HL Deb 13 July 1965 vol 268 cc95-6

2.35 p.m.


My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

[The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether it is a fact that foreign couples are not allowed to work as domestic helps in this country if they have a child, even if the latter does not accompany them; and whether, given the present great scarcity of good domestic help and the consequent desirability in the national interest of encouraging it as much as possible, they will at least permit such couples to work here, provided prima facie evidence is supplied, by a reputable agency or otherwise, that satisfactory arrangements have been made to maintain such a child or children in the couple's country of origin.]


My Lords, permits are not issued for foreign married couples to be employed in domestic work if they have a dependent child even if the child does not accompany them. This rule was introduced as a result of the difficulties of obtaining fresh employment and accommodation which arose when, not infrequently, the employment terminated for one reason or another. The rule has been reviewed on a number of occasions since its inception over ten years ago and we do not propose to make any changes. Past experience has shown that, despite assurances to the contrary, arrangements made for the care of such children in the country of origin frequently broke down and requests were made for the child to join the parents.


My Lords, I quite see that there is a case, indeed a strong case, for refusing to allow foreign couples seeking domestic employment here to come in accompanied by a child, but I really cannot see—


Ask a question.


I beg your Lordships' pardon. Would the Government say what is their real reason for preventing these couples from coming in if they have a child at home—I repeat, their real reason? Is it the attitude of the Government that this is simply altruism on their part and concern for the welfare of these couples and a desire not to break up their families? If not, why should it not be left to the discretion of the couples whether they leave their child at home; for a period during which they would probably get enough money to provide for its education?


It is for a variety of reasons, but obviously this has some relevance to the very vexed and serious question of immigration; apart from which, it has been found from actual experience that many difficulties arise. The fact that this restriction was first imposed in 1953 indicates that even at that time there were difficulties. Since then consciousness of the difficulties has grown in the light of experience. May I add, further, that even if the employer accepted responsibility for keeping the child in the country of origin, it would hardly be feasible in practice to compel the couple to leave this country if the employment terminated. Fresh employment would be difficult to find because of the presence of the child, and even if it were found it would be extremely difficult to obtain similar assurances from another employer. That is but one aspect. One could develop this matter at greater length. I assure the noble Lord again that, in fact, it is not for any inhumane reason, but out of very dire experience, that it has been decided, in the best interests of all concerned, that this restriction should continue.


My Lords, may I ask the noble Lord whether it has any connection with the fact that, under the new Finance Bill, tax is levied on the employer's contribution for domestic help?


My Lords, I should not think so.

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