The latest figures show that our reforms to cut abuse across non-EU visa routes and our toughened welfare provisions are working, but there is no doubt that there is more to do. As we conduct our negotiations to leave the EU, it will be a priority to retain more control of the numbers of people who come here from Europe.
Given that there is still some way to go, how confident is the Minister that the measures taken by the Government will result in our meeting the target of reducing net migration to the tens of thousands? Does he agree that ending the free movement of people principle imposed on us by the EU is essential if we are to stand any chance of meeting that target?
There is no doubt that this is a challenging target, but I love a challenge. We are committed to bringing net migration down to the tens of thousands, and we have already taken significant steps to control immigration. The UK’s departure from the EU will give us control over EU migration, and we will shortly be publishing a consultation document on further changes to the non-EU work and study routes.
A constituent of mine is awaiting an appeal in respect of a spouse visa application. Correspondence from the tribunals service stated that the process would take 15 weeks, but we have now been informed that it could take up to 18 months. Why are appeals taking so long? Why does the information given to applicants not reflect these delays? The lack of clarity is causing undue stress to applicants and their loved ones.
Although I cannot comment on an individual case, I hope that the hon. Lady will give me the details. It is, however, absolutely right that we took measures to stamp out sham marriages and other routes whereby people can use marriage as a way of getting fraudulent entry to the UK. That does mean that some of the hoops people have to jump through can be slightly smaller than before.
Many of my constituents would like illegal immigration stamped out, as well as there to be monitoring of how much migration there is. I was pleased to hear on the weekend reports of a Jetstream 41 turboprop plane being brought in to help control our borders. Will the Minister tell the House a little more about what he is hoping to achieve with that?
We are determined to prevent illegal migration, from whatever route it comes. That can be through people getting on vehicles coming through the channel crossings, or through general aviation or general maritime routes. We are determined to clamp down on all of those.
The policy to limit migration is at odds with the promise that we heard in the referendum campaign from the Secretary of State for International Development. She said that if we voted to leave, chefs from the sub-continent could have their visa restrictions relaxed to avoid a curry crisis. Was that pledge of the same value as the one that we saw on the side of a bus promising money for the NHS—meaning that it will never happen—or will the Government address the skills shortage in our economy rather than aping the UK Independence party?
I will certainly take no lessons from Labour, as it was the party that allowed people to come in from outside the EU with no skills at all. Indeed, search parties were sent out to encourage mass migration. I lay down a challenge to the restaurateurs in our country to train our own people, because we have tremendously talented people in the UK who would love to train and work in that environment. We do not always need to bring people across from the sub-continent.