Could Immigration Bill see ‘witch hunt’ in leisure industry?

Warwick Alabaster, Napthens

Warwick Alabaster, Napthens

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LICENSED premises have been urged to prepare for the introduction of the Immigration Bill, designed to crack down on the employment of illegal workers.

The bill, which last year passed its first hurdle in Parliament, has recently seen many in the licensed trade hit out at what they feel is inadvertently having a greater effect on the leisure industry than other sectors.

The bill proposes a number of changes to the law including a new offence of illegal working, and a requirement for businesses and recruitment agencies to advertise jobs in the UK before hiring from abroad.

Warwick Alabaster, litigation solicitor in the Leisure team at Napthens solicitors, warned there was a fear that the licensed trade will be hit harder than other sectors.

He explained: “We are concerned that this is another general measure that ends up targeting pubs and the leisure and licensing trade harder than others.

“We have a higher incidence of casual staff and often foreign workers in this sector, and what we don’t want to see is a witch-hunt against one particular industry.”

One Lancashire pub landlord said: “We do everything we can to make sure everything is above board, but in future we will have to be doubly careful.”

Mr Alabaster said: “As this bill works its way through Parliament there must be caution among those spearheading this legislation to ensure that it is fair – and doesn’t disproportionately affect one sector.

“We will be watching with some interest to see how this develops in future months.”

MPs voted to give the Immigration Bill a second reading by a margin of 49, after Labour’s bid to block it was rejected by 40 votes.

It now faces more detailed scrutiny.