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Work Visas

Volume 498: debated on Monday 26 October 2009

4. If he will make it his policy to allow those whose applications for work visas are under consideration to work until final determination of their case is made. (295128)

Those who have leave to work in the United Kingdom at the time that they apply for an extension may carry on working until their new application is decided. Those who do not have leave to work in the UK when they apply for permission to work must wait until their application is decided. We have no plans to change that.

My advice surgeries are filled with people who are going to be granted the right to stay but are not allowed to work. If we take Mrs. Pierre-Louis, who is married to a British citizen and has an eight-year-old British son, we find that her only mistake was to fill in the wrong form at the Home Office. She has now received the sack, even though her employer, the council, acknowledges that she is an excellent care home worker. What do the Government have to say to people, such as Mrs. Pierre-Louis, who lose their jobs; and why is the policy implemented so harshly against such people?

If there is a particular case that my hon. Friend would like me to take up, I shall look into it. However, the application for the permit is due within three months of its ending, and on this matter we have set a target of achieving decisions on 75 per cent. of applications within four weeks. Mr. Speaker, I can report to you that we are achieving decisions on 94 per cent. of applications within four weeks.

How can any of us have any confidence that the UK Border Agency is fit for purpose? I had at my constituency surgery on Friday someone who lives in my constituency and who has been waiting for nine years for the UK Border Agency and its predecessors simply to process his first application for consideration as a refugee. Am I the only person in the House who has completely lost the will to live in respect of the UK Border Agency having any competence to deal with work permits, asylum applications or anything else? This is an organisation—

I hope that the hon. Gentleman has not lost the will to live. I do not know the details of that case, but my experience, having been in this job for more than a year, is that things are often not as they appear at first glance. We are dealing with the backlog very successfully now, and I point out that our decision rate is much quicker than it was 12 years ago. Resources are being put into place, decisions are being taken and cases are coming to light. I ask him to look into that case, and if he wants me to take it up, I will do so.

I agree strongly with the thrust of the question from my hon. Friend the Member for Leyton and Wanstead (Harry Cohen), but does my hon. Friend the Minister agree that we should seek to ensure that all immigrant workers are paid the minimum wage, so that they are not treated as a pool of cheap migrant labour and so that existing trade union agreements are not undermined?

It is very important that this point is taken on board, because this country welcomes legal migrant workers; they contribute to our economy very significantly. In order to protect those people, they have the same rights as domestic workers. Illegal migrants, and legal migrants who are paid below the minimum wage, undermine confidence in the migration and minimum wage systems. The exploitation of any worker is not acceptable to this Government.

Over the weekend, we have heard some pretty controversial reported comments by a former adviser to the Government about their immigration policy. May I invite the Minister to put the record straight? What was the motivation behind the very rapid increase in immigration under this Government?

If one takes a responsible and reasonable look at the statistics, one will see that it was an earlier Act that brought about significant increases in immigration in this country. The most significant milestone in the history of migration policy since the second world war, in my view, was the abolition of border controls in 1994. With your permission, Mr. Speaker, I throw the question back at the hon. Gentleman: does he now support the border controls that we have put back into place?

I think a lot of people will notice that the Minister has made no attempt to answer my question. What Mr. Neather, the former adviser, said was that the policy of rapid expansion was done to put pressure on the right. Would it not be utterly disgraceful for any Government to decide immigration policy that was in the interests not of the country, but of a political party? Was that what happened?

I do not know to whom or to which reports the hon. Gentleman refers. If he wants to take the views of someone with a political motivation, that is up to him, but I repeat that the Government have reintroduced border controls—electronic borders—despite opposition from the hon. Gentleman.

It is no good the hon. Gentleman shaking his head and smirking about it. The facts are that his party abolished border controls, that we have reintroduced them and that he opposes them.