Comment: Illegal immigrants are keeping Brits out of work

Illegal immigrants are working in the UK and being issued with national insurance numbers. This makes no sense when so many Brits are desperately searching for jobs.

By Andrew Selous MP

I raised the issue of national insurance numbers being allocated to illegal immigrants who have no right to work in the UK at prime minister's questions on Wednesday June 29th. Last week six migrant workers who have no right to work in the United Kingdom were arrested and detained in a joint operation by Bedfordshire police and the United Kingdom Border Agency. Talking to their employer later I learnt that these workers had been issued national insurance numbers and were paying national insurance and tax.

We therefore had a situation in which two agencies for the state, the UK Border Agency and the police, were seeking out illegal immigrants while the tax authorities were receiving and processing national insurance payments from the very people that the police and the UK Border Agency were searching for. This situation was happening in spite of the fact that the former Labour work and pensions minister James Plaskitt had announced to the House of Commons on July 5th 2006 that "any individual applying for a national insurance number in connection with employment who does not have the right to work here legally will be refused one". It is clear that what the former minister said would happen has not been happening.

I therefore believe that we need to look urgently at this issue to ensure that national insurance numbers are not issued to illegal immigrants who have no right to work in the UK. Alternatively if they have to be then they need to be flagged to indicate immediately to Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs that the individual concerned should not be in employment. HMRC would then be able to contact the police and the UK Border Agency to ensure that appropriate enforcement action was taken against the illegal worker and the employer in question.

These are more than dry academic issues as the United Kingdom has around five million people of working age on a range of out of work benefits. The government is actively and earnestly pursuing a far reaching programme of welfare reform including the new Work Programme and the introduction of the universal credit.

We will only be successful however in returning large numbers of British citizens to work from benefits if we can clamp down on illegal immigration. That is why this issue matters and should matter across the political spectrum. The stakes are very high at the moment for many of our constituents who are desperately trying to find work.

It is wrong and unacceptable that we do not have the very best systems in place to detect and clamp down on illegal working, to make sure that our constituents who are looking for work have the very best possible chance of finding it.

Andrew Selous has been the Conservative MP for South West Bedfordshire since 2001.

The opinions in's Comment and Analysis section are those of the author and are no reflection of the views of the website or its owners.