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House of Commons Hansard
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05 September 2016
Volume 614
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8. What assessment she has made of recent trends in the level of immigration. [906086]

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17. What plans her Department has to reduce net migration. [906095]

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The latest figures show that the reforms we have made to cut abuse across non-EU visa routes and toughen welfare provisions are working. Reducing the number of migrants coming to the UK will be a priority for the negotiations to leave the European Union.

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I welcome my hon. Friend to his new role, which must be one of the most challenging and difficult in Government. The most recent figures demonstrate, if proof were needed, that despite the steps already taken by the Government we urgently need new, clear, workable and effective policies. Will he set out when he intends to bring such policies before the House?

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We are committed to bringing down net migration to sustainable levels as soon as possible. It will take time to do so, because until we leave the European Union we will still be affected by the free movement rules, but we are doing everything we can now to ensure that the numbers come down. At every step of the negotiations we will work to ensure the best possible outcome for the British people and it would be wrong to set out unilateral positions in advance of that.

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I welcome the new Minister, who probably has the most difficult job in Government. He will be a national hero when he reduces immigration to the tens of thousands. Will he tell the House how he is going to work with the Department for Exiting the European Union?

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I thank my hon. Friend for his question; we may have been on different sides of the referendum campaign, but we are quite clearly all on the same side now in delivering the result for the British people. The Home Office will be the lead Department in negotiations on this, but we look forward to working with the Brexit Department, and I suspect that the Prime Minister may be taking an interest, given her experience in the Home Office.

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In China, the Prime Minister has unilaterally announced that Britain will not be adopting the points-based system on which the leave campaign put so much emphasis during the referendum, but that we will be doing something more effective. Can the Minister tell us what that is?

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When the Labour party introduced a points-based system, the numbers went straight up. Australia has a points-based system and higher immigration per capita than Britain. A points-based system would give foreign nationals a right to come to Britain if they meet certain criteria. An immigration system that works for Britain would ensure that the right to decide who comes to the country resides with this Government.

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The Logan practice in my constituency—it is my own GP practice—has already sponsored medical students from the American University of Beirut for a four-week learning experience. This year’s student, Ghaith Rukba, a Syrian national, has been refused entry, although he would be coming on exactly the same basis as previous applicants. Will the Minister meet me urgently to review the case, as Mr Rukba is due to arrive on 24 September?

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It is certainly the aim of the Government to ensure that those who wish to come to our blue-chip universities—the Russell Group universities—to study can do so, but I understand that there are specific cases for courses. I would be happy to meet the hon. Lady to discuss that case and facilitate it.

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I, too, welcome my hon. Friend to his post. It is essential that our excellent universities continue to attract students from all over the world, but does he agree that it is not sustainable to go on with a situation in which almost two thirds of all non-EU students who come into this country stay? Our existing rules need to be enforced.

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It is very important that when people come here to study from abroad and gain a qualification, they take it back and improve the development of the countries from which they came. It is not the intention that getting a place at a university in the UK is a licence to stay in the UK for the rest of someone’s life.

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A decade ago, Labour introduced a points-based system for non-EU migration. In the referendum campaign, five of the Home Secretary’s Cabinet colleagues and many Conservative MPs pledged to extend it. As my hon. Friend the Member for Wallasey (Ms Eagle) has said, without consultation or debate, the Prime Minister today ruled that out but failed to tell us what she would do instead. That comes as the Italian Government make this warning: the more the UK Government limit EU citizens in the UK, the more the Italian Government will limit the presence of UK goods in Europe. The stakes are high, but just when the country needs leadership, we have confusion. The Home Secretary presented proposals to the Cabinet last week. Will the Minister tell us what they were so that we can begin finally to have a proper debate about what Brexit means for Britain?

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The right hon. Gentleman may have heard somebody saying this morning that a points-based system is not a silver bullet. When we took power in 2010, Labour’s immigration system was chaotic and broken. People from outside the EU with no skills at all were allowed to come. Indeed, search parties were sent out to encourage mass immigration.

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That was a complete non-answer. People at home might wonder why we are getting non-answers on Brexit: it is because the Government told the civil service not to plan for it, hence the confusion we are in. There is one issue that the Minister could clear up today—the status of EU nationals who are already here. The failure to address that is creating uncertainty for families who have chosen to make their lives here, and hostility towards some EU nationals. The whole country was appalled by the attack in Harlow in late August that led to the death of a Polish national, Arkadiusz Jozwik. It is in the Minister’s and the Home Secretary’s gift to change that climate. Will he and she respect the unanimous vote of this House back in July and confirm the status of all EU nationals who are already here?

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We have always made it clear that the status of EU nationals is not under threat at all. Indeed, we have always made the point that, during the negotiations, so long as those same protections are available to UK citizens living abroad, they will be there for those who come here from the rest of Europe. I pay tribute to the contribution made to the British economy by those who come to work not just from the European Union, but from further afield. We want to attract the brightest and best, but we must control the numbers that come.