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Work Permits

Volume 886: debated on Monday 10 February 1975

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asked the Secretary of State for Employment if he will announce the results of his review of the work permit scheme.

My Department has recently carried out a review of the work permit scheme which was introduced in January 1973. After seeking the views of appropriate bodies representing employers and workers and of the Manpower Services Commission, I have decided to make the following changes:1.

Hotels and Catering

At present all male hotel and catering workers are subject to an annual quota of 5,000 permits unless they are exceptionally highly skilled. The definition of skill will be widened so that employers can recruit outside the quota staff who have successfully completed courses at recognised hotel and catering training schools in other countries. My Department will discuss with representatives of the industry the training schools and courses which can be approved for this purpose. At the same time, the quota will be extended to cover all other overseas workers in the industry, both men and women. It will be set at an annual figure of 8,500, representing the present quota of 5,000 men together with an addition of 3,500 to cover the number of women recruited annually in recent years. As the industry's recruitment of overseas workers has been well below the new quota over the last two years, I do not propose to operate any formal system of allocation between establishments unless circumstances change so as to make this necessary.

2. Domestic and Hospital Workers

A quota will be introduced for resident domestic workers. In the case of hospitals this will include all unskilled workers plus nursing auxiliaries. The quota will be set at an annual figure of 8,000 representing the average effective demand for such workers over the last few years. In addition, I am introducing the following new safeguards covering the employment of overseas domestic workers in private households:
  • (a) the lower age limit will be raised from 18 to 20;
  • (b) workers will be required to provide evidence of at least one year's similar employment abroad;
  • (c) married men or women seeking work as domestics will be restricted to joint posts, in order to ensure that the work permit scheme does not operate so as to keep families apart.
  • These safeguards will make it possible for me to lift the temporary ban on the issue of work permits for unskilled workers from the Philippines which was imposed by the previous administration in 1973.

    3. Special Commonwealth Quotas

    Workers from Malta and the dependent territories who qualify under the general occupational criteria will be eligible for work permits outside their special quotas. The special quotas will be retained to cover the admission of other workers, provided that the basic conditions of the scheme are satisfied and the annual quota for the dependent territories will be raised from 300 to 500. The basic conditions are that:
  • (i) the worker is between 18 and 54 years of age (inclusive);
  • (ii) the wages and conditions of employment offered are not less favourable than those prevailing for similar work in the district concerned;
  • (iii) the employer has made adequate efforts to find a suitable worker from the resident labour force.
  • Within those figures, there will continue to be an annual limit of 200 permits for any one territory.

    4. United Kingdom Passport Holders

    An annual quota of 500 permits will be introduced for United Kingdom passport holders who are subject to immigration control under the Immigration Act 1971 and who are not eligible for work permits under the general criteria. Workers in this category will be eligible for permits on the same terms as workers from Malta and the Dependent Territories.

    5. Other Changes

    As I announced to the House on 21st January 1975—[Vol. 884, col. 1203.]—I am considering provisions in the regulations I propose to make under the Employment Agencies Act which would have the effect of regulating the activities of agencies in the United Kingdom and overseas which recruit foreign and Commonwealth workers and which would limit the amount of fares which an overseas worker is obliged to repay. The work permit itself will in future contain for hotel domestics and unskilled catering workers details of the remuneration offered. This is already done for domestic workers in private households.

    The above changes, which otherwise leave the work permit scheme in its present form, will be introduced on 14th February 1975 and the various quotas will operate from 1st January 1975.