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Abe pledges to show full picture of foreign worker system to Diet; bill to pass today

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (Mainichi)

TOKYO -- Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told a Diet panel session on Dec. 6 that he will present a "full picture" of the government's plan to accept more foreign workers to alleviate labor shortages, just a day before the ruling bloc intends to pass a bill to revise immigration law to accommodate the new system.

The prime minister made the remark at a meeting of the House of Councillors Judicial Affairs Committee in response to a rare suggestion from House of Representatives Speaker Tadamori Oshima that the administration present future Cabinet and ministerial orders that would contain the details of the new immigration program to the national legislature before the amended law comes into effect. Referring to Oshima's request, Abe said, "I take it seriously, and would like to present a full picture of the system to the Diet."

Abe's statement was an effective admission that the government does not yet have a full picture of the new immigration system on the eve of the bill's supposed passage into law. This raises the possibility that the opposition bloc will launch an attack on the controversial revisions involving amendments to the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act.

During the judicial panel's directors meeting on the evening of Dec. 6, Chairman Shinichi Yokoyama, of the junior ruling coalition partner Komeito, proposed a vote on the bill the same day. Angered by this move, five opposition parties and parliamentary groups, including the leading Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan (CDP), submitted a motion calling for the dismissal of Yokoyama to the upper house. Yokoyama then decided to convene the committee again on Dec. 7 at his own discretion.

The ruling bloc, which controls the upper chamber, plans to vote down the motion in a plenary session, pass the foreign worker bill through the judicial panel and make it into law in the full House of Councillors. The opposition is poised to continue mounting resistance, including slapping Minister of Justice Takashi Yamashita, who is responsible for immigration, with a censure motion, turning up the pressure on the ruling side as the end of the current Diet session looms on Dec. 10.

The opposition parties are furious over what they perceive to be insufficient Diet discussions on the bill, as well as the prime minister's statement on Dec. 5 that he would have to answer "tiresome questions" at the judicial panel. CDP Diet affairs chief Kiyomi Tsujimoto told reporters that Abe's remark is a sufficient reason to submit a no-confidence motion against his Cabinet.

(Japanese original by Shuhei Endo, Political News Department)

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