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Volume 542: debated on Monday 19 March 2012

8. What steps she is taking to ensure that people applying to settle in the UK can contribute to the economy. (100224)

On 29 February, we announced changes that will break the link between coming here to work and settling permanently and ensure that only those who make a significant economic contribution can stay. In future, most skilled workers will need to be paid a minimum salary of £35,000 to settle here.

I welcome the Minister’s comments. I am glad that settlement will no longer be an automatic consequence of long-term residence, but can he assure my constituents that that will be properly enforced?

I am grateful for my hon. Friend’s support, and I can give her that assurance. The new measures will be no different in this regard from any other immigration route. She and the House may be aware that we have now reached 11,000 arrests of criminals, including murderers, rapists and illegal immigrants, as a result of the processing of advance passenger information through e-borders. In 2011, in a clampdown on sham marriages, we carried out over 300 enforcement operations and prosecuted almost 230 people. That is the kind of tough enforcement that we need, and now have, to back up our immigration system.

Overseas domestic workers make a significant contribution to Britain’s economy, directly and indirectly, by allowing their employers to contribute to the economy. The changes to their visa that the Minister has announced put a large number of overseas domestic workers at risk of being trafficked, as we know from history. Would he be willing to meet me and representatives of Justice for Domestic Workers so that he can hear first hand about the impact that his proposed changes will have on overseas domestic workers?

I do not agree with the hon. Lady’s analysis of what we are doing. We are returning this route to its original purpose—to enable visitors from overseas to bring their domestic workers with them to the UK. Domestic workers will be able to come to the country for short periods with their existing employer, but should also leave with that employer. Individuals living in the UK should recruit domestic help from within the resident labour force. There is no justification for allowing low-skilled jobs to be filled from outside the European economic area. It is wrong to assert that a right to settle and bring a family to the UK is the most appropriate form of protection from abuse. [Interruption.] The hon. Lady and the shadow Immigration Minister, the hon. Member for Rhondda (Chris Bryant), who is chuntering from a sedentary position, have simply got this wrong.

Does the Minister recognise the concern expressed by academics, universities and high-tech companies that this aspect of immigration policy and the rhetoric surrounding it is making it harder to attract and keep the best and brightest, who contribute so much to our society and economy? What assurances can he give to employers and their prospective employees that Britain will be open for the best and brightest?

I can give the hon. Gentleman the assurance of the facts. We have made changes to tier 1 —the top end of the immigration system—to encourage investors and entrepreneurs to come to the UK. We have created a special new route for the exceptionally talented in the arts and sciences. At the same time as reducing immigration numbers, we are making a more selective system that will show that Britain is open for business and that the brightest and the best can make a great future in this country.