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Volume 571: debated on Monday 2 December 2013

We have reduced net migration by nearly a third since its peak in 2010. Immigration continues to fall, with immigration from outside the EU at its lowest level since 1998. We will continue to take steps to keep immigration under control, while allowing the best and the brightest to come to Britain to contribute to our economy.

I welcome the Minister’s answer, but will he assure me that the Government will remove people who are not here to work and prevent them from coming back, unless they have a very good, legitimate reason for doing so?

From last week’s announcements, my hon. Friend will have noted that we are changing the relevant regulations so that if EU citizens in Britain are, for example, involved in low-level criminality or rough sleeping, and not exercising their treaty rights, we will be able to remove them and prevent them from coming back, unless they can demonstrate that they will immediately be exercising those treaty rights. I think that those changes will be welcomed in the country.

Will the Minister address that part of his responsibilities in this policy area as they affect would-be foreign students coming to study in this country? On 17 October, he painted a pretty positive picture in a written answer to me on this issue, but that stands in stark contrast to what the UK university sector is saying about a massive loss of income and of international good will for our country.

I am surprised by that, because figures published last week showed a 7% increase—an increased increase on the previous statistics—in the number of such students going to our universities. There is no reason why a student who is properly qualified, who can speak English and who can pay their fees cannot come to a university, and if they get a graduate-level job, they can stay afterwards to work and to continue contributing, so I am not sure why the university sector is saying that. The increase in the number of students does not support its argument.

Although I can understand, given the grotesque underestimate by the previous Government, my hon. Friend’s reluctance to predict the number of Bulgarians and Romanians likely to come to this country, may I encourage him to give the public and local authorities some indication so that they can plan? Furthermore, even at this late stage, may I invite the Government to support new clause 1 to the Immigration Bill to extend the transitional arrangements—and let us see the courts of these islands, or indeed the European Court of Justice, defy the will of Parliament?

On the first point, predictions only have any value if they are accurate. I am sure that my hon. Friend was listening carefully to my earlier answer, but the figures from independent commentators—from the countries concerned to Migration Watch and other forecasters—are wide-ranging. Indeed, from what I think I heard an Opposition Member say, there is a political party in this country that thinks that all 29 million citizens of those two countries are going to arrive at Heathrow airport on 1 January. With that range of forecasts, it would not be wise to make any predictions.