Immigration and Nationality (Fees) Regulations 2007

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 4:45 pm on 29th March 2007.

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Photo of Baroness Scotland of Asthal Baroness Scotland of Asthal Minister of State, Home Office, Minister of State (Home Office) (Criminal Justice and Offender Management) 4:45 pm, 29th March 2007

My Lords, first, I thank the noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman, and the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, for their kind comments. Of course I do not know the Prime Minister's mind, but I am very hopeful that in times to come I will still have an occasional appearance on the Front Bench on behalf of the Home Office. If the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, retains his vigour, I am sure that I will. He does not need to respond to that.

I am very happy to put a full response to the questions raised with me by the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, either in the Library or on the website, as he suggested, perhaps in terms of the substance of the information as opposed to directly answering the questions he asked. That may be the most helpful form for others who will read it. I would be happy to share that with the noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman, and others in the House.

I absolutely understood that the assent given by the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, to the previous order was simply on the basis that it set the framework and not the detail. I expected and accepted that, when we came to discuss the regulations, that would be the appropriate time to have the discussion. There was absolutely no doubt in my mind that he was not agreeing in those terms.

I thank the noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman, for his agreement to the regulations. The fee level agreement is an annual agreement that is set and renewed annually with Her Majesty's Treasury. The issues will be looked at carefully. Noble Lords will know that a great deal of research went into ascertaining where to set the fee level, so that we could differentiate between the different routes and the different benefits that would accrue to an applicant by virtue of the granting of the necessary visa or permission to stay. That research has been placed in the Library. It has details of both in and out-of-country research. It is very helpful because, not for the first time, it shows a clear methodology to assess where the fee levels should be, and it gives a clear understanding of the factors that were taken into consideration before the levels were reached. The noble Lord, Lord Avebury, and the noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman, will find that of some help and assistance.

The noble Viscount asked about the revenue from the fees. We are, as I indicated, working within those strict limits. Our forecast for the IND is as follows. We are raising £100 million to fund the forecast enforcement strategy costs for the IND, and recovered fees are about £240 million. Overseas forecast costs are around £350 million, with costs and fees now including the costs of commercial partners. So in future a single fee will be paid by migrants. The total is £655 million, including the £100 million.

I know that the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, is concerned that this could somehow be distorted into a general way of raising revenue to meet those fees. The new powers will not be used to generate unlimited fee income. They can be used only for immigration and nationality applications listed in Section 42 of the Asylum and Immigration (Treatment of Claimants, etc.) Act 2004. There has to be a relationship to the cost. It is not in our interest to see volume fall. I agree with the noble Lord that migrants are hugely beneficial to our country and we have been advantaged by them.