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Written Ministerial Statements

Monday 7 February 2005


Reserve Forces (Future Use)

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence (Mr. Ivor Caplin): Building on the Defence White Paper "Delivering Security in a Changing World" (Cm 6041-I) and our experience in the use of reserves on operations, the Government are today announcing their vision for the future use of the reserve forces.

In recent years there has been a major strategic evolution in the way we use the reserves. We have moved from a large but little used reserve to a smaller, more effective one. Since 1995, the reserves have consistently provided 10 to 15 per cent. of the UK's manpower in the former Yugoslavia, they have been deployed to Afghanistan and, since January 2003, some 11,000 reservists have been mobilised to support Operation Telic. Our experience of these operations has shown that we need to define clearly the role of the reserve forces against the background of a changing modern world. The "Future Use of the UK's Reserve Forces" clearly spells out, therefore, the roles of the volunteer reserve forces, the regular reserve forces and the sponsored reserves.

In addition we recognise that without an effective three-way partnership between the MOD, reservists and employers, the reserve forces could not function to the best of their capability. The MOD is committed to supporting the development of these relationships and, building upon work already undertaken in this area, is introducing a number of aspirations as a means to strengthen them further. The document outlines our intent with regards to the way in which the reserve forces will be used, including greater voluntary constraints on use than exist within the relevant legislation. While these aspirations will always have to be balanced against operational need, they reflect our acute awareness of the disruption that mobilisation can cause and should reassure reservists and employers alike of our sensitivity to their circumstances. In so doing they also demonstrate our commitment to provide sustainable reserve forces capable of supporting operations into the future.

Copies of the document are being placed in the Library of the House.


Working Holidaymaker Scheme

The Minister for Citizenship and Immigration (Mr. Desmond Browne): I am making changes to the working holidaymaker scheme in the context of the five-year plan announced to the House today. The main change for applicants is that we are strengthening the requirement that the work be done in support of holiday and travel
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intentions. It is anomalous that as a holiday and cultural exchange route it should not have attached to it any conditions that prevent migration based on long-term employment and other economic motives.

To this end we are restricting the total length of time that can be spent in employment under the scheme to 12 months out of a two-year stay. This 12 months in employment can, however, be aggregated in any combination of periods throughout the two years. It will be possible for highly skilled applicants to apply for work permits after 12 months. The ability of the UK to benefit from the skills and qualifications available within this group is therefore maintained. We are also prohibiting the use of this route as a means of bringing professional sports persons to the UK in order not to undermine the work being done to develop our own talented young people.

We are also changing the way in which the scheme itself is administered. In future it will operate on the basis of country-by-country bilateral arrangements. This means that we will be able to vary the arrangements with individual countries in the light of such things as degree of co-operation with our own immigration control and the capacity of our posts overseas to handle large numbers of applications. It therefore becomes a migration scheme to which access can be denied if a country fails to co-operate with our efforts to return their own nationals who have no basis of stay in the UK. However, the new scheme begins with no country being denied such access.

Immigration Rules and administration changes: New Charges

I am also making changes to the arrangements for processing immigration applications. Following on from the Home Office consultation document "Review of Charges for Immigration Applications", I am introducing new fees for a range of immigration applications. I am publishing a summary and analysis of the consultation responses, the supporting regulatory impact assessments and an analysis of the likely impact of the new charges on international student numbers. These documents are available on the Home Office website at: www.homeoffice.gov.uk.

The fees are part of a wider programme of reform—reflected in the five year strategy—to deliver a self-financing managed migration programme by 2008, which reduces reliance on the public purse, and which supports the modernisation of immigration services.

The fees being announced today will save the UK taxpayer in the region of £170 million in 2005–06. The income raised through the charges will benefit customers and the wider public. It will support ongoing investment in the managed migration system in which the public can have confidence; a system that delivers high quality decisions for applicants and tackles abuses quickly and robustly. Moreover, our customers will continue to see improvements in the service they receive. This will build on the modernisation programme already in train and which has seen the introduction of a premium, appointments-based service for people seeking a same-day decision; advertised service standards and performance monitoring; bespoke services for international students; and new methods of making payment for customers' convenience.
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The Home Office consultation sought views on a number of proposals for ensuring the provision of managed migration services is fully funded in 2005. The Government are grateful to all those who responded. The proposals included an option requiring those who seek permission to remain in the UK to contribute towards the cost of providing an appeals system for unsuccessful applicants. The Government also sought the public's views on a proposal to require migrants to contribute towards the cost of enforcing the immigration system as part of the application fee.

The consultation responses demonstrated widespread opposition to the proposal to include the costs of enforcement activity in the application fee. The Government were persuaded by the argument that the general public benefit from the effective policing of the immigration service, as well as users of the service. As a result, the costs of enforcing the system have not been included in the application charges. This activity will continue to be funded through general taxation.

In 2005–06, the Government are proposing to recover the costs of running the appeals function for people seeking further leave to remain whilst in the UK through the application fee. Arrangements for family visitor appeals, announced in the five-year strategy, are not affected by this proposal. However, to support implementation of the five-year strategy, the Government are setting up a joint taskforce, with representatives from the education sector and other stakeholders, to review and consider restructuring the charging arrangements for leave to remain, including the funding of the appeals function, in line with cost recovery principles.

International students bring significant economic and social benefits to the UK. In recognition of this, students seeking to vary or extend their conditions of stay in the UK will be charged a reduced fee for postal applications. Our analysis, which is set out in the regulatory impact assessment published today, indicates that at the level proposed, the postal charges were unlikely to have a significant impact on the UK's ability to attract and retain international students. However, in order to ensure that remaining to study in the UK remains a competitive option, we have decided that charges should be at a lower rate of £250 for the standard postal service. The higher, premium fee is an optional service which students can take advantage of if they so choose.

Subject to Parliamentary approval, the following new charges will come into force from April 2005:
Application TypePostalService (£)PremiumService (£)
Leave to Remain335500
Leave to Remain (Immigration Employment Document holders)335500
Student Leave to Remain250500
Transfer of Leave160500
Highly Skilled Migrant Programme315
Sectors Based Scheme153
Travel Documents (CID)195
Child CID115
Travel Documents (CTD)42
Child CTD25
Nationality—6 (1)200
Nationality—6 (2)200
Nationality—Adult Registration120
Nationality—Minor single and multiple200

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Fees for other immigration applications remain unchanged.

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