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Right to Remain

Volume 474: debated on Monday 21 April 2008

4. What the average time taken to determine applications for the right to remain in the UK was in the last 12 months; and if she will make a statement. (199724)

Published targets are to make 70 per cent. of decisions on postal applications within 20 days of receipt and to make 90 per cent. within 70 days. Complex cases and applications by overstayers, or by those in breach of the rules, can take a bit longer.

I am grateful for the Minister’s answer and his earlier contact. However, he knows that I—and perhaps other colleagues—have several cases that take considerably longer to determine. One problem appears to be the delay in allocating case workers to each application. Some applications will be refused, and people will have to go back to their countries, but at least that is a decision, and they can get on with their lives. However, it is often difficult for people who are waiting to start education courses or who wish to visit their country and then return here. I had a constituent whose mother was dying in hospital abroad and, because of delays, she could not visit, and her mother died. Will the Minister do what he can to speed up the process? Some results will be negative but that is better than the delays that currently occur.

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for not only for his question but for the conversation earlier today. I hope that we can resolve quickly the cases that are on the table. Approximately two thirds of applications for indefinite leave to remain are resolved within 20 days and nearly 90 per cent. are resolved in 70 days. However, many cases are outside that target, and the UK Border Agency needs to work faster to get them resolved quickly. Many of the lessons that we drew from creating fast-track asylum teams around the country are being applied to those cases. I therefore hope that faster progress will be made on that front in 2008.

Will my hon. Friend assure me that the right to remain in the UK is forfeited if somebody commits a serious crime and serves a sentence of imprisonment? Can he confirm that, in those cases, such people leave the country?

Yes, I can. Indeed, the powers that the UK Border Agency takes under the UK Borders Act 2007 will also provide for stiffer sanctions. However, we have said consistently that we should prioritise the removal of those who have abused our welcome and broken our laws. I am therefore pleased that the UK Border Agency deported 80 per cent. more foreign national prisoners last year. The new agency this year will set tougher targets and we expect it to deport more than 5,000 foreign national prisoners. That is a different order of magnitude from a couple of years ago.

The Minister may know that the former Home Secretary’s decision to refuse citizenship to Mr. Mohamed Fayed was dispatched in a matter of weeks. Given the great distress and burden on the public purse caused by Fayed’s absurd allegations, will the Home Secretary take swift action to remove for good as an undesirable alien that thief, crook and liar?

Mr. Speaker, you will know that I have made it my policy not to discuss individual cases on the Floor of the House. Suffice it to say that the comments are on the record.

My hon. Friend will know that some employers in our country and others in the Indian sub-continent have expressed concern that the new system of points-based work permits for those seeking to come to Britain or remain here for the purpose of working may make it more difficult for several people to come here to work. Will he assure me that, under the new system and with the new agency, Britain will continue to benefit from the talents of those who want to work here and can contribute to our economy, without undue delays in processing their applications?

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for those remarks. Trevor Phillips was right to say yesterday that there is a type of talent around the world from which the UK would benefit in the right circumstances. A little later this week, we have our first debate in Government time on the points system. It is important because it precedes the publication on the way in which we believe that the key stage of the points system will work. We will publish that policy after purdah. There will be a chance for hon. Members of all parties to put their views on the record before we finalise it.

If things are going as well as that, when will the Minister do something about the four months that it has taken to right a wrong—the wrong declared by an appeal judge —done to my constituent, Mrs. Massiah Stockings? When will he ensure that the wife of a serving officer in Helmand province will be given leave to remain in this country, not told that she has to send his passport in? When will he ensure that a man who is British by both parents can get a passport and not be asked impudent questions by officials about why he cannot produce his parents’ divorce document from some 40 years ago?

The right hon. Gentleman will know that about half of the casework in my constituency concerns immigration matters. It sounds as though he has quite a lot of his own, and I should be happy to discuss those issues with him in private, if that would help to expedite the cases that are of concern to him.