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Immigration: Charging for Services

Volume 712: debated on Thursday 16 July 2009

Statement

The Minister of State for Borders and Immigration, Phil Woolas, has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

The biggest shake-up to our border protection and immigration system for over 45 years is well under way. The Borders, Citizenship and Immigration Bill, which will fundamentally overhaul the laws regarding obtaining British citizenship, is currently progressing through Parliament. We will also look to simplify our immigration laws further through legislation to be published later this year in Parliament.

The UK Border Agency was established in April 2008 to create a strong new force at the border by bringing together immigration, customs and visa checks to strengthen the UK border. We want the UK to stay open and attractive for both business and visitors, but at the same time we are determined to deliver a system of border control which is among the strongest in the world.

Inward investment and tourism benefit Britain greatly. The Government are committed to boosting Britain’s economy by bringing the right skills from around the world and ensuring that it is easy to visit legally. We want to continue to welcome the holidaymakers, visitors, business people and genuine students who come here, recognising the valuable contribution they make to economic growth and the way they enrich our society through cultural exchange.

For the immigration system to command public support, among both the British public and legitimate migrants, we need an immigration system that is fair and effective. The integrity of the immigration system depends on robust borders, with effective security overseas and in the UK ensuring and enforcing compliance with our immigration laws. To help achieve this, those who benefit directly from our immigration system (migrants, employers and educational institutions) should contribute to the costs of the system and enable us to meet our strategic objectives.

Later this summer the Government will publish a consultation document on charging for certain services we provide. To maintain our world class immigration system currently costs over £2.2bn per annum. UK Border Agency currently recovers approximately 30 per cent of this spend through fees for applications and services we offer.

We believe it is right that users of that system make an appropriate contribution to meeting those costs, to help manage the burden on the UK taxpayer. The purpose of consulting is to ensure that we are getting that balance right in the broader interests of the UK.

The consultation document will set out some options on how we can charge for our services. We want a genuine debate on the most appropriate way to charge. We will be engaging with stakeholders throughout the consultation period in order to get the views and ideas from as many people as possible. Copies of the consultation paper will be placed in the Libraries of the House and will be available for download from the UK Border Agency website at http://www.ukba.homeoffice.gov.uk/aboutus/consultations/current/.