James Brokenshire
Immigration Minister James Brokenshire, to come down hard on those working illegally in the UK as well as those employing them. (Reuters)

The new Conservative government plans to come down really hard on small businesses that employ illegal migrants as well as the migrants themselves.

Under proposals to be included in the Immigration Bill to be presented in Parliament, takeaway restaurants and local convenience shops or locally known as off-licences could face losing their licence to operate if they are found to be employing illegal workers.

The government is also considering whether this provision should be widened to cover minicab operators and drivers, the BBC reports.

In addition, the legal defence for other businesses found using illegal workers will be amended to remove their ability to claim they did not know an employee was not allowed to work. Businesses will have to show that they carried out proper checks before employing staff.

The maximum sentence for employers found guilty of hiring illegal migrants will be raised from two to five years, in addition to the fines that are in place, the broadcaster said.

And that is not all. In an all encompassing change to the Immigration Bill, those who work illegally in England and Wales face up to six months in jail, as well as an unlimited fine and wages being seized.

This is the latest of a series of announcements made by the government to crack down on illegal migrants.

Immigration Minister James Brokenshire said: "Anyone who thinks the UK is a soft touch should be in no doubt - if you are here illegally, we will take action to stop you from working, renting a flat, opening a bank account or driving a car.

"As a one nation government we will continue to crack down on abuse and build an immigration system that works in the best interests of the British people and those who play by the rules," he said.

While Alp Mehmet from Migration Watch UK, which supports tougher immigration controls, welcomed the move, he said: "Let us hope that the authorities will not shy away from acting on the powers they are to be given, since their record on that front has not always been exemplary."

The BBC said immigration officers are reported to be preparing to mount a wave of raids this autumn targeting building sites, care homes and cleaning contractors.