Prime Minister David Cameron took his hardest line yet on illegal immigration this morning, when he introduced sweeping legislation cracking down not only on foreign workers, but on the landlords, banks and employers that help them as well.
In a speech today in Westminster, Cameron said the Queen’s Speech will include an immigration bill intended to control and reduce the number of people moving to Britain.
“We will put an end to houses packed full of illegal workers; stop illegal migrants stalling deportation; give British people the skills to do the jobs Britain needs,” Cameron said, adding, “We are for working people. For them, we will control and reduce immigration.”
The immigration bill is expected to include new powers for councils to penalise landlords housing illegal migrants, as well as new requirements for banks to check all bank accounts against databases of undocumented foreign workers. The legislation is also expected to make it an offence for businesses and recruitment agencies to recruit abroad without advertising in the UK, and create a labour market enforcement agency to address labour market exploitation.
Perhaps most dramatically, the immigration bill is understood to redefine “illegal working” to include penalties for both workers and the people who pay them.
“We’ll make illegal working a criminal offence in its own right,” the Prime Minister said.
“That means wages paid to illegal migrants will be seized as proceeds of crime and businesses will be told when their workers’ visas expire, so if you’re involved in illegal working – employer or employee – you’re breaking the law,” he added.
This morning the Institute of Directors (IoD) called for more clarity.
“The Government must address public concerns over immigration with real solutions, but they must be equally clear about what the issues actually are," said Simon Walker, the organisation's director general.
"IoD members do not employ immigrants because they are cheaper, with fewer than 4 per cent saying cost has anything to do with it. Indeed, our members overwhelmingly pay even their most junior staff above the Living Wage. When they do employ people from outside the UK it is because they need the skills or value the different experience.
“The government’s approach of wedding themselves to a net migration target is very hard to understand. Policy makers have no control over how many UK citizens leave each year, and if the economy were faring worse and more people were emigrating, the net figure would be lower. By setting a target that is neither achievable not desirable, they have only undermined faith in the whole system."