New Clause 16

Part of UK Borders Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 5:00 pm on 20th March 2007.

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Photo of Damian Green Damian Green Shadow Minister (Home Affairs) 5:00 pm, 20th March 2007

The new clause is simply headed “Fees.” It is a very short name for a very long clause.

I would describe the Minister’s performance just now as elegantly cynical, which is part of a trend. The Government have found a potential gold-mine about which nobody has complained too much, because the proposal is for a stealth tax on foreigners, which is politically more acceptable given the previous raft of stealth taxes that they have imposed on the rest of us and given that they will use the money to fund the activities of the IND.

So far we have not had any numbers. I shall be interested if the Minister will tell us how much extra revenue the Department has calculated will result from the flexibility that he is adding under this new clause. I dare say that we will have the same debate on visa fees when that comes before the Delegated Legislation Committee in the near future because the same principle applies.

We have no objection to the proposal in principle. The Minister’s last point was a good one: clearly, it is not simply a question of what the market will bear from individual applications or even classes of application because—I assume—he is not proposing to disaggregate it to such an extent that the Department will guess what each individual visa will bear. Presumably, if Goldman Sachs wants to bring in a bond trader, it would be in its economic interest to pay millions for that visa, whereas even the most brilliant student at the best university would not justify that kind of payment.

As well as figures, it would be interesting if the Minister would give us an indication of the degree of flexibility that he is proposing and, therefore, of who is likely to be funding the measure. As he said, the new clause refers to sponsors and, therefore, to UK businesses, academic institutions and, presumably, UK individuals. To put actual figures in the new clause would be illuminating for the Committee.