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Statements of Changes in Immigration Rules (HC 59 and HC 96)

Volume 721: debated on Monday 25 October 2010

Motion of Regret

Moved By

That this House regrets that Her Majesty’s Government have laid before the House Statements of Changes in Immigration Rules (HC 59, laid on 28 June; and HC 96, laid on 15 July) in a way that limits direct parliamentary scrutiny of the level of the immigration cap; and further regrets that the Government’s cap policy in relation to highly skilled migrants will damage the UK economy.

Relevant documents: 4th and 6th reports from the Merits Committee.

My Lords, let me say at once that I am grateful to the Minister for her reply. I have enormous respect for the noble Lord, Lord Roberts, but I should say to him that I have brought forward this Motion because of the report of the Merits of Statutory Instruments Select Committee which identified a number of issues that it thought warranted consideration by the House. I hope that he will consider this Motion on its own merits. Surely it is right for the House to be able to express a view on the statement of changes, and I am sure that if the previous Government had introduced these changes, the noble Lord, Lord Roberts, would have had no hesitation whatsoever in voting against them.

The Minister has said that she is still listening as far as a permanent cap is concerned. While of course I am glad that she is still listening, the point here is that a permanent cap is some way off. In the mean time, the interim cap holds and is causing damage. As the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, suggested, we have no guarantee today that the interim cap will be replaced by a permanent one, and the fact is that the current operation is in crisis. Applications were stopped last week and will start again on 1 November. How many days will it be before the cap is closed again? For an employer trying to get highly skilled people into this country, dealing with such a situation is a nightmare.

The noble Baroness has said that we have to develop skills within the UK. Of course we do, but we are a great, global trading nation and we have some outstanding global industries and businesses, including world-class academic institutions and extraordinary creative arts. We are putting all this at risk with the immigration cap as it is at the moment, and we are doing it in a way whereby parliamentary scrutiny of the size of the cap is avoided. We should put this to the test.

House adjourned at 9.18 pm.