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Mr. Bone: The hon. Gentleman advances a good argument. Does he agree that some of the most skilled people who have been leaving Romania and Bulgaria and coming to this country have done so to the detriment of those economies? That slightly concerns me.
Mr. Henderson: I understand the hon. Gentleman's point. I would not deny that in the short term. However, there is the relationship between Ireland and the United States. It could be said that 15 or 20 years ago the immigration of skilled technicians in the IT industry and in other industries to the United States denuded the Irish economy of key workers. Once those people have enjoyed some life in the United States and perhaps picked up other skills, many of their skills have returned to Ireland. For example, some of my wife's family have returned from making their money, so to speak, in the United States. They have come back to Ireland, where they continue to run businesses and so on. The same has happened to some extent already in Poland. Some people have returned to Poland who perhaps have been within the EU for some while. An optimistic prospect is that the same will happen in Romania and Bulgaria.
I do not want to pretend that it is all easyall sun and light. It is not. Problems arise from international migration. The main benefit is the countering of wage inflation in the developed world. In our case, we should spend more resources on raising the levels of education of those immigrants who come to our nation. They do not all have the skilled to which I have been referring. Some lack skills, and they need to be skilled by us. They need to learn more about our way of life.
It is impossible ever to prevent people who move from one part of the world to another from staying in close proximity to the people and the culture that they know,
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and to the friends that they have. People will do that. The Scots, the Geordies and the Irish do that wherever they go in the world, and so will people from Romania, Bulgaria and elsewhere. However, it is vital that they begin to understand the way of life in this country. That is not the way of life that might have been stereotyped in the 1950s. There is a different way of life in Britain in the first decade of the 21st century. People who come to our country have to learn that way of life and help to contribute to change that way of life by the next decade.
I strongly support the Bill. I anticipate that the Government will be able to accommodate the general points made by the hon. Member for Altrincham and Sale, West. We all want to know what is happening and we all need a statistical basis. Please let us interpret clause 2 in a generous and enlightened way. I am sure that my hon. Friend the Minister will tell us that he intends to do so when he replies.
Mr. Bone: I agree with much of what the hon. Gentleman said. I hope that all Members will be concerned about one part of the free movement of labour, and that is the dreadful problem of human trafficking, particularly of young women for the sex trade. I am concerned that there is nothing in the Bill that deals with that issue. I am worried that free movement will make it easier for the degenerates who bring young women into this country for the sex trade.
Nia Griffith (Llanelli) (Lab): The Bill sets out the necessary legislation for the freedom of movement of workers from Romania and Bulgaria. Hand in hand with the Bill, we need to examine carefully what happens when migrant workers come to this country from new EU member states. Many of these workers are enticed here by promises of terms and conditions that sound better in theory than they do in reality. We need particularly to tighten up on the use of zero-hours contracts by agencies, which mean that workers who come here to take up full-time posts can find that sometimes they have so few hours of work in a week that they do not earn enough in that week to pay their rent. We need to improve agency regulation to eliminate sharp practices and ensure a level playing field between agencies that abide by the rules and those who ruthlessly exploit workers. We need to ensure that the increasing use of migrant labour does not undercut our workers and depress wage levels.
We also need a better transfer of information between all EU member states about dangerous offenders to avoid a repeat of a dreadful incident in which a nasty sexual attack was carried out by a man who had come from eastern Europe to work in my locality. Only afterwards did it became clear that he was a known offender with a previous conviction for rape in his own country. I was horrified to discover from the local chief inspector of police that there is no transfer of information about sex offenders from original or from new EU countries. We must develop a proper unified system of notification of such offenders across the whole of the EU to reassure and protect local people.
I am in favour of migration in general. My constituency might have more migrants from the 10 countries that acceded last year than any other. We have a vibrant Polish community and we are home to the excellent Polish cultural centre.
Both parts of the amendment are extremely sensible. The first part would ensure that an assessment takes place no later than four months before the accession. That is not fundamentally different from what happened last year, when the Home Office announced the worker registration scheme on 23 February 2004, in advance of accession. In other words, an assessment was, rightly, made at that time, and the rules were changed slightly. It would be sensible to make an assessment four months in advance to judge what the effects are likely to be based on how the previous accession has gone, and so on.
The second part of the amendment would ensure proper parliamentary scrutiny of the system. That does not mean that we should review the two countries' membership of the European Union but that we should review worker registration from those two countries over a period of seven years. That is an eminently sensible provision. If we are to have the worker registration scheme, it is sensible to use the data that arise from it to see whether it is working properly. Last year, the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, the hon. Member for Slough (Fiona Mactaggart), said:
"The purpose of the scheme is to allow us to track properly our commitment. It will give good information to the authorities and the Home Office about how, in practice, the right to work of people from accession countries is operating."
"We have a good pattern of what is happening, and if, against all expectations, there were adverse impacts on our labour marketslet me reiterate that we do not expect thatwe could act immediately to re-impose restrictions.[Official Report, 2 March 2004; Vol. 418, c. 876.]
I do not say that because I believe that a flood of people will come in from Bulgaria and Romania. I think that a healthy number of people will come to this country bringing very useful skills. However, it would set a good precedent to do this now for the purposes of future EU accession. If, say, Turkey or Russia become EU accession countries, there may be genuine concerns about a very large number of people coming into this country and distorting our labour market. It would be useful to have a precedent in place to ensure that Parliament assesses the likely impact of the accession four months beforehand and then monitors the actual impact every six months for seven years. It is better to set that in stone in 2005 rather than some point in the future when large countries may join the EU.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Andy Burnham):
I thank colleagues from all parties who have made helpful and welcome comments about clause 2. It is encouraging that there is
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such broadly-based support for the measures that we want to introduce. I shall deal with the detail of the amendment and make some general points about the clause.
Let me briefly comment on the contribution of my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Riverside (Mrs. Ellman) on clause 1. She made a powerful speech, the force of which will carry further than the House and especially to anyone who is watching our proceedings. As a dedicated Everton supporter, I emphasise that rivalries are put aside in such cases. She knows that the solidarity between football supporters in our city runs deep and our thoughts are with her. She will have the solidarity of football supporters everywhere and I wish her well in her campaign. My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary leads on such matters. Through me, he would like to reiterate the offer of a further meeting with her and the family to ascertain whether we can make some progress.
Clause 2 is consistent with the Government's managed migration agenda, which makes decisions on the UK's labour market dependent on the number and type of gaps that exist. The clause provides enabling powers, which will allow the Government to set the terms on which any access will be granted to Bulgarian and Romanian workers after accession during a transition period. That can range from maintaining a form of the current work permit arrangements to full, free access to the market, including a version of the worker registration scheme that is in place for nationals of the eight accession countries. A decision will be made closer to the accession date. I listened to the remarks of the hon. Member for Hammersmith and Fulham (Mr. Hands) but I hope that he understands that it is right to make the decision when we know more about the date of accession for the two countries.
We would also like to take other considerations into account, such as the state of the domestic labour market and other member states' decisions about access to their labour markets. Of course, all member states have to go through the same process as us. We will also take account of further analysis of our experience with the first round of accessions.
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