I, too, welcome this important amendment. It is very difficult to talk about clause 19 and the appeals system without talking about the points-based system as a whole. I think that the Minister conceded that point in his opening remarks. We need to look at how much pressure will be on the appeals system and, therefore, how many applications there will be under the points-based system.
Will the Under-Secretary say a few words about the nature of the points-based system? In particular, how high is the bar for qualification for those described as highly-skilled migrants? Are the Government thinking in terms of the table set out in their points-based system document, which explains how applicants can acquire the necessary points to enter the United Kingdom? Under such a system, it would be quite easy to construct scenarios in which people in their mid-20s—they could be as old as 27—with degree-level qualifications and earnings in their own country comparable to those of graduates in this country could qualify. It appears that a very large number of people could qualify as highly-skilled migrants—that is how the Government choose to describe them. A very significant number of people could qualify, particularly, one suspects, from developing countries and countries with income levels much lower than ours.
There is also the question of what the Government describe as skilled workers, who can be recruited from overseas to come and work here if there is a shortage in those occupations. We need to hear from the Government about how long the list is of occupations that would be covered. We heard, I think, in the evidence from the trade unionists how active agencies can be in recruiting from overseas on behalf of employers in this country. We had a recent example of how extensive that recruitment can be with the Government’s recruitment to the national health service. Since 2000, the Government have recruited 50,000 doctors and nurses—3,000 doctors and 47,000 nurses—from Africa. That is a substantial number. They have all come here under the Government’s programme. One suspects that many have come as a result of recruitment by agencies, which raises a number of issues, not least the effect on the African countries. That is possibly an issue for another day; I have asked the Secretary of State for International Development about it and I was not entirely convinced by his answer, which was that more infrastructure was needed in Africa; more hospitals needed to be built and more training programmes needed to be run. That is a lot to ask of African countries where incomes and gross domestic product are a fraction of those in this country.
There is also the issue of economic migration to this country. The Government have presided over—I use that neutral phrase—a period of significant economic migration through the work permit programme. As the Minister told me in a recent written answer, the number of people in receipt of work permits that carry with them the entitlement to settlement has increased from 58,000 in 2000 to 107,000 in the first 11 months of last year, which is a near doubling in seven years. That is a substantial rate of increase.
From some of the rhetoric that one hears from the Government, one suspects that there are elements within the Government that are in favour of economic migration on what they see as economic grounds, although Migrationwatch dealt with that argument with the evidence that it gave to the Committee on Tuesday, which I certainly did not hear successfully challenged.