have received a communication from the Churches Commission for Racial Justice—representing persons who are responsible for religious policy in this country—written by Rev. David Haslam, who is well known in the ecumenical movement. He writes about clause 8: This is sure to lead to many employers being even less willing to employ people from the visible minorities just in case they are here illegally … it will damage race relations in the workplace. It is an extremely undesirable development. That view is repeated by the Commission for Racial Equality, which said in a submission to every hon. Member: We have examined carefully the wording of Clause 8…and, having regard also to the expressed experiences of ethnic minorities across the country, we have concluded that these proposals cannot be implemented without damaging race relations and increasing the barriers to employment opportunities for ethnic minorities. The Food and Drink Federation is significant to the debate because of the employment of persons in small companies, especially in the catering and linked trades, in which many persons who are identified as belonging to ethnic community groups are employed or wish to seek employment. It states: We would suggest most strongly that the potential procedures are unlikely to prevent illegal immigrants obtaining employment to any serious degree and that it would be an essential prerequisite for the NI system to be tightened up very considerably. That federation also notes the damage that could be caused to ethnic communities. I know that federation well because one of the big companies in my constituency, Nestle, is affiliated to it.

The Association of British Chambers of Commerce, which represents many small organisations in this country, has stressed that if clause 8 is implemented, damage will be done to race relations in this country.

It is interesting to note that in Committee there were murmurings from Conservative Members that we could not listen to what the Federation of Small Businesses said because it was not truly representative of real small businesses in the United Kingdom. That seemed to be the mood of Conservative Back Benchers and I began to suspect that those on the Government Front Bench were prepared to go along with it. I must make it clear that the Federation of Small Businesses stressed in its submission to all hon. Members: We repeat that it is not the job of an employer to check immigration status. It will lead to increased race discrimination against minority members of the community. Indeed, should the proposal get on to the Statute Book we believe it will be unworkable. The Federation of Small Businesses says that there will be difficulties with race relations if clause 8 is introduced.

Amendment No. 51 seeks to limit the extent of clause 8. When the question of disability was before the House, the Minister responding on behalf of the Department for Education and Employment said, interestingly, in comparison with the views expressed in Committee by Home Office Ministers and their team: the Federation of Small Businesses speaks specifically on behalf of small businesses."—[Official Report, 27 March 1995; Vol. 257, c. 729.] I want to move away from the impact on race relations to the practicalities, because the same Minister said, in relation to the Disability Discrimination Act 1995: The principle of exempting small business from various pieces of legislation is well established… we want it recognised that small firms are subject to many constraints, not least that they cannot be expected to have the personnel resources—the range of abilities, knowledge, competence and time—to allow them to concern themselves with the minutiae of legislation. He had obviously started to think about the 40 documents that might be before him in future. He continued: That is why Governments of all persuasions have set out to protect small businesses where it has been feasible, and why we maintain the view that businesses with fewer than 20 employees should be exempted from the legislation. That is not because we want them to discriminate—we hope that they will not—but want to relieve them from the burden of complying".—[Official Report, Standing Committee E, 14 February 1995; c. 246–48.] Other comments have been made, one of which was: We all want Britain to be a successful trading nation, producing high quality goods, achieving high productivity and rewarding its people with higher living standards. But you do not get these by pushing up your social costs and burdening your labour market with bureaucratic and inflexible rules, regulations and practices. I wonder whether hon. Members would care to guess whose words those were. The Trades Union Congress? Small businesses? Ministers for Education and Employment? No, that was the Home Secretary, when addressing the Isle of Wight Conservative Association on 16 July 1993. We have heard much recently about saying one thing and doing another. That seems to me to be a classic case of just that.

My point is that, in relation to the Disability Discrimination Act, the Minister recognised that there were differences between the way in which small and large companies deal with regulations. We all know that a larger company that has a resource personnel department can cope with the minutiae of legislation. I do not argue in clause 8 that companies should have to police the documents, because the race relations aspects are damaging, and even if they were able to do so, I am not sure that it would identify anyone who should not be working there.

Let us suppose that we give the Government the benefit of the doubt and that there might be a case for larger companies to do that. On disability, the Government said that a different situation should apply for small businesses because they face other difficulties. I do not ask for a limit of 20. I think that it could be 10. If the Government wish to look at a different limit, I am certainly prepared to give it further consideration. The principle should be that small companies cannot deal with legislation in the same way as large companies. The Government cannot say that that is the case in relation to disability and then deny that it is the case in relation to employers' checks on the legality of employment.

If the Government insist that there is a case for retaining clause 8—I do not believe that there is—they should recognise the weight of evidence given to them by employers' organisations, especially those representing small businesses. They should have the decency to acknowledge that there is a case for exemption. If the wording of the amendment is defective, or if the Government would prefer a figure other than 10, I do not think that we would go to the wall on that. If the Minister has anything like an open mind, the evidence should convince him.

9.15 pm
Mr. Keith Hill

Opposition Members consider that the Bill will have two significant effects on employers. A responsible employer who takes the Bill seriously will experience a major escalation in costs, because he will feel obliged to engage in lengthy and detailed scrutiny of up to 40 separate documents in many different languages. The initial cost to industry as a whole of implementing the clause has been estimated at some £30 million, and on-going annual costs have been estimated at £11 million. In Committee, many of us expressed scepticism about those figures, suspecting them to be a considerable understatement. No doubt other hon. Members will echo my view that the burden of the additional costs will fall most heavily on small businesses. As my hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle upon Tyne, North (Mr. Henderson) pointed out, that is why the Federation of Small Businesses is so adamantly opposed to the measure.

The less responsible employer will short-circuit the legislation, deciding that he or she does not want to go through the difficult and time-consuming procedure of checking out the documentation. Such employers will opt for the white applicant with the Anglo-Saxon surname. That is why virtually every organisation—including the Commission for Racial Equality and the Confederation of British Industry, which responded to the Government's consultation on illegal working—has expressed considerable misgivings about the implications for race relations.

The irony is that the proposals will have the least impact on the unscrupulous employer—the employer who operates at the margins, in the sweatshops of the rag trade and the catering industry. We can make an educated and reasonable guess that the majority of illegal immigrants will be found in those marginal industries. Why should such an employer comply with the legislation? He will have no incentive to do so: the savings to be made through low pay and non-payment of social security money and tax are more than likely to compensate for the remote possibility of a fine.

What is the risk of such unscrupulous employers' being caught out? Practically nil. As has been pointed out today, in 1994 the number of prosecutions for illegal working under section 24 of the Immigration Act 1971 amounted to a grand total of just a dozen. The legislation simply is not enforced.

I gather that 274 immigration staff around the country are concerned with illegal working. If all that they can come up with is 12 prosecutions in the year, they must be the least efficient and most unproductive staff of any Government Department.

Mr. Gerrard

Will my hon. Friend confirm that when that was discussed in Committee, it became apparent that most cases of illegal working are identified not because of checks on work but because people come to light through other immigration checks and it is then discovered, by chance, that they are working? The Minister suggested that nothing much would change in that respect. The employers in the sweatshops—the exploiters—are among those most likely to be able to continue as at present.

Mr. Hill

My hon. Friend has a wonderfully accurate recollection of the Committee and anticipates my argument. He refers to the figure of 10,000 illegal workers that was bandied across the Committee during our lengthy proceedings. However, there is no evidence that any of those 10,000 illegal workers have ever been followed to their places of employment or that any prosecution or form of action has been taken against them.

I assume that the 274 immigration staff with some responsibility for illegal working have a good many other responsibilities in respect of immigration. The only guarantee of a threat to the unscrupulous employers I mentioned, who are likely to be the primary employers of illegal immigrant labour, would be if extra resources, extra staff and extra manpower were put into prosecutions of those cases. There is nothing on that in the Bill. We have heard nothing from Ministers to suggest that there will be any extra resources devoted to the enforcement of the legislation. The truth is that there will be no enforcement. If there is any intention to enforce it, I invite the Minister to tell us now. I will gladly give way to him if there is any evidence of enforcement. The Minister is mute on the subject, as he was in Standing Committee.

The proposals will have no effect on catching out illegal immigrant workers or their employers. They will increase the costs significantly of responsible companies that implement the legislation, especially small businesses.

Ms Diane Abbott (Hackney, North and Stoke Newington)

My hon. Friend noted that the Minister is mute on enforcement. He will remember that the Minister moved clause 8 in Committee in two minutes flat. Did not that reflect his embarrassment about this shoddy and unworkable Bill?

Mr. Hill

As ever, I concur 100 per cent. with the views of my hon. Friend and her castigation of the Minister.

Mr. Kirkhope

It is true that I introduced that clause in a comparatively short time—a succinct, quality delivery. When I wound up—in, I think, the absence of the hon. Member for Hackney, North and Stoke Newington (Ms Abbott)—I was criticised by several members of the Committee for speaking for too long. When I get the chance, I shall reply in a measured way though not, as I look at the clock, too lengthily, I trust.

Mr. Hill

I hope that the most measured aspect of the Minister's response will be to deal with the most fundamental and damning aspect of the critique of the proposals—that their most lasting and general effect will be to worsen existing discrimination against black and Asian citizens of this country. That is the accusation to which he must try to respond.

Mr. Chris Davies (Littleborough and Saddleworth)

I support amendment No. 51. Although it will have some palliative effect on clause 8, the substance of the clause remains deeply objectionable. When it was first proposed there was an outcry, which shows no sign of diminishing now.

I have three points to make. Reading the Hansard account of Standing Committee D, I noted that in column 451 the Minister described clause 8 as creating a new offence, saying an "employer will be guilty" and liable to a fine of £5,000, if "he employs an immigrant" who does not have the valid right to be here.

My first point is that the word immigrant is deeply emotive and tends to be applied exclusively by the public at large to those citizens who have dark skins. The fact that we can look at statistics and point to Australians, Canadians and the like who are truly immigrants makes no difference, nor does the fact that the people with dark skins may be as British as anyone in this Chamber—all too often that is the popular perception.

Let us consider the example of two Oldhamers, both born in the Royal Oldham hospital, who went to the same school and apply for the same job. If the Bill is enacted, one may be asked by the prospective employer to produce a passport while the other will not.

I have had all the benefits of a white, middle-class education and the privileges that go with it in this society. That has not divorced me so much from reality that I am unable to put myself in the position of one of my constituents who has a dark skin, or unable to share the anger, humiliation and sense that, by being required to produce documentation that someone with white skin is not required to produce, I am being betrayed and made to feel a second-class British citizen. That is why the proposal is deeply racist.

The second point is the effect that the clause will have on the employment prospects of those in our ethnic minority groupings. I shall again refer to Oldham by way of illustration. As a borough, Oldham's economic activity is holding its own. Employment levels are more or less in line with the national average. There are, however, deep contrasts within the borough. In the Saddleworth ward in which I live, unemployment is only about 4 per cent. In many inner Oldham wards, it is 20 per cent. and in the wards with the highest ethnic minority groupings, it is 30 per cent. and more. There is no lack of competition in the area for jobs. Within a 30 minute travel-to-work distance of the centre there are potentially 750,000 people able to look for work.

Before the debate, I rang a friend who employs a number of people on a part-time basis to do contract cleaning work on various short-term projects. The employees come and go. He provides a short service, recruits rapidly and there is a high turnover. People do not expect to work for his company for long. That is not how it works. I believe that he does not have a racist bone in his body. I asked him to explain what documentation the employees he took on for a couple of hours a week would be required to give him. He said that they would probably not reach the tax or national insurance thresholds and so they would not require any documentation. I asked him to let me be devil's advocate, saying, "If this clause goes through, will it really make a difference to how you approach the employment potential of some applicants?" He snapped straight back, "Of course it will. If two people of equal ability come to me, why should I go to more trouble to prove to myself that I am not incurring the risk of a £5,000 fine by employing one rather than the other?" He said that he had enough hassles trying to run his small business, keep his head above water and keep the clients serviced without that extra difficulty and without taking that risk.

This clause will mean worse employment prospects for the Asian community in Oldham and for black people throughout the country. I believe that the Government are playing the race card by proposing clause 8, and they are appealing to the white, Conservative-minded vote that they think exists in this country. If that is the motivation of the Government, it is a disgrace—it is a despicable means of proceeding. This proposal will not work because most people in Britain, and in Oldham, are fair minded—they do not like injustice; they like fair play—and this clause is blatantly unfair. I hope that the Government experience a backlash from decent, fair-minded people as a result of this proposal. The Government will certainly get a backlash from some of the people to whom they normally look for support—small business people.

9.30 pm

Thirdly, the Government are supposed to be lifting the burdens on small businesses in this country—what a joke. How do they call imposing a potential fine of £5,000 on these people—and making them go through hoops to ensure that they do not have to take that risk—lifting the burdens? Nothing could be further from the truth. If it were simply a matter that employers had to be satisfied that their prospective employees could produce a national insurance number, that might not be too bad, but that is not the case. It is well known that national insurance numbers are 10 a penny on the black market if people wish to play the system.

There are those who seek to work illegally and who have a national insurance number, but there are others who have the right to work but who do not have a national insurance number—for example, residents of the European economic area and citizens of Iceland. There are some local benefit agencies that do not give national insurance numbers to young people until they have a job. There is the potential for a vicious circle—a person with black skin who goes along for a job interview is asked to produce his national insurance number, but because he does not have a job he does not have a national insurance number. It is a vicious circle most likely to be detrimental to that person's employment prospects if his skin is black because the chances are that if his skin is white the employer will not ask for that sort of certification.

In Committee, the hon. Member for Hackney, North and Stoke Newington (Ms Abbott) said that 43 documents are acceptable as evidence of a person's status and fitness to work in this country, including a Liechtenstein passport and a Belgian identity card. How is an employer supposed to know what is a valid piece of documentation?

This is a squalid clause, and it is deeply offensive. The amendment goes a small way to lessening some of the burdens that it will place on business, and I support it.

Mr. Piara S. Khabra (Ealing, Southall)

I endorse what has been said by my hon. Friends. I speak with great credibility on behalf of Asian business because my constituency has a large number of people who are business men and run small and medium-sized businesses. They employ people and they contribute to the economy of this country. They are very concerned about the implications of this clause—a clause that, in my opinion, is despicable and affects their ability to carry out the requirements of the law and that will affect their businesses.

Clause 8 makes it a criminal offence to employ someone over the age of 16 who does not have an immigration entitlement to work in the United Kingdom. As has been said, the offence carries a punishment of a fine of up to £5,000. That will affect the ability of my constituents and the constituents of all hon. Members who run small businesses. Clause 8 empowers the Home Secretary arbitrarily to add categories of people who are not currently specially prohibited from working—such as people who entered legally but who have overstayed their permitted leave, or people who have appealed against a decision to refuse them further leave to remain—and it would be an offence for an employer to employ them.

An employer accused of employing an illegal immigrant has a possible line of defence if he can prove that he did not believe that he would be committing an offence by employing that person because he had seen a document specified in an order issued by the Secretary of State. The clause imposes a significant new duty on employers, the neglect of which will result in their incurring criminal penalties.

The proposals assign to employers an immigration control function. I do not believe that that is right. Employers are being required to identify people who have entered illegally or overstayed or who are here lawfully, but are not entitled to do work of the sort offered. Those are policing functions that should be rightly and properly carried out by the immigration and nationality department, not employers. IND staff are specially trained to carry out those functions and are publicly accountable for the performance of their duties. Individual employers, whether they be large or small, will not be accountable for their performance of a public control function. I hope that the Minister will take note of that point, which is also a matter of public concern. In a recent survey, only 10 per cent. of respondents felt that employers should be responsible for immigration control.

Currently, under present law—the Immigration Act 1971 and subsequent Acts—employers may be prosecuted if they knowingly commit offences such as harbouring a person whom they know or believe is not entitled to work in the United Kingdom because of his or her immigration status. Employers may also be prosecuted if they aid or abet a person committing an immigration offence. A provision ensures that legal action can be taken against such people. Those are the intentional acts that directly inhibit effective immigration control.

The proposals contained in clause 8 would make it a criminal offence unknowingly to enter into a contractual relationship with people who, because of their immigration status, are not entitled to work in the UK. In other circumstances, a person does not commit a criminal offence if he or she fails to carry out checks on a person's bona fides before entering into a business relationship or if he or she fails to act to prevent another person from committing or continuing to commit an offence.

The proposals must be understood alongside other provisions in the Bill. They increase police powers, which concerns me. The police whom I know would not like to be given the powers, and the Home Secretary should take note of that. The increased powers of the police to arrest and to enter premises to search for suspects or to collect evidence, which are contained in clause 7, are likely to affect employers and the employment position of ethnic and national minorities. That power gives employers an added incentive to avoid recruiting anyone whose presence would give rise to police suspicion, and employers will be made unnecessarily fearful.

I am also worried about the impact of proposed powers to search for suspects or evidence, which might be used by the police to justify entering the premises of ethnic minority employers, which they already do when immigration officers enter premises and police officers accompany them. There have been circumstances that have caused much concern in the community and the press has reported certain things that might well be perceived as, or constitute, police harassment of ethnic minority communities. The possible implications for community and race relations are self-evident.

The proposals will therefore effectively encourage employers to work on a presumption that all prospective employees who are immigrants are illegal unless they demonstrate otherwise.

The compliance cost assessment, as has been said, puts the total non-recurrent cost of the proposals at more than £13.5 million, which is an enormous burden on business.

I do not condone illegal working. However, having given careful consideration to clause 8, the consultation document and the compliance cost assessment, I am of the view that the Government's proposal to prevent illegal working will not meet their stated objectives in introducing the proposal and, contrary to their express intentions, if implemented as proposed will lead to acts of racial discrimination, reduce equality of opportunity and damage race relations between persons of different groups.

The House should throw out clause 8 because it will damage the interests of business.

Ms Abbott

It is hard to improve on the eloquence of my hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, Southall (Mr. Khabra), but in the few minutes remaining I want to make it clear that Opposition Members oppose clause 8 in its entirety and say why we aim to ameliorate it by the amendment moved by my hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle upon Tyne, North (Mr. Henderson).

This is a proposal about race, and nowhere is the Bill's racist subtext more explicit than in clause 8, which will affect refugees and asylum seekers and has the potential to affect every British citizen who happens to have a black or brown skin or a foreign name.

There is deep hypocrisy at the heart of clause 8. Throughout the Committee stage, Ministers told the Committee that they incorporated the clause in the Bill because of their deep concern about illegal working. Time after time, we hear about their concern about illegal working, and many Conservative Members have wrung their hands and spoken about illegal workers taking jobs from British citizens.

What is the underlying cause of the employment of illegal immigrants? Do we imagine that employers employ illegal immigrants because they are humanitarians or internationalists? The underlying cause is the search for cheap labour. It ill behoves a Conservative Government whose Conservative predecessors, during the 1980s, did more to force down wages than any Government since the war, to weep crocodile tears about illegal workers.

The source of the market for the labour of illegal immigrants is the labour market policies of the Government.

Miss Widdecombe


Ms Abbott

It is the source of the market for the labour of illegal immigrants because the Government's labour market policies are designed to force down wages and encourage casual and part-time working. That is the deep hypocrisy at the heart of the clause. The most damaging aspect of the clause is the effect that it will have on the employment prospects of black or brown Britons. Conservative Members have not given serious consideration to the effect of the clause on the employment prospects of those people. Yet, as we speak, the unemployment rate in London for black males between the ages of 18 and 24 is 60 per cent. That is the official figure: the actual figure is probably much higher.

Mr. Jacques Arnold (Gravesham)

Will the hon. Lady give way? She asked for it.

Ms Abbott

Not from you, sweetheart.

No Conservative Member has seriously addressed the issue of black unemployment. However, as Members of Parliament, we must be aware of the serious social consequences of youth unemployment. I accuse Conservative Members of hypocrisy: how dare they say that they are concerned about the breakdown of the family, crime and social dislocation, when in clause 8 they are enshrining in law measures that will make it even harder for black or brown British citizens to obtain jobs?

9.45 pm

As my hon. Friends have explained, employers will be faced with the prospect of having to shuffle through documentation in order to recognise any one of 43 documents or fall prey to a fine of £5,000. When faced with two potential employees who are equally well qualified, one of whom has a black or brown skin and a foreign name and one of whom is white and clearly British, which of them will even the most decent and honest employer choose?

The most damaging charge levelled against the clause is the very serious effect that it will have on the employment prospects of black or brown Britons. In amendment No. 51, we are attempting to ameliorate the effect of the clause on small business. It was revealed in Committee that 95 per cent. of businesses employ 20 or fewer people. Major employers such as Marks and Spencer may be able to introduce procedures that will not discriminate between employees. However, small employers will have to discriminate on the basis of skin colour, accent or name, or face the prospect of being burdened with excessive expenditure, paperwork and worry.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Southall has said, the clause will impact heavily on Asian business people who, under clause 7, are liable to an increased risk of fishing raids by police searching for illegal immigrants. Under this clause, they may fall foul of the law by employing people in good faith.

The Labour party believes that this is a racist Bill, but clause 8 is perhaps the most far-reaching clause and the most damaging to good race relations and to the employment prospects and life chances of black or brown Britons. Even at this late stage, we urge the House to reject this racist and unjust clause in a racist Bill.

Mr. Kirkhope

That was one of the silliest speeches that I have heard for a long time. It was a total waste of a valuable opportunity to discuss a very important clause. It is no wonder that the hon. Member for Hackney, North and Stoke Newington (Ms Abbott) would not take an intervention from my hon. Friend the Member for Gravesham (Mr. Arnold)

At the beginning of the debate we heard yet another rant from that well-known Labour ranter, the hon. Member for Newcastle upon Tyne, North (Mr. Henderson), who did not contribute anything to the debate. The Committee examined clause 8 and everything to do with it thoroughly; every area was explored fully. Yet on Report Labour Members have repeated the same tired rhetoric that we heard in Committee. That does not help anyone.

Mr. Henderson

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Kirkhope

I am sorry, but I will not. The question is who is and who is not in favour of the measure. The hon. Gentleman trotted out the names of people and their views, but I shall present some different views.

The Forum of Private Business conducted a survey of its members—[Interruption.] Opposition Members may laugh at organisations that represent the small businesses that are so vital to our economy. In response to that survey, 70 per cent. were in favour of penalising employers who employ illegal workers. This result indicates a substantial majority in favour of controls on the employment of illegal workers and suggests that this policy would have significant support among small business owners. That clear statement is not untypical of many other statements made by small businesses.

Mr. Henderson

Will the Minister give way?

Mr. Kirkhope


The amendment is clearly an attempt to wreck the clause. As everyone knows, 80 per cent. of British businesses have fewer than 10 employees. According to estimates, the approximate annual turnover of staff in such companies is a maximum of 25 per cent.—or two employees a year. The compliance cost assessment shows that the likely cost to an employer of being required to check the status of an employee would be about 39p.

Ms Abbott

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Is it in order for the Minister to produce entirely false statistics about cost compliance?

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Michael Morris)

I did not hear what the hon. Lady said. If she would address the Chair, I could answer her point of order.

Ms Abbott

Is it in order for the Minister to produce completely false statistics on cost compliance?

Mr. Deputy Speaker

There are statistics, statistics and all sorts of other figures.

Mr. Kirkhope

I have a copy of the compliance cost assessment of the Home Office of November 1995, which went into great detail, as the hon. Lady will have noted in Committee. It states that, in a typical case, the total cost of making such a check, using a photocopy, would be 39p.

The scare tactics of the Opposition are quite disgraceful. They well know that there is a problem. At least 10,000 illegal workers were detected in 1994—a dramatic increase on previous years. The Opposition talk about young people from ethnic minorities being out of work. We all know that those young people want to work. Those who are working here illegally are denying opportunities to the very people whom the Opposition claim to support.

The hypocrisy lies with the Opposition and not with the Government. Nothing could have emphasised that more than the disgraceful speeches that we have just heard. Allegations were made against the Government that everybody knows are totally wrong and inaccurate.

Mr. Jacques Arnold

Is my hon. Friend aware that the clause is extremely welcome in my Sikh community in Gravesend? For far too many years, my law-abiding Sikh constituents who work in the construction trade and in market gardening have been fed up with their wage rates being undercut by illegal immigrants.

Mr. Kirkhope

My hon. Friend has said it and it is true. The Opposition are not prepared to accept those facts.

I do not like the incredibly patronising attitude of the Labour party to small business men and women, who know how important it is to check the status of anyone whom they employ. That is why the Forum of Private Business and other small business organisations are not worried about the prospect of carrying out the checks that we propose.

Mr. Henderson

I am grateful to the Minister for giving way, although he has done so belatedly and with some reluctance. Does he accept that the Federation of Small Businesses is truly representative of the interests of small business in this country?

Mr. Kirkhope

I acknowledge that there are many small business organisations, but I do not accept that one organisation alone is representative of all small businesses. Eighty per cent. of UK businesses have fewer than 10 employees. Those businesses care about their standards and about their employees. To suggest that 42 documents will have to be inspected is unbelievable. The TUC listed 41 documents, not 42—so the Opposition cannot even count. Most of the documents on that so-called list are the passports of every European country. If arguments are exaggerated to that extent, it is not surprising if they begin to lack credibility. That is true of the arguments deployed by Labour Members.

The requests made of employers are perfectly reasonable. The majority of firms, particularly small businesses, already make such checks because they know that the quality of their employees matters to their business. I am sorry that an attempt has been made to wreck the clause with this misplaced amendment. It will not succeed, because I am not prepared to ask the House to support such nonsense. I am disappointed that the opportunity to debate the issue has been used and abused by the Labour and Liberal Democrat parties.

We believe in good business and in preventing illegal working that takes jobs from people who are legally entitled to them. To believe otherwise cannot be good for people who do not have jobs, or for the country's economy.

Mr. Henderson

The Government have been smoked out over a lot of issues in the past four years. This evening, they have been smoked out over their real motives for not only clause 8 but the Bill. I will not accuse them of incompetence in this instance because they know what will be the impact of the clause and the Bill. They know that clause 8 will have no impact on identifying illegal workers and that it will only burden employers with unnecessary paperwork. They know that the measure has no support among small businesses.

The Minister cited a survey by the Forum of Private Business, but we were not told of the sample size. It is a strange day for the Conservative party when it will not listen to the Federation of Small Businesses, which has 3 million members.

Mrs. Barbara Roche (Hornsey and Wood Green)

Does my hon. Friend agree that the Government's stance shows how out of touch they are with small businesses? They are more concerned with excusing late payment. They want to impose more regulations, burden and compliance costs on small businesses.

Mr. Henderson

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for reiterating that important point. If she had had more time, or had caught Madam Speaker's eye today, she would probably have said that the Government do not care about the measure's impact on community and race relations, which is the most damning feature of the Bill and of clause 8 in particular. Representations have been made by a wide spectrum of interests—Churches, small business organisations, the TUC, Amnesty International and even the CBE. They all hold different views on how workable the proposals are, but all agree that they have damaging implications for race and community relations.

Ninety-four per cent. of businesses in this country employ fewer than 10 people. If the Government care about small businesses or about the people whom they employ and the communities that they serve, they will accept the amendment.

Question put, That the amendment be made:—

The House divided: Ayes 258, Noes 284.

Division No. 59] [9.59 pm
Abbott, Ms Diane Bradley, Keith
Adams, Mrs Irene Bray, Dr Jeremy
Ainger, Nick Brown, N (N'c'tle upon Tyne E)
Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE) Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon)
Allen, Graham Burden, Richard
Alton, David Byers, Stephen
Anderson, Donald (Swansea E) Caborn, Richard
Anderson, Ms Janet (Ros'dale) Callaghan, Jim
Armstrong, Hilary Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge)
Ashdown, Rt Hon Paddy Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE)
Ashton, Joe Campbell-Savours, D N
Austin-Walker, John Cann, Jamie
Banks, Tony (Newham NW) Carlile, Alexander (Montgomery)
Barnes, Harry Chidgey, David
Barren, Kevin Chisholm, Malcolm
Battle, John Church, Judith
Beckett, Rt Hon Margaret Clapham, Michael
Beith, Rt Hon A J Clarke, Eric (Midlothian)
Bell, Stuart Clarke, Tom (Monklands W)
Benn, Rt Hon Tony Clelland, David
Bennett, Andrew F Clwyd, Mrs Ann
Bermingham, Gerald Coffey, Ann
Betts, Clive Cohen, Harry
Blunkett, David Connarty, Michael
Boateng, Paul Cook, Frank (Stockton N)
Corbett, Robin Jones, Barry (Alyn and Dside)
Corbyn, Jeremy Jones, Ieuan Wyn (Ynys Môn)
Corston, Jean Jones, Lynne (B'ham S O)
Cousins, Jim Jones, Martyn (Clwyd, SW)
Cox, Tom Jones, Nigel (Cheltenham)
Cummings, John Jowell, Tessa
Cunliffe, Lawrence Keen, Alan
Cunningham, Rt Hon Dr John Kennedy, Charles (Ross,C&S)
Cunningham, Roseanna Kennedy, Jane (L'pool Br'dg'n)
Dafis, Cynog Khabra, Piara S
Davies, Bryan (Oldham C'tral) Kilfoyle, Peter
Davies, Chris (L'Boro & S'worth) Kirkwood, Archy
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli) Lestor, Joan (Eccles)
Davies, Ron (Caerphilly) Liddell, Mrs Helen
Davis, Terry (B'ham, H'dge H'l) Litherland, Robert
Denham, John Livingstone, Ken
Dewar, Donald Lloyd, Tony (Stretford)
Dixon, Don Llwyd, Elfyn
Dobson, Frank Loyden, Eddie
Donohoe, Brian H Lynne, Ms Liz
Dowd, Jim McAllion, John
Eagle, Ms Angela McAvoy, Thomas
Eastham, Ken McCartney, Ian
Evans, John (St Helens N) McCrea, The Reverend William
Ewing, Mrs Margaret Macdonald, Calum
Fatchett, Derek McFall, John
Faulds, Andrew McKelvey, William
Field, Frank (Birkenhead) Mackinlay, Andrew
Fisher, Mark McMaster, Gordon
Flynn, Paul McNamara, Kevin
Foster, Rt Hon Derek MacShane, Denis
Foster, Don (Bath) McWilliam, John
Foulkes, George Madden, Max
Fyfe, Maria Maddock, Diana
Galbraith, Sam Mahon, Alice
Galloway, George Mandelson, Peter
Garrett, John Marek, Dr John
George, Bruce Marshall, David (Shettleston)
Gerrard, Neil Marshall, Jim (Leicester, S)
Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John Martin, Michael J (Springburn)
Godman, Dr Norman A Martlew, Eric
Godsiff, Roger Maxton, John
Golding, Mrs Llin Meacher, Michael
Gordon, Mildred Meale, Alan
Grant, Bernie (Tottenham) Michael, Alun
Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S) Michie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley)
Griffiths, Win (Bridgend) Michie, Mrs Ray (Argyll & Bute)
Grocott, Bruce Milburn, Alan
Gunnell, John Miller, Andrew
Hain, Peter Mitchell, Austin (Gt Grimsby)
Hall, Mike Moonie, Dr Lewis
Hanson, David Morgan, Rhodri
Hardy, Peter Morley, Elliot
Harman, Ms Harriet Morris, Rt Hon Alfred (Wy'nshawe)
Harvey, Nick Morris, Estelle (B'ham Yardley)
Henderson, Doug Mowlam, Marjorie
Heppell, John Mudie, George
Hill, Keith (Streatham) Mullin, Chris
Hinchliffe, David Murphy, Paul
Hodge, Margaret Nicholson, Emma (Devon West)
Hoey, Kate O'Brien, Mike (N W'kshire)
Hogg, Norman (Cumbernauld) O'Brien, William (Normanton)
Home Robertson, John Olner, Bill
Hoon, Geoffrey Orme, Rt Hon Stanley
Howarth, Alan (Strafrd-on-A) Parry, Robert
Howells, Dr Kim (Pontypridd) Pearson, Ian
Hoyle, Doug Pendry, Tom
Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N) Pickthall, Colin
Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N) Pike, Peter L
Hughes, Roy (Newport E) Pope, Greg
Hutton, John Powell, Ray (Ogmore)
Illsley, Eric Prentice, Bridget (Lew'm E)
Ingram, Adam Prentice, Gordon (Pendle)
Jackson, Glenda (H'stead) Prescott, Rt Hon John
Jackson, Helen (Shef'ld, H) Purchase, Ken
Johnston, Sir Russell Quin, Ms Joyce
Radice, Giles Strang, Dr. Gavin
Raynsford, Nick Straw, Jack
Reid, Dr John Sutcliffe, Gerry
Rendel, David Taylor, Matthew (Truro)
Robertson, George (Hamilton) Thompson, Jack (Wansbeck)
Robinson, Geoffrey (Co'try NW) Timms, Stephen
Roche, Mrs Barbara Tipping, Paddy
Rogers, Allan Touhig, Don
Rooker, Jeff Trickett, Jon
Rooney, Terry Turner, Dennis
Ross, Ernie (Dundee W) Tyler, Paul
Ruddock, Joan Vaz, Keith
Salmond, Alex Walker, Rt Hon Sir Harold
Sedgemore, Brian Wardell, Gareth (Gower)
Sheerman, Barry Watson, Mike
Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert Welsh, Andrew
Short, Clare Wicks, Malcolm
Simpson, Alan Wigley, Dafydd
Skinner, Dennis Williams, Rt Hon Alan (Sw'n W)
Smith, Andrew (Oxford E) Williams, Alan W. (Carmarthen)
Smith, Chris (Isl'ton S & F'sbury) Winnick, David
Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent) Wise, Audrey
Snape, Peter Worthington, Tony
Soley, Clive Wray, Jimmy
Spearing, Nigel Wright, Dr Tony
Spellar, John Young, David (Bolton SE)
Squire, Rachel (Dunfermline W)
Steinberg, Gerry Tellers for the Ayes:
Stevenson, George Mr. Jon Owen Jones and Mr. Joe Benton.
Stott, Roger
Ainsworth, Peter (East Surrey) Carrington, Matthew
Aitken, Rt Hon Jonathan Carttiss, Michael
Alexander, Richard Cash, William
Alison, Rt Hon Michael (Selby) Channon, Rt Hon Paul
Allason, Rupert (Torbay) Chapman, Sir Sydney
Amess, David Churchill, Mr
Arbuthnot, James Clappison, James
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham) Clark, Dr. Michael (Rochford)
Arnold, Sir Thomas (Hazel Grv) Clarke, Rt Hon Kenneth (Ru'clif)
Ashby, David Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey
Atkins, Rt Hon Robert Coe, Sebastian
Atkinson, David (Bour'mouth E) Colvin, Michael
Atkinson, Peter (Hexham) Congdon, David
Baker, Rt Hon Kenneth (Mole V) Conway, Derek
Baker, Nicholas (North Dorset) Coombs, Anthony (Wyre For'st)
Baldry, Tony Coombs, Simon (Swindon)
Banks, Matthew (Southport) Cope, Rt Hon Sir John
Banks, Robert (Harrogate) Cormack, Sir Patrick
Bates, Michael Couchman, James
Batiste, Spencer Cran, James
Beggs, Roy Currie, Mrs Edwina (S D'by'ire)
Bendall, Vivian Curry, David (Skipton & Ripon)
Beresford, Sir Paul Davies, Quentin (Stamford)
Biffen, Rt Hon John Davis, David (Boothferry)
Body, Sir Richard Day, Stephen
Booth, Hartley Deva, Nirj Joseph
Boswell, Tim Devlin, Tim
Bottomley, Peter (Eltham) Dorrell, Rt Hon Stephen
Bottomley, Rt Hon Virginia Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James
Bowden, Sir Andrew Dover, Den
Bowis, John Duncan, Alan
Boyson, Rt Hon Sir Rhodes Duncan-Smith, Iain
Brandreth, Gyles Dunn, Bob
Brazier, Julian Durant, Sir Anthony
Bright, Sir Graham Dykes, Hugh
Brooke, Rt Hon Peter Eggar, Rt Hon Tim
Browning, Mrs Angela Elletson, Harold
Budgen, Nicholas Emery, Rt Hon Sir Peter
Burns, Simon Evans, David (Welwyn Hatfield)
Burt, Alistair Evans, Jonathan (Brecon)
Butcher, John Evans, Nigel (Ribble Valley)
Butterfill, John Evans, Roger (Monmouth)
Carlisle, John (Luton North) Evennett, David
Carlisle, Sir Kenneth (Lincoln) Faber, David
Fabricant, Michael Lamont, Rt Hon Norman
Fenner, Dame Peggy Lawrence, Sir Ivan
Field, Barry (Isle of Wight) Legg, Barry
Fishburn, Dudley Leigh, Edward
Forman, Nigel Lennox-Boyd, Sir Mark
Forth, Eric Lidington, David
Fowler, Rt Hon Sir Norman Lilley, Rt Hon Peter
Fox, Dr Liam (Woodspring) Lloyd, Rt Hon Sir Peter (Fareham)
Fox, Rt Hon Sir Marcus (Shipley) Lord, Michael
Freeman, Rt Hon Roger Luff, Peter
French, Douglas MacKay, Andrew
Fry, Sir Peter Maclean, Rt Hon David
Gale, Roger McNair-Wilson, Sir Patrick
Gallie, Phil Madel, Sir David
Gardiner, Sir George Maitland, Lady Olga
Garnier, Edward Malone, Gerald
Gill, Christopher Mans, Keith
Gillan, Cheryl Marland, Paul
Goodlad, Rt Hon Alastair Marlow, Tony
Gorman, Mrs Teresa Marshall, John (Hendon S)
Gorst, Sir John Marshall, Sir Michael (Arundel)
Grant, Sir A (SW Cambs) Martin, David (Portsmouth S)
Greenway, Harry (Eating N) Mates, Michael
Greenway, John (Ryedale) Mawhinney, Rt Hon Dr Brian
Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth, N) Mayhew, Rt Hon Sir Patrick
Grylls, Sir Michael Mellor, Rt Hon David
Hague, Rt Hon William Merchant, Piers
Hamilton, Rt Hon Sir Archibald Mills, Iain
Hampson, Dr Keith Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling)
Hannam, Sir John Mitchell, Sir David (NW Hants)
Hargreaves, Andrew Moate, Sir Roger
Haselhurst, Sir Alan Monro, Rt Hon Sir Hector
Hawkins, Nick Needham, Rt Hon Richard
Hawksley, Warren Neubert, Sir Michael
Hayes, Jerry Nicholls, Patrick
Heald, Oliver Nicholson, David (Taunton)
Heath, Rt Hon Sir Edward Onslow, Rt Hon Sir Cranley
Heathcoat-Amory, Rt Hon David Oppenheim, Phillip
Hendry, Charles Ottaway, Richard
Heseltine, Rt Hon Michael Page, Richard
Hicks, Robert Paice, James
Higgins, Rt Hon Sir Terence Patnick, Sir Irvine
Hill, James (Southampton Test) Patten, Rt Hon John
Horam, John Pattie, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey
Hordern, Rt Hon Sir Peter Pawsey, James
Howard, Rt Hon Michael Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth
Howell, Sir Ralph (N Norfolk) Pickles, Eric
Hunt, Rt Hon David (Wirral W) Porter, Barry (Wirral S)
Hunt, Sir John (Ravensbourne) Porter, David (Waveney)
Hunter, Andrew Portillo, Rt Hon Michael
Hurd, Rt Hon Douglas Powell, William (Corby)
Jack, Michael Rathbone, Tim
Jackson, Robert (Wantage) Redwood, Rt Hon John
Jenkin, Bernard Renton, Rt Hon Tim
Jessel, Toby Richards, Rod
Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey Riddick, Graham
Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N) Robathan, Andrew
Jones, Robert B (W Hertfdshr) Roberts, Rt Hon Sir Wyn
Kellett-Bowman, Dame Elaine Robertson, Raymond (Ab'd'n S)
Key, Robert Robinson, Mark (Somerton)
King, Rt Hon Tom Roe, Mrs Marion (Broxbourne)
Kirkhope, Timothy Ross, William (E Londonderry)
Knapman, Roger Rowe, Andrew (Mid Kent)
Knight, Mrs Angela (Erewash) Rumbold, Rt Hon Dame Angela
Knight, Rt Hon Greg (Derby N) Sackville, Tom
Knight, Dame Jill (Bir'm E'st'n) Sainsbury, Rt Hon Sir Timothy
Knox, Sir David Scott, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas
Kynoch, George (Kincardine) Shaw, David (Dover)
Lait, Mrs Jacqui Shaw, Sir Giles (Pudsey)
Shephard, Rt Hon Gillian Thurnham, Peter
Shepherd, Sir Colin (Hereford) Townend, John (Bridlington)
Shepherd, Richard (Aldridge) Townsend, Cyril D (Bexl'yh'th)
Sims, Roger Tracey, Richard
Skeet, Sir Trevor Tredinnick, David
Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield) Trend, Michael
Soames, Nicholas Twinn, Dr Ian
Spencer, Sir Derek Vaughan, Sir Gerard
Spicer, Sir James (W Dorset) Viggers, Peter
Spicer, Sir Michael (S Worcs) Waldegrave, Rt Hon William
Spink, Dr Robert Walden, George
Spring, Richard Walker, Bill (N Tayside)
Sproat, Iain Waller, Gary
Squire, Robin (Hornchurch) Wardle, Charles (Bexhill)
Steen, Anthony Waterson, Nigel
Stephen, Michael Whitney, Ray
Stern, Michael Whittingdale, John
Stewart, Allan Widdecombe, Ann
Streeter, Gary Wiggin, Sir Jerry
Sweeney, Walter Wilkinson, John
Sykes, John Willetts, David
Tapsell, Sir Peter Winterton, Mrs Ann (Congleton)
Taylor, Ian (Esher) Winterton, Nicholas (Macc'f'ld)
Taylor, Rt Hon John D (Strgfd) Wolfson, Mark
Taylor, John M (Solihull) Wood, Timothy
Taylor, Sir Teddy (Southend, E) Yeo, Tim
Temple-Morris, Peter Young, Rt Hon Sir George
Thomason, Roy
Thompson, Sir Donald (C'er V) Tellers for the Noes:
Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N) Mr. Bowen Wells and Mr. Patrick McLoughlin.
Thornton, Sir Malcolm

Question accordingly negatived.

It being after Ten o'clock, further consideration of the Bill stood adjourned.

Bill to be further considered tomorrow.

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