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Immigration (Integration)

Volume 548: debated on Monday 9 July 2012

Our immigration reforms will return migration to sustainable levels in the tens of thousands, reducing pressures on communities. Changes to family immigration rules will ensure that migrants are not a burden on the taxpayer but can speak English and pay their way, and a new “Life in the UK” test will have British history and culture at its heart. All of that will help ensure that migrants are better able to integrate in the UK.

I welcome the Minister’s comments. The cornerstone of successful integration in Bedford and Kempston for generations has been a clear focus on hard work and strong family values. Will the Minister assure me that he will continue to promote those values, rather than the pattern of welfare dependency that has emerged in recent years?

Absolutely. My hon. Friend makes an entirely valid point, because most immigrants come here to work and we should encourage them to do so. That is why our new “Life in the UK” test booklet will concentrate more on British history, British values and great people in British history and rather less than the previous Government’s version did on how to claim benefits.

When my parents left their homeland in the 1960s to settle in the UK, they brought with them a deep respect and love for Britain. Sadly, too few migrants share that approach today. I therefore welcome the changes to the “Life in the UK” test that my hon. Friend has outlined. Does he agree that they will help to underline the importance of immigrants learning the English language?

That is absolutely right. It is obvious that it is easier for someone to make a success of their life in a new country if they can speak the language properly. That is why we have increased the English requirements across the board for migrants who intend to settle here. That will help them not only to integrate better in the wider community but to make a success of their own lives. Opposition Members who campaign against the changes are letting down future generations of migrants to this country.

Does the Minister accept that a continuing huge backlog of unprocessed cases in the “legacy” category, along with arbitrary and at times unfair decisions against genuine and entirely meritorious applicants for visas to visit relatives in the UK, continues to make it very difficult to promote effective immigration among sections of ethnic minorities who believe that the rules are not being applied fairly?

On legacy cases, the right hon. Gentleman is entirely right. In the middle of the last decade, half a million cases were famously discovered, and we are sorting that out. The asylum archive is now down by 24,000 from the high of 98,000 that it reached in 2011, so this Government, unlike the previous one, are getting to grips with the terrible problems that we inherited. We are increasingly successful in providing not just sustainable levels of immigration but a system in which people can—