Taxis and minicabs – on the road to tighter immigration control

Anyone would think there’s a bit of a pattern emerging, but sometimes it seems as if there’s a bit of an agenda in government to crack down on illegal immigration.

Consider the announcement from the Home Office that the drivers of taxis and private hire vehicles may soon have to prove their right to work in the UK before they’re properly licensed. This is all part of the package of measures that’s being introduced in the Immigration Bill – either in its first draft or by way of amendments as it goes on its merry way through Parliament.

We know that the right to work is one of those checks that employers have to carry out before giving someone a job. And about a year ago, the pilot scheme compelling private landlords to check the immigration status of their tenants was introduced in the West Midlands – and that now has a national roll-out date in next Spring.

So it shouldn’t be terribly surprising that a body charged with issuing public licences to individuals should now have to include an element of checking that they’re not only fit to drive and fit to carry passengers, but also entitled to live and work in the UK. We’re not going to go into the detail of the amendment (was that a sigh of relief?). But the gist of it is that someone who has only a limited right to remain in the UK can be licensed to drive a taxi or private vehicle only for as long as that right lasts.

It wouldn’t be appropriate to suggest that the private hire industry is being targeted because there are typically a significant number of immigrants workers who work in that sector. But it certainly does show the government’s willingness to tighten regulation in order to make it harder to live and work in the UK without the right to do so.

What’s not yet clear is just how far the government will go, and who’ll end up carrying the practical burden. They haven’t yet gone down the road of introducing requirements that the immigration status of contractors imposes any legal responsibility on third parties. It’s – so far – not your responsibility to ensure that anyone you trade with uses only workers whose immigration status is legitimate. But we wonder how far off such a move may be?

For example, perhaps it would be a step too far to require a homeowner to check the status of their builder’s contract staff. But every contractor ought to have some form of insurance, and how long before insurers are compelled to introduce questions or conditions about the right to work status of the people they use? That would effectively put the practical onus on the homeowner to check the insurance position of their contractor – something they should be doing anyway – and to flag up anything that might leave the insurance invalid.

We’re not saying it should happen. Or even that we think it will happen. Just that the present pattern of government activity suggests that it might happen. And of course, at Simplify the Law we like to be prepared.

Simplify the Law

Featured image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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