HC Deb 13 February 2004 vol 418 cc240-1W
Angela Eagle

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what steps his Department is taking to tackle illegal exploitation of migrant workers; and what steps his Department is taking to improve coordination with the Department of Work and Pensions on this issue. [154631]

Beverley Hughes

We are pursuing our policy of managed migration so that those who want to apply to come and work in the United Kingdom lawfully to meet the country's economic needs can do so on the basis of informed choice and with access to the rights and freedoms available to other workers. In combination, we are strengthening action against illegal working. The Asylum and Immigration (Treatment of Claimants) Bill, currently before Parliament, will create a new offence of trafficking for exploitation, including forced labour, with a maximum penalty of 14 years. We intend to strengthen the document checks employers are required to carry out under section 8 of the Asylum and Immigration Act 1996. We have been active tackling issues related to gangmasters and support the objectives set out in the Gangmasters (Licensing) Bill introduced by the hon. Member for West Renfrewshire (Jim Sheridan). We are increasing the number of illegal working operations generally and are targeting organised traffickers under the auspices of the Reflex taskforce.

The Immigration Service already has close working-level contacts with the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), and regularly carries out joint enforcement operations with officials from that Department. We have established a joint intelligence cell with the DWP National Identity Fraud Unit to facilitate closer co-ordination.