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Foreign Workers

Volume 410: debated on Monday 18 August 2003

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To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what measures her Department is taking to prevent the exploitation of foreign workers on low wages by (a) British companies and (b) foreign companies doing business in the United Kingdom. [129393]

The minimum wage was introduced to help prevent the exploitation of workers. It applies to nearly all workers with contracts in the UK, regardless of their nationality or that of their employers, and it is enforced by the Inland Revenue on this basis.In addition, where the DTI becomes aware of a potential problem in connection with an employment agency, steps are taken to address it. For example, when DTI became aware of allegations about the mistreatment by agencies of Portuguese agricultural workers in the UK, contact was made immediately with the Portuguese Government to offer help in ensuring Portuguese agricultural workers en route to the UK are fully aware of their rights under EU and British law and know where to go to present any evidence of improper practice or abuse. UK and Portuguese officials and the Citizens Advice Bureau are currently working together on the production and distribution in the UK and Portugal of a leaflet in Portuguese giving guidance on employment rights under UK and EU law, and advising of sources of support and advice for workers.