Session 2010-12
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UNCORRECTED TRANSCRIPT OF ORAL EVIDENCE
To be published as HC 912-ii

House of COMMONS

Oral EVIDENCE

TAKEN BEFORE the

Scottish Affairs Committee

The Student Immigration System in Scotland

Wednesday 11 May 2011

Damian Green MP, Phil Taylor and Glyn Williams

Evidence heard in Public Questions 78 - 177

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Oral Evidence

Taken before the Scottish Affairs Committee

on Wednesday 11 May 2011

Members present:

Mr Ian Davidson (Chair)

Fiona Bruce

Mike Freer

Cathy Jamieson

Jim McGovern

David Mowat

Fiona O’Donnell

Mr Alan Reid

Lindsay Roy

Dr Eilidh Whiteford

________________

Examination of Witnesses

Witnesses: Damian Green MP, Minister of State for Immigration, Home Office, Phil Taylor, Regional Director, Scotland and Northern Ireland, UK Border Agency, and Glyn Williams, Director of Immigration Policy, UK Border Agency, gave evidence.

Q78 Chair: Good afternoon. Can I welcome you to this meeting of the Scottish Affairs Committee? We had complaints from the members earlier that it was a bit hot in here. Feel free to take off jackets or indeed any other item of clothing that you think is commensurate with decency. We have already met many of you informally and we are here to discuss the student visa system. I am sure you will understand, Minister, that while we have you here there are a number of other issues we will raise with you as well.

I will start by asking you to introduce yourselves and then , Minister, first of all, to respond to the question about certain aspects of the Scottish university system being different from the rest of the UK- f or example, in the length of courses and the focus on work experience- and whether you feel the Scottish position has been adequately recognised in the changes that have been made.

Damian Green: Certainly. Thank you for inviting us back, as it were. I am Damian Green, the Immigration Minister. On my right is Glyn Williams, Head of Immigration at the UKBA. On my left is Phil Taylor, who runs our operations in Scotland.

On the Scottish aspects of the changes to the student visa system that we have introduced, in general terms, we are seeking to achieve the same things in Scotland as we are in the rest of the UK, in that we recognise that students make an important contribution to the economy as well as to society. It is absolutely not our aim to stop genuine students coming to study at genuine institutions. It is to eliminate abuse in the system and focus on high-quality, high-value students.

The problem with the previous regime was that it was full of holes, basically. It was massively open to abuse but the vast bulk of that abuse didn’t happen in the university system. I hope it is recognised by Scottish universities and, indeed, universities more widely, that many of the fears that were expressed before the actual details of the proposals were put in place were groundless. We did listen. It was a genuine consultation and we changed some of our proposals as a result of it, which I suppose is the only way you can prove it was a genuine consultation. As part of that consultation we talked to Scottish universities and other Scottish educational institutions. We recognised, in particular, the difference in the standard length of course of an undergraduate degree between Scotland and England and Wales. Do you want me to address that particular point directly because it is clearly one of the big points?

Chair: Yes.

Damian Green: The one way in which there might be differences with the Scottish system is in our overall limit on the total length of time you can be here as a student. That won’t come in until April 2012 anyway. We are very deliberately using that period to find out what nuances need to be built into the system because, apart from the particular Scottish issue, there are medical, veterinary and architects’ courses and so on that take longer anyway. We appreciate that we will need to tailor the edges of that particular overall limit. We will be talking very hard to the Scottish institutions about that, not least to find the facts. Oddly enough, people say, "Hang on. All will have to be different in Scotland." It is a fact I do not have at my disposal. I am not conscious we have been told as an institution how many foreign students come to Scotland, do a four-year undergraduate degree and then another post-graduate course that would take them over the overall limit, for instance. That sort of information is absolutely vital and it is quite difficult for us to get hold of it.

Q79 Chair: It is very helpful in what you have said to us that you are indicating, as I understand it, that not only have changes been made in the proposals as a result of the consultation, and these have been announced already, but that you remain open to further movement on some of the areas that cause concern, and that this is an ongoing process. I would be grateful if you could just confirm that, because when we met Universities Scotland and several other organisations in Aberdeen recently they were very grateful for the progress that had been made in accommodating their needs, but they still raised a number of other points with us. To be fair, most of them required clarification rather than being opposed to what you were suggesting. If that is the mood in which this is being approached, I think we would generally be quite happy to leave some of these issues with you, once we have explored them in more detail, for progress to be made. Am I correct in identifying the spirit of this as still being ongoing?

Damian Green: I think you identify the spirit correctly. I am not sure I would go as far as to use the word you used, which was "movement", in that that suggests we have come to a decision that we are going to change. There are still some details, as the universities made clear to the Committee, that haven’t yet been finally nailed down. We want the system to be as practical as possible. As I say, we want Britain, including Scotland, to remain open for the brightest and the best. We don’t want to damage genuine institutions. Inasmuch as we haven’t reached a final decision on some things yet, yes, we are doing it in the spirit you described.

As I have said all along, it is such a big and complex set of issues that we are quite deliberately rolling them out over a couple of years. Some things are in now; another set of rules is coming in in June, and we will have another big set next April. The things that will be finally nailed down next April may well still be slightly fuzzy round the edges while we can have talks.

Chair: Fine. We can move on to some of the details.

Fiona O'Donnell: Minister, maybe we could continue that conversation just a little. First, I thought you were wearing a tartan tie but I see you are not.

Damian Green: I am sorry.

Fiona O'Donnell: There is a little bit of disappointment there.

Damian Green: It would be inappropriate for a Welshman representing a Kentish seat to wear a tartan tie in front of the Scottish Affairs Committee.

Q80 Fiona Bruce: You talk about the differences between Scotland and the rest of the United Kingdom and that you are having difficulty in tracking down the evidence and information. Did you see this as an issue at the start of the process? Who have you been talking to, and when and how are you going to get the evidence? There are a lot of questions, I realise. How do we get to a point where the Scottish sector can have certainty about what the rules are going to be?

Damian Green: The final set of rules will come in next April. Obviously between now and then we are spending a lot of time talking to all parts of the Scottish sector. We are talking as though only the universities are affected here. Of course, the rules cover all institutions that offer graduate or sub-degree education. The biggest significant change in terms of numbers will overwhelmingly not be for those reading for degrees. It will come for those doing below degree level qualifications. It is always important to remind ourselves of that. People talk about student visas and instantly move into a discussion about universities. I can’t emphasise too strongly that the bulk of the numbers that will not be coming here as a result of this are not university students.

The direct answer to your question is that everything will be known by next April. As soon as we come to a sensible conclusion on all the points at issue, obviously we will share it with the institutions.

Q81 Fiona O'Donnell: Is "a sensible conclusion" the same as saying that you will accommodate Scottish universities that have four-year degree courses, and that for the subjects that you mentioned-architecture, medicine and veterinary medicine-those students will be accommodated in terms of the length of their visa?

Damian Green: They can be accommodated now if you want to come and do a degree at a Scottish university. If the university is a highly trusted sponsor, you are a student who meets the qualifications for English language levels, you have the money and all that kind of thing, you will be able to do in future as you have done in the past.

Q82 Fiona O'Donnell: Why do you need to gather information if there is not going to be a problem?

Damian Green: As the Chairman mentioned, there are one or two specific areas, of which the length of the course is the obvious one, where the shoe might pinch in some circumstances. That is a subject that has been brought to us by the Scottish universities. What we do not yet know is whether we are talking about a few dozen, a few hundred or a few thousand people. It is always important to have some kind of basic knowledge of the magnitude of a problem before you decide how best you can cope with it, without creating a loophole in the system.

Q83 Chair: Can I be clear, though, on this question of the length of courses? As I understand it, the five-year rule for how long students at universities are expected to be here, or the maximum, is based on the English three-year degree, whereas in Scotland a normal undergraduate degree is four years. Therefore, if you are adding two to four, that would make six rather than the five that has been set as the template for England. Is it possible in these circumstances to give the universities the guarantee that you will take account of the fact that the Scottish undergraduate degree is four years and that the norm would therefore be accepted as six?

Damian Green: It is too early in the negotiation process to say. One of the reasons why it is too early is that, as I say, we don’t know. Are we talking about a vast number? I assume in the aggregate that the Scottish system will reflect the rest of the UK in that, for example, two thirds of those who come from outside the EEA to do courses at universities are post-graduates already. In fact we are already talking about a minority.

Q84 Fiona O'Donnell: Minister, why is it about numbers, if you have a trusted sponsor and the student has met the requirements for the visa? If it is a lot of students, does that mean you are less likely to grant the six-year visa, or if it is a few will you think it is not worth changing the system? I am not sure why numbers matter.

Damian Green: Numbers matter. The interaction between the principle-the rule you operate-and the numbers matters in all areas of immigration policy because, once you create what looks like a loophole for a few dozen people, absolutely, as night follows day, in three years’ time you find that several hundred thousand people are now using that loophole. All experience of attempts at immigration control suggest that.

Q85 Fiona O'Donnell: But these educational establishments are trusted sponsors and we have evidence in Scotland, rigorously scrutinised by the UKBA, that they don’t have the capacity to take hundreds of thousands of students. I just don’t understand if this is about figures or about your allowing the Scottish university system and other parts of the sector to-

Damian Green: To respond to your very specific and good point, they don’t have the capacity today, but the university sector is dynamic and expanding. If it thought, "Here is a way to expand", with new students paying full fees and there is less control than might be otherwise-

Q86 Fiona O'Donnell: Are you talking to the Scottish Government about that? The sector faces huge challenges in Scotland. We’re seeing south of the border places being sponsored or sold to universities, and it may be that the Scottish system is going to need something like that to survive. Are you having discussions with the Scottish Government?

Damian Green: To be fair, it is slightly early in the lifetime of the Scottish Government.

Fiona O'Donnell: We have the same one. What about the previous one?

Damian Green: Seriously, yes, we have been talking throughout at all levels.

Q87 Chair: Can I just be clear then? What you are saying to us, I think, is that discussion is still ongoing with Scottish universities and you have not shut the door on six years being an appropriate visa length in some circumstances.

Damian Green: We haven’t yet come to a decision on whether and how there should be a different measuring system for Scotland as opposed to the rest of the United Kingdom.

Chair: Fine; that is helpful.

Q88 Fiona O'Donnell: Finally, an issue was raised with us by NUS Scotland about students with special educational needs, possibly dyslexia, who often have problems with a degree course and may take longer. I understand there are exceptions now to the five-year visa. What are those exceptions? Would they cover someone with a learning disability?

Damian Green: We have been looking mostly at individual courses, haven’t we, Glyn?

Glyn Williams: Yes, but this is an issue, Chairman, that has only recently been brought to our attention. I think we would want to look at that. If it is demonstrated to us that there are students who are in special circumstances and who can’t complete their degree within a normal cycle, I guess we would want to look at that and the evidence on it.

Chair: Again, that is still open and subject to dialogue. Fine; I think that is helpful. I wonder if we could move on the post-work study period.

Q89 Lindsay Roy: Before I go to post-work study, may I ask if there are restrictions on work placements within degree courses?

Damian Green: There are rules that have to be obeyed about the length of time students work when they are on degree courses.

Q90 Lindsay Roy: Can you give us an indication of what the maximum is? When we were at Abertay University, one of the very successful courses was in relation to the video games industry. A substantial time was spent on work placement.

Damian Green: Glyn, do you have the details in front of you?

Glyn Williams: The rule is that the work-to-study ratio must be 50:50. We are retaining that for university level courses and students at universities. They can work 50% of their time on a work placement and the other 50% of time must be study. In addition, if they are university students, they can work 20 hours per week on top of the work placement. That would be the rule for university students.

Q91 Lindsay Roy: Thank you; that is very helpful. Why should Scotland not be exempt from the decision to end the post-work study route, because the "Fresh Talent" initiative was very successful?

Damian Green: Let’s not have a debate about the "Fresh Talent" initiative. That was clearly at a very different point in the economic cycle from where we are now. Straightforwardly, it is impossible to have separate rules for Scotland in the immigration sphere because there isn’t a border. There is a border but not what the international world would recognise as a border between Scotland and the rest of the UK. If you are trying to exercise immigration control, you can’t have Scottish-specific immigration rules.

Q92 Lindsay Roy: In relation to the four-year degree and the potential complications that Fiona identified about dyslexia, there wouldn’t be an additional dimension or additional time to allow post-study work arrangements.

Damian Green: We are talking as though every degree in Scotland is four years, which it is, and every degree in England is three years, which it isn’t. There are plenty of four-year degrees in England: for example, language degrees. Similarly, as I said, there are already subjects that have much longer degrees of seven years. There are clearly exceptions. There are things that happen with which the immigration laws will need to cope. As I say, as a general principle, the idea that you can have a separate Scottish set of immigration rules doesn’t work because there is no border at which they can be enforced.

Lindsay Roy: Yet.

Damian Green: I was planning not to talk about what happened last week. If anyone else wants to, they are more than welcome.

Q93 Dr Whiteford: I wanted to pick up on that. Canada operates a differential policy within its national borders in relation to the Province of Quebec. Having been a postgraduate in Canada myself many years ago, I am well aware of how a properly managed migration system can have differential aspects in one state. I would therefore challenge the Minister’s assertion. I, too, think that Lindsay’s point about the "Fresh Talent" initiative is very well made. There was recognition not just by the current Scottish Government but also previous Governments in Scotland that we need to attract highly skilled migrants to Scotland because of our underlying demographic issues and the structure of our own economy. I would ask you to consider a little more closely the benefits that the "Fresh Talent" initiative brought to Scotland and look more seriously at it as a model.

Damian Green: The truth is that, across the UK under our new model, if you are a talented graduate who has been offered a graduate level job, you can stay on. You have a post-study work route. It is not the old post-study work route. That was rather badly named because it could be a "post-study unemployment route" or a "post-study-doing-a-completely-unskilled-job route", not doing a graduate job. We think it is much better to say that, if you are the sort of talented graduate whom Scotland and the whole world wants, you come here, you do a degree and somebody offers you a job because you are in the country and you want to stay, that is fine under our new system. What you can’t have is a system where people can just hang around and do nothing.

Q94 Lindsay Roy: The focus, as you rightly say, is on high quality and high value. The NUS has told us that for 75% of those who came here with a post-study work visa it was absolutely vital to them that they had that opportunity when they came to the UK. We are in a position whereby we are competing with other nations like Australia and Canada, which have less stringent arrangements.

Damian Green: They don’t really. I have heard that NUS argument. I slightly bridle in principle at the thought that the reason people come here to study is that there is a work visa attached at the end of it, or an even more generous "Come here and stay and look for a job for up to two years" visa. The way our universities will build on their existing success is to make sure that they are offering high-quality education that will attract people from around the world. If what they are offering is effectively a visa to come and live and work here and, as it were, the price you pay is having to do a course, that seems to me to be the wrong way round. I take issue in principle with what the NUS are saying.

When they say that other countries have much more generous regimes, the Canadian scheme is the most similar to ours. They have a post-graduation work permit programme, the difference being that it grants leave for up to three years for those with a job rather than two years, but it is very similar to ours and is a relatively new scheme. There is no direct equivalent either in the USA, which is obviously the biggest competitive market, or in Australia and New Zealand. I don’t recognise the truth of the assertion that other people have much more generous systems.

Q95 Lindsay Roy: In terms of high-quality student entrepreneurs, these are the people whom your Government say we want to attract, and I agree.

Damian Green: We have set up a special entrepreneurs and investors route. We are looking at ways of making sure that students come out of university with, as you say, entrepreneurial skills and an idea of how we can encourage them to stay in this country. That is very different from the general situation of the previous post-study work route, whereby you didn’t need to be entrepreneurial. You didn’t even need to be offered a job. You had the absolute right to stay here for two years.

Q96 Chair: Minister, when we met Universities Scotland they were quite clear, as well as the NUS and other groups that we met, that in competition with Australia, New Zealand and Canada, our proposed regime would be less advantageous or less attractive to those who were coming. You seem to be saying that that is not the case. I think it would be helpful to have that in writing so that we can go back to those who have been in touch with us and say, "Look, this is what the Minister says", then we can have a disputation, if necessary, in writing about the factual position. We have clearly been led to believe that Britain is introducing a less attractive system. Obviously, that is, understandably, a concern to us.

Damian Green: We will happily provide the facts of, "This is what is on offer" in the main Anglophone countries because they are effectively our competitors.

Q97 Cathy Jamieson: I want to clarify something to ensure that I have understood what you have said, Minister, in relation to "Fresh Talent". When Lindsay Roy raised it, I think you said something about "in relation to the current economic cycle". Could you be clear about whether you believe that the "Fresh Talent" initiative was an example of how a different requirement for Scotland could successfully be set up within the existing immigration rules? It wasn’t about borders or anything else but about keeping some of that fresh talent in the country. If you accept that, are you saying that the rationale for why the UK Government doesn’t want to do that now is the economy?

Damian Green: Not entirely. I was just making the point that, when "Fresh Talent" was brought in, clearly there were labour shortages all over the place. There is a wider and much more important long-term point. I quote here the left-wing intellectual David Goodhart, who talks about the country becoming "addicted to immigration". If your first response as an economy to having any kind of pressure is to bring in more people from around the world, one of the dangers is that you let employers off the hook of training and you let Governments off the hook of proper education and training. That is what has happened to a large extent, overall, in the UK labour market in the last 10 or 15 years.

One of the effects of that is that we have had very large-scale immigration and we have particularly large numbers of unemployed young people. There is quite a deep piece of economic thinking about whether Scotland would want to go down that route again or whether it is preferable to do better than we have all done in the past in terms of training, the welfare system and so on.

Q98 Cathy Jamieson: As someone who was involved in the Scottish Government, or the Executive as they were at the time, when the "Fresh Talent" initiative was brought in, I hope there isn’t a misunderstanding. It was not about opening up Scotland in the kind of way that has perhaps been suggested: that people would come willy-nilly and stay in Scotland. It was very much linked to the idea of education, people getting an opportunity and then perhaps also being able to move back whence they had come with new skills and experience in maintaining those links. Just to press the point, do you think there is still scope for doing that, with particular options for Scotland and Scottish universities and colleges but within the existing immigration system?

Phil Taylor: One of the reasons why we had to bring the "Fresh Talent" scheme within the overall UK schemes was that we were being threatened with judicial review by educational institutions in the north of England, whose view was that we had given a competitive advantage to universities in Scotland. It was difficult to gainsay that statement.

Although the statistics that were collected weren’t particularly reliable, the evidence was that, of those who had been granted "Fresh Talent" visas, a year into the scheme about 50% were no longer in Scotland. They could have been in England or Wales or could have left the UK altogether. About 25% appeared to be working in low-level jobs in bars and restaurants as waiters. Possibly, at best, around 25% were working in what you might call graduate work where you could arguably say they were adding to the value of their degree, either in the contribution to the UK or to their work and going home.

The statistics were pretty shaky, and that was because when the scheme was started we didn’t really set out the parameters for how it should have operated. The evidence base was pretty shaky. The difficulty in terms of Scotland versus the rest of the UK is the point that, if we allow a concession which is Scotland-specific, other educational institutions in the rest of the UK have a legitimate cause for concern and complaint.

Q99 Chair: I want to pick up the point about post-study work. It may be a mistake to confuse the "Fresh Talent" initiative with the post-study work. My understanding for example, when we were in Aberdeen in relation to the oil industry, is that they saw people coming across on courses, having the opportunity to work in the industry for a limited period of time such as two years and then going back again as a great attractor.

I have become more confused as the discussion has gone on about whether that will still be permissible under the existing rules. Much was made to us of people coming here not to do complete university degree courses but specialist industry-focused ones on things like tourism and hospitality-not low-level hospitality but fairly senior stuff. They were coming to Scotland, working for a period and going back. Because of the nature of the Scottish economy, there were particularly attractive opportunities, and cutting that off was going to kill off the industry or that market. Can you just clarify that for me?

Phil Taylor: As the Minister has said, there is the opportunity now for all graduates of UK universities to go into Tier 2 skilled work. If you get a skilled job offer as a foreign graduate and it meets the requirements of the rules, you can take a job under Tier 2.

Damian Green: And outside the limit.

Lindsay Roy: That is £20,000.

Q100 Chair: We will come on to the £20,000 in a moment. If somebody comes under their own steam, they do a degree and then they seek work for a couple of years, that is entirely different from somebody who comes from Kazakhstan to the oil industry, sponsored by somebody there, wanting to do some sort of course and then work for a couple of years in the oil industry offshore. Do I take it that that format would still be permissible and acceptable and there would be no difficulty about that?

Phil Taylor: Two options occur to me. One is, is it an extension of their course? Is it something like a work placement on the course? I mentioned at a previous informal meeting that, when the former Chief Executive of the agency and I spoke to the oil industry, they expressed concern about the quality of graduates coming out of UK universities, which was their argument for why they needed to bring in so many foreign nationals to work in the oil and gas sector. Our advice to them was that they ought to start talking to universities about making sure the courses actually fitted what the industry needed. There is that option, which is linking it to the course. The second one, as I said, is that, if it is a skilled job and it is a Tier 2 job, then, yes, they can do it. But just hanging around to get a job which may-

Chair: I understand that. David, you wanted to come in earlier.

Q101 David Mowat: I did. It was a while back now, but I was just reflecting on the measuring point for the three-year and four-year courses. A lot of four-year courses exist now in England. Would it be that difficult, if there was an issue with that, just to have a different tariff by course and by university? It is a fairly finite thing. Rather than say it is Scotland versus England, we could just say most engineering courses in England are four years. We would just say, if it is a four-year course, it is a different tariff. Surely that would be the way to address the issue, which, as far as I can see, is the only difference between England and Scotland in this whole area.

Damian Green: That would be one way. What you don’t want to do is have course inflation so that, for reasons that none of us can quite think of ab initio, every course suddenly becomes a four-year course.

Q102 David Mowat: No, but, funnily enough, if there is going to be a trend at all in this area, according to the Ministers responsible, it might be market-driven shorter courses. That is another reason potentially to have individual tariffs for individual courses. I am just reflecting that it can’t be that hard to do. It is something that you do once and maybe renew it every year. It strikes me as a week’s work for somebody.

Damian Green: It is a possibility. As I say, we are looking at how best to devise schemes.

Q103 Dr Whiteford: I want to keep on this subject because I think it is important to recognise that, economically, the university sector is more important in Scotland than it is in other parts of the UK, relatively speaking. We should not lose sight of that. It is not just that they are centres of research and teaching excellence. The key relationship between universities and sectors of the economy that have the greatest potential for economic growth is also very important in my part of the world. I am thinking particularly of the energy sector and life sciences. They are global markets and global industries, but those are areas where we have a competitive advantage and where our universities play an absolutely key role in maintaining and exploiting that.

O ne of the most salient pieces of evidence we took when we were up in Aberdeen was from the Principa l of Aberdeen u niversity, who point ed out that the competitors in his market are Canadian, American and Australian academic institutions. That highlights for me that it is not just about the detail of the scheme. It is also about the tone we set and the kind of welcome we give to overseas students. Are people welcome here? If people are hoping to work in a global industry that is based in Scotland or has strong roots in Scotland and opportunities there, I have no problem with attracting the brightest and the best into Scotland . I think we should have a system that facilitates and enables that, recognising that many of our brightest and best go overseas to work in those same industries. I think it is important to keep that tally , too.

I want to ask a very detailed question on the transition between Tier 2 and Tier 4. I am concerned that a lot of graduate entry level jobs, even in industries that become very highly paid, wouldn’t meet the purely arbitrary £20,000 tariff. Research assistants in universities are often very badly paid doing part-time work that is nevertheless very professionally important to their career dev elopment. Give it a year or two and they will get well-paid jobs but it takes time. They have to serve apprenticeships. Another example would be law graduates. Again we attract bright people to study law in Scotland , but look at the Law Society’s own evidence. People will not earn £20,000 until they have finished their traineeships some years after graduating. Everybody appreciates the progress that has been made, but I ask you to look more at the detail of some of these proposals.

Damian Green: I completely agree with everything you said in your introductory stuff about the brightest and best and being internationally competitive. That is precisely it.

Chair: But?

Damian Green: With regard to the second half, when you move on to the salary specifics, again we have to set a national rate and it is slightly more diversified.

Q104 Lindsay Roy: Why does it have to be a national rate?

Dr Whiteford: Why couldn’t it be regionalised?

Damian Green: Because we don’t have regional labour markets. We have freedom of travel. We have freedom of movement. It is impossible to have separate things for different parts of the country.

Q105 Jim McGovern: Is it impossible?

Damian Green: It is impractical.

Jim McGovern: You said "impossible".

Damian Green: Anything is possible. The Russians ran their economy for 70 years micro-controlling everything that happened, but it wasn’t very good for their people or their economy. I don’t think we should follow that route, frankly. The invitation to have separate layers of minimum potential wages for certain types of workers in different parts of the United Kingdom is just not an attractive prospect.

Q106 Fiona O'Donnell: That is not what the evidence was. You have London weighting. What was it based on? Do you expect people to earn more in London? Especially in Scotland, people can expect to earn less. What was the evidence base?

Damian Green: It is an extraordinary aspiration for this Committee, I have to say, that Scotland is going to be permanently a low-wage economy. Surely you don’t want that to happen.

Fiona O'Donnell: No, no; that is not what I said.

Lindsay Roy: That is a completely wrong interpretation.

Q107 Fiona O'Donnell: That is absolutely not what I said. I was just thinking about all the evidence that Eilidh produced just now. I just wondered what evidence you had taken and if you had been aware that there may be-

Damian Green: There is a really serious point, specifically for Scottish workers, which is that, if you make it easier for employers to bring people in at below existing wage rates and you are specifically advantaged if you are a foreign graduate, then absolutely as night follows day the people who will suffer, the people who will not get those introductory jobs, will be the domestic workers. It is a no-brainer. If you are a firm of solicitors, great, "I have to pay £20,000 for her but only £15,000 for her because she is foreign." That can’t be a sensible way to run a labour market.

Q108 Fiona O'Donnell: But could it not also be the case that what happens is that London becomes the centre and, where you might usually offer £22,000 in London, you can then get an overseas student for £20,000? It could be just the opposite and actually Scotland could do well out of this.

Damian Green: Scottish workers won’t do well.

Fiona O'Donnell: They would do well if all the graduates were coming down here.

Damian Green: £20,000 is not set as a London rate which we are then imposing on the rest of the country. It is set as a national rate and it differs in certain parts.

Glyn Williams: In a way you are talking about Tier 2 more than Tier 4 here. We did a big consultation on Tier 2 last autumn when we set the limit. The Migration Advisory Committee carried out their own consultation. They subsequently drew up a list of graduate occupations. They took a lot of evidence on salaries. Okay, they weren’t looking specifically at the Tier 4 transition, but I don’t recall that employers, Scottish or otherwise, made any representations significantly about the £20,000 minimum salary. It is a £20,000 minimum salary and there are codes of practice for certain professions which impose higher going rates and take account of starting salaries.

Q109 Dr Whiteford: Will people moving from Tier 4 to Tier 2 be able to say that they are eligible for work? That, again, is something that has not been clear. Anyone who has done recruitment will know that they have responsibilities to ensure that the people they appoint to jobs are eligible to work in the UK. One of the issues that has been raised with us is that the guidelines are still not clear on what someone’s status will be if they are a student and they are applying for a job. Are they eligible potentially?

Glyn Williams: We have said that graduates from universities can switch out of Tier 4. They are in Tier 4 and they have that status. They can apply while they are in the UK to switch into a Tier 2 job, in which case they need an offer of a skilled job, a graduate level job, from a Tier 2 employer. They will have to meet the minimum salary requirement, whether it is the £20,000 or whatever is in the relevant code of practice. We have also said the resident labour market test won’t apply to those people switching, which is potentially quite a big concession. As the Minister said, the limits on Tier 2 workers won’t apply.

Damian Green: Will they have four months?

Glyn Williams: Student visas last four months beyond the expected graduation dates. They will have four months on the end of their studies, as it were, to fix themselves up if they have not done so before they graduate, which of course many of them do.

Q110 Chair: Is it actually the date of graduation as distinct from the date that the course finishes? I seem to remember having several months. It is a long time ago since I graduated, but I seem to remember the course finishing yonks before I was able to graduate.

Glyn Williams: I need to check this, Chairman, now you have raised it. I think if your course finishes in June you will have until October.

Damian Green: There are some people who don’t graduate, so in practice that must be the case. It is not a question of going to the degree ceremony, otherwise you just wouldn’t go to the degree ceremony so you would never graduate.

Chair: Oh, you cynic.

Damian Green: A year as Immigration Minister makes you cynical, I can tell you.

Chair: I wonder if I could stop the process for a moment. Fiona wanted to ask a particular point relating to the last time we met you. She has to go for a more important meeting than seeing you at twenty past. Fiona, do you want to pick up your point?

Q111 Fiona Bruce: Thank you very much, Chair. Thank you for coming, Minister. As you may recall, we met in January and I asked you about human trafficking. Since then things have moved on. The Government have decided to apply to opt in to the European Directive to combat trafficking and protect victims. I would like to ask you if you would be good enough to augment the response that you gave us-and I thank you for the written response with which you followed up your evidence-in the light of this development.

Damian Green: Now that we have come to the end of the negotiations about the European Directive, we think that it is helpful. It doesn’t do anything damaging to our own legal system, which we were worried about. It is not just safe for us to opt in but also beneficial, in that it will enable us to continue to play a leading role in the international battle against trafficking. We technically have to apply to opt in. I don’t imagine the Commission will say that we can’t. We apply to opt in and within a few weeks, I hope, we will announce the full details of the strategy that I outlined in a debate in the House before Christmas, which will essentially attempt to enhance our current victim care arrangements but make the prevention much more effective than it used to be.

We want to do more work upstream in the sending countries-we need to do a lot of work there-and we want to have much better information and intelligence exchange at the border itself, which is clearly the point where we will identify victims. We also want to do better internally with our own police forces, making sure there is awareness of trafficking and that information exchange about trafficking is done better inside the country. Opting into the Directive is an integral part of that strategy.

Q112 Fiona Bruce: My key question when you appeared before us last was to ask how the two Governments can work together effectively to combat this issue. Although you provided some information about individual agencies, I really would like to probe you on that point. Perhaps I can quote something you said in the House only this week. "Human trafficking is a complex, covert and cross-border crime that demands an international response." How can these two Governments within this United Kingdom work together more effectively to deal with this issue?

Damian Green: By having structures to do so and by ensuring that at a law enforcement agency level, and indeed at a political level, we can do this. For example, I chair the Inter-Departmental Anti-Trafficking Committee. The Scottish Government sit on that committee. Indeed, by video-link, Kenny MacAskill played a significant and very useful part in our last meeting. The officials at the relevant Department in Scotland will sit on our official committees as well. Absolutely, the Scottish Government are plugged into our anti-trafficking efforts.

Q113 Fiona Bruce: I thank you for your efforts. I think you are correct in saying that there is a will at that level. It is translating it on to the ground, isn’t it? It is looking at how, for example, individual police forces-some of whom are very good, such as Cleveland-can work with a multi-agency approach, yet others don’t seem to treat this as a priority. How can we ensure that we work together with the Scottish Government so that it really does have an impact at the grass roots?

Phil Taylor: Baroness Kennedy, who is one of the Scottish Human Rights Commissioners, has been holding an inquiry into trafficking issues in Scotland. We, the Serious Organised Crime Agency and the Gangmasters Licensing Authority have all been involved in that, along with the Scottish Police Service, the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service and the Scottish Crime and Drug Enforcement Agency. She held her final seminar last week and she is about to produce a report. There was a general collective view that, in Scotland, we are quite good at working both within Scotland and cross-border across the UK in terms of law enforcement agencies, but there were some distinctions in the way in which we tend to look at our specialisations. I think she will come up with some recommendations that were discussed as part of that about how collectively we can all work better together. There was a general consensus that that was probably the right thing. I would think within about a month or so, we will have some recommendations to consider about how the UK Government and the Scottish Government can work more closely in law enforcement on countering trafficking as it relates to Scotland.

Q114 Fiona Bruce: That is very helpful. One last question, if I may. You spent quite some time in your response to us talking about a guardianship pilot. There is very considerable concern about the impact of trafficking on young children and whether we really are giving them the support and the care that they need once their circumstances have been ascertained. Is this also something that is being worked on in Scotland together with the authorities there?

Damian Green: Essentially it is a responsibility for local government. Therefore that is distinctly a role for Scottish local authorities. It is beyond, as it were, the Scottish Government. I would be stretching my tentacles into areas where they shouldn’t stretch if I started deciding how Scottish local authorities should operate.

Q115 Fiona Bruce: What you have done, Minister, in indicating that we want to opt into this European Directive is send out a signal. Often, it is signals from the national Governments which are then picked up by the authorities that make a difference on the ground. I think that is what many of us would like to see in this particular area. Would you agree that that is a fair comment to make?

Damian Green: Absolutely. The main effects of opting into the Directive are practical, but, absolutely, it should send a signal to all levels of administration in all parts of the United Kingdom that this is something we need to take seriously. It is a dreadful, growing international crime and Britain is a destination country. Therefore, we need to be absolutely at the top of our game fighting it.

Chair: We can now go back to the order of business. David, would you like to ask the next question?

Q116 David Mowat: Minister, did I hear you say earlier that the real issue we have here is the sub-degree students?

Damian Green: Yes.

Q117 David Mowat: I would also have expected that. Just as an observation, it seems to me that the whole thrust of this legislation and the complexities with post-graduation work and everything else is addressing a part of the problem that may not be the real problem, if you see what I am saying. I am just reflecting on one of our submissions. The university of Edinburgh has a masters degree in engineering which is five years because of the work experience element within it. My guess is that there aren’t many immigration abuses by people studying engineering at the university of Edinburgh. Are we legislating for the wrong area by trying to set these rules, which pick up a part of the market that is not causing the problem in the first place?

Damian Green: The rules that we set won’t adversely affect genuine students studying at genuine universities. The Committee reflects the public debate. It is a debate about student visas and therefore everyone spends their life talking about university students. As I have said once, but will repeat again, the vast bulk of the effect of our changes, particularly in terms of reducing net migration, which is the Government’s overall target, will affect people who are coming here to study courses at below degree level, which, as it happens, barely impacts on Scotland. There are 750-odd private sector colleges providing these kinds of things, of which something over 500 aren’t highly trusted. Of those, about 11 are in Scotland.

Q118 David Mowat: I accept that. It seems to me that the problem we are trying to solve, as you have said, is the below university level problem. It is just that a lot of the contentious parts of this legislation that people are discussing-the £20,000 limit and the "Fresh Talent" initiative-are to do with graduate courses. That was just my observation and you may wish to reflect on that.

Damian Green: Sure.

Q119 David Mowat: More specifically on internships, I assume they have no specific position in terms of post-graduate work in your current thinking.

Damian Green: There is nothing specific in the rules about internships.

Glyn Williams: Not in Tier 4. There are certain schemes under Tier 5 which permit internships.

Q120 David Mowat: Could you elaborate on that a little?

Glyn Williams: There are certain sectors which have set up Government-authorised exchange schemes which need to be sponsored by an overarching body. It might be a Government Department, for example. I can’t remember a good example offhand, but I know there are some internships which are being done in that way.

Q121 Chair: Rather than looking at internships on their own, let us consider them with the post-study work element. I entirely understand the point about wanting to make sure that people who stay on are on a decent salary and aren’t working in security or chip shops and all the rest of it. However, if people come here, do courses and want to do post-work training which involves an internship in the oil industry or something similar, how would that be handled? That is one of the issues that was raised with us by the universities and others.

Damian Green: As Glyn says, there are internship schemes under Tier 5. They are not under Tier 4 because you have moved on from being a student. One that springs to mind with me is the Hansard Society, which runs an internship scheme for American politics students. There are dozens of these small-scale schemes.

Q122 Chair: That is right, but our specific interest in this regard arises from internships that would follow on from a university course that was bought and paid for in Scotland. Would they just be dealt with under the normal rules for internships or would they be looked at in terms of extending people’s visas to allow them to do an internship and not be bound by the £20,000 rule, which again I understand because you don’t want people working in security. But you don’t want to have the rule there for stopping people doing internships, after which they would return home.

Damian Green: I am not conscious we have had any representations from commercial industries like the oil industry, which is not short of a bob or two, saying, "Please can we employ people for free after they have done high-level degree courses?"

Q123 David Mowat: It is illegal as well, isn’t it? It is contrary to the minimum wage legislation.

Damian Green: Yes.

Q124 Chair: We got this specifically from Professor Diamond, the Principal of Aberdeen University, as being an issue. He referred to the oil industry. We will go back and ask them to provide clarification. Perhaps this is one of these areas where there can be further discussion if it is not a point that has been made to you as clearly as it might have been.

Damian Green: The oil industry and internships seem a very odd combination of institutions, I have to say.

Chair: We just report on to you the points that have been raised with us. We are mere vessels for conveying these messages to you. I now move on to the question of highly trusted sponsors.

Q125 Dr Whiteford: One of the other issues that was raised was to do with universities’ responsibilities for policing the implementation of changes. Have you given much thought to how expectations have shifted, in a sense, from the current situation in terms of what universities are expected to track, and the police, and what they might be under the new system?

Damian Green: There are no changes to the responsibilities of highly trusted sponsors. To bring in sub-degree level students, you have to be a highly trusted sponsor now and the requirements are stringent. They need robust recruitment practices, low numbers of people to whom they offer places to whom we then refuse visas for whatever reason, and low numbers who don’t show up in the first place or who drop out after a few weeks. To be a highly trusted sponsor, therefore, you need to be offering places to people who want to be genuine students. We have not changed the requirements as such.

Q126 Dr Whiteford: I know some colleges as well as universities have expressed concern. They seem to see the new regime as putting more onerous administrative responsibilities on staff. That is certainly the feedback we are getting from them.

Damian Green: Only if they weren’t observing the rules. It is probably true that we will be enforcing the rules that already existed properly from now on, but that is the only change.

Q127 Cathy Jamieson: Briefly on that, Universities Scotland raised concerns particularly about, for example, the Scottish Agricultural College. This is to do with the interpretation of guidance rather than about the rules. They were concerned that some of the wording in the UKBA’s documentation could, for example, cause difficulty. They are, of course, not a degree-awarding institution but they are a recognised higher education institution which works with other universities. Has that now been clarified or have those concerns been addressed?

Glyn Williams: Is your question how you define a university?

Cathy Jamieson: I suppose to boil it down, yes, it is.

Glyn Williams: We have taken the list off the BIS website of recognised bodies: i.e. bodies which can have their own degree-awarding powers. I think there are half a dozen other university colleges in the UK, which I have somewhere in this pile here. There is a specific list. You then have the listed bodies that can award degrees, which are awarded by the university of Bradford or wherever. When we refer to universities, they are not included.

Damian Green: I am advised that we have had no representations from the Scottish Agricultural College directly to the UKBA.

Q128 Cathy Jamieson: I am following the good example of the Chair. I am only reporting what has been brought to us. If that is something that could perhaps be looked at, that would be helpful. I want to raise another question in relation to the whole concern about bogus colleges and institutions. From what you have said before, Minister, and the STUC gave the same sort of evidence, it was not perceived to be a particularly Scottish problem. Could you say a bit more about the work that you have done recently on that to ensure that, while it may not be a particularly Scottish problem, it does not become one? Is there anything else that you have been looking at?

Damian Green: Partly it is where the industry has grown up. Seventy per cent. of these colleges are in London and another 15% are in the West Midlands. As I say, there are only 11 in Scotland. The best thing we can do to stop it becoming a problem is to make it clear that, if you have been operating a bogus college for the last few years, we are about to come down on you. Every time I cite this figure it goes up. It is about 71 now. We have closed or suspended the licences of that order of colleges in the past 12 months. Now this new regime is in place, it will be genuinely interesting to see over the next few months how many of them simply fade away before we inspect them. I don’t know yet whether some of them will keep going or whether some will just disappear. I would have thought that anyone who fancies setting up a bogus college in Scotland will be much less keen to do it now than they might have been a couple of years ago.

Chair: That is right but, to be fair, people don’t generally come along and say, "Excuse me, I would like to set up a bogus college here."

Damian Green: Indeed not.

Q129 Chair: Is there not a danger that any colleges which might be genuine colleges find themselves caught by the rule that, unless you are a trusted sponsor, you are effectively going to be ruled out? Since we have had these other meetings I have been approached by a college in Scotland which alleges that it is not a bogus college, as you would obviously expect, but indicates that it is teaching the English language to people coming from abroad. It is not linked to any particular university. It says that they are bringing in money and all the rest of it. Under the new rules , will there be no place for an institution like that unless it goes under the umbrella of a university or a higher or further education institution which is a most trusted sponsor? I hadn’t been particularly conscious of this until I was approached.

Damian Green: If it is an English language college, the bulk of its students will be doing courses of less than 12 months. We deliberately extended the student visitor visa on which most English language students came from six months to 11 months, saying firmly that if we find abuse in this we will change that. Nevertheless, we took on board what the English language college sector were telling us and they now have 11 months. We are told by the sector that that is enough for pretty well everybody. You can get your English up to a level where you can do what you will with it in 11 months. They don’t need to be highly trusted sponsors because they are not bringing in people for more than 12 months.

Q130 Chair: Fine; that is helpful. Talking of difficulties, I turn to Glasgow Caledonian university, which has recently been the subject of some activity. Can I clarify where we are now in relation to Glasgow Caledonian?

Damian Green: Absolutely. As of yesterday, their licence has been reinstated. As you know, it was suspended because we saw evidence of abuse by people who were nursing graduates. We discovered that they were spending only two days a month actually studying at the university. Clearly, there was significant evidence that they were not fulfilling the terms of what should happen. The university has very helpfully worked with us very closely since the licence was suspended. They have reviewed the course. They have changed its structure so that 50% of the course is now spent on campus, which, as Glyn mentioned earlier on, we reckon shows that you are a genuine student. They have allowed us to interview all the students so that we can check that they are bona fide students. They have confirmed that all the students on the course are suitably qualified. As a result, we have now reinstated their licence.

Q131 Chair: I want to pursue a couple of things on that before I let in some of my colleagues. I seem to recall that the response of the university was that the UKBA had over-reacted by suspending their licence. Could you clarify for me whether or not, with hindsight, you think that the Department did over-react?

Damian Green: No, absolutely not. This is absolutely the system working as it should. We didn’t revoke the licence; we suspended it. There was clearly something going seriously wrong there. The university have acted very swiftly now that we have done this to remedy the problems and we have very swiftly reinstated their licence. This seems to me to be the regulatory system working absolutely as it should do.

Q132 Chair: How did we get into this position? There does seem to me to be a bit of a difference between where we are now with the students being at the college for 50% of the time and the previous situation where they were there two days a month. Had this not been explained to the university? Had the university had it explained to them and chosen to ignore it? Had nobody understood? I fail to understand how exactly Glasgow Caledonian got themselves into that position.

Damian Green: In all fairness, that is a question you will have to put to Glasgow Caledonian because the rules have been there all along. Of course, the obligations of highly trusted sponsors are permanently explained. As I said in reply to a previous question, we have not changed the rules that highly trusted sponsors need to operate. We are just making sure they are enforced now. It is a very good question but it is a question for them.

Q133 Chair: It is only really the enforcement of the rules that stopped Glasgow Caledonian carrying on as they had been.

Damian Green: I hope that Glasgow Caledonian would have noticed themselves that something was going wrong, but that is counter-factual history. What I know is that we found this going on, we took the action we did and we have now solved the problem.

Q134 Chair: For how long had this been going on?

Damian Green: Since about October last year.

Q135 Chair: Can I clarify the position of the employers of the students involved? Presumably, these students should not have been working effectively full-time. Presumably, then the employers were in the wrong. Can I ask you to tell us who the employers were and whether any action is being taken against them?

Fiona O'Donnell: If you could clarify their responsibility in this, it would be useful.

Phil Taylor: The employers in the main were private care homes throughout the United Kingdom. Action is being taken against the employers individually in terms of their position and their ability to hold sponsor licences for overseas workers.

Q136 Chair: When you say "throughout the United Kingdom", were there students allegedly studying at Glasgow Caledonian who were working throughout the entirety of the United Kingdom?

Phil Taylor: A tiny minority were based in Glasgow. They were based in Northern Ireland, Aberdeen, London and the south-east, the Midlands, the north-east and the north-west. The problem that arose was that this course was, to a large extent, a distance learning course so a lot of the work was done online by computer. Therefore, the students were very rarely, as the Minister said, attending the university for organised study: two days a month. There was a breakdown of communications within the university. When we brought it to the attention of senior officers in the university, I think I could describe their reaction as shock when we explained what had been going on.

The issue was brought to a head when the dependant of one of the students applied for a visa to join his wife who was on the course. As part of the evidence that he submitted of her ability to support him as her dependant, he produced wage slips showing that she was working up to 100 hours a week. Then we started investigations which very quickly showed that the whole course-about 135 students in total-were involved. There was a third party involved in this process in organising the route, the course and some of the placements.

Q137 Chair: This sounds to me rather like organised abuse and not just simply an individual student. I asked initially whether you could tell us about the employers. I repeat that: can you tell us who the employers were?

Phil Taylor: I think at this moment, no, because there are further investigations going on both into the organisation, which was operating as the middle person in this and into whether there are other issues that we need to address in terms of law enforcement.

Q138 Chair: I can understand that. Do I take it that you will be able to provide us with the names of the employers at some point? I can understand not getting them in the middle of investigations and so on, but will we get these in due course?

Phil Taylor: Yes.

Q139 Chair: You are investigating the people who were organising this: the employers. Presumably, the students themselves are continuing now with their course.

Phil Taylor: We have been interviewing the students over the last couple of weeks and ensuring that they are all capable, able and willing to return to the reconstructed course, which is now fully compliant with the rules. We are still going through that information on a case-by-case basis. We will deal with any students who cannot fulfil the requirements of the course and the requirements of Tier 4 through the immigration control rules.

Q140 Chair: Am I right in thinking that, had the relative or the dependant of one of the students not applied for a visa, you would never have come across this?

Phil Taylor: We did know that this was a problem. It is not only in Glasgow Caledonian university. It has affected other institutions across the UK so we were aware that there was a growing problem. Investigations were going on and are continuing in relation to that, but the specific evidence which threw up that Glasgow Caledonian was a threat was brought to our attention through that entry clearance application. I found out about it two days after we met in Inverness.

Q141 Chair: I am grateful that you arranged for me to be informed as quickly as possible of that. I should mention that my colleagues have been aware of this for some time. This is clearly not just an isolated incident in relation to Glasgow Caledonian. This is apparent throughout the United Kingdom. Is it all Filipino nurses or is it a variety of countries and occupations?

Phil Taylor: My understanding is that it is all Filipinos.

Damian Green: In this particular case, but there may be others. You will understand, Chairman, that there are at any one time a number of investigations going on.

Chair: Yes, there are a variety of different things. You can understand why, in our discussions with Universities Scotland, they have been indicating that everything was all right in their house, as it were. Something like this happens and there is no evidence that I can see that Glasgow Caledonian would have actually dealt with this on their own had it not been picked up. It comes back to the point about monitoring. We met the Lecturers’ Union, which indicated that they were not enthusiastic about monitoring students. They said it placed an unfair burden on them and it affected the relationship between the students and the lecturers. Had this not been caught by yourselves, we could have no guarantee that this isn’t happening in every university up and down the country.

Q142 Fiona O'Donnell: The colleges as well, especially for health and social care workers, will not necessarily be an effective way of controlling it. They could still be meeting the requirements in terms of their study but working night shifts. I see a lot of loopholes here for exploiting these workers, especially in the care sector. Is there not another way? People have National Insurance numbers. HMRC is another way. It is not just about protecting jobs. It is also about protecting these individuals from being exploited.

Damian Green: And the people they are caring for if they are doing it 100 hours a week while they are meant to be doing a full-time university course. Absolutely, yes, the ramifications are quite big. I hope that one of the effects will be to send a shock through the system of all universities, many of which I imagine are now looking at their systems of control and internal communications and are asking themselves questions. As you say, they have said all along, "We can see there is a problem of abusive colleges but of course that is nothing to do with us." That may or may not be true in every case.

Q143 Chair: We would probably want to have a discussion again with yourselves at some stage once all this has been resolved. It might only be a relatively short discussion or simply something that we can have on paper, but we would certainly want to have a report back from you once all the existing investigations are pursued. Apart from that, though, everything is fine as far as you are aware until the next one. That is the case, is it?

Damian Green: As I said, we are continually investigating and we are getting better at enforcement. I will be pleasantly surprised if this is the last time we have something like this.

Q144 Jim McGovern: I am particularly disappointed to hear about what has happened with Glasgow Cally, as I think it is known. My son graduated from there as an optometrist. I remember being on holiday in Cyprus in 2005. I don’t know why but there seemed to be an enormous number of opticians in Cyprus, and almost every one of them had a plaque outside saying, "All our optometrists graduated from Glasgow Caledonian university." I am somewhat worried about that now. Perhaps they only turned up once a month or something like that. How is it monitored? Is it fair that the university itself should be the mo nitor of how often students come into their classes?

Damian Green: Yes.

Q145 Jim McGovern: If that is the case, if that is what they have to do and presumably report back to your Department, exactly how do they do it? How do they monitor it?

Damian Green: I think it is not unreasonable. They are highly trusted sponsors. I put equal weight on each word of that. We as a society trust them because they have the privilege of making money out of people, bringing them in from all over the world and allowing them to live in this country for a period of time because we all welcome the effects of that. In return, what we are asking them to do is make sure that those people who have come here to study are actually doing that. I have heard all the complaints such as, "This turns us into policemen" and so on. All we are asking them to do is meet the terms of their contract. If these people are never turning up, there is something going wrong; so let us know.

Q146 Jim McGovern: Does the university have to report back to your Department? "There are 150 students here. 125 of them turned up every single day they were meant to and another 25 didn’t." What are the logistics? How does it work?

Phil Taylor: There are two things. One is that the structure of this course didn’t meet the requirement of the rules. There is a difference between the courses which fit the structure and this one, which clearly didn’t. The students were turning up for the prescribed time. It wasn’t that they were bunking off. It is just that it required them to turn up only two days a month. We are not expecting a late register or a daily absence sheet, but what we are expecting is information if somebody is not attending courses and quite clearly not following the course. It may be that some brilliant academics can survive and progress quite satisfactorily on two days a week as opposed to four or five for a standard student. Our key concern, as the Minister has said, is that, if someone comes here to enrol on a course, they are following that course with a view to getting a qualification at the end of it and not using that course as a blind for illegal working. It is not that onerous, but the university should have identified that this specific course did not meet the requirements for overseas students.

Q147 Jim McGovern: My concern, and it is probably shared by others here, is that it sounds to me like the students have been exploited. Did you say some of them were working 100 hours a week?

Phil Taylor: Some of them were working up to 100 hours a week, yes.

Jim McGovern: They were being exploited and the Chair has obviously mentioned the rogue employers who were involved in this, but it sounds like it is the university that has suffered by having its trusted status suspended.

Q148 Chair: It has been reinstated now, though, I am glad to say. You don’t operate a system like a driving licence where they get three points or an endorsement or anything. Presumably, we can expect Glasgow Caledonian not to be sinning again.

Damian Green: Let’s all hope not.

Q149 Mr Reid: Minister, under the current rules, a Tier 2 worker can bring in dependants, but, under the Government’s proposals, students who want to become Tier 2 post-study workers won’t have the right to bring in dependants in the same way that everyone else in Tier 2 can. Can you explain the reason for that?

Damian Green: The only people who will be able to bring in dependants under Tier 4 are post-graduates doing a course of more than 12 months.

Q150 Mr Reid: What happens if they then go on to do Tier 2 post-study work?

Damian Green: They will be able to sponsor dependants who accompanied them when they were here as students. They can’t move on to Tier 2 and bring in Auntie Flo. If they have their partner with them while they are here as a post-graduate student and then move into Tier 2, they can carry on sponsoring that dependant.

Q151 Mr Reid: But if they got married after they became a Tier 2 worker after the course had finished, would they be able to bring in the spouse?

Damian Green: If they were a Tier 2 worker, they could apply for a spouse visa in any case. That would be the same as the current situation. Am I right?

Glyn Williams: We are drawing a distinction here between those who have entered the Tier 2 general category under the limit, who can sponsor dependants, and those who are switching from Tier 4 into Tier 2, as the Minister said, who can sponsor dependants they had with them when they were in Tier 4, but should not be able to bring in any new ones. If they wanted to sponsor dependants, they would have to switch into the Tier 2 general category, the restricted category, which would be subject to the limit.

Q152 Mr Reid: Are you saying that, in a situation where a person got married after they had become a Tier 2 post-study worker, if they wanted to bring in a dependant, they would have to apply to transfer into the normal Tier 2?

Glyn Williams: Yes.

Q153 Mr Reid: What is the logic behind that?

Damian Green: You don’t want to give unnecessary privileges to one particular type of post-study work. I don’t think this is going to affect a huge number of people. It is a slightly academic point, if I may say so.

Q154 Mr Reid: It is a concern raised by Universities Scotland. They also made the point that post-graduate masters level students doing courses typically under 12 months can’t bring in dependants. They make the point that by the time people have got to the post-graduate stage, they often have a partner or dependants. What is the reason for the decision?

Damian Green: There have been several less than 12-month post-graduate courses. That has been one of the areas we have identified as prone to abuse, quite specifically. Lots of people set up short, allegedly post-graduate courses and then allowed people to bring in dependants and all that kind of thing. That was something we identified as an area of abuse.

Q155 Chair: Surely the only people able to do post-graduate work should be most trusted sponsors. It would only be universities that could do post-graduate work, would it not?

Damian Green: It is more a question of the demand side. If you are a serious student and you are doing a post-graduate course, the truth is that that post-graduate course is probably going to be at least 12 months. If it is a three-month or six-month post-graduate course and you are allowed to bring in a dependant, we have just looked at some of these courses and thought that we are not entirely convinced.

Q156 Chair: The very short ones wouldn’t be run by universities and therefore they wouldn’t be covered by most trusted sponsors.

Damian Green: They wouldn’t necessarily be universities. Some of them aren’t universities, are they, but some of them can still be highly trusted sponsors?

Glyn Williams: In future, all sponsors will have to be highly trusted.

Q157 Fiona O'Donnell: Can I ask about English language requirements? How long do students who come in on the pathway track at level 1 have to get to level 2?

Glyn Williams: If they come in at Tier 4, there is a below degree level. You can spend up to three years in Tier 4, so they could spend three years progressing. I imagine most of them don’t if they are on a language course or a foundation course. It is something like a year or two years.

Damian Green: These pathway courses are characteristically a year.

Q158 Fiona O'Donnell: One sector particularly affected by this is music. Our conservatoires are short on funding both in England and in Scotland. We frequently have students who come to study from non-EU countries. They maybe don’t quite need an interpreter but their English isn’t very good. We often have Russian teachers in our conservatoires who are then able to teach. Of course, music is a language that knows no borders or barriers. Is this something that has been taken into consideration and will there be exemptions for any courses where students may not meet the level B2 requirement?

Glyn Williams: Anybody who comes to study on a degree level course needs to have B2 level. Anybody who is studying below degree level needs B1. You may well be more expert than me on this, but I don’t think it is necessarily true that music conservatoires don’t have English language requirements. We looked at the websites of some of them and they have English language requirements. It is not just about playing and reading music. There is a lot of theoretical study involved for which proficiency in English is as important as it is for any other subject.

Q159 Fiona O'Donnell: There have been no concerns from that sector then.

Glyn Williams: No, not specifically.

Fiona O'Donnell: That is very reassuring; thank you.

Glyn Williams: It was represented to us that there will be a very few exceptionally gifted, say, Chinese physicists or mathematicians who would be a real asset to a university but don’t have the required level. We have said that we will put in place a procedure whereby they can be exempted from the requirement, but we expect that to be a handful of people and not run-of-the-mill.

Damian Green: It is for the university to apply for a specific individual and explain.

Q160 Fiona O'Donnell: In terms of the status of the conservatoires, maybe they are not just there for the tuition element. Finally, the UKBA in Scotland provides a valued and valuable service to my constituents and to my constituency office. How will the cuts or savings efficiencies which the Government have asked them to make be made?

Phil Taylor: Slowly and carefully, and we are ahead of track on that front at the moment.

Q161 Fiona O'Donnell: But where have they been made? Are there fewer staff? If so, where have the staff gone?

Phil Taylor: It is one of those issues where there is a steadily moving picture. For example, asylum legacy casework is one of the areas of work that has come to an end. A large tranche of work has ended there and freed up staff. We have looked at changing the way we do things because regionalisation was set up often within the pre-existing silos but brought together at the top. A lot of the work that we have looked to do now is on linking some of the management chains. For example, people in the presenting officers’ unit presenting appeals before the immigration courts were a separate body, with their team in the region. Alongside that, there was the asylum caseworking team, which also comprised trained presenting officers because they present asylum appeals. We have now merged those two teams. The synergies we get from presenting officers who can do asylum work and asylum caseworkers who can do presenting work means we have efficiencies there.

Technology changes will also happen in the next couple of years, which should mean that our caseworking processes will become much more efficient and much slicker. At the moment we met and exceeded all our targets for this year, which were higher than last year. There has been no deterioration in service. In fact, the public inquiry office, which is the front office for customers coming in and applying for extensions, has just been accredited with a customer service excellence award. It seems to be hanging together.

Q162 Fiona O'Donnell: How do you monitor that, Phil? Is it about the time that you take to close a case? You say the service hasn’t been affected. I am wondering how you measure it.

Phil Taylor: A lot of metrics are being produced to go into that, but it is about the totality of cases rather than the individual cases. It is much more about the outcome of a case simply than measuring targets within the case. That has helped us focus on some of our outcome work. At the moment, I would think the service has been getting better. We are doing it with reduced staff and will continue to work through that.

Q163 Chair: I have a final point on this section. There has obviously been a lot of adverse publicity throughout the world as a result of the consultations and a lot of concern is being expressed. Will the Home Office now help universities correct the impression that Britain, and Scotland in particular, wasn’t really open and welcoming university students again? Are there ways that you have explored with them of dealing with this?

Damian Green: It was always a false impression. I and all of the Home Office were saying, to coin a phrase, "calm down". This is not going to make the university sector uncompetitive. You will be pleased to hear that my next engagement very shortly is to talk to all our ambassadors who are over here this week, who are in many cases the front line. They will be the people out of whose offices our visa sections will operate. They are very concerned about this and I am going to talk to them about that in a few minutes.

Q164 Chair: I turn to the Glasgow City Council contract, where I understand that matters have now been resolved as amicably as possible in the circumstances. I would be grateful if, first, that could be confirmed and, secondly, if the question of costings could be confirmed. It has been suggested that as a result of the way in which all this has been handled, it is going to be more expensive for the Department in the short term. I would be grateful if that could be clarified, and also what is the scale of the savings that are likely in the longer term?

Phil Taylor: The contract transferred on 3 May. It was uneventful. There haven’t been any significant repercussions since then. As you know, we predict the full-year savings of transferring that contract to be around £4 million in a full calendar year. We are not yet clear of the costs of transferring the contract versus running the contract to its termination because Glasgow City Council have only recently submitted their breakage costs for the contract. We are waiting for a breakdown on that. Then there are some pick-up costs for which Ypeople will bill us in terms of their set-up costs in taking on that additional contract.

If you take into account the fact that, as part of the arrangement, only 14 of the 33 Glasgow City Council staff have transferred to Ypeople to pick up that contract and the additional changes to the nightly rates that we get because Ypeople now have a much higher volume than they had before, we still anticipate that there should be a saving in the short term, but it is difficult to say because we don’t have the full costings in front of us to be able to say that for definite. We think it is somewhere in the region of about £1 million.

Q165 Chair: It would be helpful, as with the other issue that we raised, if you wrote to us in due course once the short-term savings have been resolved. We are all glad that this matter has been resolved. All I can do is reiterate what we said before about its having been handled very badly by the Department centrally in notifying people in the way that they did without warning, but congratulate yourselves, Minister, and the staff in Scotland, on the way in which they reacted very positively and helpfully to make the best out of a bad job.

Damian Green: Thank you. As I said the previous time before the Committee, I apologise for the initial handling of it, which, by any standards, was less than ideal. If I can just make one other point, you more than anyone, Mr Chairman, will remember the scaremongering that happened. Now that we have got to the end of this process and it has all been transferred, I can report that not a single child has had to change their school as a result of this transfer. I think that illustrates the extent of the unnecessary scaremongering that was going on. This process, after the initial problems, which we all agree shouldn’t have happened, has proceeded very smoothly.

Chair: I remember from my days in the Council that every time the social work department made a complete mess of something they described it as "a valuable learning experience". I hope that that is what this has been for the Department and that these things will be handled better in future. I want to raise one or two other matters, Minister, relating to the paper that you sent us on 16 February. I know there were a couple of points arising from this that people wanted to raise.

Q166 Fiona O'Donnell: Thank you for your answer about the pupil premium explaining that. It is additional money that has been transferred to Scotland through the Barnett Formula. Do you know whether the Scottish Government have then passed that money on to a city like Glasgow, which particularly has to bear the costs?

Damian Green: I do not. Once the UK Government pass it to the Scottish Government-

Fiona O'Donnell: I suspected that answer. We shall ask the Scottish Government.

Q167 Chair: On foreign prisoners, again you gave us very helpful information. Can I clarify whether the same rules are being applied in terms of deportation of prisoners convicted in Scotland as in the rest of the United Kingdom and whether the arrangements that you have with the judiciary about making deportation part of the sentence are the same as in the rest of the United Kingdom? Upon reflection, I don’t think we picked that up last time.

Phil Taylor: The one difference was that there wasn’t an early release scheme in Scotland, but that has now been enacted by the Scottish Parliament and is in place. As recently as last week, we have been in discussion with the Scottish Prison Service about how to put those provisions in place. As I think I mentioned before to the Committee, now that the asylum legacy work has been dealt with, we are moving the foreign national prisoner casework up to Scotland so that it will be on site and we will be able to deal with the cases faster and more effectively.

The only judicial issue is the potential for judicial review. Again, I think I mentioned before that we had started a dialogue with the Scottish judiciary. The very strong indication we have had from them-and we had a meeting last month again-is that they want to go for a consultation in the next couple of months, but they recognise that the Scottish judicial review system can be made faster and more effective. Certainly the indication we are getting is that that is what they want to drive towards. In any case where a deportee wanted to challenge his removal from the country by way of judicial review, I think we are going to see a much faster system in the fairly near future.

Q168 Chair: As you will know from the discussion that I have had from my own constituency casework, there has been a series of cases where people were abusing the judicial review mechanism just simply to keep delaying things. Is this entirely a judicial matter or is it partly a Scottish Government matter? Ought we to be raising this with them or only with the judiciary?

Phil Taylor: Lord Gill produced a review of civil justice the year before last which picked up a lot of the concerns that we had about the operation of Scottish judicial review. I think some of those changes will require primary legislation to the Scottish Parliament, but the judges have indicated that they can do a lot of it on their own by procedural change. They appear to be keen to do that and to make the system more effective and faster while at the same time ensuring that people have access to judicial review in Scotland. There is recognition that the system needs to be changed and improved. All the indications we are getting show that they want to do what they can. There may be bits around some of the formatting which will require primary legislation, but it is not clear yet whether what the judges intend to do, when they have decided what that is, will be sufficient to address the problem or whether it will require statutory change on top of that.

Q169 Chair: Do you have a time scale for when it will be clear whether it requires primary legislation?

Phil Taylor: It is highly dependent, of course, on that consultation process that the judges want to conduct with both sides and representatives of people applying for judicial review. We would hope that it might be in place for the autumn session when the courts re-sit after the summer recess.

Q170 Chair: That is an issue on which we would obviously want to express a view. The next point I wanted to raise with you arises from legacy case resolution. We discussed before how it is easy to resolve legacy cases simply by letting everybody stay. Last time we heard that only 2% of resolved cases were actual removals and 42% were given permission to settle. Do you have an update for us? If it is not currently available, could you let us have one?

Phil Taylor: We are just finalising the figures. I can certainly write to you with an update on the details of that.

Q171 Chair: Is it the same sort of pattern as we had before? We would be concerned if this Government were clearing the backlog simply by allowing everybody to remain.

Phil Taylor: If you think about the way to deal with it, bearing in mind that a lot of these cases were asylum cases and were being supported by the Agency, we dealt with the grant cases first because they were the easiest to bring the numbers down quickly. The more difficult cases and the ones that need a lot of caseworking are the ones that have been left. As you know, again, the asylum population in Glasgow has a pretty strong cohort of families. The two issues there are the potential that that creates for judicial challenge, in that it is not just one individual but two, three, four or five individuals who may raise a judicial challenge. There is also the passage of time and the impact on the children of a family who have been here for longer and longer. There is a tension between the speed at which you can work the case to departure and, inevitably, the length of stay that the family have had, and whether you then have to reconsider it. At the moment we have a cohort of the cases that we think need to be removed and we can identify that.

Q172 Chair: It did seem rather there as if you were preparing me for the news that virtually everybody who is on the legacy list is going to be allowed to remain.

Phil Taylor: No; I don’t think I am saying that. What I am saying is there is a speed at which we can remove. If we are dealing with one family, inevitably that means there are 10 families we can’t deal with.

Chair: I understand that.

Phil Taylor: In the courts, in terms of interpreting the impact upon children, it is a pretty live issue. We have to keep our eye on what the determinations are and what the courts decide is a reasonable period. Sometimes it is very difficult to be exact or precise, but we keep the cases under constant review. If we think there is no prospect of removing a family because we won’t win the case at court, there is no point in us just expending energy in trying to do that. But there still are removable cases that we intend to remove and we now have the new family removals process through which to put them.

Q173 Chair: Talking of the family removals process, can you tell us whether the report on the successes or otherwise of the family return project is available?

Damian Green: It is very close.

Chair: If I remember, it was very close in February.

Damian Green: It is really close now.

Q174 Chair: This, if I remember correctly, was the scheme on which the Government and the Scottish Government have spent £1 million to get the agreement of 47 families to leave, and none of them have left. How long do you need to do an evaluation of something like that?

Damian Green: It will take as long as it takes. You know the details of what went on.

Chair: Indeed I do, which is why I am keen to see the report.

Damian Green: It will genuinely be published very, very shortly.

Chair: How very, very shortly is "very, very shortly"?

Jim McGovern: Is it closer than "very"?

Damian Green: There is an extra "very" there.

Chair: It was very close last time we saw you, if I remember correctly.

Damian Green: Yes. "Shortly" is sooner than "close". We are talking days or weeks.

Q175 Chair: Days or weeks, but 52 weeks is a year. Have you any idea of how many weeks it might be?

Damian Green: I do not have a date yet.

Q176 Chair: When you are canvassing, there is always the difference between "don’t know" and "won’t tell", is there not? You are a genuine "don’t know" then.

Damian Green: In terms of which day, but, as I say, it is days or weeks.

Q177 Chair: The final point that I wanted to raise with you relates to the point that you mentioned at the beginning about borders. As part of the investigation of the student immigration system in Scotland, we got letters from the Scottish Government relating to that. Among those they say, "As a Government we do not support arguments to reduce migration." They also say, "The Scottish Government opposes a limit on net non-EEA migration", which I read to mean open borders.

Presumably , your Department is considering what might happen in circumstances of independence for Scotland , particularly if there was a policy of open borders for immigration. Can you tell us how far that work has advanced and whether , in the near future, the foreseeable future, close, shortly, you c ould give us an indication of the factors you are taking into account about how the residual part of the United Kingdom might react to an open border s Scotland ?

Damian Green: I have not commissioned any work on this and I don’t anticipate doing so in the near future. Clearly, if it becomes necessary to commission that sort of work, we would do so, but I haven’t.

Chair: Not yet. If no one has any other questions, thank you very much for coming along. It is always a pleasure to see you. We look forward to arranging something in the not-too-distant future, or maybe shortly, depending on the reports we get from you. Thank you.