The Home Office reviews all immigration and nationality fees annually, with any changes normally implemented in April each year. We currently have no agreed plans to change fee levels, but the process for considering whether any changes are necessary commences in the summer and parliamentary approval has to be gained before any changes are made.
The Minister will be aware that immigration fees for limited leave to remain have increased by 79% in four years to £1,033 per person, with no reduction for children. Does she appreciate that the cost can be crippling for families with a number of children going through that process, and will she at the very least look at reducing fees for children so that they cover processing alone?
I thank the hon. Gentleman for his question. I am of course alive to the points made at recent Home Affairs Committee meetings and in the recent Lords debate on child citizenship fees. In due course, I will also consider the findings of the scheduled review by the independent chief inspector of borders and immigration.
I thank my hon. Friend for his question. He will of course have heard me say that fees are reviewed annually, and we will continue with that policy. He is right, however, to point out that we will still seek to attract the brightest and best, and our future immigration Bill will set out exactly how we intend to do that.
Does the Minister agree with Mark Thomson, the director general of UK Visas and Immigration, who said at a recent MPs’ casework meeting that those who pay for premium services but do not get their visas on the same day should have their fees returned to them?
I was not present at that meeting, so I cannot comment on that specific case, but I am very conscious that Her Majesty’s Passport Office and UKVI work very hard to ensure that we deliver within service standards. Where fees are looked at and there is a genuine case for a refund, we do make refunds.
The Home Affairs Committee’s recent report on the Windrush scandal shows that the whole immigration and nationality application service is hugely complicated, very bureaucratic and needs completely overhauling and streamlining, and that fees bear no relationship to the service’s efficiency or cost. Will the Minister guarantee that the additional costs of sorting out the Windrush scandal will not be used as an excuse, under full cost recovery, to jack up fees yet further?
Of course, the lessons learned review that is commencing into Windrush will be an important opportunity for us to review all practices across UKVI and ensure that such an appalling scandal cannot happen again. My hon. Friend will have heard comments about reviews of fees, which happen annually, but I point out that we passed primary legislation in 2014 that allows the Home Office to charge fees that not only recover the cost of individual applications but contribute to the whole borders and immigration system, thus helping to secure our borders and ensure that we are safe.