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, although I appreciate what the noble Lord is saying, the reason I said that it is unlikely that it can be done is that the framework constructed for the laying of the fees directs those fees to the service they provide. We are discussing the fees relating to over-cost recovery. Other fees are below-cost recovery and we do not make any charge for them. So we must look at the system as a whole and identify the cost of maintaining a system. The noble Lord will know, as will the noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman, who is also familiar with this issue, that we have to do better on enforcement if we are to allow applicants who legitimately want to come here to do so safely and appropriately.

One of the other advantages is that, as we have improved the process, we have improved its efficiency. As we improve the efficiency, there is a better chance of reducing the cost to make it faster and cheaper; so we will be able to monitor those issues. I understand why the noble Lord is anxious about the matter, but the process that has evolved in setting the fees is very interesting and successful. It has been predicated on good, solid research; it has very broadly engaged stakeholders; it has tried to better understand the market and the different migration flows; and it has tried to build within it sufficient measures to prevent disincentives occurring in areas where we would very much wish to encourage migration flows.

We think that there is a real coherence—and I will not say "for once"—in the overall research and pattern of how this has been structured. I am very grateful for that. As noble Lords should know, a number of agencies have contributed here. A number of noble Lords have participated in the consultative group and have really honed the model to make it much better than it would otherwise have been. Although I understand the noble Lord's concern, I say that the concern is reduced as one looks at the matter in greater detail.

The noble Lord asked whether the model would give unlimited powers. It does not, because IND and UKvisas operate within the strict limits that I mentioned to the noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman.

The other issues mentioned arise from the same theme. I am happy to include in my more comprehensive account which is to be put on the website the detail underpinning the general statements I have made. The public consultation took account of a broad spectrum of issues. It was very extensive and ran from 30 October to 22 December last year. The document was sent to over 3,000 people, and all of the 340 responses received, including those from ILPA, were included in the overall assessment of the proposed policy on fees, and nearly 86 per cent of the responses were in favour of the current proposals. The consultation was broad-based. We think that the outcome is fair and balanced. This is not a penalty but a recognition that a real benefit flows from it.

Indefinite leave to remain fees can be justified at levels above cost recovery on the basis of the entitlements that will accrue to the applicant. We therefore believe that the fees are justified and that it is a lawful expense.

I know that the noble Lord rightly will continue to express concern about these issues and I anticipate that he will continue to scrutinise them. I thank him because, by virtue of that scrutiny, we look with ever-growing care to ensure that we are in a position to give him cogent answers. So, if I may respectfully say so, it has a beneficial effect. I know that others will quake at the fact that I have said that, but it is the truth.

I hope that, as a result of what I have said, noble Lords will be content to approve these regulations. As the House is almost empty, I thank them for staying on the last day of term and I wish them a very happy and peaceful Easter.