Skip to main content


Volume 574: debated on Monday 27 January 2014

The Government are working to build an immigration system that works in the national interest. We are reforming immigration routes, tackling abuse and improving customer services. We have abolished the UK Border Agency and created three distinct commands focusing on border control, visas and immigration, and immigration enforcement. Those are the right changes, but it will take substantial work and a number of years to fix the broken system that we inherited.

Does the Home Secretary agree that recent visa figures showing a 7% rise in the number of applications to study in Britain show that we continue to attract the brightest and best students from around the globe?

That is absolutely right. One of the key changes that we made to the immigration system was to introduce a greater degree of differentiation so that we encourage the brightest and the best. The figures that my hon. Friend quoted show that we are bringing the brightest and the best into our universities, and long may that continue. At the same time, we have rooted out abuse and continue to work to do so, particularly in the student visa system.

This morning on the “Today” programme, the Prime Minister said that the Government were simply introducing NHS charges for

“people who have no right to be here”.

Will the Home Secretary therefore table amendments to the Immigration Bill to exempt students and others who do have the right to be here and are making a major contribution to the UK economy, or has the Prime Minister got it wrong?

The hon. Gentleman will be aware of the changes that we are bringing forward in the Immigration Bill, which will do a number of things. They will indeed make it harder for people to be here in the United Kingdom when they have no right to be here. They will also make it easier for us to deal with people who are here illegally who I am sure everybody in the House wants to see removed from this country.

On Thursday, the Immigration Bill will come back to the House on Report. The Home Secretary will be delighted that there are 30 pages of new clauses and amendments. There are 50 Government amendments, and it appears that we cannot possibly have enough time in the four hours on Thursday to debate or even read those 30 pages. Will she now tell the House that we will have an extra day for Report?

The Leader of the House has announced the business and the time available for the Immigration Bill on Thursday. I recognise that there are a significant number of Government amendments. They are mainly small and technical but, like my hon. Friend, I would prefer that we did not have to bring so many technical amendments to the House at this stage.

Today, on behalf of the official Opposition, I have signed new clauses 7 to 10 to the Immigration Bill, tabled by the hon. and learned Member for Sleaford and North Hykeham (Stephen Phillips) and several other Conservative Back Benchers, which would strengthen future European Union accession arrangements. Given that new cross-party consensus, will the Home Secretary join us in supporting those new clauses on Thursday?

The right hon. Gentleman must wait and see what happens on Thursday, but I have looked with interest at the amendments tabled by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Sleaford and North Hykeham (Stephen Phillips). I am pleased there is agreement across the House that we must take action in future on accession countries, and the number of people who may be coming to the UK from those countries.