Statement of Changes in Immigration Rules

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 8:15 pm on 25th November 2008.

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Photo of Lord Norton of Louth Lord Norton of Louth Conservative 8:15 pm, 25th November 2008

My Lords, I declare an interest as an academic, like the noble Lord, Lord Bew. There is little that can I add to the excellent contributions that have been made. I just want to reiterate the point about the quality of the universities in this country and how important that is. Our universities are world class in their research and they manage to be so on the basis of funding that is relatively limited when compared with that in our competitor countries. We do extraordinarily well. Therefore, to promote research, it is essential that our universities are encouraged, not hindered, in facilitating the quality of their research.

Hosting sponsored researchers is a small but important part of research in our universities. That international exchange is absolutely crucial to the type of work that is undertaken, as the noble Lord, Lord Bew, mentioned. As all the speakers so far have said, the problem is that these rules hinder, rather than assist.

All the points that I would have made have been made for me, so I do not want to repeat them. However, I have three questions for the Minister. First, can he confirm that sponsored researchers are not high-risk migrants? Secondly, what have universities done so far that is deemed inappropriate in respect of sponsoring visiting researchers? Thirdly, what guidance have government departments given to develop appropriate schemes for hosting visiting researchers?