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The hon. Gentleman raised the important issue of how these cases are prioritised in the guidelines. He submitted an important parliamentary question in January. The guidelines that we operate do not extend
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to economic and social factors, although whether they should is an interesting question. The guidelines on which we operate were set out by the Home Secretary and they include possible harm to British society and savings to the British taxpayer. As I say, the question whether the prioritisation guidelines should be wider is worth considering. Certainly, I can assure the hon. Gentleman that no penalty or delay is injected into a proceedings through a reference or referral to a Member of this place—that would be quite wrong, and I would run into problems in my constituency if the agency started acting in such a way.

The urgency of the applications was recognised, not only in and of themselves, but because the hon. Gentleman was acting on the individual’s behalf. Consideration of the case began in February, and the work is almost complete: only two checks are outstanding, one being an up-to-date police national computer check, and the other a mandatory war crimes check, because the applicant is from Rwanda. If the subject is given a green light on both, a satisfactory solution to the case can be found early next week.

The wider point is identity management, which is extremely important. The House will know that during consideration of the UK Borders Act 2007 I made it clear that the existing modes of proving identity were completely inadequate. About 60 or 70 different bits of paper or card can be proffered by a foreign national to attempt to prove their identity and right to be in the UK. That is a hopelessly outdated system, which I plan to begin sweeping away in November, when we introduce a single much more secure document called an ID card for foreign nationals, which will be rolled out on a compulsory basis. That will give all foreign nationals the chance to prove their identity in a much simpler way.

In the meantime, it is important that we make it easier for businesses and people in the public sector to understand whether the identity presented by somebody is valid. That is why a very successful inquiries service is available to employers who have any doubts about identity. That service will get bigger as ID cards are rolled out.

The second case is perhaps a little more complicated. It concerns a Filipino national who has worked very hard in this country as a care worker, and whose leave expired on 24 September 2007. Although the work permits regime needed to be implemented in a robust way, to ensure an adequate defence against wage undercutting or displacement of resident labour, I asked for a number of transitional measures to be put in place. That was important to ensure continuity of care in the social care sector, which might have been put in jeopardy. The transitional arrangements allowed a waiver of some of the minimum requirements of the job. As the hon. Gentleman said, they allowed an exceptional in-country extension to be granted for 12 months to give people time to make up their leave to settlement. The discretion was provided to consider cases six months after leave had expired.

The lion’s share of people in senior care worker posts whose employers were seeking to re-employ them benefited from those transitional measures. According to facts and figures that I saw a few months ago, about 80 per cent. of people were satisfactorily accommodated within those arrangements. In a work
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permit application, the key is that the application must be submitted by an employer rather than an individual. The employer is, therefore, in pole position, so it is important that individuals in question do indeed have a job in order for their employer to apply for leave.

The wider point, however, is that custom and practice inside the agency, in relation to considering cases for up to six months after leave has expired, should be a matter of record. I am therefore glad to have the opportunity to read that into the record today. I will also review the news given by the hon. Gentleman that—certainly in this case—custom and practice was not communicated to employers when they called. I need to understand whether that was happening on a general basis, or just in this specific case. I have made it clear to the agency today that it must ensure that callers are given to understand that. Given the exceptional circumstances in this case and the fact that the six-month period expires on Sunday, I shall be happy to treat the hon. Gentleman’s representations this afternoon as a barrier to any further action before I
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have a chance to consider the case in more detail next week. The nub of the issue, however, will remain the individual’s need to find an employer with a job offer. I shall be happy to discuss the matter with the hon. Gentleman personally over the coming week.

Andrew Stunell: I thank the Minister for what he has done. I know that he has spent a good deal of time on this case, and I very much appreciate what he has said. If he can confirm that, if I can produce my constituent and a job offer in the next week, that will be considered outwith the six months, I shall be very content indeed.

Mr. Byrne: I am more than happy to consider the case in the manner that the hon. Gentleman suggests. I think that entirely reasonable and appropriate, and I hope that it will deliver a satisfactory solution to both of us over the next few days.

Question put and agreed to.

Adjourned accordingly at twenty-six minutes past Six o’clock till Tuesday 25 March, pursuant to Resolution [26 February].

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