Examination of Witnesses (Questions 43-88)|
DAMIAN GREEN MP AND JEREMY BROWNE MP
24 MARCH 2011
Q43 Chair: Thank
you, Ministers, for agreeing to come to speak to us today. Before
we start the line of questioning, could I just ask you to introduce
yourself for voice transcription purposes?
Damian Green: I
am Damian Green, the Minister for Immigration.
My name is Jeremy Browne. I am a Foreign Office Minister and I
lead geographically on China, which I understand you are particularly
interested in, Mr Bailey, but I also take the lead on migration
policy within the Foreign Office.
Q44 Chair: I am going
to bring in Dan Jarvis in a moment, but before I do so can I ask
the Minister just to clear up an element of confusion that has
arisen from our questioning with the previous speakers. I was
still under the impression that there was a cap of 1,000 on highly
skilled migrants. Our previous speakers seemed to think that that
had been scrapped. Can you tell me is this correct and, if it
is correct, has there been any accommodation in the potential
levels for Tier 2 applicants to accommodate ones that might previously
have arrived via Tier 1?
Damian Green: I
am sorry to sound over-pedantic, but it depends what you mean
by highly skilled migrant, the phrase that used to be used. There
was a highly skilled migrants programme, which was superseded
Q45 Chair: I am talking
about those who are qualified under Tier 1. I don't know exactly
what the criteria are.
Damian Green: Tier
1 had various different elements to it. We have scrapped Tier
1 General, which was, if you like, the successor to the old highly
skilled migrants programme, and we have replaced it with a number
of elements, one of which is the entrepreneurs and investors visa,
which is unlimited. We want as many of those as want to come and
settle in this country. One of which is the exceptionals visa.
That is, I think, where the confusion may lie. That does have
a limit of 1,000 a year, and that is specifically designed for
scientists, performing artists and so on, particularly young ones
who may well not qualify under Tier 2 because they are not paid
very much, because they are young and promising. Essentially,
it is a way of making sure we don't just get today's Nobel Prize
winners but hopefully tomorrow's Nobel Prize winners as well.
The people chosen for that will be chosen not by us, not by the
UKBA, but by a range of competent bodies like the Arts Council,
the Royal Society, and so on, experts in their field, who will
each be allocated part of that 1,000 allocation and say, "Yes,
him, her and her, they are all absolutely world class. Can we
have them in please?"
Q46 Chair: Can I
just clarify so that I have it right. The category of highly skilled
migrants, hitherto known as Tier 1 applicants, has been abolished
and replaced by entrepreneurs and investors over which there are
no limits. Is that correct?
Damian Green: Partly
correct, yes. There are also other bits of Tier 1 as well. Tier
1 has been, as it were, redefined into those categories, one of
which is limited, one of which is unlimited.
Q47 Chair: But the
entrepreneurs and investors is part of the unlimited?
Damian Green: Is
unlimited, absolutely is unlimited, yes.
Q48 Chair: Another
element, which is limited and which would previously have been
covered by highly skilled migrants, is, if you like, the talent
Damian Green: Yes.
Scientists and talent, yes.
Q49 Chair: In theory,
there is potentially an increase in that particular category,
or what had hitherto been that category, Tier 1?
Damian Green: I
would hope we do better, particularly at getting entrepreneurs.
The Canadians have a specific entrepreneurs visa and, whereas
we had fewer than 300 entrepreneurs come to settle in this country
last year, the Canadians had 3,000. I think in terms of long-term
job creation, Britain being open for business and all of that,
we want to do better at attracting the world best's entrepreneurs
to come and operate from this country.
Q50 Mr Jarvis: My
questions are for Mr Green. Your proposals state that from April
2012 all institutions wanting to sponsor students will have to
be rated as Highly Trusted Sponsors. Can you talk through the
Committee what the criteria are for achieving the status of Highly
Damian Green: There
are nine different criteria that you have to reach. I won't worry
the Committee by reading out the page of briefing, but essentially
they allow us to know that over a period of time an institution
is completely reliable and that the people they bring in are completely
reliable. There are various elements: you have to have been an
A-rated sponsor for more than six months; that your procedures
and the way you check documents, that we will obviously check
ourselves, need to be up to scratch; and perhaps crucially for
academic institutions, that the vast majority of the students
that you bring into this country, or that you give visas to, turn
up to the course, turn up regularly to do the course and complete
the course at the end of it. There are different layers: 99% we
expect to turn up and register and a slightly lower number we
expect to complete the course, because obviously people fail courses.
But essentially that is what those nine criteria boil down tothat
what you are is a proper and properly run academic institution.
Q51 Mr Jarvis: Thank
you. I accept this may help root out some of the bogus colleges,
but how will it help the existing Highly Trusted Sponsors, such
as universities, which already experience problems with the visa
Damian Green: I
would slightly question the last assertion. It will help them
by increasing the confidence around the world that if you come
to Britain to study that you are getting the top of the range
experience that you hope to get. Interestingly, one of my most
recent meetings was with the Interior Minister of Pakistan who
was complaining bitterly on behalf of many Pakistani students
who were genuine students who turned up in this country and found
that what they were being offered was clearly bogus. He made the
point, and I agree with him, that if that happens to a number
of people then it is obviously publicised in the source country,
and they think, "Well, am I going to be conned if I come
over to the UK?" and therefore that will infect the whole
system and potentially drive people away from this country. It
will be a significant advance for reputable and respectable institutions
that we can be more confident than we have been in the past that
if you come to Britain to get an education what you are going
to get is an education.
Q52 Nadhim Zahawi:
Minister, we heard from the previous witnesses that although,
quite rightly, the system is better in terms of visas since the
problems that stemmed from 2008, in their words, it is sclerotic
or like walking through treacle still today. One example was given
about China and Japan where the processing was taking place in
Manila, and that processing seemed to have broken down somewhere.
In other members of this Committee's experiences in other parts
of the world, the Middle East for example, where people have to
go to a third county like Oman, submit their passport, wait two
weeks to be told whether they can come to our country or not,
versus our competitors in Germany where they get a Schengen visa
that allows them to travel across the whole of Europe but also
the process is so much simpler and quicker and more efficient.
Some of the evidence is about whether the UK Border Agency playing
its role in talking to the Foreign Office. This question is to
both Ministers: can you just take us through how you co-ordinate
between you? Is it, as the witnesses have said, still problematic,
if not sclerotic, and what are we doing to improve it?
Damian Green: I
think a lot of the problems are historic. I don't think the system
is sclerotic and
Nadhim Zahawi: That is
what we have just heard from the CBI, Minister.
Damian Green: Let
me give you the facts. In 2010, our visa section in China issued
55,000 business visit visas, which is a 21% increase on 2009.
Our target is to process 90% of this type of application in 15
working days, and the average processing time for a business visit
visa in China was four days and 83% of business visit visas were
processed in five working days.
Q53 Nadhim Zahawi:
That is all excellent. I don't disagree with you. All I am saying
is, and statistics are a wonderful way of demonstrating how well
we are doing, comparables with other parts of the world, especially
our competitors, doesn't deliver the same message.
Damian Green: Let
me move on to Schengen because, of course, the biggest difference
between us and Schengen at the moment is that we take biometricswe
take fingerprints, face recognition and so onand they don't.
The biggest single difference is that anyone who comes here has
to go somewhere to have their fingerprints taken, and that is,
for many people, difficult and a pain. We recognise that, but
we are completely unashamed about doing it because it massively
increases the security of our border and the Schengen countries
all aim to replicate that, so that particular, if you like, inconvenience
for individuals will disappear as a comparator in the next few
years. We recognise that that is a hurdle people have to jump
and that is why in China we have 12 visa application centres,
which is more than any other country. I think in business termswe
are concentrating on China because that is obviously a hugely
important marketwe are doing absolutely our best to make
it easier. In terms of students, for example, it is an interesting
statistic that we have as many Chinese students in this country
as they do in the USA, a country with far more universities, six
times the size, all that kind of thing. So just the facts tell
me we are not doing too badly in that.
I have given you the figures for business visit visas.
Last year, we issued 44,000 student visas in China, which is an
increase of 27% over the previous year. Again, that does not seem
to me like a system that is failing to deliver for the British
universities that want people to come in. As I say, I would challenge
the negative descriptions. You asked about how we work together,
and understandably there is some confusion as to who issues visas,
because it used to be a Foreign Office responsibility; it is now
a Home Office responsibility. UK Visas is part of the Border Agency
so it reports into me, but obviously it tends to operate out of
Foreign Office buildings, so if you go somewhere then you will
more likely be going into an embassy or a consulate.
In a sense, that will not disappear but it will
minimise in the years to come, partly because one of the big drivers
we are having is on technology so that far more applications can
be made online. So, with your original application, you won't
have to go anywhere; you can do it in your front room. Obviously,
you will have to go and give us your fingerprints, and we are
setting up networksin some places we are setting up mobile
places that will go roundto try and make it as convenient
as possible for people to give their fingerprints. But obviously
in policy terms the Foreign Office plays a significant role.
Q54 Nadhim Zahawi:
Let me just press on that point. I think everything that is being
done is absolutely right and the biometric requirements are absolutely
correct, but I am sure you would agree with me that we can't be
complacent about these things. My question to you is: are your
officialsbecause from the answer I take it it comes under
your domainas up-to-date as, say, the Foreign Office officials
who, when we have gone on our trips, seem to be much more in line
with the Prime Minister's goal of wanting to use our embassies
as business development hubs? I hear what you say, but some of
the evidence on the ground says you are absolutely right to be
much more rigorous in our application of the procedures in our
country for people to come in, but there are cleverer ways of
doing it. We have heard from chambers of commerce in particular
countries who say, "Look, we can give you references on people
that would then" these are highly regarded people
who want to come to the UK whether it be for the university or
for business. Is your Department, Minister Green, the UK Border
Agency people, as aware of the importance of this in terms of
business development, do you believe? If you were to conduct a
survey with them tomorrow, do they understand their decisions
impact on business to the United Kingdom?
Damian Green: Absolutely.
Striking the right balance is the daily challenge, almost the
hourly challenge of an immigration officer or an entry clearance
officer all around the world, and Select Committees making visits
or MPs with constituents or anyone else, here are the complaints.
Globally last year we had 2.5 million applications for visas to
this country and we turned down 500,000 of them. That is 500,000
unhappy people prepared to complain, but the alternative is to
say yes to everyone. We all know what state the immigration system
has been in for some years, and we don't want to go back to that.
Q55 Nadhim Zahawi:
Or to get cleverer, at letting the right people in.
Damian Green: Precisely,
but everyone you say no to is, by definition, a disappointed customer
who thinks they are the right person, so you do have to sayand
people turn up, even people who think they are respectable, turn
up with false documents or turn up with the wrong documents or
don't fill in the form correctly. In the end, I don't think anyone
would thank the UKBA for saying, "Okay, we'll take a risk
with this person." At the most serious end of it there are
clearly implications about international terrorism, and I can
absolutely tell you that every one of the persons who is giving
someone a visa to this country is very, very conscious of the
safety and security of the people of this country. I am sure this
Committee would recognise, as everyone else would, that absolutely
has to be the prime thing that an entry clearance officer is thinking
Q56 Chair: Quite
clearly, there have to be implications in terms of prevention
of terrorism. I was intrigued by your comments about Schengen
countries, which appear currently to have a, if you like, lower
standard of security processes than we have in this country, and
the implication being that other potential entrants from other
countries prefer to go to Schengen for that reason. You also said
that, in effect, this would be changed. Is there a programme within
the Schengen countries to bring the security processes that are
applicable to our visa application to the same level?
Damian Green: Yes.
I mean, they say they are. I am told that the French are the furthest
advanced. They won't all do it at once, and that may be the problem
for them. They have 20 countries, so setting up a proper biometric
checking and recording system is not easy, and it will clearly
be easier for some Schengen countries than others to do that,
but it is absolutely their intention to move to biometrics in
the way that we have and the Americans have. That is clearly going
to be the way of the future in issuing visas. I hope they get
It is true that the Schengen visitor visa is
cheaper than our visa, but not by a massive amount, and it is
a different type of visa. The Schengen visa costs £51 and
it gives you one right of entry within a three-month period, whereas
our visitor visa is £70 but that gives you a six-month chance
of multiple entry, so you get a better and more flexible product
for the more money you pay us. That direct comparison is often
just done on price; they are actually significantly different
Q57 Rebecca Harris:
I want to go back to the issue of colleges, as a supplementary.
We heard earlier from Professor Thomas from Universities UK that
he felt very strongly that it was clearly in the interest of universities
to make sure they were genuinely bringing in high-quality, genuine
applicants, but he also acknowledged there were anecdotes sometimes
from the UK Border Agency that people have turned up at immigration
with an inability to pronounce the quite well established university
they were supposed to be going to with a suitcase full of tools.
There clearly are some errors happening in the system. We will
have some bogus colleges that will close down, but is there any
risk of some of our universities losing their highly trusted status,
or do you think that the changes will iron out any problems they
have at the moment?
Damian Green: I
hope notit is absolutely the case that there will be colleges
that close down. There is a lot more than anecdotal evidence about
abuse in that sector, and the key comparator is that in the private
FE sector, if you like; those private colleges offering below
degree level courses, we have looked at one cohort and 26% of
them overstayed their visa, which is an obviously easy way. There
was 26%, more than a quarter, abused the system.
The comparative figure for universities is 2%.
That is obviously very, very low but it is still 2%. So there
is a bit of cleaning up of the act required of universities and
their students, but overwhelmingly the reduction in numbers that
have come about as a result of our driving out of the abuses will
come in sub-degree courses from private sector colleges, because
that is where we have identified the abuse. If anything, universities
ought to be enhanced because the faint taint that this gives,
as I described before, around UK education for foreigners generally
will, we hope, disappear.
Q58 Paul Blomfield:
Very briefly, following on Rebecca's point, we have had, as she
has pointed out, robust reassurance from Professor Thomas on behalf
of UUK about the procedures that they have in place to check English
proficiency. There is, as I understand it, within the Home Secretary's
statement residual discretion that is going to lie with UKBA officers
at point of entry to refuse on the grounds of lack of competence
in language proficiency. Do you feel that UKBA officials are sufficiently
trained to make that judgment or is new training planned?
Damian Green: It
is a very simple judgment, which is that if somebody turns up
here and requires an interpreter then the immigration officer
can turn them back at the border, so you don't need extra training
for that. You can tell if somebody is not understanding you. It
is in their interests to understand you so they are not faking
this. They will want to have a conversation with you in English.
If they can't have a conversation with you in English then it
seems to us something has gone wrong in the system and, prima
facie, they cannot benefit from a high level English education.
What we have said is that for people coming for university courses
they need to be able to speak English at B2 level, in the jargon.
That is less than a lot of universities demand of their own students
in that the bottom end, if you like, of B2 is what is 5.5 on the
international scale, and most universities ask for either 6 or
6.5. So we are not imposing unnecessarily onerous requirements
that the universities don't themselves impose, but basically if
somebody turns up and says, "I am going to read physics at
Manchester" or something, and can't speak a word of English,
needs an interpreter even to answer questions with the border
officer, then clearly something has gone wrong, and at that point
we will intervene.
Q59 Mr Jarvis: The
new visa system will require a high level of monitoring by the
UK Border Agency. Given the proposed cuts to the agency, do you
have any concerns about their ability to carry out this role?
Damian Green: No,
because one of the things we are doing in parallel is, as I have
already alluded to, improving the system a lot so that there is
far less shuffling of paper and sheer old-fashioned bureaucracy
involved. One of the things that struck me in my first few weeks
as a Minister when I was visiting places was just the sheer piles
of paper around the place. It looked like an office from the 1970s
or 1980s rather than a modern office. In all its areas, but perhaps
particularly in the visa area, that is being rectified and things
are moving online the way that modern companies do and modern
institutions do. Over the course of the next 18 months to two
years, it will become absolutely the norm for people to make applications
for visas online, and that simple act in itself is an extremely
radical change that means you can be quicker, you can be more
reliable, you need fewer people to do the basic things. So all
the efficiencies that we have seen driven into the private sector
and other public sector organisations in recent years are now
coming to the UKBA.
Q60 Mr Jarvis: The
minimum threshold for English is to be increased. How will you
ensure that world-leading students and postgraduates in certain
disciplinesI am thinking about the brilliant mathematician
or the brilliant chemist who doesn't have a great command of the
English languageare not refused on the basis of their command
of the language?
Damian Green: That
is why, as Mr Blomfield said, we established this clause in which,
in very exceptional circumstances, an individual university can
appeal for a named individual student to be exempt from the B2
qualification, but we have said that we expect this to be a very
exceptional case. On the whole, if you are a world-class physicist,
you will have a decent command of English as well. Particularly
if you are a world-class student physicist who wants to benefit
from an education specifically in England, it would have been
slightly odd not to have invested some of your world-class skills
into getting your English up to a reasonable level so you can
benefit from the course. I think the number of these will be very
few, but if there are individuals then the university has the
power to come to us and say, "Look, we can show you how good
this person is. Please can we have them here because they are
going to be the Nobel Prize winner of the future?"
Q61 Mr Jarvis: Finally
from me, will any of these proposals require primary or secondary
Damian Green: Lots
of them will require secondary legislation, but they don't require
primary legislation. We hope to be laying the first set of laws
for the changes within the next couple of weeks. There will be
a phased release as we need to go through; but, no, it is secondary
Q62 Mr Ward: I want
to return to China, if I might, and there are two particular aspects
of this. One is the application of the visa system and the other
is the consultation on the visa system. We are a little bit, I
think, confused, those of us who went to China, because the experience
that we had was that we were lobbied by a wide range of companies,
universities, about the visa system, and it wasn't to do with
the disgruntled failed applicants; it was to do with the eventually
successful applicants but which took a long, long time in many
cases. First of all, a comment on that one and then on the consultation
exercise. We understand the numbers, the sheer volume, and that
is an indication of some success, but any response just to the
quite consistent view that we received that it was a problem for
many companies and, indeed, for universities wanting to send people
on partnership agreements to this country?
Damian Green: It
is quite difficult to respond in general, because obviously if
individuals have difficulties and they come to us with their difficulties
we will try and resolve them, but I understand that Johnson Matthey
was one of the companies that you spoke to and made this specific
complaint, so I have looked into that. They were on a business
fast track scheme. We recognise the need for businesses to be
able to have a responsive system, so for reputable companies like
Johnson Matthey we have a fast track scheme. They are on it, and
last year they sponsored 76 applications; 75 of those were approved,
68 of them within five working days, six more in 10 working days
and one within 15 working days. Every one of the approvals was
within our target and the vast overwhelming majority were within
a week. One was refused. Those are the facts and that doesn't
seem to me to be an unresponsive system, but obviously there will
be problems. As I say, we get 2.5 million visa applications a
year; they won't all go perfectly and smoothly. If companies want
to come with specific complaints then they should do so, and at
the appropriate level we will look at them
Q63 Mr Ward: We have
an extract from the Home Affairs Committee, which I think yourself,
Mr Browne, attended. Again, there were a number of questions about
concerns that had been raised. I think this was about the consultation
exercise, and the response I think from yourself was that it wasn't
an issue that had been raised with you within the last month or
two months. Is that still the situation? Is it something that
is not feeding through to yourself?
I can't say that there isn't an ambassador or a foreign minister
somewhere in the world who doesn't have concerns. I can only make
a broader observation, which is that when I first became a Minister
about 10 months ago it was far more often expressed to me than
it is now that foreign ministers or others in countries that I
visited were concerned about the potential changes to the British
visa system. I think that most of those concerns were based on
a nervousness of the unknown, that the British Government, the
new Government, had stated an intention to reduce the net levels
of immigration and in some cases they were anxious that that might
mean that forms of migration into Britain, which they felt were
beneficial to their citizens or their country, would be severely
curtailed or stopped altogether. I think as the details of the
scheme have become clearer, as the Government has worked through
them across Government, led by the Home Office, those concerns
have largely been allayed because people's worst fears haven't
I can honestly say that I can't recall a meeting
I have had recently, as in recent months, where this has been
the issue that has been, I am not sure even raised at all, but
certainly not the dominant issue. When I speak to, for example,
the Chinese ambassador, I am sure there are individual cases or
areas where they may feel that we could improve, and we are always
looking to improve, but it is not the headline top issue that
he is seeking to raise with me.
Q64 Mr Ward: Can
I just ask you then to raise that with them again, and particularly
the comments, the feedback that has come from those who visited?
I just want to carry on with the issue of the consultation.
We have some information sent to us by Neil Christie, who is director
of East Asia NCC Education, and this is quite an interesting contribution
because it was probably referring to maybe cultural aspects, differences
that may occur. What he states in this is that concerns he wishes
to highlight were based on the uncertainty surrounding the current
UKBA policy. His words: "While public consultation is a term
fully understood in the UK, the market has reacted badly and presumed
the worst is inevitable"I think you've touched on
this to some degree"in that it may become prohibitively
difficult to acquire". This is the telling sentence: "No
one, be it UKBA, the Government, the embassy or the British Council,
has, to my knowledge, made any significant attempt to counter
the message, which China has interpreted". Any comments on
Well, I have certainly made an effort personally, but I think
it is inevitable when a Government is changing its approach that
people may be quick to jump to premature conclusions about the
effects that that approach may have, especially if it could conceivably
have an adverse effect on them. But my experience, as I say, is
that these representations are made within Government. I talk
on a regular basis with the Home Office to make sure that it is
joined up in terms of our own Government, but also representations
are made between our Government or the different wings of our
Government and foreign Governments as well, and there are plenty
of opportunities for them to raise concerns with us, and the other
way. I don't know if members of the Committee have tried to get
a visa to go to China but it is not quite as effortless as people
We are always having a dialogue with other countries
about these processes. But I think that the countries recognise
that we have to have robust systems in place, for all the reasons
that Mr Green said, and I think they have been reassured when
the details have emerged that some of the routes to coming to
Britain, particularly higher education routes, which they value
and which they feared might be restricted, that their worst fears
are far from being realised. The figures appear to bear that out
because the appetite, for example, in China for British higher
education remains extremely high. I don't get a sense that that
will changein fact, far from it.
Last time I was in China, I visited the Nottingham
University China campus. Such is the appetite for British higher
education that Nottingham University can't accommodate all of
the Chinese people who would like to study in Nottingham, so they
are taking the product to the customer, if you like, because they
can't accommodate all the customers on their site on the edge
of Nottingham. It appears to be the case that far from deterring
people, the demand remains strong.
Damian Green: There
is perhaps an unfortunate fact that when you, as a Committee,
visited China we were in the middle of a consultation period,
which is inevitably the period of maximum uncertainty. Certainly,
our experience after we announced the work-based routes change
was that those who had been most worried decidedly said, "Oh,
I see, this is perfectly sensible. You can control immigration
and allow the people we need for our economy in." Similarly,
the reaction of Universities UK and other bodies that had been
vocally worried about what was going to be in our proposals on
the student visa was very positive and we are, indeed, working
hard to spread that message around the important markets of the
world that, "This is now the new system, so operate within
that." I suspect that uncertainty, which you may well have
found, was a temporary phenomenon.
Can I add a very brief extra thought, Mr Bailey? I can't believe
there is anybody in Parliament who feels with greater fervour
than I do that it is important that Britain responds to the huge
changes that are taking place in the world. There is a revolution
taking place in the global order, of which China is the biggest
example but it is not the only example, and if I thought that
the British Government's approach to that revolution was to pull
up the drawbridge and hope that we were okay in splendid isolation
I would be more than happy to tell the Committee that that was
a cause of alarm to me. I think that would be profoundly against
our national interests. I think we have to embrace the changes
that are happening and to have an outward-looking approach to
globalisation, both in terms of our cultural interest and, in
terms of the focus of this Committee, in terms of our national
That is what we are trying to do with the system
that the Home Office has led on in terms of immigration and visas,
but the Home Office has consulted widely across Government, including
the Business Department and the Foreign Office, to make sure that
we are, in policy terms but also the messages that go with those
policy terms, sending out a clear signal to countries like China
that we do want to attract their best minds, their best students
to study here; we want to develop those relationships. I hope
that those Chinese students that come and study in Britain will
be entrepreneurial and successful and will set up businesses,
and when they want to open a European office for their business
they will open it in Britain rather than elsewhere in Europe because
of the type of experiences they have had studying here. So, far
from us wanting to retard the process that you have all identified,
I am all in favour of trying to do everything we can to recognise
the changes that are taking place.
Chair: Can I make it clearand
I have to say for a personal reason I was unable to go to Chinathat
I did have the strongest representations made to me on the return
from those who did that there was a real gap in, if you like,
the Chinese perception and what the Government thought its policy
was on this. That trip was only three weeks ago and only last
week I had lunch with the Chinese political consul who repeated
the same observations that were reflected in the evidence that
we had returned from China. While I totally accept your understanding
of the strategic importance of China and the need to develop good
relations, I understand thatcould I put it to you?that
there is still a significant gap on all the evidence that we have
that that has not got through to those that matter in China and
who are potentially opinion informers there. But can I bring Ian
Murray in, who I believe was on the trip, and I believe he has
Q65 Ian Murray: I
will concentrate on China, but I think it gives us a good insight
into what the perception is. It may not be the reality, and I
do accept that, but with China being one of the major export drivers
for rebalancing the economy it is worth looking at. I have a little
bit of a list here. Maybe perhaps when I get to the end of the
list I can give you the question, but we went to see the Shanghai
Motor Company who have obviously invested heavily in this country;
Fusan, who are looking at investing considerable amounts, particularly
in construction; Huawei, who have two plants I believe in this
country. We also went to the University of Nottingham, Queen Mary
and Dulwich, who were particularly vociferous about these particular
issues, and the University of Nottingham were really concerned
that the £3.7 million a year investment they get from doing
a joint approach in China would perhaps potentially be lost, mainly
through post-work study visa changes and arrangements.
All of these, on top of the vice-chair of the economic
committee, and, as well, many of the employees of UKTI who are
based in Beijing and Shanghai, all raised visas to the extent
that when we got to our last of five days in China, Brian Binley,
who is not here today, but who led the delegation, had to stop
people from mentioning it because it was taking up too much time.
There is a real problem here and if this is happening with China,
and it may be a perception, what can we do about it? One of the
real practical examples is the post-work study visa changes for
students who all of the companies, including the exchanges and
the co-programmes that are done by the universities, mentioned
would be a real detriment to what they are doing.
Damian Green: I
return to my point that they were all saying that in a climate
of uncertainty, because they didn't know; they couldn't have known.
It was nobody's fault, it was just that we only made the announcement
on Tuesday so even, Mr Bailey, the person who was talking to you
last week, wouldn't have known what the actual proposals were,
and if they thought that there would be no opportunity to work
then that would have been a significant change. What we have done,
as you will have seen on Tuesday, we announced that people who
are graduates can go into graduate level jobs, which seems to
us to strike exactly the right balance, that you don't want the
offer of a student visa to be essentially the offer of an unlimited
work visa for a couple of years with some study attached. But,
if people come here and become graduates and then want to compete
for a graduate level job here, then that is fine.
As I say, it is a shame; it is a matter of timing.
It will be quite interesting to go back, when it filters through
what we are proposing, to see what they say, but even more importantly
to see what they do. By the summer we will know how many applications
there have been from China for student visas, for example, and
we will be able to tell. Clearly, the anxiety you saw was entirely
generated by the uncertainty of the consultation period or, as
I would suspect, also had some historic element, because certainly
the introduction of the points-based system, which was only two
and a half years ago, let's not forget, was a very radical change.
China was one of the areas where it fell over and in parts of
southern China the whole procedure had to be closed, and is indeed
still partially closed, because there was the most extraordinary
rocketing up of applications and it had clearly become a huge
loophole. The Chinese may well feel, "Hang on, this system
doesn't seem to work," and all I could say dispassionately,
because it was nothing to do with me, that it appeared to work
a lot better in the second year than it had done in the first
year, and we hope it will work better in the third year than the
second year, as systems tend to do, and so some of that anxiety
I can only repeat that lots of people will complain,
in general terms, about the visa service. It is important to know
what the specific complaints are: is it price; is it delays? There
are things we can do things about, and obviously will do so because
part of the procedure is not just saying no to the people we don't
want to come here, although that, as I say, is one prime duty,
but to make sure that the people we do want to come here get a
responsive, fast service.
Q66 Mr Ward: Can
I just add to Ian's point? Any one of them really but one particular
company, which has a very heavy investment in this country, a
Chinese company, was giving examples where a training course came
up, which was imperative that one of their employees attended
in this country, and that could take seven, eight weeks, by which
time the training programme would have finished. But it was just
that, and it was a consistent message, there were such long delays
in the system, almost frustration.
Damian Green: That
frustrates me as well because that certainly shouldn't happen.
As I have said, our service standard is to deliver 90% within
15 days. On any individual there may well have been some other
issue, so it is obviously impossible to comment without knowing
the details. I have quoted the figures for Johnson Matthey because
I knew they were one of the companies you had visited. On the
basis of those figures, it is hard to justify the description
that you clearly all got of the system, so we do just have to
look at the facts of over what period the vast majority of visas
are offered. We all quite take the point that businesses need
to be fast moving; if they need to bring someone in they want
that visa within a week.
Q67 Ian Murray: I
have just been reminded that I don't think Johnson Matthey were
one of the complainers, which is probably why you've got the good
figures there. Can I just bring you to a specific, and you don't
necessarily need to answer this just now but it would be useful
if you could drop a note to us. The international students officer
at the University of Sheffield sent a rather helpful letter through,
complimenting the Government on some of the changes that were
being made to the visa system, but they raised two particular
issues. One was with regards to courses such as architecture,
which is hugely complex. I won't read out what they have said
here, but essentially the whole process of becoming a qualified
architect is outwith the terms of the visa system as proposed,
and wondered if you could perhaps drop a note looking at those
particular issues. Also, if you could just comment on people who
have already gained employment through the post-study work visa
and the particular difficulties that they feel they may come under
when they are already going into employment with who are very
much grade one employersJaguar, Land Rover, National Grid,
Proctor and Gamble, and so on. Can you give us a quick comment
Damian Green: I
can answer both those, because, yes, we recognise the point about
architecture, as well as some other courses like medical courses,
and so on. They will be specifically exempt from the overall time
limits we have put on. We have said three years for undergraduates,
five years if you want to add a postgraduate degree as well, but
we recognise there are courses like architecture that just take
longer. I think, yes, we recognise that and have done something
In terms of those who are already here on post-study
work, then the new arrangements won't affect them. If they have
gone through the system then, as it were, the previous system
will apply to them. We won't retrospectively apply the new system.
The new system will come in in April next year, and will apply
from then, so there won't be the retrospective element they are
Q68 Chair: Before
we move on to the issue of high-risk countries, could I just say
that on this, hearing the reams of statistics poured out was,
for me, an uncomfortable reminder of when we had the bankers in
front of us talking about their lending statistic to small businesses?
The fact is that you can quote as many statistics as you like,
but there is still a perception, rightly or wrongly, that this
is not working as it should do. My concern is that here we have
in China what is going to be the world's major economic superpower
in years to come. Certainly, until recently, I think it is fair
to say that we had good relations with them, and particularly
our university and research facilities were considered to be a
major attraction for people from China and, regardless of what
the statistics say, this perception is changing. Could I put it
to you, what are you going to do, strongly, robustly, coherently
to change that perception?
I would start, Mr Bailey, by saying that if we all go back to
our constituencies this evening, the perception that Britain's
immigration system is far too onerous and it ought to be a lot
more loose is not one that I would anticipate we would hear the
whole time, so there are a number of considerations that need
to be borne in mind about perceptions, about
Chair: Sorry, I am talking
about China, not your constituency.
I know but it is an important point, which is that we have to
have an immigration system that enjoys the confidence of the British
public and is seen to work properly and be robust, and I have
explained that directly to the Chinese and others.
Q69 Chair: That is
a given. The fact is what I am saying is that the Chinese do not
perceive it, and I am not advocating that we have a system that
doesn't do that, that is an open system. What are you going to
do to demonstrate the robustness of the system that is now in
What I always say is that it is important that we have an immigration
system that enjoys the confidence of the British public and the
person I am speaking to accepts that that is what they would wish
to have in their country, and I say it is important we have a
level of immigration that can be assimilated into our country
and they agree that that is what they aspire to in their country
as well. But, I say, given those two obvious constraints, we are
an outward looking, globalised country, we are the sixth biggest
economy in the world, we have lots of world-leading institutions,
whether they be universities or businesses or cultural organisations,
and we want to embrace the changes that are taking place in the
world. As you rightly say, the dramatic rise in the importance
of China is one of those changes. That is why we are enthusiastic
about trying to encourage greater interchange. That is why I am
keen for more House of Commons Committees to visit China, why
I am keen for more businesses to go there.
One of the frustrations I had when I went to Nottingham
University's Ningbo campus in China was how few of the students
studying there were British people taking the opportunity to learn
more about China. I think it would be fantastic for the exchanges
to be in both directions. I want to see Chinese to come here;
the Government wants to see them, so if there are problems with
perceptions about people who benefit from coming here, improving
our cultural understanding, benefiting our economy, then we need
to constantly address that, but I don't think the statistics
Chair: That is the point
I want to get across.
But I don't think the statistics are irrelevant because they are
the only evidence we have to go on, and the evidence suggestsI
think it's a very striking statistic that as many Chinese students
study in Britain as study in the United States of America given
Chair: At the moment.
Yes, but given that the population of the United States of America
is five to six times bigger than ours and they have many more
universities than ours and they are the biggest economy in the
world and we are only the sixth biggest economy in the world,
if I were an American committee sitting around with two American
Ministers I would be wanting to know why the British are so much
more effective at communicating with the Chinese than the Americans
were. That would be a good question for them to ask themselves.
Q70 Chair: This would
be a fascinating seminar but I don't want to get down this road.
The fact is we must do better. That's the point I want to get
We all agree.
Q71 Rebecca Harris:
At the risk of banging on about China, on Tuesday in the announcement
it was announced that we would be relaxing some visa requirements
for countries that are considered to be low risk, which I imagine
was quite a welcome sign that would be given to those countries
that are in that category. But given that we understand that two
of our posts in our China, both Beijing and Guangzhou, had the
highest level of fraudulent applications, is it right to assume
that they are not in the list of low-risk countries?
Damian Green: Correct.
There are 15 countries on the low-risk group from all over the
world, but China isn't one of them. It is all done on an entirely
factual basis as to how many problems, in particular fraud on
documentation, we see in applications. Obviously, it is a big
step to have a lighter touch regime, so what we need to see is
consistent, long-term, overwhelming reliability, in particular
of documentation so we can trust in the institutions that support
that documentation. For example, we ask people who come here as
students to show that they can support themselves and that there
is enough money around so that they are not going to come here
and try and live on benefits or work illegally to support themselves.
To do that you have to have a banking sector with documentation
you can trust. It doesn't obviously apply specifically to China,
but I was in Pakistan a few weeks ago and saw some extremely good
forged bank documents made even better by the fact they had been
attested to, had a lawyer's seal on them, which in most countries
of the world you would normally take as trusted, but our post
in Islamabad had discovered that this was a crooked lawyer.
You can see the lengths to which people will
go to try and fraudulently get into this country and so, as I
say, there are a small number of countries that are on this low-risk
list. Japan, for example, is one of them. The United States is
one of themCroatia, Chile, Trinidad and Tobago. They do
come from all over the world, but China isn't one of them.
Q72 Chair: Can I
just raise an issue? This was raised by Simon Kirby, a member
of this Committee who went to China and unfortunately is unable
to be here at this moment. He was very concerned about the fact
that all the visa documentation for Chinese visa applicants to
complete was just in English not in Chinese. I appreciate there
is an argument that if they are to come to England to study then
it is reasonable for them to have a sufficient level of English
to fill in an application. But I believe that it is quite a complicated
form, and do you not think it would help the cultural perception
to at least have it outlined bilingually?
Damian Green: In
a sense, there is a practical problem because if we allow them
to fill it in in either the main Chinese languages then obviously
we then need to employ teams of translators to translate it back.
Chair: Sorry, can you
Damian Green: It
cuts both ways. In the end, at the UKBA, we are either going to
have to employ huge numbers of Mandarin and Cantonese speakers
or have translators to translate it back, so there is a practical
and cost issue about allowing that. But I take the general point
very much, and so while people will have to fill the forms in
in Englishand, as you say, it is not unreasonable if they
want to come and particularly study in this country that they
can do thatwe will be issuing the guidance notes in the
relevant vernacular language so that people will be able to fill
it in much more easily. In particular, as we move increasingly
to an online system it does become much easier to fill in, in
that, as with all forms, if you do it online you can then just
press the appropriate button and discard what would be the next
eight pages of the relevant paper-based equivalent. We hope both
that we will be able to guide people through the language issue
and make the act of filling in the form much easier when it is
Q73 Chair: I didn't
quite follow the first part of your answer about cost implications
and resource implications. I would have thought it perfectly low
cost, if you like, to do an English translation for any would-be
applicant. Even explaining that the actual visa application should
be done in English wouldn't require any further translation.
Damian Green: Don't
forget, everyone we employ to do that type of translation would
have to be at quite a high level of security clearance. This is
not at all a point particularly at the Chinese, but one of the
reasons why we have moved to the hub and spoke system, where we
issue the visas in a smaller number of places around the world,
is to stop corruption, is to stop people who are involved in the
issuing process in a particular country being able to issue documents
to their cousins who may well not need them, so the more control
we can have centrally over that procedure then the greater the
integrity of the system. The fewer people there are in the chain
of taking the decision the better and, in particular, everyone
who does have the capacity to ensure that somebody gets a visa
has to be highly trusted, to use a phrase from another part of
the immigration system.
Q74 Chair: I wouldn't
deny it. I still do not see what the problem is in having the
leaflets with, say, a Mandarin translation with it.
Damian Green: The
guidance is going to be in Mandarin. As I say, I take the general
point and we are going to do that.
Chair: We will see how
this works. Can I just bring in Paul Blomfield on departmental
Q75 Paul Blomfield:
Clearly co-operation, as I think you have indicated, is important
in determining policy in an area like this and I think you made
the point that the Home Office consulted with BIS. Would it not
have been better for the whole exercise to have been run jointly
between the Home Office and BIS, given the different approaches
possibly or the different classes that each Department would view
the issue from?
Damian Green: You
have to have a lead Department for every document, and the trick
is to have proper mechanisms for consultation and we have those.
As Mr Browne has said, he is the Foreign Office Migration Minister;
he and I meet very regularly, part of a regular pattern. It is
not ad hoc at all. Similarly, there are, as you are aware, a number
of Cabinet sub-committees on which I will sit. One of them is
a growth committee, which is chaired by a BIS Minister, on which
I sit precisely because we recognise the point that this investigation
is about; that our immigration system and our visa system have
a significant role to play in fitting into the growth agenda.
It is built into the fabric of the Government that many of my
responsibilities have economic consequences that we need to recognise.
Obviously, one never knows what happens under previous Administrations,
but my experience is that that is new, that the Home Office in
previous times tended not to be particularly meshed into, if you
like, the economic and business decision-making parts of Government.
We have recognised the importance of, as I say, what your report
is about and we are seeking to do that on a permanent basis.
Q76 Paul Blomfield:
Could I follow up with a specific question on an area that is
clearly one in which you have listened closely to some of the
representations that have been made, which is on post-study work?
Do you accept the view that our universities have made very strongly
that post-study work is integral to the competitive educational
offer that they are making rather than just an add-on?
Damian Green: I
think it will vary, to be honest, from university to university.
I think if you want to get a degree at a Russell Group university,
you want to get a degree at a Russell Group university, and if
you are sitting anywhere in the world you will be thrilled to
be offered a place at one of Britain's top universities. For others,
it may be different, and indeed for individuals it may be different.
I think it is impossible to generalise. What I can say is that
we keep a very close eye on what is offered by our main competitors
in this field, who tend to be the Americans and the Australians
in that if people want an English language degree then those are
the countries, and that our offering is very, very competitive
Q77 Paul Blomfield:
Will it continue to be in terms of the
Damian Green: The
offering, the new one, the graduate level only job. I genuinely
think nobody who is coming here as a genuine student thinks, "What
is an important thing to me is that I come here as a student and
then spend two years afterwards stacking shelves in a supermarket."
That is not the ambitious young person's view of how their life
is going to develop. That is what we have stopped happening with
our new post
Q78 Paul Blomfield:
Can I just continue this for a moment? One of our top Russell
Group universities is in my constituency, Sheffield, and certainly
their view is that in determining whether to go to Australia,
UK or the States, the opportunity for post-study work as part
of the overall educational experience is crucial. I wonder, in
particular, if you could explain how you have reached the £20,000
threshold under the new arrangements, recognising there has been
significant movement on the issue of post-study work, because
there would seem to be a case for a little more flexibility. For
example, at Sheffield I am told that the mean salary at which
international students are going into the market is £19,900,
but in some critical areas, like science, it is under £17,000,
and whether there wouldn't be a case for a little more sensitivity
and flexibility in the approach on that issue.
Damian Green: I
would be very reluctant to make it easier to employ foreign graduates
than British graduates, and the lower you make that level then
the easier it is for them to become the sort of cheap recruits.
One of the things I have been very conscious of throughout this
consultation process is that we, as a Government, have responsibility
to UK graduates as well and it is quite easy to think only of
the foreign graduates and what suits them, and you end up in a
completely perverse position where they become advantaged over
British graduates, and we are determined to avoid that. £20,000
is not a huge starting salary for a recent graduate, particularly
not a recent graduate of a Russell Group university. Many of them
get paid significantly more than that. There is a code of practice,
which we operate already for Tier 2, for work-based entrants,
and our attitude to this will be based on that set of codes of
practice. Obviously businesses, industries, professions are variegated
and the entry level salary for a graduate engineer may be different
from a graduate working in the retail sector or whatever, and
our codes of practice recognise that. We recognise that you can't
have a one-size-fits-all solution, but I am very concerned that
we don't end up with a perverse effect of allowing employers access
to cheap, intelligent labour, but only if they are not British.
I don't think any British graduate would thank us for doing that,
and that is what we are trying to avoid.
Q79 Chair: I am sorry
if I have got this wrong, but my recollection is that earlier
you said there had to be a lead Department on every document.
Damian Green: Policy
area, not every document. We clearly produce joint documents,
but in a policy area it will be the norm to have a lead Department
and the lead Department on visas is obviously the Home Office.
Q80 Chair: I was
just going to point out the plan for growth had HM Treasury and
BIS as the Departments for it. I won't ask you which you thought
was the lead Department in it.
Can I just add very briefly and anecdotally, from my observations
of this process as a non-Home Office Minister, is I would be surprised
if anyone in the Home Office felt that the other Departments had
had insufficient opportunities to contribute their thoughts. I
have sat in meetings where Business Ministers, Arts Ministers,
Welsh Office Ministers, Scottish Office Ministers, Foreign Office
Ministers have all been relaying their ideas and concerns and
areas for potential improvement. So, one criticism that can't
be made, I think, of this process is that it suffered from insufficient
consultation within Government.
Damian Green: And
outside Government. We had 31,000 responses to the consultation,
and it was a genuine consultation. The final document is not the
same as the consultation document, and that is a good thing; it
is better for it.
Chair: Can I bring in
David Ward on UKBA policy and the National Audit Office report?
Q81 Mr Ward: Just
one last thing on the consultation. A simple yes, I think, would
help us move things forward, in that thought will be given to
the consultation exercise to see what lessons can be learned from
Damian Green: Of
course, but if the lesson you are seeking to draw is that we should
do less consultation and just decide as Government, I don't agree.
Q82 Mr Ward: No,
I am referring particularly to the feedback that we have had in
the China experience in terms of the perceptions that we hope,
and are assured, were false perceptions, but did nevertheless
have an impact on the contributions that were made to us on the
The Prime Minister, no less, made a speech at a university in
China when he visited, so attempts are being made at every level
of Government to demonstrate Britain's willingness and openness
to further better economic integration with China, but change
in perceptions of 1.3 billion people is an ongoing task.
Damian Green: Very
specifically, only four national Governments responded to the
consultation. One of them was the Chinese Government, and their
main concern was about retrospection on the post-study work group,
which we have addressed, so the Chinese Government itself took
part in the consultation.
Q83 Mr Ward: If I
went into the Idle Working Men's Club, which believe me does exist,
about 70 miles from where I live, and spoke to them about immigration,
I don't think they would even think about international students
as being immigrants. Obviously, we have focused very much on students
today, but UKBA estimates that there may be up to 181,000 migrants
in the UK of all visa types whose permission to remain has expired,
and that is since December 2008. There is an argument that we
should be focusing far more on that than some of the issues we
have been discussing today.
Damian Green: There
are two points there, both of them entirely valid. Are students
migrants? Yes, if they stay for more than a year. It is not my
definition; it is the UN's definition. The definition of an immigrant
that all Governments around the world adhere to is somebody who
comes and stays in a country for more than a year. The Home Affairs
Select Committee issued a report last week saying, frankly, we
shouldn't count them. It is jolly tempting as Immigration Minister:
we can define away the immigration problem and just say, "Well,
that lot don't count as immigrants any more. Great. I can put
my feet up," but I don't think that would be very credible.
I think we need to stick to the international definitions and
not attempt to fiddle with the figures.
The number of people who have, as it were, disappeared
from the system or who we have no knowledge of, absolutely that
is not good enough, and that is one of the reasons why we are
doing so much to improve the systems of checking of who comes
in and who goes out, and across the board we are doing that. We
now take the biometrics of everyone who comes into work. To work
in this country if you are not British you need a biometric resident's
permit, so you have a document that has your fingerprints on it
that you need to show to an employer. That helps.
We are proceeding with the e-border system.
There have been problems with the previous contractor, as the
Committee will know, but we are carrying on with that and we do
count out, as well as in, a very significant number of people
under that system. The other big computer project we have inside
the UKBA, the integrated case work system, is precisely going
to computerise everything that used to be manual, those piles
of folders I talked about. Over the next couple of years that
will be introduced into different areas. Then you will have systems
that will talk to each other so that we will know, first of all,
that you presenting yourself are the person you say you are on
your documentation, that we know when you came in, we know how
long your visa is for, and we will be able to tell whether you
have left or not. That is the end point that we are all seeking
for. I would love to be able to pull a lever to say that is going
to happen from tomorrow or, even better, yesterday, but I am realistic
about changing big computer systems, which is what a lot of this
involves, and it will take a few years. But absolutely we are
driving towards that.
Q84 Paul Blomfield:
While clearly the UN have a definition of migrants, do you think
it wouldn't have been helpful in terms of the public discourse
and policy debate for us to draw a clear line between those who
may technically be defined as migrants but are in fact students
and genuine migrants in terms of where people perceive immigration
Damian Green: No,
I don't, for two reasons. First of all, because I think politicians
announcing, "I'm changing the figures" just induce even
more cynicism about politics than has happened in the past. Secondly,
and very importantly, lots of them do stay. We have done a big
in-depth study, called The Migrant Journey, on the
2004 cohort and we discovered that of those who came as students
in 2004 more than a fifth were still here in 2009. So they are
not just coming here doing a course and then going home; a fifth
of them stay long term, and after five years they are eligible
for various other privileges.
Indeed, the next exercise we are going to go through
in the early summer is a consultation on the link between temporary
migration and permanent migration because we want to make it much
clearer to people, as other countries do, whether the visa you
come in on is designed to be a temporary visa or might lead to
permanent settlement. At the moment we make no distinction about
that, so it is quite possible for people to come here and shift
around categories, and suddenly they have been here long enough
that they have the right to settle here. Fine, we want, as I say,
the right people to come here and settle here and so on, but we
want to know throughout that process whether they are aiming at
that or whether they can aim at that under their current visa.
I think this distinction needs to be much better than it has been
in the past.
Q85 Chair: Can I
just clarify? I think that you commented that 20% were on further
visas and 3% were on settlement. Is that correct?
Damian Green: Yes.
There were lots of figures in that but the key one is that 20%
were still here after five years, 3% had already become settled.
That was a startlingly high figure that
Q86 Chair: But presumably
a proportion of those 20% who were on further visas might well
go back at the end of them.
Damian Green: They
might. Some of them probably were here overstaying, but I am not
suggesting that the bulk of them were doing anything illegal.
I am merely pointing out that the system as it stands allows people
who people will say from a sort of commonsense perspective, "Well,
they are students; they are not migrants. They come here and they
go after they finish their course, after one, two or three years."
Well, loads and loads of them don't. I am not talking about 20%
of a small number. That is 20% of about 300,000 people. If we
added up last year's students, plus the dependants they brought
in with them, that is 300,000 people. So you are talking about
significant numbers of people here.
Q87 Mr Ward: There
are two questions, but we have covered them before, I think. The
first one is just another example. This happens to be Airbus,
but it is about problems with the system: trying to bring in experts
to work with engineers, it took seven weeks to get a response
to a phone call and the delay. I mentioned this earlier on with
Chinese companies wanting to come here. It was just a question
around that, but I think we have covered that in terms of responses
that you made before. It is just another example of the system
seeming to fail some of our companies.
Damian Green: If
companies are finding it takes seven weeks to get a phone call
replied to then escalate it, take it to a senior person in the
UKBA. In the end get hold of your MP and escalate it to me, because
that shouldn't be happening, if that is happening.
Q88 Mr Ward: The
final question was again something we have touched on, but it
was to do with the unified EU visa. This was in fact comments
made by various Chinese that we met and that was if you come here
and then you want to go to Germany or Italy, or wherever it may
be, each time you have to then have a separate visa. I think we
have already covered that in terms of other countries in Europe
where that doesn't apply.
Damian Green: Yes,
if you are a member of the Schengen group that is the advantage
for youthat people can travel to other members of the Schengen
group without any checks. As I say, it is an advantage in terms
of free movement. It is a disadvantage in terms of border security
and successive British Governments have taken the view that we
don't want to make our borders any less secure; indeed, we want
to make them more secure. That is why we haven't joined Schengen.
Chair: I think that concludes
our questions. Thanks very much, Ministers. Obviously, we hear
what you say. I appreciate that things may have changed post the
statement on Tuesday. We will monitor the impact of the changes
very carefully, and we will also continue to find ways of monitoring
the perceptions abroad for its potential impact on business in
this country. But in the meantime, thanks very much. We may see