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Migration Target

Volume 590: debated on Monday 5 January 2015

4. What recent assessment she has made of the likelihood of the next migration target being met. (906746)

Where we can control migration, our reforms have cut non-EU migration to levels close to those not seen since the 1990s. However, EU immigration has almost doubled to unprecedented levels in the past two years. Many EU migrants are coming to the UK to work because of this Government’s success in rebuilding the economy and creating jobs.

Does the Home Secretary agree that when the Prime Minister said “no ifs, no buts” about getting net migration down to tens of thousands, he made a promise to the British people that he now appears to have broken?

I have been very clear and said publicly that yes, we have been blown off course in respect of our net migration target. I have just indicated that in the figures I mentioned in relation to EU migration. The Prime Minister has set out a number of ways in which we intend to address that particular issue, but it is this Government who have been addressing issues across the immigration system that have led to non-EU immigration coming down to levels close to those of the 1990s.

I strongly support the work that the Home Secretary has done with regard to controlling bogus student visa applications. That was a huge problem that she has got rid of. However, how would she answer my constituent Sir James Dyson, who said that if her latest remarks about automatically sending all students home on completion of their studies were taken literally, there would be dire consequences for businesses such as his which rely on engineers and scientists from overseas?

We have been very clear in all the changes we have made to the immigration system that we welcome the brightest and the best to the United Kingdom. We have no limit on the number of people who are coming here genuinely to study in a proper educational establishment. I am pleased to say that visa applications from university students rose by 2% in the year ending September 2014, with an increase of 4% for the Russell Group universities. We also need to recognise that the latest survey showed that in one year 121,000 students came in from overseas and only 50,000 left. Figures suggest that in the 2020s, we will see 600,000 overseas students each year in this country.

Entrepreneurs in Shoreditch to whom I speak greatly welcome migration. The Home Secretary’s colleague the Business Secretary came to an event organised by Tech City News to applaud the input of migrants in Shoreditch, so who is right: the Home Secretary or her colleague the Business Secretary?

There is no difference between two members of a Cabinet in a Government who believe that the brightest and the best should be able to come to the United Kingdom to work. We listen to business, and when we changed the system for non-EU economic migration we made every effort to do it in a way that business applauded.

Immigration from the EU is the No. 1 issue in my constituency and across north Northamptonshire. The Prime Minister is the only party leader who will make any attempt to reduce immigration from the EU, and he has given a further guarantee that if he fails to do that the British people will have the chance to vote in a referendum by 2017 to get out of the EU. I am looking forward to that referendum; is the Home Secretary, and might she be voting to come out?

Order. The question relates purely to the likelihood of the next migration target being met, so this is not an occasion for a general dilation on the EU. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman was not hoping for any such thing.

My hon. Friend was attempting to tempt me, Mr Speaker, but I am grateful for your guidance in this matter. My hon. Friend is absolutely right that the Prime Minister is the only party leader who has set out an intention to deal with free movement in the European Union and to do it in a way that enables us to do what everybody wants and to have the degree of control over our borders that we wish to have.

Will not the Home Secretary just concede that her immigration cap did not work and could never work, because we live in an interconnected, globalised world of which the free movement of people is a key feature? Will she agree that any future attempt at a UKIP-inspired immigration cap will be as disastrous as the last UKIP-inspired immigration cap?

I said in my original answer that we have been blown off course from the net migration target. The hon. Gentleman says that it is impossible to bring about changes in net migration, but I remind him that migration from outside the European Union has come down to levels close to those of the 1990s.

It is clearly progress that net migration from non-EU countries is now at levels not seen since the 1990s. Will my right hon. Friend update the House on what action the Home Office is taking to ensure that those who have no right to be within the jurisdiction are removed from the country, such as foreign prisoners when they have completed their sentence of imprisonment and those who have been found by an immigration appeals tribunal to have no right to asylum here? What action is being taken to ensure that those people leave the country when they are told that they have no right to be in the country?

My right hon. Friend is right to raise the issue of dealing with those who have no right to be here. We are addressing it in a number of ways. For example, we are working hard with a number of other countries to ensure that they are willing to take back their foreign national offenders; we have ensured that there are fewer appeal routes for people who no longer have a right to be in the United Kingdom; some foreign national offenders have a right of appeal outside the country rather than inside the country; and we have undertaken a pilot with university students in the south-west to remind them when their visa comes to an end so that they leave the country. The issue is being addressed in a number of ways.