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Baroness Gardner of Parkes: I thank the noble Lord for giving way. Of course, one has a P.45 only if one has had previous employment. School leavers are given an equivalent document but those newly arrived in the country do not have national insurance numbers--I did not when I arrived in this country--and it takes some time to obtain one. Therefore, I am not sure that the case is exactly as the noble Lord believes it to be.
Lord Avebury: I was about to turn to that point. If someone has moved from one job to another he will have a P.45. Until now there has been no obligation on a previous employer to enter the national insurance number on that document. However, there will be such an obligation and once that is done it will be an absolute defence to a charge against an employer that he has taken on an illegal entrant or someone not qualified under the clause to say that he looked at that document and it appeared to contain a valid national insurance number.
I leave aside the issue on which the Minister may wish to comment in replying to the amendment because it was covered at length in the other place. It was that there are in circulation in the system many fraudulent national insurance numbers. I understand that an employer has no obligation to check with the Department of Social Security to see that the number on the P.45 is not fraudulent. The presence of the number on the form is an absolute defence.
But if the person was not in previous employment then, as the noble Baroness pointed out correctly, he has no national insurance number and has to present another document. Those documents are specified in the prevention of illegal working compliance costs assessment document as being a British birth certificate or passport showing the holder to be a British citizen, a European Economic Area passport, a passport or other travel document endorsed to show that the person is settled in the United Kingdom or a certificate of registration or naturalisation as a British citizen.
Therefore, I am suggesting that if we spelt out the presentation of those documents within the clause or within a redrafted Clause 8, we should not need to use the word "immigrant" at all. Employers would have to demand that they see one or more of those documents--the primary document being the P.45 with a national insurance number on it--but in default of the presentation of that document, any one of the four other documents specified by the Home Office.
If that is done, it would remove many of the anxieties which are present in the minds of employers. On reading the Bill, many of them will ask how they are supposed to satisfy themselves that a person asking for a job falls within the terms of the Bill.
It also gets round the danger that employers may be tempted to employ preferentially people who look as though they are born here because they have a white skin. If an employer is told that in every single case that he must look for such proof as is mentioned in the Prevention of Illegal Working document then there would be no discrimination at all. The employer asks first for the P.45 and if that is not presented, whether the person is black, white or any other colour he will say, "Let me see your birth certificate". That is not an onerous requirement to place on employers or jobseekers. If the person is born here and lived here all his life, he will have no difficulty in producing his birth certificate. If he comes from another European country, he will be able to produce a European Economic Area identity document, and so on.
In all those cases, the employer is asked to look at a single piece of paper and the job applicant must present one of those documents. I believe that we should delete the whole of Clause 8 and incorporate the definition of illegal working criteria on the face of the Bill. We should not then need to define the word "immigrant", and we should not need to have any of the fears of racism which have been spoken about. Employers would be happy because they would know precisely what was required of them and employees would know exactly which documents to produce.
The Earl of Balfour: I am intrigued by the amendment put forward by the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh of Haringey, because I have the impression that it would exclude overseas students on a student visa from being allowed to obtain any employment in this country at all.
Baroness Blatch: No. There is no problem for somebody with a bona fide reason for being here, whether he has a student visa or whatever, so long as he has a right to work here. The noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, spoke specifically to his amendment which deals with the sensitive and difficult issue of the word "immigrant". I wish to address the import of that amendment.
We are aware that unease has been expressed about the use of the word "immigrant" in this Bill. Strictly speaking, it is a perfectly neutral word, as my noble friend said, and it has been used simply as a way of referring to a person who is subject to immigration control. The use of this term does not in any way affect anyone's immigration status. In particular, contrary to one criticism which has been expressed, there is nothing in the Bill which affects the immigration status of people who are settled here; in other words, those who have indefinite leave to remain.
However, we now accept, in the light of the debate which has taken place both in this Chamber and elsewhere that, however irrationally, the word "immigrant" is perceived by some as having a pejorative
We recognise also that the term might be seen by the layman as referring to anyone who has come here from abroad to live, rather than only to a person who requires leave to enter or remain under the 1971 Immigration Act. My right honourable friend the Home Secretary and I met recently the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Ripon, who is not at present in his place. The right reverend Prelate set out his concerns about a number of aspects of the Bill, including the use of the term "immigrant". On reflection we have found the right reverend Prelate's argument on this point compelling. We have also taken account of the representations which the Commission for Racial Equality has made to us. I shall reflect also on what has been said in this debate.
We therefore intend to bring forward on Report government amendments which will remove the term "immigrant" from it and replace it with a term which avoids giving rise to the concerns which have been expressed.
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: In the light of what the Minister has said--which is most welcome--I shall clearly not press the amendments. If she wishes to humiliate me by pointing out the defects, she is welcome to do so.
Baroness Blatch: No, that is the last thing that I want to do. The government amendments will address references to the word "immigrant" in Clauses 9, 10 and 12 in addition to Clause 8. Although Amendments Nos. 81 and 83 are not grouped with these amendments, my response to them would be the same. The Government will respond to Amendments Nos. 81, 82 and 83 on Report. I hope that in the light of that, the noble Lord will not press the amendment.
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: That is extremely good news. In his absence, I congratulate the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Ripon on contributing to that change of heart. The Minister will have to make alterations to the Long Title of the Bill as well as to Clause 12.
I hope that from that will come the possibility of achieving the other object of the amendment; namely, to simplify the guidance or the law to be imposed on employers. As I made clear, it is not just a matter of the use of the word "immigrant". It is the fact that the word "immigrant" is defined in Clause 12, defined more narrowly in Clause 8 and redefined more narrowly in a different way--in other words, leaving it to the discretion of the Secretary of State--in Clauses 9 and 10. Therefore, the Government will need to do more than merely change the use of the word "immigrant" if the second intended benefit of my amendment is to be achieved; namely, to simplify the way in which the law is presented to employers.
Finally, we are concerned about the way in which employers are expected to understand the importance of Clause 8. We shall produce guidance to make it as clear as possible. We want both the legislation and the guidance to be clear so that this Act does not add to burdens on employers.