Immigration and Nationality Application Fees — [Steve McCabe in the Chair]

Part of Backbench Business – in Westminster Hall at 2:58 pm on 25th March 2021.

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Photo of Meg Hillier Meg Hillier Chair, Public Accounts Committee, Chair, Public Accounts Committee 2:58 pm, 25th March 2021

I thank you, Mr McCabe, for chairing the debate today and all hon. Members who have highlighted how key workers, NHS staff and young people in this country are caught in a trap not of their own making. I pay particular tribute to my hon. Friend Kate Osamor, who raised the issue of the fee waiver application cost and its complications, with people being pushed into debt; my hon. Friend Helen Hayes; and David Simmonds, who highlighted issues in the context of Britain’s position in the world—global Britain—which is where the Government should be and where they say they are coming from.

The fees are too high and the process is overly complex, but I take some comfort from the tone of the Minister and the fact that he is engaging with those in We Belong, who are the best advocates, particularly for young people, about looking at simplification of the process, looking at how to deal with this, change the rules of settlement and try to do away with the need for the repeated involvement of lawyers, which we have not even discussed today, in terms of fees, because that adds a lot as well.

I will just say, though, that the Minister let the cat out of the bag, rather, when he talked about the rationale behind the fees being the benefits likely to accrue to the applicant. I would say we should also think about the benefit of the applicant to the UK, which has been ably highlighted by, among others, my hon. Friend Siobhain McDonagh. The Minister also talked about paying for the costs of other parts of the immigration system, so this does cross-subsidise, and I think we need to look very carefully at that principle.

However, I appreciate the Minister’s tone. He has a ginger group of MPs here who would welcome working with him to change policy and practice to ensure that we can welcome people who wish to contribute and to become full citizens and that it is affordable for them to do so and they are not saddled with the debt that the current system leaves upon them.

Motion lapsed (Standing Order No. 10(6)).

Sitting suspended.