Statement of Changes in Immigration Rules

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 8:45 pm on 25th November 2008.

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Photo of Lord West of Spithead Lord West of Spithead Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Security and Counter-terrorism), Home Office, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Home Office) (Security and Counter-terrorism) 8:45 pm, 25th November 2008

My Lords, I did not realise that that included chanting, but I will check.

On the points raised by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Ripon and Leeds, we have worked very closely with the churches on the PBS and will continue to engage with them to ensure that we have found the right route. My noble friend Lady Turner talked about good employees. PBS sponsorship is a much stronger control than we have today. There is no formal licence or vetting of employers under the present work permit arrangements, but all who are PBS-sponsored are thoroughly checked pre-licence and visited to ensure compliance with rules. We have sanctions against non-compliant sponsors: B-rating or we remove their licence. All that is much stronger than where we are today.

The new youth mobility scheme will be fairer than the schemes that it replaces because, unlike the WHM scheme, the au pair scheme, and so on, it will be open to the nationals of any country that satisfies the criteria. The criteria for the scheme are clear. They will always be applied transparently. Countries participating in the scheme will therefore understand what they have to do. We will be happy to talk with any country at any time about the criteria and what needs to be done to meet them.

I know that abolishing the retired persons route is a difficult and thorny issue. We consider that the retired persons route, if retained, would allow migrants to enter the UK and remain here without necessarily having earned that right. That would give them a distinct advantage over other migrants. We will, however, continue to allow a parent or grandparent aged 65 or over to come to the UK if they are financially dependent on the relative who is present and settled in the UK and have no close relatives in their country. Perhaps I may write to the noble Lord on ICTs.

The noble Baroness, Lady Hanham, raised the issue of sponsor licences, on which I said that I would write back. I am sorry that that letter has not yet reached her; sometimes these things take longer than I would like them to, and the facts change. So far, 6,300 applications have been made and 3,500-plus licences have been issued to more than 2,200 employers. One can see that it is on a rather larger scale than the noble Baroness was led to believe by whoever gave her that figure.

We have promoted this through a TV campaign, radio advertisements, newspaper advertisements, trade journals, and hundreds of events, which the UK Border Agency has organised or contributed to. We have extra website content and a mailshot to 60,000 employees who have to work that system.

I hope that I have answered all the questions asked. If not, I ask noble Lords to get back to me and I will write to them separately. I hope that, in the light of the arguments made today, the noble Lord will withdraw his Motion.