§ Miss Widdecombe
To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many prosecutions there have been under section 8 of the Asylum and Immigration Act 1996 in(a) 2000 and (b) the period to April 2001; and if he will make a statement. 
§ Mrs. Roche
For the year 2000, provisional data from the Home Office Court Proceedings database show that for the first three quarters of the year there were eight cases.
Data are not yet available about the number of section 8 prosecutions in the first quarter of 2001. The latest provisional information is that there have been 18 prosecutions to date under section 8 of the 1996 Act.
We are aware of the problem caused by unscrupulous gangmasters, and by others who commit offences under this section. Operation Leighton is a recent example of our commitment to combat illegal working and the exploitation of vulnerable people. Conducted on the morning of 24 April, it resulted in the arrest of 18 people on suspicion of involvement in facilitation, production of false documents and organising labour and the arrest of a further 107 people on suspicion of entering the United Kingdom illegally, overstaying or working in breach of entry conditions. To date, 111 people have been removed. The arrests mark the outcome of a comprehensive investigation demonstrating the value of a multi-agency approach against highly sophisticated and organised criminal activity.