Checks on illegal workers rejected

Click to follow
The Government suffered a setback when it emerged last night that employers do not support its plan to require them to check whether their workers are not illegal immigrants. Over half the respondents in a consultation exercise, which was conducted by the Home Office, expressed concern that employers would "play safe" and avoid taking on black staff, or that the measures would damage race relations.

Doug Henderson, Labour's home affairs spokesman, said employers did not want to act as an unpaid branch of the Immigration Service. "There is no mandate from employers for the Government to proceed with these provisions," he said.

About half of the 43 responses to the consultation on the measures in the Asylum Bill were from employers or from employers' organisations.

A Home Office summary of the responses, supplied yesterday to MPs debating the Bill, said that a quarter of them had expressed "strong reservations" about the duty being placed on employers rather than on the Government.

Employers also said it would be "complicated and onerous" for them to have to check immigration documents, such as foreign passports, and that the costs would be greater than the Government suggested.

Responses were received from refugees' rights organisations, lawyers' bodies and trade unions as well as employers.

Mr Henderson said: "The responses show that many believe that there is a danger to race relations, that the measures will be completely unworkable and that they will not intercept illegal immigrants. The Government should withdraw this very damaging clause."

Labour has already celebrated a string of parliamentary victories in the committee considering the Bill, which also contains measures aimed at stopping bogus claims for political asylum.

Only this week the Government agreed to rewrite clauses which might have criminalised lawyers who were acting for legitimate refugees.

A Labour researcher said its assault on the Bill in committee had been so successful that they were thinking of tabling an amendment that would commit the Government to full employment.

"They seem to be accepting everything we throw at them," he said.