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Immigration System

Volume 524: debated on Monday 7 March 2011

1. What steps she plans to take to decouple temporary residence from permanent settlement in the immigration system. (44040)

The Government have pledged to break the link between temporary migration and permanent settlement. Settling in Britain should be a privilege to be earned, not an automatic add-on to a temporary way in. We have already announced that we will introduce a new permanent limit on non-EU economic migrants, with a reduction in the number of visas in the next financial year from 28,000 to 21,700, a fall of over 20%. The Government will consult later this year on breaking the link between work and settlement.

My constituents are largely concerned not about people who work here temporarily, but about people who work here for a short time and then can settle permanently. Is there not a case for a review of the criteria for permanent settlement, to try to avoid this kind of practice?

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for her supplementary question. We will review the entire question of permanent settlement including the criteria for it as part of our review of the whole immigration system. We will make announcements on that shortly, but I can tell my hon. Friend that we have already tightened the settlement criteria in April, by introducing, for example, a new criminality threshold so all applicants must be clear of unspent convictions when applying, a new income requirement for skilled and highly skilled migrants applying for settlement, and reform of the English language requirements.

Regardless of whether applicants are applying for temporary or permanent residence, and of whether they have friends in high places, should we not restrict the admission of foreigners convicted of paedophilia offences?

I understand where the hon. Gentleman is trying to lead his question. Of course there are rules on that offence in relation to exclusions from the United Kingdom. Decisions on exclusions are taken by the Home Secretary on the basis of evidence put forward by the UK Border Agency.

On temporary residence, is it not clear that under the Government’s plans students are welcome to come and study in this country, and, indeed, should be made welcome? However, is it not part of the inheritance of this Government that large numbers of people have used the study route as a means of coming to the country to work, rather than to study? Will my right hon. Friend give me an assurance that this Government will bear down on bogus students and bogus colleges who abuse the system?

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his question, and I am happy to give him precisely that assurance in relation to the stance this Government are taking. It is perfectly clear from the figures that, sadly, all too many people have used the student visa route as a means simply of coming to the UK to work. There are some very good examples of colleges that exist in name only, such as the college that had two lecturers covering 940 students. I hope there is cross-House agreement that that sort of abuse must be stopped, but we do want to ensure that legitimate students wanting to study legitimate courses at legitimate institutions come here.

Is it the Home Secretary’s intention to scrap identity cards for foreign nationals, and if so, how will that assist in preventing individuals who are here on visas from overstaying?

The answer to the hon. Gentleman’s question is no: the biometric residence permits will continue.