Immigration Bill Committee

Written evidence submitted by the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry (IB 09)

House of Commons Public Bill Committee on the Immigration Bill 2015-16

1. London Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) is the largest capital-focused business advocacy organisation representing the interests of over 3,000 companies from small and medium-sized enterprises through to large, multi-national corporates. Our member companies operate within a wide range of sectors across all 33 London local authority areas – genuinely reflecting the broad spectrum of London business opinion.

2. In 2015, LCCI published Worlds Apart, Making the immigration system work for London businesses, a report examining the contributions that non-EEA workers have made to the London economy and the impact that restrictions on immigration have had on the capital’s businesses [1] .

3. LCCI welcomes the Government’s objective to ensure that migrants living and working in the UK have the legal right to do so, and in turn, to ensure that migrants that are not lawfully resident in the UK are not able to exploit the system.

4. However, we are concerned that some of the proposed measures designed to curb illegal immigration might place unreasonable burdens on businesses and private landlords, and also negatively impact upon legal migrants to the UK who make a positive contribution to London’s economy. In particular, LCCI is concerned that the transference of the requirement to confirm migrants’ immigration status on to landlords and employers, risks unintended consequences.

Measures to curb illegal working

5. The bill amends the Immigration, Asylum and Nationality Act 2006 to expand the definition of an individual employing an illegal worker to include an employer who ‘has reasonable cause to believe’ that their employee is not lawfully resident in the UK. This raises two concerns. The first is that employers may not possess the resource or experience to ensure a person’s immigration status is valid or to accurately navigate the visa system before making an offer of employment. Such a person would be equally guilty of the offence as an employer who knowingly hired an illegal worker.

6. The second is that employers wary of committing the offence because they do not possess the necessary means to determine a prospective employee’s immigration status, may be reluctant to offer employment to legal migrants, or that offering employment to migrants carries increased risk.

7. The effect of transferring the obligation to confirm an employee’s immigration status on to the employer risks businesses becoming unwilling to hire legitimate migrants, denying those business often needed skills.

8. This clause might also disproportionately disadvantage small businesses and start-ups, who do not possess the financial resource to consult third parties for advice on navigating the immigration system [2] .

9. Businesses will be further impacted by the bill’s provision to allow immigration officers to issue closure notices for premises for 48 hours where a person is suspected of illegal working. This risks prohibiting a business’ entire workforce from accessing their place of employment and, consequently, might cause disproportionate and unnecessary detriment to the business and its legal employees.

10. The offence will also apply to employers who are unable to provide sufficient evidence that work-checks have been carried out. Therefore, employers who are not guilty of employing an illegal worker, but do not have the resource tor knowledge to complete the necessary steps, could be penalised.

11. Measures to prosecute landlords who rent properties to individuals unlawfully resident in the risk having a similar impact. As with employers, landlords may not possess the means or the experience to be able to confirm a prospective tenant’s immigration status as valid. Even more so than employers, landlords are likely to be single entities who possess one, or a small number of properties, without the support or financial resource of a business.

12. Similarly, as above, landlords may fear that renting to migrants carries additional risk. The creation of an offence of renting a property to a person illegally in the UK, risks landlords becoming reluctant to rent to migrants, including legitimate economic migrants. Such a development risks further hindering London’s ability to recruit and retain skills from overseas where these do not exist within the domestic labour market.

Skills levy

13. LCCI responded to the proposal to introduce a skills levy for businesses recruiting from outside the EEA in the Migration Advisory Committee Review of Tier 2 Call for Evidence [3] . Whilst the Government’s move to fund more apprenticeships is a welcome step towards closing the skills gap in the UK labour market, upskilling the resident labour force in this manner is a long term solution. London businesses need access to skills now.

14. As set out in our Worlds Apart report, imposing a skills levy will hinder businesses’ ability to access the skills they need from outside the UK and will disproportionately impact small businesses, who do not have the same financial resource as larger firms, and London businesses, who owing to the number of global corporations in the capital, are likely to contribute more to the levy without a guarantee that they will see an equal investment in skills.

Summary

15. LCCI supports the bill’s motive - to act as a clear deterrent to migrants considering coming to the UK to illegally work and to those willing to profit from illegal working. As such, the penalties which the bill imposes on those illegally working in the UK are a necessary disincentive.

16. However, the Immigration Bill and the penalties for employers and landlords who hire and rent properties to illegal workers could have wider impacts. Employers and landlords may be reluctant to offer employment and tenancies to migrants who they know to be legitimate for fear of the attached stigma or not being able to carry out adequate immigration checks.

17. Legitimate economic migrants wishing to come to the UK to work may no longer look upon the UK as a welcome destination which would further deprive London, and the rest of the UK, from much needed skills. Given that non-EEA migrants (who entered the UK between 2001 and 2011) contributed more to public finances than they received in benefits, this would have an untold effect on the UK’s economy.

October 2015


[1] LCCI (2015): Worlds Apart, Making the immigration system work for London businesses – data collected from a large law firm specialising in immigration matters

[2] LCCI (2015): Worlds Apart, Making the immigration system work for London businesses – data collected from a large law firm specialising in immigration matters

[3] LCCI submission to Migration Advisory Committee (2015): Call for Evidence, Review of Tier 2

[3]

Prepared 22nd October 2015