Labour lays out plans to tackle issue of low paid workers from Europe
Shadow home secretary says Labour will make it a criminal offence to use low-skilled workers to undercut local businesses.
A Labour government will make it a criminal offence to use low-skilled European workers to undercut local workers and businesses, and change the rules so that more foreign national criminals are considered for deportation, the shadow home secretary, Yvette Cooper, has said.
Her detailed package of measures to strengthen Britain’s borders and take stronger action on exploitation is designed to underline Labour’s commitment to control immigration a day after Ed Miliband “forgot” to include immigration in his 70-minute leader’s speech.
Cooper told Labour party delegates that it wasn’t “rightwing” to be worried about immigration and renewed her promised not to engage in “an arms race of rhetoric” but to put forward practical policies that help manage migration. “Let us be clear it is not racist to be worried about immigration or to want stronger controls,” she said.
In her conference speech, the shadow home secretary confirmed that Labour would drop the Conservatives’ failed net migration target and would abolish elected police and crime commissioners. She said she would use the money saved to fund a £3m a year national network of women’s refuges and to halt plans to cut a further 1,100 police officers next year.
Cooper also promised that Labour would close loopholes that have prevented more than 10,000 convicted sex offenders from being barred from working with children.
On immigration, she renewed Labour’s commitments to outlaw agencies who recruit only abroad and increase fines for employing people here illegally.
“We should do more. Take the eastern European workers brought here by a gang to work. Their wages were stolen, they slept on bug-ridden mattresses six to a room, they had dogs set on them if they complained, and they were held in the back of a transit van for five days at a time,” said Cooper.
“The police tried to stop it but said they couldn’t prosecute because the men were here legally and they consented to work, so there was no crime. People treated like animals, used to undercut local wages and jobs. Responsible businesses losing out. No crime? Conference, this is not the economy we want or the Britain we believe in. So the next Labour government will make this exploitation a crime.”
Labour claims that Theresa May’s current modern slavery bill will not cover these types of cases because they do not amount to “forced labour”.
Cooper’s promise to change the rules on the ability to consider foreign national criminals from within the European Union for deportation involves lowering the current threshold of those deemed to have committed serious offences.
At present deportation is considered in cases which involve offences that carry a 12-month sentence in the case of sex or violent crimes or 24 months for other types of crime. Cooper said that new arrivals in Britain or those who had not been in the country long should be considered for deportation if their offence carried a sentence of six months or more. This would include for example those found guilty of common assault.