HL Deb 26 October 1993 vol 549 cc765-7

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

What new measures they are proposing in order to prevent abuse and exploitation of domestic workers from overseas in the light of the case of Miss Cindy Dindial as reported in The Times of 28th September 1993.

The Minister of State, Home Office (Earl Ferrers)

My Lords, in May 1991 we introduced tighter controls on the arrangements whereby in certain circumstances domestic servants from abroad may accompany their employer to the United Kingdom. These arrangements are kept under review but there are no plans at present to introduce further measures.

Lord Hylton

My Lords, I thank the noble Earl for his reply. Is it not the case that measures so far have been ineffective in preventing abuse? Will the Government come forward with something that will stop imported domestic servants working 19 hours a day, seven days a week, for £50 a month, and in addition being terrorised by their employers and, in this particular case, beaten with rolling pins?

Earl Ferrers

My Lords, I do not believe that the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, is right to say that the measures are ineffective. Some 8,000 people accompany their employers for a visit, and about 500 per year come for a longer stay. Of course the case to which the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, referred is appalling but so are all cases in which people break the law.

Lord Archer of Sandwell

My Lords, is the noble Earl aware that this case is only the tip of the iceberg and that girls in that position need a counselling service? Is he aware of the case of Elsie Cabasan who, when she escaped, was arrested, detained in police cells for five days and then sent to a detention centre? If we allow human beings to come into this country as part of the personal luggage of wealthy visitors, have we no obligations to them?

Earl Ferrers

My Lords, I would not go along with the description which the noble Lord, Lord Archer, has just given about those who accompany their employers. As a concession, and outside the immigration rules, people who come to this country may bring their employees with them. However, they may only do so provided the employee has been in their employ for a year if they are coming for a visit or for two years if they are coming for a longer employment. Employees ought to know what their employers are like. Before they come here the entry clearance officer interviews them, gives them a leaflet showing them exactly what their rights are and gives the employer the same rights. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Archer, that it is intolerable if people come to this country and misbehave in the way mentioned by the noble Lord and by the noble Lord, Lord Hylton.

Baroness Seear

My Lords, does the noble Earl not agree that the simplest way to help these unfortunate women would be to allow them, in approved circumstances, to change their employer? They are held in what amounts to near slavery because they have no opportunity to leave their employer without being deported as an illegal immigrant.

Earl Ferrers

My Lords, on the face of it that sounds an attractive suggestion. However, people would then come into this country in the guise of working for one employer and, having got here, would then change their circumstances and work for another employer. That would be a gross breach of the immigration rules and our procedures.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

My Lords, perhaps I may reinforce what the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, said. Experience of working for an employer in another country where it is possible to change employers is not necessarily good experience of working for that employer in a country where it is not possible to change employers. Since the Minister said that it would be a breach of the immigration rules for these people to change employers, should they not have work permits so that they can change employers within the confines of the immigration rules?

Earl Ferrers

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, said that there is a difference between coming to this country where one cannot change employers and working in a country where one can. Nobody has to come with their employer. It is the free choice of the person concerned. I do not agree with the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, that such people should be given work permits. Work permits are not given for this type of employment. It is an exception outside the rules.

Lord Marsh

My Lords, should we not draw some comfort from the fact that this lady came to this country with her employers, was disgracefully treated and suffered assault, the case was tried in the British courts and the perpetrators of the assaults went to gaol, as should happen with anybody else who is treated in that way?

Earl Ferrers

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Marsh, has put his finger right on the point, as usual. He is absolutely right. A criminal act was occasioned. The people were found, they were brought to book and they went to gaol. However, one cannot prevent people from misbehaving.

Lord Bonham-Carter

My Lords, is not the heart of the matter that the immigration laws are totally inadequate to deal with the situation of these people?

Earl Ferrers

My Lords, no, of course it is not.

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