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Family Migration Route

Volume 535: debated on Monday 7 November 2011

This Government are determined to bring net migration back to sustainable levels, and to bring a sense of fairness back to our immigration system. That is why we consulted on new measures to prevent the abuse of family migration, to promote integration and to reduce burdens on the taxpayer.

I thank my hon. Friend for that answer. At our party conference the Home Secretary outlined plans to amend the immigration rules better to balance the right to a family life with the wider public interest in controlling immigration. What estimate has the Minister made of the number of immigrants using article 8 of the European convention on human rights to remain in the United Kingdom?

My hon. Friend makes a good point, and the UK Border Agency took a snapshot, reviewing in detail those appeals by foreign criminals against deportation which were determined in October to December last year. There were 551, of which 162 were successful, and of those 99—61%—were allowed on article 8 grounds. That is precisely why we will revise the immigration rules to reinforce the public interest in seeing foreign nationals who are convicted of a criminal offence and those who have breached our immigration laws removed from this country.

Amid the UK Border Agency’s problems with handling asylum cases, will the Minister assure the House that spouses coming to live here in the UK will have to show a commitment to speak and learn English—for their benefit as well as the benefit of society as a whole?

Both those points are right: such an approach is not just for the benefit of the individual; it is absolutely for the benefit of the community that they enter. That is why last November we introduced requirements that spouses and partners must demonstrate a basic knowledge of the English language before they are granted a marriage visa. It is reasonable that anyone intending to live in the UK should understand English so that they can integrate fully and participate fully in life in this country.

Given the passport control fiasco exposed over the past few days, does the Minister seriously still expect us to accept, as he said seven days ago:

“The Government is doing more than ever before to protect the UK’s borders”?

Absolutely. The hon. Gentleman knows that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary is going to make a statement on that matter later, when it can be dealt with in detail, but in his honest moments he will accept that one of the biggest problems—one of the biggest shambles—that this Government inherited was the immigration system that the previous Government left us, and that is what we are getting to grips with now.

(Stratford and Urmston) (Lab): Access to good quality expert advice is important to support legitimate applicants and to ensure that those who should not be here can be advised quickly that they have no case, but constituents report to me that such advice is in increasingly short supply. What steps will the Minister take to ensure that good quality advisers remain in place, particularly following the Government’s cuts to legal aid?

The Government’s cuts to legal aid specifically do not apply to asylum cases, because we accept that genuine asylum seekers will be in need of proper legal advice, but across the House it is agreed that some of the legal advice available in immigration cases, whether asylum or general immigration cases, is frankly substandard. That is why, when looking at our support for the legal aid system, which was yet another public spending regime that ran out of control under the previous Government, we have specifically protected the most vulnerable.

All of us want to try to avoid abuse of all the immigration systems, but does the Minister accept that our high-tech industries in particular rely on key individuals from overseas? It is very important to be able to attract those individuals, and some of these immigration changes risk deterring them from coming here. What steps will he take to ensure that we still get the key international people we need?

I am happy to say to my hon. Friend that we have already taken those steps. Indeed we are bringing down the number of people coming here but, at the same time, we are differentiating more effectively, so that the brightest and the best can continue to come here. That is why we have created the new investors and entrepreneurs visas, which have doubled the number of entrepreneurs who have come into this country over the course of this year, and that is why we have set up the exceptional talent route.