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Baroness Turner of Camden: My Lords, I welcome the opportunity to participate in this Second Reading debate and want to pay particular attention to the section of the Bill dealing with employment. Let me say at the outset that I understand that any government must have in place policies to deal with large numbers of immigrants, whether they are seeking asylum or economic improvements. However, it is essential that migrant workers are protected from exploitation.

The provisions relating to employers' sanctions are aimed at preventing the use of illegal labour. I welcome the intention to crack down on rogue employers, thereby hoping to protect migrant workers. We have to remember that we are often dealing with poor, desperate and vulnerable people. They are willing to work for low wages, and are frequently not aware of health and safety requirements. They may be in debt to the traffickers who brought them here, and may send part of their earnings home to families who are also very poor. It is not good that migrant workers should become a reservoir of cheap labour. It tends to keep the level of wages low generally. Indeed, the director of the CBI recently remarked with some satisfaction that immigration reduces what he calls "wage inflation". That is not good for labour relations or race relations. So I am surprised that there is not much in the Bill about the need to ensure that employers comply with the minimum wage. There ought to be stronger inspection to ensure that they do.
 
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As to the sanctions contained in the Bill, the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants has expressed concern that employers will effectively become enforcers of immigration control, and the threat of civil penalties, as well as the requirement repeatedly to check documents, will act as a disincentive to employers hiring foreign nationals, including those who are well documented. The council believes that the measures, although well intended, could drive undocumented workers underground and prevent them accessing essential public services, thus increasing poverty and social injustice.

The council urges consultation on a regularisation programme for undocumented workers, based on residence in the UK. The Institute of Employment Rights, of which I am a member, has suggested that those who can demonstrate a two-year presence in the UK through employment or other means should have the right to earn regularisation through a tiered process. That could begin with the right to temporary residence and work permission, and eventually lead to a right of settlement, provided such people demonstrate participation in the formal workforce and co-operation with immigration control. A scheme of this kind is worthy of consideration.

I recently received a letter from a man who has been in this country since 1990. He came when he was 20 years old. He says that he has worked here and paid his taxes and that this country is his home—he knows no other—yet he is facing a court hearing later this month to determine whether he can stay. I have replied to him saying that, while I wish him well, I have no influence in such matters. It does seem unfair that an individual with such long residence here should still have no security and should still have to attend court hearings to establish a right to remain.

There is another aspect of trafficking to which there is little reference in the Bill. I refer to the trafficking of young women for the sex industry. I am sure that most people were glad to learn of the recent police operation that was responsible for the arrest and eventual imprisonment of an Albanian gang that had brought very young women here with promises of good employment and had then forced them into the sex industry, where they frequently had to service up to 20 men a day. There have been a number of such cases, and it is an absolute scandal. One is glad when the criminals responsible for it are caught. However, what happens to the women afterwards? Many are very young, really children. They will have suffered appallingly. They should be covered by the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. It is often not appropriate for them to be deported back to their country of origin. They could be victimised by members of the criminal mafia responsible for their misfortunes in the first place, or their community might treat them as dishonoured. Rehabilitation and care should be available to them in this country.

Finally, I am concerned about the provisions of Clauses 53 and 54. They deal with the deprivation of citizenship and the deprivation of the right of abode. In both cases, the Secretary of State may, by order, deprive a person of the right to citizenship or the right
 
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of abode if he thinks such deprivation is conducive to the public good. I appreciate that there are genuine concerns about terrorism, but deprivation of the rights referred to in these clauses is a very serious matter indeed. The test to be applied seems to be very vague. This is an issue that should be explored further in Committee. Appeal also has to be looked at again in Committee, as has already been mentioned by a number of speakers in this debate. I welcome the opportunity to make these points at Second Reading and we will clearly have to have further discussions about them in Committee.

5.35 pm

Baroness Flather: My Lords, I start by declaring an interest as a member of the Council of University College, London. That gives a clue to what I shall speak about. By rights, at this stage I ought to follow the example of my noble friend Lord Brooke and say, "Ditto", but the desire to have my brief remarks on record is too great. Even though four noble Lords have spoken much better than I can, I still want to say my little piece.

The universities are strongly opposed to the removal of the right of appeal from international students. At this time when all our universities are trying their best to attract students from all over the world, this will have a very damaging effect. How damaging it could be cannot be overstressed. As it is, we are losing ground in the world market. Now we have this, and we have to see how it will affect students who want to come here. Government statistics show that 25 per cent of international students who appeal against visa refusal are successful. The Immigration Advisory Service reports that 60 to 75 per cent of visa appeals that it handles for international students are successful. I suggest that if even 20 per cent of appeals are successful, it is right that there should be a right of appeal.

The Home Office has suggested that unsuccessful students can simply reapply, a point mentioned by my noble friend Lady Anelay. We know that once an application has been refused, a reapplication will be looked at in a totally different way. The stigma of refusal will be on the papers, which will not only create a problem for a person coming to this country, but will affect a person's ability to go to other countries.

The noble Baroness, Lady Warwick, made an important point about the ability of entry clearance officers to judge cases. That also worries me. Many years ago, when the Conservatives were in government, the right of appeal by short-stay visitors was taken away. At that stage, I made the point that we leave everything to the entry clearance officers who are the final arbiters of a person's fate. At that stage, it was agreed to introduce a monitor who would call in 10 per cent of files to see whether there was fairness, conformity and so on. But that is not good enough for students because calling in files to see whether the entry clearance officer has acted properly will be too late for most students.
 
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Some so-called institutions in this country are nothing but a letterhead. The noble Lord, Lord Wallace, touched on this point. We know that they run rackets. It is a racket that so many students come here and pay so much. The students do not start off on the road to coming here as migrants, falsely stating that they are students. They believe that there will be a course for them to attend. They come here, having paid £1,000 or £2,000 in their country of origin, which is an awful lot of money for them, but they find no course and no institution, except a letterhead or an address that is just an address. The point has been made that all the institutions in this country are not the same. If a student has applied to a reputable institution and has been accepted, surely that student should not be subjected to any problems. We need people from other countries in our universities.

For so long, we have been influencing other countries through the people who we send back having been educated here. They take central positions when they return to their countries. I know that, coming from India. That has been happening for decades—centuries, even. It is extremely important that that sphere of influence that this country exercises is not lost. I hope that the matter will be looked at carefully. Clearly there is consensus on how damaging the provision will be to universities, but also to other further and higher education institutions. It will also be so damaging for students who want to come here. There may not be other places to which they want to go. I hope that the Minister will look at this carefully. I know that she is well versed in education issues and I am sure that this overlaps with her personal concerns.

5.42 pm


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