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UK Visas and Immigration

Volume 645: debated on Monday 16 July 2018

3. What recent assessment he has made of the performance of UK Visas and Immigration against its target times for responses to members of the public. (906452)

The UKVI contact centre has set contractual targets for the commercial partner that delivers contact-centre services on its behalf. The achievement of those targets is monitored daily through the service-management team, to assure achievement. The team holds formal board review meetings monthly to review performance against the set key performance indicators.

Is the Minister satisfied with the current target times and does she think they are appropriate? My constituent made an application in November 2017 and has not heard a single thing since—nothing.

It is important to note that service standards are met in the vast majority of cases. If applications are not straightforward, we do not set a service standard, because we think it is right that applications should be considered thoroughly and in detail.

Is my right hon. Friend aware of the chorus of complaints from countries such as Moldova, Ukraine and Georgia, where businessmen who want to come to do trade deals with us—indeed, in some cases Members of Parliament or Government Ministers from those countries—are facing lengthy delays in obtaining visas, and in some cases outright refusal? Will she have another look at the issue? It is doing real damage to our relations with those countries.

UKVI issues 2.7 million visas every single year and, as I said, the vast majority are done within our service standards. I am happy to look into my right hon. Friend’s point, because in a Britain that is outward-looking, global and open for business, it is important that visas are issued efficiently.

The Home Affairs Committee report on Home Office delivery of Brexit found that a lack of experience among staff resulted in life-changing consequences. What is the Department doing to improve the recruitment and retention of staff to make sure that, while targets are met, the quality of decision making is still ensured?

The quality of decision making is of course important. We work closely with our caseworkers to make sure that they have the right level of training. In many instances, we sit senior caseworkers with those who are more junior, until such time as they can be confident in the decisions that they make.

There is of course a mixture of resources. As we heard from my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, the fees that are levied for the UKVI service make a contribution towards the cost of that service and towards the wider border costs in general. It is important that we have the right number of staff and that they work efficiently, and we are taking steps to ensure that that is the case.

Is the Minister aware that delays in responding are one of the biggest problems for the public, for business and for Members of Parliament trying to help their constituents? I have innumerable such cases, including that of Ms Rettie Grace Downer, who submitted an application for further leave in 2005 and whose application is still outstanding 13 years later. Does she recognise the danger of sounding complacent on this issue, and what will she do to further bear down on these unacceptable delays?

Although I cannot comment on individual cases, the right hon. Lady has, of course, pointed to a case that was started in 2005 under a previous Labour Administration. I am sure that she will be pleased to hear—[Interruption.] She can shout at me from a sedentary position, but I am sure that she will be pleased to hear that, at a recent away day for border and immigration staff, I made it very clear that one of my highest priorities is making sure that responses to Members of Parliament and the public are of the highest priority so that we see prompt responses.