6 Jun 2013 : Column 1683

Mr Lansley: I do not have to agree with the hon. Gentleman to say, just from a business point of view, that he will note that the Government have published the Gambling (Licensing and Advertising) Bill. I have not yet been able to tell the House the date of its Second Reading, but when that time comes the hon. Gentleman will have an opportunity to make his points.

Daniel Kawczynski (Shrewsbury and Atcham) (Con): Recently, the British Chambers of Commerce again called for extra support for British exports from the Government. We have not had a debate about exports on the Floor of the House since 2010, yet UK Trade & Investment receives more than £400 million of British taxpayers’ money to help British companies export overseas. I have spent the last 10 months interviewing hundreds of SMEs to get their first-hand experience of UKTI. May we please have a debate on the Floor of the House to scrutinise how the money is spent and consider what more needs to be done to ensure that British companies get the support they rightly deserve to start exporting all over the world?

Mr Lansley: My hon. Friend is an active, energetic advocate for promoting British exports, and I know the work he does. When I was at the British Chambers of Commerce we set up the export advisory service and took on delivery of the export marketing research scheme back in the late 1980s, so I completely understand where the British Chambers of Commerce is coming from. I will, of course, discuss with my hon. Friends what opportunities there may be, and the Chancellor set out in the autumn statement his ambition to support the UKTI in whatever it can achieve to maximise our impact in terms of exports. Whenever we have an opportunity for a debate on economic issues, it is important that we bring forward export and trade promotion as one of the central measures to promote growth.

Several hon. Members rose

Mr Speaker: Order. More than 20 Back-Bench Members are seeking to catch my eye and I am keen to accommodate them. I remind the House that there is a statement by the Foreign Secretary to follow, and then a number of debates under the auspices of the Backbench Business Committee to which I must give proper consideration. There is, therefore, a premium on brevity from those on the Back and Front Benches alike.

Alison McGovern (Wirral South) (Lab): The Leader of the House may be aware that the pre-inquest hearings into the deaths of 96 people in the Hillsborough disaster are taking place. Given that press reports of yesterday’s hearing said that lawyers representing the match day commanders accused the Hillsborough Independent Panel of having a so-called “agenda” guided by the families of those who died, and that questions were raised on whether the Home Office put a block on providing sufficient resources for the inquiry, does he believe it could be helpful to have a debate or statement on the matter?

Mr Lansley: I am not sure whether I can endorse the hon. Lady’s request for a statement at this stage, not least because I am not sure whether my ministerial colleagues would wish to come to the Dispatch Box and

6 Jun 2013 : Column 1684

intervene or express a running commentary on inquest proceedings. She will know that I was able to announce at previous business questions Government support for the families’ legal costs for that inquiry, but in order to be sure I will bring her point to the attention of my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General and my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary so that they are aware of it.

Philip Davies (Shipley) (Con): Has my right hon. Friend seen the case of Geoffrey Bettley, a teacher at St Mary’s in Menston, on the border of my constituency, who downloaded child porn images and was rightly sacked by the school and put on the sex offenders register? In a decision ratified by the Education Secretary, Geoffrey Bettley has been told that he is allowed to teach again. I am sure my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House will appreciate that many parents will be deeply disturbed by the fact that somebody who has been convicted of downloading child porn should be allowed to teach again. Can we have a statement from the Education Secretary so he can explain what on earth he was thinking when he allowed that person to teach again?

Mr Lansley: I have read press reports on the matter. The decision was taken by the National College for Teaching and Leadership and then endorsed by a senior official at the Department for Education. I will be in touch with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education so that he might give my hon. Friend an account of the process in the case.

Jim Sheridan (Paisley and Renfrewshire North) (Lab): In responding to a question yesterday from my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow South (Mr Harris) on the latest lobbying scandal, the Prime Minister made a strange comparison with the open and transparent donations by trade unions to the Labour party. He also said that he would clear up over-influence in the House. Will the Leader of the House clarify what the Prime Minister meant by “third parties” other than trade unions?

Mr Lansley: What the Prime Minister said was very clear, and it was not just about the question of the statutory register of lobbyists, which should ensure transparency and greater accountability in relation to third-party influence with Ministers and in Parliament. We must be sure that the whole political system has not only a transparent structure, but one that is accountable and open about those who seek to exercise such major third-party influence. Not just trade unions but other organisations seek to do so; the trade unions are a major source of third-party influence in the political system, as the hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well.

Tessa Munt (Wells) (LD): Will the Leader of the House allow time for a debate on the processes in place to follow up the implementation of recommendations made in serious case reviews, and to review and report in public in the long term on the adherence to points made in action plans after incidents in care homes, so that changes to poor practice are made for the long term, and that care of the vulnerable and elderly does not slip backwards?

6 Jun 2013 : Column 1685

Mr Lansley: Yes, to reiterate a point I made earlier, my hon. Friends from the Department of Health will answer questions in the House on Tuesday next, when the hon. Lady might wish to raise that issue with them. The Minister of State, Department of Health, who has responsibility for care services, recently set out further details on how, for example, the Winterbourne View cases are being followed up by the group to ensure that the residents are being well looked after. That example illustrates how important it is that people are not lost in the system, and that serious case reviews are followed up.

Andy Sawford (Corby) (Lab/Co-op): Given yesterday’s announcement from the Deputy Prime Minister that the Government’s plans to cram more toddlers into nurseries have been dropped, may we have a statement on child care policy? It is welcome that Labour Members’ campaigning and that of tens of thousands of parents and child care professionals has forced the Government to drop their plans, but it is shocking that we have not had a statement today. If the Leader of the House will not arrange a statement, will he at least tell us the current policy? The Deputy Prime Minister said yesterday that the plan had been dropped, but the Leader of the House has told us this morning that it is being reviewed. What is the policy? It is a shambles.

Mr Lansley: Our policy is to ensure an increase in the quality of child care and to improve affordability for parents: that is what we are setting out to do and that is what we will do. As soon as the policy is agreed, there will no doubt be an opportunity for it to be announced in the House.

Neil Carmichael (Stroud) (Con): As was highlighted on Tuesday by the “Gloucestershire goes to Westminster” event, locally produced food and drink is extremely popular. May we find a way of demonstrating how important local produce is to the rural economy, and have a debate to discuss our locally produced food in the context of the common agricultural policy?

Mr Lansley: As chance would have it, as I announced earlier the House will discuss a motion on reform of the CAP. Members greatly welcomed Gloucestershire coming to Westminster—many other areas have held similar events—to tell us about its local produce, something we all value in our constituencies.

Valerie Vaz (Walsall South) (Lab): May we have a debate on the Olympic legacy? Walsall has the only brine swimming pool in the west midlands, which is used for hydrotherapy and general fitness. Walsall also nurtured Ellie Simmons, the Paralympic champion. However, the Gala baths are threatened with closure. May we have an urgent debate on how to protect these vital community services?

Mr Lansley: I cannot offer time at the moment, but we attach the greatest importance to the Olympic legacy, which Lord Coe is pursuing actively. We committed to the legacy as part of our Olympic bid, and I hope it will be as successful as the Olympics and Paralympics themselves. As regards securing a debate, I suspect that the hon. Lady might like to get together with other colleagues with a view to making representations to the Backbench Business Committee.

6 Jun 2013 : Column 1686

Chris White (Warwick and Leamington) (Con): In an article in The Times yesterday, Daniel Finkelstein raised the issue of industrial policy and called it the economic big idea. I agree completely with this viewpoint. We still need a comprehensive industrial policy that will encourage investment in British manufacturing. May we have a debate on industrial policy and the role it can play in helping to rebalance our economy?

Mr Lansley: My hon. Friend will share my strong support for the industrial strategy set out by the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, my right hon. Friend the Member for Twickenham (Vince Cable), which focuses on the many sectors where we have identified comparative advantage, and on rebalancing our economy geographically and away from an undue reliance on financial services, to bring forward internationally tradable manufacturing and service industries, which are the only basis for paying our way in the future. I cannot offer a debate on the strategy at the moment, but I hope I have indicated the importance we attach to it. We will look for opportunities for the House to help to frame its implementation.

Geraint Davies (Swansea West) (Lab/Co-op): Further to the previous question, City and Guilds today published research that shows that we in this place spend four times as much time debating academic qualifications as vocational qualifications and skills. Most people do not have degrees, while the vast majority of MPs do have them. When can we find time to debate the important issue of skills and vocational training in relation to our growth strategy? Does the Leader of the House have any idea how we might get more representation from people who have had real jobs in the past, and who have even faced redundancy?

Mr Lansley: I have found in business questions that hon. Members pay consistent and frequent attention to the development of skills. My colleagues have supported the doubling of apprenticeships that has taken place under this coalition Government and the introduction of traineeships to secure, as the Queen’s Speech set out, the expectation that all young people should be going into higher education, traineeships or apprenticeships, to ensure that we have appropriate skills at all levels for those going into the work force.

Mr David Nuttall (Bury North) (Con): I suspect that when the House meets to consider private Members’ Bills for the first time this Session on Friday 5 July it will be rather fuller than it is sometimes on a Friday. Given the likely increased interest in private Members’ Bills, may we please have a statement on whether the Government will if necessary provide more time for their consideration, and clarification on whether, if the Backbench Business Committee were so to decide, the time made available to that Committee could be allocated for the consideration of private Members’ Bills?

Mr Lansley: My hon. Friend, who increasingly understands intimately the workings of the House, will recall that the time available for private Members’ Bills is established in Standing Orders. It might encourage him to recall that last year that time was sufficient for 10 private Members’ Bills to secure Royal Assent.

6 Jun 2013 : Column 1687

Andrew Gwynne (Denton and Reddish) (Lab): May we have a debate on Ministers’ responsiveness to Members? I wrote to the Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury on behalf of my constituent Karen Bawker of Thorneside, Denton, on 4 April in follow-up to correspondence on 11 January, which was answered by him on 4 February. This time I have not had so much as an acknowledgement, let alone a reply, despite my having sent reminders, including most recently at the start of this week. Will the Leader of the House investigate this discourtesy and, through his good offices, also ensure that my constituent’s query is responded to?

Mr Lansley: I will of course be in touch with my hon. Friend the Exchequer Secretary, who I know is an assiduous and hard-working Minister. Like all of us, he seeks to respond to Members’ correspondence within 20 working days, and I am sure he will want to address the reasons he has failed to do so in this instance.

Richard Fuller (Bedford) (Con): May we have a statement from the Government about streamlining procedures at Companies House better to support people trying to start a business for the first time? A constituent of mine had his form returned because it was in the wrong colour ink, and when he sought advice and human guidance from Companies House he was told simply, “Look at our website.” When he re-filed to ensure that it was absolutely correct, Companies House returned it, having identified errors that it had missed first time, and then he was fined £375 and told that he was liable to prosecution for a criminal offence. I think we can do better in encouraging business.

Mr Lansley: It is not a happy tale my hon. Friend tells. I know that my hon. Friends at the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills will want to look at that. When we tackle red tape, as we are doing, we should not just be reducing the burden of regulation by taking away unnecessary regulations and simplifying others, but looking constantly—the Cabinet Office is leading on this across Government—at simplifying administration and reducing costs on those who have to comply with regulations.

Jason McCartney (Colne Valley) (Con): Last week, I made a most enjoyable and informative visit to the National Coal Mining museum near Wakefield, which adjoins my constituency. It was packed with families and children. I, too, would like to add my voice to the calls for a debate on our wonderful national museums and how best to support them financially during these difficult economic times.

Mr Lansley: I completely understand what my hon. Friend says. He will recall what I said about the Science Museum Group more generally. In that particular instance, although these are operational matters within the group, I understand that there is a £2.5 million per annum ring-fenced grant for the National Coal Mining museum.

Chris Heaton-Harris (Daventry) (Con): In the light of the three debates on European documents that the Leader of the House announced, will he bring forward fresh proposals to enhance how the House and national Parliaments deal with European legislation?

6 Jun 2013 : Column 1688

Mr Lansley: I am grateful to my hon. Friend. As happy chance would have it, the Foreign Secretary is on the Front Bench alongside me. Last week in Berlin, he set out what I think is essential—I think both sides of the House might agree with this—

Mr Douglas Alexander (Paisley and Renfrewshire South) (Lab) indicated assent.

Mr Lansley: Yes, I am saying that we can agree about it. We should increase the influence of national Parliaments over legislation, for the achievement of which my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary has set out specific proposals. As Leader of the House, I want to work not least with the European Scrutiny Committee and the Liaison Committee to ensure that we use every opportunity to the maximum, identifying proposals as they come from the European Commission, intervening as early as possible, sending our political and reasoned opinions on the legislation and maximising our influence over EU legislation.

Mr Peter Bone (Wellingborough) (Con): May I remind the Leader of the House about private Members’ Bills and the days allocated to them? In the last Session the Government tabled a motion, which was passed by the House, to increase the number of sitting days for private Members’ Bills, so I am afraid that hiding behind Standing Orders to suggest that we cannot increase the number of sitting days for private Members’ Bills is not quite correct. May we have a statement on that?

Mr Lansley: I never like to disagree with my hon. Friend, but in that instance I think we brought forward a motion for the House additionally to sit on a Friday, but not for the consideration of private Members’ Bills—rather, it was for the extension of a debate. If I am wrong, I will gladly confess and correct that. As far as I am aware, the issue is simply put. The number of days—13—is set out in Standing Orders.

Nigel Adams (Selby and Ainsty) (Con): Sport, as we know, plays a crucial part in the development of young people. May we have a debate on the work of sports clubs in the community? By coincidence, 150 years ago the Yorkshire county cricket club played its first ever official cricket match here in London, across the river, against Surrey. One hundred and fifty years ago today, Yorkshire skittled out Surrey for 60 runs in the second innings. The Leader of the House will know the names: Hawke, Sutcliffe, Trueman, Close, Boycott, Gough, Lehmann, Vaughan—all Yorkshire sporting legends who have played for a club that does incredible good work in our community. As well as the debate, will the Leader of the House join me in congratulating Yorkshire on its anniversary? Will he also join me on Monday for a reception on the Terrace for Yorkshire county cricket club, where he will get to meet the great Geoffrey Boycott and the current Yorkshire squad?

Mr Speaker: The hon. Gentleman has had a very full innings.

Mr Lansley: Who can resist? I absolutely endorse that celebration and commemoration in this House. Let me say how much we applaud Yorkshire county cricket club for its many achievements over 150 years. It would

6 Jun 2013 : Column 1689

be the greatest possible pleasure to meet some of those who have contributed to them. Cricket clubs in Yorkshire and across the country play a vital part in promoting sport and community life. Yorkshire has been at the forefront of that, and I hope we can celebrate that on Monday.

Martin Vickers (Cleethorpes) (Con): It is widely anticipated that a decision on the future of the children’s heart surgery unit in Leeds will be known soon. There has been a wide campaign across the House, involving many Members. Can the Leader of the House assure us that when a decision is made, there will be an oral statement?

Mr Lansley: I will, of course, talk to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Health. I am not aware that he has received, or made any decision in relation to, an Independent Reconfiguration Panel report, but I will of course discuss with him how an announcement will be made in due course.

Mr Philip Hollobone (Kettering) (Con): Earlier this week you confirmed from the Chair, Mr Speaker, that the Standing Orders of the House permit only the Government to make a formal request to recall Parliament. Given that Governments can be tempted to make major policy announcements during the recess and given that the Leader of the House is, after all, the leader of all of us in this place, would he be kind enough to give consideration to amending the relevant Standing Order, so that if a certain threshold—for example, 20%—of Members requesting a recall were met, they would be able to use that mechanism to make a formal request?

Mr Lansley: Of course, my hon. Friend understands that I take very seriously my responsibility to represent both the Government in this House and the House as a whole, including within the councils of Government. From my point of view, in my recent experience I do not see any mischief—in the sense that there have been issues on which it was thought appropriate for the House to be recalled when Ministers did not take a suitable initiative—but I will keep this under review.

Glyn Davies (Montgomeryshire) (Con): This morning the Government issued an important statement about the public voice in relation to onshore wind farms. Three times this morning you have called me, Mr Speaker, and I have asked a similar question about how the statement will affect Wales. I have not received a satisfactory answer. I have been left in a position of deep frustration, and I am sure the people of Wales feel the same. Will my right hon. Friend ensure that we have an early statement clarifying the position, so that people in Wales will know that applications for developments over 50 MW, which are not devolved, will be subject to today’s new guidelines?

Mr Lansley: I completely understand my hon. Friend’s concern about this, and his desire to secure proper answers. If I may, I will talk to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Wales to see how we might expedite a response.

6 Jun 2013 : Column 1690

Andrew Jones (Harrogate and Knaresborough) (Con): Engineering businesses in my constituency have told me of the challenges that they face in recruiting, particularly in relation to the academic backgrounds of applicants. They are looking for achievement in computer sciences, mathematics and physics. May we please have a debate to discuss what more the Government could do to encourage participation in those critical subjects, and to ensure high standards in the curriculum and rigour in the examinations?

Mr Lansley: From my point of view, I am clear that my ministerial colleagues in the Department for Education and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills are working closely together to ensure that we maximise our support for education and training in science, technology and engineering. The first job I ever did, many years ago, was in the then Department of Industry, and it was to support the Young Engineer for Britain scheme and Women into Science and Engineering. This has been a long, hard struggle, but companies today still feel that we in this country do not attach as much importance to science, technology and mathematics as other countries do. We have made significant progress recently in the number of students following those subjects and the success that they are achieving, but we still need to attach greater importance to encouraging the brightest and best to go into engineering and manufacturing industry.

Mark Pawsey (Rugby) (Con): Almost exactly 12 months ago, I raised with the then Leader of the House my concerns about a stretch of the M6 that has become known as “Rugby’s mad mile” because of the large number of accidents in the traffic queuing to join the A14 at Catthorpe. His response was that funds had been allocated for improvements, but that a public inquiry was needed. Twelve months on, we are waiting for the outcome of that public inquiry, but accidents are continuing to happen, with yet another fatality occurring only last week. Given the importance of that junction to the UK motorway network, may we have a ministerial statement on the progress on bringing forward those urgently needed improvements?

Mr Lansley: As somebody who lives down the A14 in an eastward direction, I am only too familiar with the Catthorpe interchange. My hon. Friend will know that the local public inquiry into the proposed improvement of junction 19 and related sections of the M6 and A14 closed on 16 March this year. The Department for Transport received the inspector’s report on 16 May. The report is currently being considered, and a decision will be issued as soon as possible. Subject to a satisfactory outcome of this statutory process, the Highways Agency expects that construction could start in the spring of 2014. That would be sooner than the date announced in the Chancellor’s 2011 autumn statement, when it was stated that the scheme would be prepared for start of construction before 2015.

Julian Sturdy (York Outer) (Con): May I add my voice to the call for a debate on the importance of local museums and the way in which they protect our culture and heritage for future generations? An example is the fantastic National Railway museum in York, which I

6 Jun 2013 : Column 1691

visited many times as a young boy. I now have the pleasure of taking my young children there, and I know how important that museum is to York’s DNA.

Mr Lansley: Yes, indeed. I know that my hon. Friend will forgive me if I do not reiterate what I said earlier about the Science Museum Group, but I will ensure that all the contributions relating to this subject, including his question on the National Railway museum, are brought to the attention of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport.

6 Jun 2013 : Column 1692

Mau Mau Claims (Settlement)

11.59 am

The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr William Hague): With permission, I would like to make a statement on a legal settlement that the Government have reached concerning the claims of Kenyan citizens who lived through the emergency period and the Mau Mau insurgency from October 1952 to December 1963.

During the emergency period, widespread violence was committed by both sides, and most of the victims were Kenyan. Many thousands of Mau Mau members were killed, while the Mau Mau themselves were responsible for the deaths of over 2,000 people, including 200 casualties among the British regiments and police.

Emergency regulations were introduced; political organisations were banned; prohibited areas were created; and provisions for detention without trial were enacted. The colonial authorities made unprecedented use of capital punishment and sanctioned harsh prison, so-called “rehabilitation”, regimes. Many of those detained were never tried, and the links of many with the Mau Mau were never proven. There was recognition at the time of the brutality of these repressive measures and the shocking level of violence, including an important debate in this House on the infamous events at Hola camp in 1959.

We recognise that British personnel were called upon to serve in difficult and dangerous circumstances. Many members of the colonial service contributed to establishing the institutions that underpin Kenya today, and we acknowledge their contribution. However, I would like to make it clear now and for the first time on behalf of Her Majesty’s Government that we understand the pain and grievance felt by those who were involved in the events of the emergency in Kenya. The British Government recognise that Kenyans were subject to torture and other forms of ill treatment at the hands of the colonial administration. The British Government sincerely regret that these abuses took place and that they marred Kenya’s progress towards independence. Torture and ill treatment are abhorrent violations of human dignity, which we unreservedly condemn.

In October 2009, claims were first brought to the High Court by five individuals, who were detained during the emergency period, regarding their treatment in detention. In 2011, the High Court rejected the claimants’ arguments that the liabilities of the colonial administration transferred to the British Government on independence, but allowed the claims to proceed on the basis of other arguments.

In 2012, a further hearing took place to determine whether the cases should be allowed to proceed. The High Court ruled that three of the five cases could do so. The Court of Appeal was due to hear our appeal against that decision last month. However, I can announce today that the Government have now reached an agreement with Leigh Day, the solicitors acting on behalf of the claimants, in full and final settlement of their clients’ claims.

The agreement includes payment of a settlement sum in respect of 5,228 claimants, as well as a gross costs sum to the total value of £19.9 million. The Government will also support the construction of a memorial in Nairobi to the victims of torture and ill-treatment during

6 Jun 2013 : Column 1693

the colonial era. The memorial will stand alongside others that are already being established in Kenya as the country continues to heal the wounds of the past. The British high commissioner in Nairobi is today making a public statement to members of the Mau Mau War Veterans Association in Kenya, explaining the settlement and expressing our regret for the events of the emergency period.

This settlement provides recognition of the suffering and injustice that took place in Kenya. The Government of Kenya, the Kenya Human Rights Commission and the Mau Mau War Veterans Association have long been in favour of a settlement, and it is my hope that the agreement now reached will receive wide support, will help draw a line under these events and will support reconciliation.

We continue to deny liability on behalf of the Government and British taxpayers today for the actions of the colonial administration in respect of the claims, and indeed the courts have made no finding of liability against the Government in this case. We do not believe that claims relating to events that occurred overseas outside direct British jurisdiction more than 50 years ago can be resolved satisfactorily through the courts without the testimony of key witnesses, which is no longer available. It is therefore right that the Government have defended the case to this point since 2009.

It is, of course, right that those who feel they have a case are free to bring it to the courts. However, we will also continue to exercise our own right to defend claims brought against the Government, and we do not believe that this settlement establishes a precedent in relation to any other former British colonial administration.

The settlement I am announcing today is part of a process of reconciliation. In December this year, Kenya will mark its 50th anniversary of independence and the country’s future belongs to a post-independence generation. We do not want our current and future relations with Kenya to be overshadowed by the past. Today, we are bound together by commercial, security and personal links that benefit both our countries. We are working together closely to build a more stable region. Bilateral trade between the UK and Kenya amounts to £1 billion each year, and around 200,000 Britons visit Kenya annually.

Although we should never forget history and, indeed, must always seek to learn from it, we should also look to the future, strengthening a relationship that will promote the security and prosperity of both our nations. I trust that this settlement will support that process. The ability to recognise error in the past but to build the strongest possible foundation for co-operation and friendship in the future are both hallmarks of our democracy.

12.5 pm

Mr Douglas Alexander (Paisley and Renfrewshire South) (Lab): May I thank the Foreign Secretary for his statement and for advance sight of it? However, may I begin my remarks by asking him about a procedural point: why, given a Minister’s obligation to the House and the importance of this announcement, were the details, including the wording of the statement of regret, the scale of the quantum agreed and details of the legal

6 Jun 2013 : Column 1694

background to the settlement, all provided to the newspapers yesterday before they were to the House of Commons today? A full report appeared on

The Guardian

website at 6.42 yesterday evening and on

The Times

website at 7.30 yesterday evening. I hope that in his response the Foreign Secretary will offer the House a candid explanation as to why that occurred.

Let me turn to the substance of the matter in the Foreign Secretary’s statement. First, may I place on record the cross-party consensus that exists on this issue and offer my support for the Foreign Secretary’s efforts in seeing a legal settlement being agreed? Much has already been said of the suffering on all sides that lies at the heart of today’s announcements. On 20 October 1952, Governor Baring signed an order declaring a state of emergency in Kenya. The violence that followed, carried out by both sides in the conflict, has been well documented, not least thanks to the brave and tragic testimony of many survivors who lived through it. As the Foreign Secretary said, there were hundreds of casualties among the British soldiers, police and officials, but during the period of emergency in Kenya most of the victims and casualties were Kenyan, with many thousands of Mau Mau members killed, and thousands more imprisoned and displaced. It is therefore right that the Foreign Secretary recognised the challenges and dangers that British personnel in Kenya faced at that time, but the mass detention camps, the forced resettlement and the levels of brutality that characterised that period in Kenyan history must also be recognised. The numbers of dead and those not accounted for is, of course, still debated, but I think there is broad consensus in all parts of this House that the scale of the suffering was profound and deeply regrettable.

That is why I welcome today’s statement by the Foreign Secretary and want to echo his words acknowledging that Kenyans were tortured and mistreated by the colonial administration. I also want to support further today’s expression of deep regret and unreserved condemnation of those actions. The British Government are right to reflect on our country’s colonial past, not simply because the legacy of our past is still being felt today, but because we must look to history, learn its lessons and use them to help chart a course going forward. All parts of this House share an interest in seeing this issue resolved, which is why today I wish to put on record my support for the right hon. Gentleman’s work over recent months to press for a fair resolution as Foreign Secretary.

So we support the announcements made today in the Foreign Secretary’s statement, but I seek his clarification on a number of issues that arise as a result. First, could he confirm to the House which departmental budget is funding the £19.9 million of which he spoke, which makes up the full and final settlement announced today? Will he also set out what meetings his Department has had with representatives of the Mau Mau claimants, and could he update the House as to their collective view of and response to today’s announcement? Indeed, will he further explain what he anticipates will be the response of the Kenyan Government, in particular, to today’s announcement?

The British Government must continue, of course, to be categorical in their condemnation of torture and ill treatment, which are abhorrent violations of human dignity. It is right that current and future relations with

6 Jun 2013 : Column 1695

Kenya are not overshadowed by the past. So, along with the Foreign Secretary, I hope that today’s announcement will encourage even stronger ties between our two nations going forward, despite, but not ignoring, our shared and, at times, troubled past.

Mr Hague: I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman. I agree that the cross-party approach is important. These claims were first made in 2009, under the last Government, and the last Government decided to contest them in the courts. That was the right decision, because all of us together contest the liability of British taxpayers in the 21st century for what happened under colonial administrations. However, we are also right to support this settlement together, because it is the best outcome all round for both the British taxpayer and the claimants. Many of the claimants are of course very old, and further protracted legal proceedings would not necessarily be in their interests.

The right hon. Gentleman asked, quite rightly, about reports in the press. As I think he and the House recognise, I am an enthusiast for announcing things to Parliament. While I am not in a position to point a finger of accusation at anyone, I note that, in view of the nature of the settlement, information about it had been circulated beyond the Government before today. I also note that some of the figures given in newspaper reports are different from the figures that I have given today, and have clearly not come from the Foreign Office. However, the right hon. Gentleman was absolutely right to make the point that such announcements are best made to Parliament in the first instance. He was also right to join in the sincere regret that the Government have expressed: it will mean a great deal in Kenya that regret has been expressed by the Opposition as well as by the Government.

Let me turn to the specific questions that the right hon. Gentleman asked. The claim will not be met by any departmental budget; it is a claim on the Treasury reserve. That is what the reserve is for—to provide lump sums that cannot be anticipated or budgeted for.

The right hon. Gentleman asked what meetings the Government had had. This matter has been a subject of legal proceedings for four years, and the meetings that have been held with the aim of reaching a settlement have taken place with the lawyers of the claimants. From that it can be deduced that the claimants are happy with the settlement. Certainly the lawyers have expressed satisfaction on their behalf.

The Kenyan Government called for a settlement, and it is now for them to react to this settlement in whatever way they wish, but I hope that they will welcome it. The British high commissioner in Nairobi has met the Kenyan human rights commission and representatives of the Mau Mau in recent weeks, and, as I said in my statement, he will be speaking to Mau Mau veterans today, in particular about our plans for a memorial. However, all the contact in London has been with the lawyers.

Let me say again that, like the right hon. Gentleman, I believe that stronger ties between our countries are very important. Kenya is an important partner of this country in trade and tourism, and also—this is particularly important—in countering terrorism and seeking stability in east Africa. We work with Kenya closely in trying to bring stability to Somalia, for instance. I hope that the settlement will make it easier for us to do all those things in the future.

6 Jun 2013 : Column 1696

Bob Stewart (Beckenham) (Con): I support what we have done. However, when I was a little boy my father was a soldier operating in Aden, and I remember being absolutely petrified by the stories of British-origin settlers and farmers being chopped to bits by the Mau Mau. I note that we are going to subsidise and help to build a memorial to the Mau Mau, but may I make a suggestion? Given that not only were 200 British soldiers and policemen killed, but 1,800 civilians perished as a result of Mau Mau activities, I think that it would be very appropriate for a memorial to be erected to them—both Kenyans and those of British origin.

Mr Hague: My hon. Friend is right to remind the House that terrible acts were committed on both sides over a long period, between 1952 and 1963. Thirty-two European settlers were murdered in horrific circumstances, and many actions that can only be categorised as terrorist actions were undertaken by people who were part of the Mau Mau insurgency.

Equally, however, it is important for us to recognise—as we do, across the House—that torture and inhuman and degrading treatment can never, and should never, be part of our response to any outrage, however terrible. That is because we uphold our own high standards of human rights, and also because it is not an effective way in which to respond to any such outrages. It is very important that we express our own regret and acknowledge mistakes that were made, even though terrible acts were carried out on both sides.

As my hon. Friend will have noted, I recognised in my statement the service done by those employed by the colonial administration, who did so much work to build the institutions that underpin Kenya today. My statement was about the recognition of people engaged in the Mau Mau insurgency or accused of being so engaged, and I think that questions about other memorials and recognition of other people are for a different occasion, but I take full account of the point that my hon. Friend has made.

Several hon. Members rose

Mr Speaker: Order. I appreciate that these are extremely sensitive matters, but we have a heavy schedule, so we need to speed things up somewhat.

Jeremy Corbyn (Islington North) (Lab): I thank the Foreign Secretary for his statement, but I was a bit surprised when, towards the end of it, he said that the British Government “continue to deny liability” for what happened. It is very strange that the Government should arrive at a settlement with Leigh Day and offer compensation, and at the same time deny liability.

Liability was well known in the 1950s. Fenner Brockway, Barbara Castle, Leslie Hale, Tony Benn and many other MPs raised the issue in Parliament during the 1950s. It is only the steadfastness of people in Kenya who stood for justice and against the use of concentration camps, torture, castration, and all the vile things that were done to Kenyan prisoners by the British forces that has finally brought about this settlement. I met many of those victims last year when they came here to go to court, and I pay tribute to them, and to Dan Thea and others who have organised the campaign that has finally brought this day about.

6 Jun 2013 : Column 1697

There are serious lessons to be learnt. When we deny rights and justice, when we deny democracy, when we use concentration camps, our actions reduce our ability to criticise anyone else for that fundamental denial of human rights. That lesson needs to be learnt not just from Kenya, but from other colonial wars in which equal brutality was employed by British forces.

Mr Hague: I fully accept the hon. Gentleman’s extensive knowledge. He is right to speak about the terrible nature of some of the things that happened, and also right to speak—as I did a few moments ago—about the importance of upholding our own highest standards, expressing that very clearly to the world, and ensuring that we do it now.

The hon. Gentleman asked, in particular, about the consistency between recognition of those things and the Government’s continuing to deny liability. What we are making clear—as the last Government did when contesting these claims in the courts in 2009—is that we do not agree with the principle that generations later, 50 or 60 years on in the 21st century, the British taxpayer can be held liable for what happened under colonial administrations in the middle of the 20th century. However, while we cannot accept that as a principle, we have reached a settlement in this case, and I am pleased that it has been welcomed in the House.

Daniel Kawczynski (Shrewsbury and Atcham) (Con): Governments of various political colours have contested these claims through the courts over a period. May I first ask the Foreign Secretary what, specifically, has happened recently to cause the Government to change their position and acquiesce in this? Secondly—

Mr Speaker: Order. I think that one question will do. I have just made a point about brevity, which should not be flagrantly defied.

Mr Hague: I will try also to give brief answers. I described in my statement how the legal cases were proceeding. There had been a series of hearings in 2011 and 2012. The Government had contested all of the cases, but the High Court had decided that three out of five of them could proceed, on grounds that were quite specific to this particular case and to the Mau Mau insurgency. It does not therefore set a precedent for other cases. Given that it had decided that, the Government came to the view that it was in the interests of the British taxpayer, and also of the claimants, to come to a settlement on this particular matter.

Mr David Winnick (Walsall North) (Lab): Terrible things were undoubtedly done on both sides, but may I tell the Foreign Secretary that many of us opposed from the start what we considered to be a totally unnecessary colonial war, as, indeed, we opposed what happened in Cyprus at around 1960? Although I would not normally quote Enoch Powell, because of the outburst in 1968 and other matters, in the debate on 27 July 1959 on the murder of 11 African detainees, he said:

“We cannot say, ‘We will have African standards in Africa, Asian standards in Asia and perhaps British standards here at home’…We cannot, we dare not, in Africa of all places, fall below

6 Jun 2013 : Column 1698

our own highest standards in the acceptance of responsibility.”—[

Official Report

, 27 July 1959; Vol. 610, c. 237.]

For once, Enoch Powell was right.

Mr Speaker: I think the Foreign Secretary will remember that Denis Healey described the speech in his autobiography as the greatest parliamentary speech he ever heard, carrying all the moral force of Demosthenes.

Mr Hague: Enoch Powell did, indeed, give a remarkable and powerful speech in the debate in 1959, and I read it in preparing for this statement. [Interruption.] I was not born at the time, so I did not read it then. There will be many strong views held about the events of that time, although most of us who are Members of the House now did not have a strong view at the time because we were not around then, but there is a strong tradition in this House going all the way back to the 18th century. In the 1780s, Edmund Burke called Governments to account for colonial misdeeds in India and sought to bring Warren Hastings to trial. There is a long and proud history of this House asserting itself on the errors that have been made during our imperial rule of other countries, and our recognition of these errors today is part of that long tradition.

Tessa Munt (Wells) (LD): I welcome the Foreign Secretary’s statement. It serves us well to approach this whole matter with sensitivity and humility. There are some fairly serious disputes about the numbers of people involved. The official figures say 11,000 Mau Mau rebels were killed and only 32 white settlers, but David Anderson, professor of African politics at Oxford, says that probably 25,000 people died at the hands of the colonial organisation. I wonder whether there should be a debate about the past, and whether we ought to make sure that adults, some of whom will remember these events, know about what happened, and also that young people learn from this period of history. Might the Foreign Secretary speak to the Education Secretary and consider whether this part of our colonial past, which did not cover us with glory, might be a topic for discussion in schools?

Mr Hague: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for her remarks. I do not suppose there will ever be universally agreed figures in respect of what happened and how many people were killed in what was such a confused and terrible situation in such a large country. I will refer her points on to my hon. Friends with responsibility for these matters, and the Deputy Leader of the House is present, hearing another bid for parliamentary time and discussion. It is very important for us always to learn, in whatever form, from mistakes of the past. We are recognising that today. Indeed, the abhorrence of torture and ill treatment, and the strictness of the rules we now have against that for everyone working on behalf of the United Kingdom, are part of our recognition that mistakes were made in the past.

Keith Vaz (Leicester East) (Lab): I also welcome this important and historic statement, which was so eloquently delivered by the Foreign Secretary. These were dark days in the history of our country. My wife was born in Kisumu in Kenya, and her family lived through this violence. Many thousands of Kenyan Asians have come to settle in Leicester. They will see this as a line being

6 Jun 2013 : Column 1699

drawn in the sand. How does the Foreign Secretary intend to take the relationship with Kenya forward in the future?

Mr Hague: I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for his support for the statement. The relationship with Kenya is very important to our country, and I mentioned a few moments ago the many different dimensions of it. It is a relationship that we want to expand, in terms of trade in particular, to the benefit of both nations. It is also very important for stability in east Africa. Given the UK’s leading role there, for instance in the work we do on Somalia, our relations with Kenya, Uganda and Ethiopia are of great importance, and we give great attention to them. I hope relations between the UK and Kenya will develop over the coming years and decades in a true sense of partnership, with the new generations moving on fully from everything that happened in the colonial era. A sense of equal partnership with African nations is now how we should approach our relationships with these countries.

Hugh Bayley (York Central) (Lab): I welcome the statements, expressing regret, made by both the Foreign Secretary and the shadow Foreign Secretary. The ghastly impact of Mau Mau on African Kenyan citizens as well as European settlers is well documented in the wonderful books by the Kenyan writer Ngugi wa Thiong’o, but we must accept that there were totally unacceptable actions by British colonial authorities, and I am glad that has happened today. We have an important development relationship with Kenya, and important joint security concerns, such as on piracy off the coast of Africa. To what extent will this statement make it easier for our countries to co-operate, and to do so better than before, on issues of common interest?

Mr Hague: I hope it will make it easier. It should remove one of the areas of contention between the UK and Kenya—or the people of Kenya. The hon. Gentleman rightly notes the breadth and importance of our co-operation, so I hope it will smooth the path for our effective co-operation in the future. Of course that relies on many other things, however. It relies on the daily commitment of each nation to make our bilateral relations work successfully, but I certainly hope this settlement will be a help, rather than a hindrance, in that very important process.

Mr Speaker: Order. I am grateful to the Foreign Secretary and colleagues.

6 Jun 2013 : Column 1700

Backbench Business

[1st Allotted Day]

Public Administration Committee Report (Charity Commission)

12.27 pm

Mr Bernard Jenkin (Harwich and North Essex) (Con): I beg to move,

That this House has considered the matter of the publication of the Third Report of the Public Administration Select Committee, The role of the Charity Commission and “public benefit”: Post-legislative scrutiny of the Charities Act 2006, HC 76.

I am grateful to the Backbench Business Committee for the opportunity to launch the Public Administration Committee’s third report of this Session. This is, in many ways, one of the Committee’s most important reports. The charitable sector is at the heart of British society, involving millions of people and with £9.3 billion received in donations last year. About 25 new applications for charitable status are received by the Charity Commission every working day.

The first UK charity was established in the year 597: the King's school, Canterbury, which still thrives today. The regulation of charities in England and Wales started under Queen Elizabeth I, with the 1601 Statute of Charitable Uses, which set out the first definition of a charity in English law and the purposes for which a charity could be established. The definition of a charity has remained largely unchanged from that time. Page 8 of our report carries a useful timeline of the development of charity law since then.

The subject of the Committee’s inquiry was the Charities Act 2006. Our inquiry followed the Government’s own review of the Act, carried out by Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts. I hope the House will join me in thanking my noble Friend for his valuable and meticulous work.

The Committee’s inquiry came at a challenging time for the Charity Commission. Its budget is being reduced by 33% in real terms over five years. The Charity Commission has also become involved in some protracted legal battles. It lost a case with the Independent Schools Council and its decision last year to decline an application for charitable status from the Preston Down Trust, part of what is called the Plymouth Brethren Christian Church or, formerly, the Exclusive Brethren—

Paul Flynn (Newport West) (Lab): Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr Jenkin: I will give way at the end of my remarks.

That decision was challenged and taken to the charity tribunal—

Paul Flynn: On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. The hon. Gentleman said that he will give way at the end of his remarks. I understand that the debate is time limited, so can he give us some idea of when he is likely to finish? I am the only other member of the Committee in the Chamber and I profoundly disagree with this very poor report. If I am to be gagged and not allowed to speak by the Chair—

6 Jun 2013 : Column 1701

Madam Deputy Speaker (Dawn Primarolo): Order. I am sure that that is not the intention, Mr Flynn. Under this procedure, Mr Jenkin can take up to 20 minutes to present his report but he will take interventions as he is going along.

Paul Flynn: He has just refused one.

Madam Deputy Speaker: I think we should interpret his remarks, as I did, to mean that he wanted to finish the point he was making before he took an intervention. I am sure that that was what you meant, Mr Jenkin, was it not?

Mr Jenkin: I will give way to the hon. Member for Newport West (Paul Flynn) and I can assure the House that I have never been able to gag him, try as I might. I can assure him that my speech will by no means fill the 20 minutes available; I hope it will fill no more than half that.

Madam Deputy Speaker: Order. I want to make sure that we are both clear on the procedure. If you make your remarks and sit down, that is the end, so we need you to take interventions during your speech.

Mr Jenkin: I quite understand.

We received firm advice from the Attorney-General that we should treat the Preston Down case as sub judice to avoid prejudging any future tribunal decisions. In any case, it is not for PASC to determine the charitable status of individual cases.

The impact of the 2006 Act on the issue of public benefit and charitable status was at the centre of the inquiry. It has always been the case that charities must be established for charitable purposes only and that a charitable purpose must be “for the public benefit”, but the 2006 Act is said to have removed the presumption of public benefit from the list of headings that has historically existed, although case law prompts the question whether there ever was in fact such a presumption. However, the Act also placed a duty on the commission to publish guidance on public benefit, even though Parliament failed to define “public benefit” in the Act.

That aspect of the Act has been an administrative and financial disaster for the Charity Commission and for the charities involved, absorbing vast amounts of energy and commitment. Lord Hodgson describes the public benefit aspect of the Act as “a hospital pass”, inviting the commission to become involved in matters such as the charitable status of independent schools, which have long been a matter of political controversy.

We criticise the Charity Commission’s interpretation of the Act in some cases, but ultimately find that

“the Charities Act 2006 is critically flawed on the question of public benefit and should be revisited by Parliament”.

Mr Peter Bone (Wellingborough) (Con): Will my hon. Friend give way on that point?

Mr Jenkin: I will give way to my hon. Friend when I am close to the end of my remarks.

We recommend that the presumption of public benefit in the 2006 Act should be repealed along with the Charity Commission’s statutory public benefit objective. The situation must be rectified with a new Act to allow

6 Jun 2013 : Column 1702

the commission to focus on its proper job. Parliament, not the Charity Commission, should determine the criteria for charitable status and should not delegate them to an executive body.

We concluded that the other objectives for the Charity Commission set by the 2006 Act are also far too vague and aspirational in character—an all-too-frequent shortcoming of modern legislative drafting—to determine what the Charity Commission should do, given the limitations on its resources, to fulfil its statutory objectives.

Mr David Nuttall (Bury North) (Con): Will my hon. Friend give way?

Mr Jenkin: The Cabinet Office must consider how to prioritise what is expected of the Charity Commission, so that it can function with its reduced budget. That must enable it to renew its focus on regulation as its core task. The commission is not resourced, for example,

“to promote the effective use of charitable resources”

or, for that matter, to oversee a reappraisal of what is meant by “public benefit”; nor is it ever likely to be.

PASC’s report also makes recommendations on the issue of chugging—that is, the face-to-face fundraising whereby many feel pressured by chuggers.

Paul Flynn: Will the hon. Gentleman give way on that point?

Mr Jenkin: I will give way to the hon. Gentleman in a moment.

The chair of the Charity Commission, William Shawcross, described chugging as

“a blight on the charitable sector”.

Self-regulation has failed so far to address that. The case for statutory regulation of fundraising is compelling, but what about the cost, whether to the taxpayer or to charities themselves? Self-regulation has made some progress, but we recommend that it is placed on notice and reviewed in five years’ time.

Lord Hodgson proposed a rise in the threshold for compulsory registration with the Charity Commission to £25,000 a year to reduce red tape for smaller charities. We rejected that on the basis of the overwhelming majority of the evidence we received.

We also recommended against any relaxation of the rules on political campaigning by charities. Moreover, charities should publish their spending on campaigning and political activity to boost transparency. That is relevant to the question of lobbying, which Parliament is shortly to consider.

As for the question whether public funds should be used by charities involved with political campaigns, again transparency is the answer. Ministers should inform Parliament whenever a decision is made to provide Government support by direct grant to a charity that is involved in political campaigning.

Earlier this week, the Public Accounts Committee reported on the case of the Cup Trust and the specific issue of sham charities and tax avoidance. We welcome its report and the Charity Commission should learn from that scandal. We question whether the commission’s legal advice was too cautious and whether they should have acted more boldly. If the commission feels that it

6 Jun 2013 : Column 1703

lacks necessary powers, it should tell us. Generally, however, the abuse of charitable status to obtain tax relief is intolerable and should be uncovered by Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs and the Charity Commission working more closely together.

Mr Barry Sheerman (Huddersfield) (Lab/Co-op): Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr Jenkin: I want first to give way to my fellow member of the Committee, the hon. Member for Newport West.

Paul Flynn: The report does nothing to add to the reputation of this House. It is an atrocious report and it is a bad reflection on our systems that the Chairman of the Committee can take up the entire time devoted to its consideration.

Let me take the hon. Gentleman back to the point about the situation with independent public schools. It was hoped that the 2006 Act would change the unfairness whereby Eton and Harrow get a handout from taxpayers whereas ordinary schools in poor areas do not. The Act tried to change that, but a perverse decision taken by the law stated that the status of a charity depends on what it was established for, not on what it does. Two charities—one in Wales that exists to give petticoats to fallen women and another that exists to give education to the orphans of the Napoleonic wars—are more important than the fact that ordinary schools are deprived of charity status whereas public schools for the rich and privileged continue to enjoy that status and the related handouts.

Mr Jenkin: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his intervention, because he demonstrates the diversity of view on the question of the charitable status of independent schools. That shows why that matter should be decided by this House and Parliament, rather than simply being passed to the Charity Commission to determine. It is too controversial and we should not be delegating legislative functions to an executive body.

Mr Sheerman: I am obviously not a member of the hon. Gentleman’s Committee, but I am a trustee and chair of a number of charities. Can he comment at all on the well-known whistleblower who worked for the Charity Commission but said that the weakness of the commission is that it has absolutely no power to investigate what is known to be widespread fraud in the charitable world? The commission is ineffective at doing that and does not have the necessary staff. Even the staff it does have are not directed to that large-scale fraud, which the whistleblower who came to see me told me is going on and must be stopped.

Mr Jenkin: I am mindful of the hon. Gentleman’s point. We did not major on that during this inquiry, but it might be something to which we return. We recommend in our report that the Charity Commission and HMRC should work much more closely together. In fact, HMRC has the resource to investigate, penetrate and demand information about charities and their tax affairs and donors. In my personal opinion, it is as much a failure of HMRC as of the Charity Commission, but we recommend they work together more closely. What we have to be

6 Jun 2013 : Column 1704

absolutely clear about is that the Charity Commission cannot start to conduct extensive investigations into the tax affairs of charities and their donors; it simply is not resourced to do so.

Mr Bone: I congratulate my hon. Friend and the Committee on producing such an excellent report—

Paul Flynn: You haven’t read it.

Mr Bone: There it is, Paul. I’ve read it—okay?

Mr Sheerman: We’ll test you on it.

Mr Bone: Madam Deputy Speaker, the suggestions being made from a sedentary position that I have not read the report are outrageous.

Madam Deputy Speaker (Dawn Primarolo): Mr Bone, I quite agree. Mr Sheerman, Mr Flynn, you have made your contributions, and shouting across the Chamber is not helpful.

Mr Sheerman: He spends his life shouting across the Chamber.

Madam Deputy Speaker: Well, the next time he shouts across the Chamber when I am in the Chair, I can assure you I will pick him up, as I do everyone. Mr Bone, you may continue.

Mr Bone: May I refer to a different aspect of the report, on charitable status for religious institutions? Many such institutions feel that there has been creep by the Charity Commission in defining public benefit or, worse still, going to the tribunal to define it. From what the Chair of the Committee is saying, I gather that he thinks this is something that Parliament should revisit.

Mr Jenkin: That is exactly right. The legal advice we received on this question is quite clear: in the 1949 case of Gilmour v. Coats, the House of Lords made it clear that a cloistered religious order is not charitable, as any benefit is restricted to its members, who are a private class and not a sufficient section of the public. It has never been the case that every religious organisation is automatically charitable. However, the judgments in two other cases—Neville Estates v. Madden in 1962 and Re Banfield in 1968—were that a private religious group that is not wholly shut off from the world at large may be charitable.

The 2006 Act was not intended to introduce anything new, and it may have introduced some instability by requiring the commission to think up guidance on public benefit. That is what we feel was the real mistake—the apparent removal of the presumption and the requirement to produce guidance. If Parliament wants public benefit to be defined, it should define public benefit or it should leave the matter to the courts. Making the Charity Commission use its intervening judgment is what Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts described as the hospital pass.

Mr Nuttall: Will my hon. Friend give way?

Paul Flynn: Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

6 Jun 2013 : Column 1705

Mr Jenkin: I will give way to the hon. Gentleman again, but first I give way to my hon. Friend.

Mr Nuttall: I thank my hon. Friend and his Committee for their report. I look forward to reading it in more detail, but I will be honest and say that I have only had a chance to skim through it. I want to concentrate on conclusion 28, on the payment of trustees. Does he agree with me that in cases where there are voluntary trustees who are willing to replace expensive paid-for corporate trustees, that should be encouraged, welcomed and, indeed, facilitated by the Charity Commission?

Mr Jenkin: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that question, because we were presented by my noble Friend Lord Hodgson with a recommendation that it should be made much easier for trustees to be paid officials. I have to say that there was a strong reaction against that proposal, which has a bearing on the point my hon. Friend raises because the whole point about charities is that trustees are not paid. There may be quite highly paid executives in charities, but the job of a trustee is not to benefit financially from being a trustee. There are exceptions, but the Charity Commission has to approve them. I believe my hon. Friend is suggesting that the commission should be prepared to withdraw that consent in the event of a person offering to do the job for nothing. I invite the commission to consider that matter, which we may revisit in a future inquiry.

Paul Flynn: Following the remark by the hon. Member for Wellingborough (Mr Bone) that a number of Christian denominations have been under pressure from the Charity Commission, will the Chair of the Committee remind the House that 1,176 Christian and other religious associations were awarded charity status, but only one tiny and oppressive sect was turned down, and that was Hales Exclusive Brethren? Is it not appropriate to remind the House that we were subjected to the most intensive lobbying on this matter? Two million pounds was spent and I was personally approached—face to face—more than 50 times, including at my party conference. Around every corner in this House, there were members of that very unpleasant sect waiting to accost us. The Committee made a point about the control of bodies that lobby in that way. It was not about religion or charitable status; it was about money.

Mr Jenkin: I hear what the hon. Gentleman says and he made his views clear in the Committee. I just re-emphasise that we declined to express a view one way or the other on the merits of that case on the advice of the Attorney-General.

Mr Bone: My hon. Friend is being generous in giving way. The point I was trying to make is that there are religious organisations of all faiths that are concerned about what is happening and what might happen in the future.

Mr Jenkin: That is certainly correct. There has been widespread fear among many colleagues that the case presages a crackdown on religious groups by the Charity Commission. I believe the consistent message in our

6 Jun 2013 : Column 1706

report is that we believe that too much has been laid at the door of the commission to determine. If Parliament wishes to legislate to provide additional restrictions against religious organisations, it is for Parliament to do that, but there is established case law, which I quoted earlier, that should determine whether or not a religious organisation becomes a charity. It is unfortunate that that particular case became so adversarial. It has to be said that the charity tribunal has not reduced the costs of litigation as was hoped, and there is scope to improve the practices of the commission in handling such disputes, so that vast amounts of the time and resources of the commission and charities, or potential charities, is not absorbed in paying lawyers to argue about how many angels there are on the head of a pin.

Paul Flynn: Does the hon. Gentleman agree that that particular sect has been involved in lobbying in other countries—including paying politicians, although I am not saying that that has happened here—and that the resulting disquiet among other religious groups was entirely because of the propaganda of Hales Exclusive Brethren? This is not a religion; it is a very nasty sect that treats its members very badly. We had people giving evidence in this House that they were threatened with losing their job, their home or their mortgage because they bought the wrong computer—not the one that Exclusive Brethren have, which, rather like what happens in North Korea, can only pick up the group’s website. This is an exceptional group of people, and the Charity Commission took no action that was disreputable or wrong. The commission did the right thing in identifying that group and allowing 1,176 other religious groups to have charitable status.

Mr Jenkin: I am sure the whole House has heard the hon. Gentleman’s strong opinions on that matter. He will know that the Committee as a whole declined to express a definitive view on the matter on the advice of the Attorney-General. My understanding is that we all agreed that such matters would be best settled by Parliament laying down more clearly the meaning of public benefit or by returning to the previous position in which it was left to the courts to decide, rather than by requiring the Charity Commission to produce guidance on the meaning of public benefit, which has been the source of much dispute.

If there are no more interventions—I should be happy to give way to either Front Bencher—I will conclude by stating our belief that the implementation of our recommendations is essential to restore and to maintain public trust in charities and in the Charity Commission, which in turn is essential to promote the good work done by charitable organisations in communities across the country. I hope that the House will join me in thanking the charity commissioners and everyone who works for the commission. They are dealing with a vast work load with diminishing resources—like much of the public sector, they have had to suffer extensive redundancies, with more to come—and we rely on their devoted service. We should thank them for everything they do for charities in this country.

Question put and agreed to.

6 Jun 2013 : Column 1707

Student Visas

[Relevant documents: Fourth Report of the Business, Innovation and Skills Committee, Session 2012-13, Overseas Students and Net Migration, HC 425, and the Government response, Cm 8557, Seventh Report of the Business, Innovation and Skills Committee, Session 2012-13, Too little, Too late: Committee’s observations on the Government Response to the Report on Overseas Students and Net Migration, HC 1015, and the Government response, Cm 8622, Fifth Report of the Home Affairs Committee, Session 2012-13, The work of the UK Border Agency (December 2011-March 2012), HC 71, Sixth Special Report of the Home Affairs Committee, Session 2012-13, The work of the UK Border Agency (December 2011-March 2012): Government response to the Committee’s Fifth Report of Session 2012-13, HC 825, Eighth Report of the Home Affairs Committee, Session 2012-13, The work of the UK Border Agency (April-June 2012), HC 603, and the Government response, Cm 8591, Seventh Report of the Committee of Public Accounts, Session 2012-13, Immigration: The Points Based System–Student Route, HC 101, and the Treasury minute, Cm 8467]

12.50 pm

Mr Adrian Bailey (West Bromwich West) (Lab/Co-op): I beg to move,

That this House notes the recommendations of the House of Commons Business, Innovation and Skills Committee, the Home Affairs Select Committee, and the Committee of Public Accounts, together with the House of Lords Science and Technology Committee and the EU Sub-Committee on Home Affairs, Health and Education, for the removal of students from net migration targets; and invites the Home Office to further consider the conclusions of these Committees in developing its immigration policy.

I thank the Back-Bench Business Committee for allocating time for this important debate. I am grateful to those Members who helped me get this Back-Bench business debate: my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield Central (Paul Blomfield), who is not only a fellow Select Committee member, but secretary of the all-party higher education group, whom I thank for the work that he has done, and the hon. Member for Stratford-on-Avon (Nadhim Zahawi), whom I thank for the assiduous way in which he has backed the Select Committee recommendations and worked to ensure that they get wider recognition.

The motion demonstrates that there have been five Select Committee reports on this subject. All have examined the student visas issue, all have come to similar conclusions and all have been consistently rejected by the Home Office, even though a considerable number of Government Members on the relevant Select Committees have backed those reports. However, the wording of the motion is deliberately designed not to pursue a confrontational approach with the Home Office, and I will not seek to divide the House on the motion. Rather, the motion has been tabled in order to give the House an opportunity to present a case for removing students from the net migration figures in a way that will be evidence-led and lead to further consideration in the evolution and, I hope, refinement of the Government’s immigration policies.

Keith Vaz (Leicester East) (Lab): Will my hon. Friend give way?

Mr Bailey: Yes, I could not resist the Chair of the Home Affairs Committee.

6 Jun 2013 : Column 1708

Keith Vaz: I am grateful to my hon. Friend. I congratulate him on securing the debate and accurately reflecting the views of the Home Affairs Committee.

Does my hon. Friend agree that the way we conduct this debate—the language that we use—is extremely important? Over the past year, in the case of India, for example, there has been a 30% decline in the number of students coming to this country because the message has got out that they are not welcome here. Our message is that they are welcome here, and we need to reflect this in the debate that we have and in Government policy.

Mr Bailey: My right hon. Friend makes an important point. It is not just the regulatory regime, but the language surrounding the introduction and implementation of that regulatory regime, which define international perception of our policy. I will touch on that in the course of my remarks.

Dr Julian Huppert (Cambridge) (LD): I congratulate the hon. Gentleman and his Committee on securing this debate on a very important issue. International students make a huge difference. I offer apologies from me and, I am sure, from the Chair of the Home Affairs Committee, as we have a Home Affairs Committee debate in another place which starts shortly.

Further to the question from the Select Committee Chair, does the hon. Gentleman agree that there are three things that we have to get right—the rhetoric, the policy and the administration? If we fall foul of any of those, we will not get the outcomes that we need.

Mr Bailey: I agree. In varying degrees, none of those is right at present.

Before I go on to the substance of the issues, let me make it clear that no MP in any party can be unaware of public concerns about immigration or can fail to recognise the legitimacy of the Government’s intentions to address that. Similarly, I do not think that any MP in any party can object to actions being taken against bogus colleges and the use of education as a route to illegal immigration. I am sure all MPs of all parties would stand behind the Government and the education system as a whole in seeking to block that.

Mr Barry Sheerman (Huddersfield) (Lab/Co-op): I congratulate the Chairman of the Select Committee on this very good report. It meshes well with the Higher Education Commission report on post-graduate education, which he will know of. What is good about his report is that it flags up in a sensible way the problems of migration and bogus colleges, but points out strongly that, within this international market and this great employment and wealth creator, the universities of this country and post-graduate education in particular are sensitive to the possible reaction of legitimate students—highly qualified people—who come here.

Mr Bailey: The hon. Gentleman addresses an important point. Skills and higher education is now a global market. Those with the best brains are increasingly footloose and go to the places where they think they will get the best opportunity to develop their expertise and where they feel they will get the warmest welcome. It is in that international context that we must look at our policies on student visas.

6 Jun 2013 : Column 1709

In addressing what must be recognised as a hugely sensitive issue and a focus of public concern, the Government must have a student regime that does not deter bona fide international students and does not undermine our further education colleges, our universities or the wider economy. I recognise the efforts that the Prime Minister has made to visit India and China in particular to make it clear unequivocally that there is no cap on bona fide student applications. However, the Prime Minister has a credibility problem if, at the same time as he proclaims those things, students who wish to come to this country from abroad find that their dealings with the Home Office and the visa process completely contradict his public assertions.

Steve McCabe (Birmingham, Selly Oak) (Lab): Does my hon. Friend find it slightly perplexing that we have seen a drop of about 40,000 a year in overseas student numbers, which suggests that the very people he wants to attract are being deterred, and that simultaneously we have seen a huge growth in temporary student visas—the very group that the independent inspector warned is most likely to include bogus students?

Mr Bailey: My hon. Friend mentions an important point. I shall deal with that in some depth in a moment.

Within the regulatory regime, the current problems are focused on the inflexibility of the tier 4 visa for undergraduate education. Over and above that and linked to it are the problems associated with the post-study work visa. There is no doubt that many international students who want an undergraduate education want to carry that on at postgraduate level in order to demonstrate the skills that they have acquired in local universities, the local public sector or sometimes local businesses. The majority deterrent to that within the existing visa structure is the high salary threshold, which precludes much postgraduate working in areas where salaries for graduates are lower or in professions where salaries for graduates are lower.

Credibility interviews are the process that the Home Office is using to interview would-be international students in their home countries to establish the credibility of their claims to want higher education in this country. The feedback that I am getting time and again from universities is that that approach appears to be incoherent and inconsistent. Taken together with the change in regulations, it reinforces the perception abroad that Britain is no longer open to business. The fact that the Prime Minister needs to go to these countries and make these statements is a tacit admission that there is a real problem and a gap between the regulatory regime as stated by the Government and the perception of it abroad.

Dame Joan Ruddock (Lewisham, Deptford) (Lab): I congratulate my hon. Friend on his speech. In London alone, tuition fees are paid by overseas students to the value of £870 million, so we have a tremendous gain from these students coming here. At my local colleges, Goldsmith’s and Trinity Laban, the student experience is vastly enhanced by the presence of foreign students.

Mr Bailey: I thank my right hon. Friend for her intervention. I will elaborate on that point in a moment, and I am sure that Members representing other universities would seek to do so.

6 Jun 2013 : Column 1710

We really need to sing about the fact that further and higher education in Britain is a success story. It is not just a way for people to fulfil their personal career ambitions or to develop themselves culturally and socially, important though that is; it is an industry that earns £8 billion in exports and contributes £14 billion, in all, to the British economy. In certain towns, particularly in more deprived regions, it is crucial in sustaining employment levels and economies. Four UK universities are in the world university top 10 rankings, and a very high percentage are in the top 200. It is not just about the contribution that international students make to the economies of the local areas in which universities are located. Increasingly, universities are working in collaboration with local businesses to ensure that the research and skills that they develop are harnessed for commercial purposes or with the public sector to assist in the local community. I have seen fantastic examples of that work up and down the country, and it is crucially underpinned by international students.

Last year, 12% of the total student body comprised international students, 49% of whom enrolled in courses in engineering, maths and computer sciences—the very areas where there are serious skills shortages and the maximum economic dividend for our businesses. Any policy that restricts access into those areas will have, in the long term, profound implications for the capacity of our local businesses to grow the economy.

Bob Stewart (Beckenham) (Con): I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on securing this debate from the Backbench Business Committee. He may well come to this point, but I would like to make it as well. Many people who come to this country to study get a very good impression of it. They get educated here and they experience our values and understand what we stand for. When they go back, they become a friend of this country in their own societies. That is terribly important for the future of our country and, indeed, their countries.

Mr Bailey: I thank the hon. Gentleman for his intervention, although he has taken half my next point. Perhaps he made it considerably better than I would.

Jeremy Corbyn (Islington North) (Lab): Will my hon. Friend give way?

Mr Bailey: Very quickly, but I have already taken a lot of interventions.

Jeremy Corbyn: I appreciate that, and I am grateful to my hon. Friend. He will be aware that I represent the constituency that includes London Metropolitan university. Although things have moved on a long way and some overseas students are now being recruited, will he express regret about how that university has been treated and the damage that was done to Britain’s international reputation by the Home Office’s handling of the situation?

Mr Bailey: Whatever the case for taking action there, the way that it was handled has undoubtedly had considerable adverse repercussions abroad. Perhaps the case needs to be examined to see whether similar problems that may emerge in future can be dealt with in a less damaging way.

6 Jun 2013 : Column 1711

We have a superb industry and there is a huge and increasing global demand for its product. It is estimated that 4.1 million students are studying in different countries from their home countries and that that figure will rise to 7 million by 2020. We have top-class universities and an expanding market of people who want to come here, and we must capitalise on that.

The Government have claimed that their visa policy is working because, according to the figures, there has been a marginal increase in the number of international students applying to come to British universities in the past year. In reality, there are considerable fluctuations, with an increase in numbers coming from China offsetting a huge fall of 25% in those coming from India. I have to say that Universities UK disputes some of these figures, but I do not want to get drawn into a debate between the Government and Universities UK. Everybody recognises that at a time when there is huge and growing demand, Britain is, at best, flatlining in terms of the number of recruits it is getting. In fact, Britain’s share of this expanding market has dropped from 10.8% to 9.9%. A shareholder of a company that had a fantastic product and an expanding market would not be very happy with its management if it were taking a declining share of that market.

The crucial significance of that was highlighted by the hon. Member for Beckenham (Bob Stewart). It is not only about the immediate benefit but the long-term trading relationships that build up as a result. In the west midlands, we see that with the Tata brothers and their investment in Jaguar Land Rover, and with Lord Paul and his investment in schools and companies. There is a tremendous potential as regards the immeasurable contribution that will be made due to foreign students studying here.

This comes at a time when universities are struggling for finance; they recognise that in these hard times they cannot be exempt. Recruitment of international students presents an opportunity for them to bring in extra money that unfortunately they cannot get from the Government because of the current financial problems. My local university, Wolverhampton, currently recruits 800 international students each year, but it estimates that with a fair and consistent visa process it could take another 500 a year from India and Sri Lanka alone. If they contribute £10,000 a year, which is a fairly minimal estimate, that would amount to £5 million more a year going into the local university and, above all, into the black country economy. I think that that situation would be reflected in other universities that I have spoken to.

Earlier I mentioned the credibility test, which is undoubtedly one of the major problems. It is not only a regulatory problem but a process problem. One prospective Wolverhampton university student was rejected on the grounds that the amount of money he would spend in this country meant that he could get the same course at a domestic university in his own country. Imagine that happening in any other industry: if somebody told Jaguar, “You can’t export a Jaguar, because people can afford to buy one that’s made in their own country,” we would be up in arms and dancing in rage. In this case, however, nothing is said.

Mr Virendra Sharma (Ealing, Southall) (Lab): Will my hon. Friend give way?

Mr Bailey: Yes, I will take one more intervention.

6 Jun 2013 : Column 1712

Mr Sharma: I thank my hon. Friend for giving way and congratulate him on securing this debate. On immigration policy and practices, I am sure that the case loads of most MPs present will show that that kind of message deters genuine students from coming here. It means that the country loses finances and other resources as well as the individual student.

Mr Bailey: I agree entirely.

I have another example from Wolverhampton university. Six international students were refused visas even though they were sponsored by the Department for International Development. Moreover, when the Department wrote to the consulate, they were still rejected. If the Government cannot get their own people into the country through the Home Office system, what hope do so many young people from other countries have?

In its reply to the Select Committee report, the Home Office argued that other countries include students in their net migration figures. There are variations from country to country and I do not want to get bogged down in that argument, but the crucial thing is that, whether they do that or not, they do not use the figures as the basis for their immigration policy. The Government’s target of reducing net migration to fewer than 100,000 can only be achieved by reducing numbers. The current drop to 157,000 has been achieved mainly by reducing numbers in the further education sector and by increased numbers going abroad. The Migration Advisory Committee calculates that to reach the target, non-EU student numbers need to be reduced by 87,000. That would be catastrophic to the finances of the FE and higher education sectors.

In conclusion, a policy whose success relies on damaging a great export industry needs re-examination. This is an industry with a great brand, a huge demand for its product and incredible potential for boosting the economy, both locally and nationally, and it should be backed all the way. It is an industry that should be helped, not handicapped. The current visa regime, whatever the legitimacy of the broad objectives of the immigration policy, is not doing that. It is handicapping our universities. The answer is to change the policy and focus on the real immigration issues that are, I recognise, of great concern to the public.

Several hon. Members rose

Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Lindsay Hoyle): Order. Many Members want to speak, so may I gently suggest that they speak for up to 10 minutes? Unfortunately the opening speech lasted 23 minutes, so it has pushed us back. It was a very good speech—I am not knocking that—but I remind Members that we have to stick to the timetable because we need to fit in the Front Benchers as well.

1.13 pm

Nadhim Zahawi (Stratford-on-Avon) (Con): I shall attempt to take less than 10 minutes, Mr Deputy Speaker.

Ever since Erasmus came to study Greek at Cambridge 500 years ago, our universities have attracted the best and the brightest from around the world, but the world is changing. In the modern global marketplace, we have no God-given right to a competitive advantage in higher education. We have to fight for it.

6 Jun 2013 : Column 1713

As the Chairman of the Business, Innovation and Skills Committee has said, there will be huge rewards for the British economy if we get this right. By 2020 the number of international students worldwide is set to grow to 7 million. Key strategic partners, such as Brazil and Saudi Arabia in the Gulf, have earmarked billions of dollars to spend on sending their students on scholarships abroad. This is a fast-growing market and if we want to win the global race we have to get serious about growing our market share.

We know that the competition is serious. Could there be any better example of the extraordinary lengths to which our rivals will go than the French Government’s recent decision to relax the ban on teaching in the English language at French universities? Let us be clear: even though we enjoy a commanding position in the market, over the past 10 years our market share has remained pretty flat. Over the same period, our two most obvious competitors after the United States—namely Australia and Canada—have recorded significant increases. What are they doing differently?

First, both countries present more attractive options for post-study work. Foreign students in Canada can work for up to three years after graduation, and in Australia they can work for up to two years, rising to three with a masters and four with a PhD. Crucially, they do not have to seek work with a Government-approved firm or on a Government-approved salary.

The other key difference is that both countries distinguish between the temporary student inflow and long-term migrants when devising their borders policy. Australia has learned the hard way why that makes sense. When student visa rules were tightened up in response to political pressure in 2010, the Australian higher education sector posted a 2.7 billion Australian dollar loss on goods and services that would otherwise have been purchased by overseas students. In the UK, we risk making the same mistake. In particular, the closure of the tier 1 post-study work route has broadcast the message around the world that foreign students are less welcome in the UK than they are in our competitor economies.

I believe that the perception of a policy is just as important as the policy itself. Even though it did not come to it, the prospect of legitimate students at London Metropolitan facing deportation was deeply damaging. We cannot expect the casual 17-year-old reader of the China Daily who is thinking about studying abroad to distinguish between London Metropolitan university and the University of London.

Alok Sharma (Reading West) (Con): My hon. Friend is making some valid points. Does he agree that one of the key things that must come out of this debate is a clear message to students in India, China and other emerging economies with a lot of growth that the UK is open, that there are no caps or limits, and that they can come here if they go to an accredited establishment, can speak English and have the funding?

Nadhim Zahawi: I thank my hon. Friend, who is absolutely right that the message has to be that we are open for business. Indeed, the latest figures for 2010-11 and 2011-12 show that all the Russell group universities

6 Jun 2013 : Column 1714

apart from three posted positive increases. There is some good news, but I hope that this debate will further inform the Government and the Home Office as to what else we can do to enhance the situation.

Jackie Doyle-Price (Thurrock) (Con): Although I agree with my hon. Friend that we should give the message that we are open to legitimate students, will he also concede that this route has been abused in the past and that, equally, we have to give a message that we will be robust with those people who intend to exploit our good will as a route into the country?

Nadhim Zahawi: My hon. Friend is spot on in saying that we have to be robust and I will deal with that later. She is absolutely right to say that we have to carry the good will of the British people with us and demonstrate rigour in the immigration system and our border controls in order to be able to send a message to those areas that are crucial to our exports.

I want to return to the point that perception is reality and the example of the young student reading the China Daily. Fortunately, we know exactly what the problem is. With unprecedented unanimity, all five parliamentary Committees that have looked into this issue agree that the Government’s net migration target puts our borders policy on a collision course with our ambitions for higher education.

Political targets are an essential part of the democratic process. They tell the electorate what we are about and what our values are. However, targets are not an end in themselves, but a tool to measure the success of broader policy aims. The Government’s net migration target is about building an immigration system that works for Britain—one that delivers economic benefits while addressing long-standing public concerns about immigration. However, if we are trying to meet that target by discouraging a group who provide an obvious economic benefit, who are disproportionately less likely to settle here and who, of all migrant groups, attract the least public concern, something is wrong with the target.

I want immigration politics to be taken out of our higher education system. For that to happen, we must take international students out of the targets.

Alok Sharma: My hon. Friend is being very generous in giving way. Should we not be explaining to the public in more detail what the net migration figure is made up of and disaggregating it? We can debate whether student numbers should be taken out, but clearly we must explain each of the components, because that is not widely understood.

Nadhim Zahawi: My hon. Friend is absolutely right. The disaggregation and further decimation of that information—

Chris Bryant (Rhondda) (Lab): Dissemination.

Nadhim Zahawi: Dissemination, I apologise. I will get my English right eventually. I only arrived here in 1978. I apologise to the hon. Gentleman.

Chris Bryant: It is a Latin word.

Nadhim Zahawi: The hon. Gentleman is quite right.

6 Jun 2013 : Column 1715

We can do three things to solve this problem. First, we must continue to come down hard on immigration fraud. The Government are right to deal robustly with those who abuse the student route. The fact that we have closed down more than 500 bogus colleges since the election shows how easy it has been to exploit the student visa system in recent years. If we want to carry the public with us, it is vital to maintain public confidence in the integrity of our immigration system.

Jeremy Corbyn: I understand the point that the hon. Gentleman is making about bogus colleges, but does he have sympathy for the students who applied to enter this country to study at those colleges and who have had a very bad time through no fault of their own because they were duped into a very bad system? The system has changed a bit, but should we not have a more humanitarian approach to those people who, after all, are victims?

Nadhim Zahawi: The hon. Gentleman is right to point out that innocents get caught out in those situations. The best way to deal with the problem is to close down the colleges that are abusing the system and the students. Indeed, I spoke about London Metropolitan university in his constituency earlier and the perception that there is the forced deportation of legitimate students from this country.

Secondly, we must be more intelligent about where the risks and the opportunities lie for us. I hope that Ministers will listen to this point carefully. In targeting tier 4 visas, the UK Border Agency already distinguishes between high and low-risk students. There are face-to-face interviews for students who are considered to be high risk.

In my opinion, that should work the other way around and we should give the red-carpet treatment to the kind of students we want to attract to our country. For example, female students from the Gulf states are likely to have lower English language proficiency and are more likely to want to bring their spouses and children with them. If we want to see reform in the Gulf states, those are exactly the kind of students we need to attract. However, under the current rules, their dependants are obliged to return home every six months to renew their visa, and after 11 months the student must do the same. In Australia, Canada and America, dependants can apply for a visa that covers the whole study period. We do not need to rewrite the rule book; we just need to have more common sense and flexibility where our national interests are concerned.

Finally, we need a cross-party consensus to neutralise the political fallout. No Government want to be accused of fiddling the figures, particularly on a policy area as combustible as immigration. We need to present a united front when standing up for British economic interests. That is why I am sharing a platform with my colleagues from the Labour party on this motion.

I came into politics to get politics out of the way of British businesses that want to grow. Elsewhere in the economy, the Government have done great things to cut red tape and unnecessary bureaucracy. We must extend the same freedoms and opportunities to our higher education sector. I commend the motion to the House.

6 Jun 2013 : Column 1716

1.25 pm

Paul Blomfield (Sheffield Central) (Lab): It is a pleasure to speak after the hon. Member for Stratford-on-Avon (Nadhim Zahawi), just as it was to speak alongside him last September at the Conservative party conference, where we made the same points and received a good reception.

Nadhim Zahawi: The hon. Gentleman is always welcome.

Paul Blomfield: I am not sure that I will make a habit of it. We made the point then and we make it again today that there is much cross-party unity on this issue. The fact that the motion has been sponsored by Members from all three main parties is a sign of that. From my discussions with Government Members, I am sure that, were they not tied by the responsibilities of office, many more of them would be joining us in support of the motion.

The case that we are making today was perhaps most powerfully put in an article in the Financial Times in May 2012 under the headline, “Foreign students are key to UK prosperity”. The author wrote:

“Britain’s universities are a globally competitive export sector and well-placed to make a greater contribution to growth. With economic growth at a premium, the UK should be wary of artificially hobbling it.”

The article continued:

“Now that the government has clamped down on the problem of bogus colleges”—

from my perspective, the last Government did that too—

“there is scope to take legitimate students out of the annual migration targets… Indeed, that is what our main competitors in the global student market already do.”

I do not disagree with a word in the entire article and I do not think that any of my hon. Friends would. Who was the author? It was the hon. Member for Orpington (Joseph Johnson), who is now head of the No. 10 policy unit. I quote from that article not to score a debating point, but to demonstrate the breadth of support for the motion.

At the outset of the debate, it is worth emphasising that international students are important not just because of their financial contribution, but because they add to the intellectual vitality of our campuses; they are vital to the viability of many courses, particularly in the STEM subjects of science, technology, engineering and maths; they contribute to the cutting-edge research that gives the UK a unique edge in international markets; and they give UK students the chance to learn alongside people from every other major country, which is extraordinarily good preparation for the transnational environment in which our graduates will work. As has been pointed out, international students form relationships and a fondness for this country that will win us contracts and influence as they become leaders back home.

Those are huge advantages for Britain, but let us put them to one side and look at the hard-nosed economic case. International students bring £8 billion into the UK economy each year. Higher education is a major industry and a major export earner. Some people ask, “What about the costs?” Indeed, the Minister made that point on the all-party parliamentary university group at one point. I discussed it with the university of Sheffield,

6 Jun 2013 : Column 1717

which said, “Fair point. We ought to look at that”, and it commissioned Oxford Economics to undertake the first ever independent cost-benefit analysis of the contribution of international students. As an independent study I expected it to be quite rigorous, although I did not realise how rigorous. Oxford Economics did not just look at health, education and use of public services; it went to the nth degree and looked at traffic congestion and every conceivable indirect cost. It concluded that the annual net benefit to our city’s economy is £120 million. That is worth about 6,000 much-needed jobs in the city, not just in universities but in restaurants, shops, transport, construction and more besides.

The Government have damaged our ability to recruit by including international students in net migration targets. That is not a statistical argument but a fundamental point because in doing so, they have put international students at the heart of the immigration debate. It is no good saying, as the Minister might later and the Home Office did this week in its response to the report by the Business, Innovation and Skills Committee, that there is no cap on student numbers—[Interruption.]The Minister says from a sedentary position that there is not, but if the Government have a target for reducing immigration and they include international students in that, such a policy leads them to celebrate cutting the number of international students coming to the UK. Indeed, the Minister did just that a couple of weeks ago when the fall in net migration was announced by celebrating the drop in numbers of 56,000 international students year on year.

The Minister will point out that within those figures the number of university visas rose slightly while the real fall was in private college and further education student numbers, but that in itself should be a cause for worry not celebration. Not only are those students valuable in themselves, those courses are pathways into higher education and a fall in numbers is an indication of the problems we are storing up for the future. Conservative estimates suggest that some 40% of students going to universities in the UK go through those routes, and we should worry about that future impact.

On other occasions, the Government have argued that numbers are holding up, but as my hon. Friend the Member for West Bromwich West (Mr Bailey) clearly pointed out, holding up is not good enough. We do not want to stand still in a growing market, which the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills recognised will double by 2025. That is another £8 billion in export earnings for the UK and another 6,000 jobs in Sheffield, yet the Home Office is frustrating that ambition.

The hon. Member for Stratford-on-Avon (Nadhim Zahawi) mentioned Brazil—one of the fastest growing economies in the world. Under their Science Without Borders programme, the Brazilian Government are spending $2 billion over four years on sending 100,000 of their brightest young people to study abroad at undergraduate and postgraduate level. They want them to go to the best universities in the world, and those are in the UK.

A group of 2,143 Brazilian students who wanted to come to the UK have been prevented by inflexible visa rules. They are high-achieving students who wanted to study undergraduate STEM courses, but they needed

6 Jun 2013 : Column 1718

to improve their English before starting. Current rules prevent them from staying in the UK after completing an English language course, and they would have had to return to Brazil and reapply for a new visa before starting their courses. As a result of those rules and the Home Office’s refusal to change them, 1,100 of those students are now going to the US and 600 to Australia, where they are welcome to study English and stay on for their degree course. Of the original 2,143 students, only 43 are applying to come to the UK this September. The value to the country of that cohort was £66 million. That has been lost because of Home Office inflexibility, and with it, considerable good will.

Mr Richard Bacon (South Norfolk) (Con): I am listening with great interest to the hon. Gentleman and I commend him for his work with my hon. Friend the Member for Stratford-on-Avon (Nadhim Zahawi). He reminds me of a story in the Financial Times which, when describing the stupidity of the Home Office stated:

“If the Home Office were a horse it would have been shot by now.”

Despite the fact that the Home Office has been split up into an interior ministry and the Ministry of Justice, it still evinces extraordinary stupidity. Does the hon. Gentleman agree that one of the most extraordinary aspects of that stupidity is that the STEM subjects, which this country needs so badly, in many universities across the country can be sustained in sufficient numbers only if we include foreign students?

Paul Blomfield: I absolutely agree with that point, which I raised earlier in passing. I commend the hon. Gentleman on initiating an Adjournment debate some time ago. I know he feels passionately about this subject, as many of us do.

To allow other hon. Members to contribute, I will draw my remarks to a close by making a couple of points. Including students in net migration targets distorts the policy debate on immigration and focuses on the migration that concerns nobody. More importantly, as has been said, it damages the opportunity for growth in one of our most important and successful industries. Five Select Committees of both Houses are agreed on the issue, and as we debate the matter, those in the other place are also considering it when discussing a report by one of its Select Committees. This is too important for the Home Office to dig its heels in, and I suspect that in his heart the Minister knows that. I urge him to go away from today’s debate, look again at the inclusion of students in our net migration targets, and send a clear message to the world that it is not just about what we say but about what we do, and that we are open for business.

1.36 pm

Gavin Barwell (Croydon Central) (Con): I pay tribute to all three previous speakers, who have set out clearly the arguments relevant to this debate, and I particularly congratulate the hon. Member for West Bromwich West (Mr Bailey) on securing it.

Back in the autumn, in his speech to the Conservative party conference, the Prime Minister set out an overall mission for the Government, to ensure that this country can win in the global race in which we are engaged. I strongly support that message and have a lot of time for

6 Jun 2013 : Column 1719

it. We as politicians are sometimes guilty of telling people what they want to hear, but this is actually quite an uncomfortable message because in reality, the world in which we live is not easy and Britain has to earn its living within it.

As well as congratulating the three Members who have spoken so far, I express sympathy for the Minister, for whom I have a high regard. It is his job to balance the Government’s overall mission with what the hon. Member for West Bromwich West acknowledged is our clear task of addressing the public’s concern about levels of migration into this country in recent years—not an easy thing to do. When my constituents communicate with me they sometimes seem to think that the challenges we face are easy to resolve, but the reality of politics is that a lot of these issues are difficult and sometimes point us in conflicting directions. There is also a fundamental conflict between the need in electoral politics for simplicity of message when trying to communicate what our party would do in government, and the complexity of the issues we need to deal with—that point was alluded to in some of the earlier speeches.

Let me say a little about what my constituents think about immigration, which I think is relevant to the debate. I represent a part of south London that is changing rapidly demographically, and it will not be long before no ethnic community is in a majority in the London borough of Croydon, nor will it ever be again. Migration is an issue of real concern to my constituents, particularly because the UK Border Agency has a significant presence in Croydon in Lunar house. Many of my constituents have recently been through the asylum or immigration processes, and I have several thousand constituents who worked for the two units into which the agency has been broken. A lot of my constituents are concerned about the pace of change, and I spend a lot of time talking to them on the doorstep about those concerns. However, I have never heard a constituent express to me a concern about bright people from around the world coming to study at our universities, or about international companies that want to invest in the UK and create businesses, bringing some of their managers and employees to the UK as part of that investment into our economy.

However, I hear a lot of concern about low-skill migration into the EU, which many of my constituents believe—rightly or wrongly—has made it more difficult for them or their children to get work and has depressed wages in sectors of our economy. There is a great deal of concern about unlimited migration from within the EU, and the effect of allowing into the EU countries from eastern Europe, which I strongly support—the concern is about the principle of free movement when the EU incorporates a series of states that are at different levels economically.

There is also huge concern about our failure to control our borders effectively. When I report to my constituents on the Government’s progress in reducing net migration, they are almost universally inclined not to believe the figures, because their perception is that the figures do not include people who are here illegally. On migration policy, therefore, I am most keen for the Government to take more action than they are taking to deal with people who are in this country who should not be here.

6 Jun 2013 : Column 1720

Nicola Blackwood (Oxford West and Abingdon) (Con): Will my hon. Friend give way?

Gavin Barwell: I certainly will.

Nicola Blackwood: Does my hon. Friend agree—

Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Lindsay Hoyle): Order. The hon. Lady has just walked into the Chamber. Normally Members would give it a little bit longer before they intervene. On this occasion she can do so, if Mr Barwell wants to give way.

Gavin Barwell indicated assent.

Nicola Blackwood: I apologise, Mr Deputy Speaker. You are very kind, as is my hon. Friend.

Does my hon. Friend agree that the introduction of exit checks could be important? In that way, we would know not only how many people are coming into the country, but how many people are going out. One of our biggest problems in developing immigration policy is poor data.

Gavin Barwell: That is something we could consider. The key is building public confidence in the system.

Mr Jim Cunningham (Coventry South) (Lab): Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Gavin Barwell: If I can make progress, I will come back to the hon. Gentleman.

I will not go into too much detail on students because the previous hon. Members who made speeches set the situation out clearly, but the UK gains four clear benefits from international students, the first of which is economic. We have heard the figures for the UK as a whole, but the Mayor of London’s office tells me that the economic benefit to London, my city, is about £2.5 billion a year.

The second benefit is to the experience of our students when they are at university. I was lucky enough to attend the university of Cambridge, and can attest to the benefit I gained from studying with pupils from around the world.

The third benefit, which my hon. Friend the Member for Beckenham (Bob Stewart) strongly communicated, is to what is frequently referred to as the UK’s soft power. A 2011 Select Committee on Home Affairs report identified that 27 foreign Heads of State had been educated in the UK. That is a difficult benefit to quantify, but an important one to this country.

Chris Bryant: Unfortunately, that includes the Head of State of Syria.

Gavin Barwell: It does include Syria—clearly, educating Heads of State will not be a benefit universally, but the hon. Gentleman would agree that, in general, having people in leading positions in foreign countries, whether in Governments, the diplomatic service, the military or the business community, is a benefit to the UK.

Mr Jim Cunningham: Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

6 Jun 2013 : Column 1721

Gavin Barwell: I will take one more intervention because I am conscious that other hon. Members wish to speak.

Mr Cunningham: No one would disagree with a number of the hon. Gentleman’s points. For the record, I have always had straight dealings with the Minister in relation to cases I have pursued. Would it not be better if students from abroad were excluded from the immigration numbers? On restoring the manufacturing base, companies in the west midlands such as Jaguar Land Rover will need more and more highly skilled people, whether from abroad or from within. German companies such as Bosch and a large number of universities are in Coventry and the west midlands. Does the hon. Gentleman believe that a better approach would be to exclude students from abroad from our figures to help our exports?

Gavin Barwell: The hon. Gentleman finished his intervention just before the bell, I believe, Mr Deputy Speaker.

Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Lindsay Hoyle): It was just after the bell.

Gavin Barwell: I will come to the hon. Gentleman’s substantive point at the end of my speech, but on his point on skills, when there are skill needs in our economy, our starting point should be to ask, “Can we train people in this country who have not got work to do those jobs?” However, if there are high-skill gaps, we should of course bring people in if we need them.

The fourth benefit of such migration, which has not been mentioned much, is the contribution to UK science and technology. I studied natural science at Cambridge and was on the Select Committee on Science and Technology for a period, so I feel passionately about this. Some 49% of people on taught postgraduate course in maths, engineering or computer science are international students—that figure has been mentioned. Cutting down on those numbers would have a massive effect on UK leadership in science. Sir Andre Geim, the Russian-born Nobel prize winner from the university of Manchester, has said that the identification of graphene would

“probably not have happened if”


“had been unable to employ great non-EU PhD postdoctoral students”.

Those are the four clear benefits, but there are problems. The Higher Education Statistics Agency provides figures for enrolments, not for visa applications—enrolments are the best measure. In 2011, there was a slight decline in applications for first-year places at university from non-EU applicants. Admittedly, the position is complex, with significant country variations—there was a big increase in applications from China, but a big decrease in applications from India. I should be grateful if the Minister would offer an explanation for those significant variations if he has time. Students from different parts of the world tend to apply for different courses. Indian students are more likely to apply for STEM courses, so those variations have an impact on universities. In 2012, for the first time in 10 years, the total number of non-EU postgraduate students fell.

6 Jun 2013 : Column 1722

The hon. Member for Cambridge (Dr Huppert) correctly identified the three issues we need to address, the first of which is bureaucracy and the process people must go through when they want to come here. I pay tribute to the Minister and the Home Secretary, because the decision to split the UKBA up into two organisations—one focuses on customer satisfaction and processing applications for people who want to come here, and the other focuses on the entirely different job of enforcement and removing people who should not be here—was the right decision, and a welcome one. However, there is more to do to improve the process and the experience people have when they apply.

The second issue is the tone and the message we send out in debates on migration—that is not totally within the Government’s control, because we must also consider the tone of the migration debate in our media. The Government have recognised the importance of sending the message that the UK is open for business, as we saw during the Prime Minister’s recent visit to India.

The third issue is policy. We have a target for reducing net migration and should ask who is included in it. One hon. Member has mentioned the Migration Advisory Committee, which has said that an equivalent reduction in all different forms of migration could reduce student migration by 87,000. I put it to the Minister that, in 2009-10, the National Audit Office identified that about 50,000 students looked as if their principal reason for coming here was work rather than study. All hon. Members would accept that there was significant abuse of the process. That happened through institutions— bogus colleges—but we all see what we might regard as serial students, meaning people who have come here and done a number of courses but still not reached undergraduate level. Clearly, their primary motivation for coming to this country is to work in the UK, whatever their visa application says. All hon. Members accept that there was potential to reduce the numbers without having an impact on the positive aspects we have discussed.

On the long-term situation, the House has made its view clear on the policy, but I am interested in what the Conservative party will say in its next manifesto. As hon. Members have said, the sector has the potential nearly to double by 2020. At the moment, about 4.1 million around the world study in tertiary education abroad. The projection is that that will go up to 7 million by 2020. We should at least set ourselves the objective of maintaining our market share, which is currently about 13%. We have done the job of squeezing down on student migration abuse, but if our objective is to maintain or grow our market share and continue to recruit the people we want in this country, it will creep up over time.

I support what my party had to say at the previous election. It was absolutely right to focus on this, and I think many Opposition Members recognise that. In the longer term, we need to think more clearly about how we differentiate to the public the kinds of immigration that we are looking to control—the bits that we do not think are good for the country and want to squeeze down on, both illegal immigration and immigration through the existing system. We should not get ourselves into a position where we are trying to control things that we all recognise are positive and good for the country. I wish the Minister, for whom I have a very high regard, the best of luck as he grapples with the

6 Jun 2013 : Column 1723

difficult balance that has to be struck between ensuring that we win the global race, but address the legitimate concerns many of my constituents have about the level of immigration.

1.50 pm

Mr Andrew Smith (Oxford East) (Lab): I would like to join in congratulating my hon. Friend the Member for West Bromwich West (Mr Bailey) and other colleagues on securing this important debate. He made some important points, as have all the subsequent speakers. It is good to see cross-party agreement emerging that we have to remove students from the immigration target in domestic policy.

With two universities and numerous independent colleges in Oxford East, my constituents are among the hardest hit by the ill-judged policies on student visas and immigration that the Government have brought in. They have inflicted serious damage on the reputation and attractiveness of the UK, and on the economic and cultural contribution that overseas students, and those who teach them, make to our country. The Government’s policies amount to a perverse and stupid act of economic self-sabotage. They hit a part of our economy where Britain in general, and Oxford in particular, have a strong global strategic competitive advantage. There is a logical contradiction in the Government protesting that there is no cap on student numbers, while persisting in including student numbers in their overall target of reducing net immigration to tens rather than hundreds of thousands. They find it so difficult to control other areas of immigration, including illegal immigration, that there is continual downward pressure on student numbers.

We are fortunate in Oxford to have many high-quality institutions. It shows how ludicrous this policy is if we imagine it being applied to another area; for example, to our Mini plant—to manufacturing, as opposed to educational exports. Imagine a Government who have an overall limit on manufacturing exports because they do not want too many foreigners getting their hands on our goods. As the number of BMW Minis being exported falls because overseas dealers worry that they will not be able to fulfil orders, the Prime Minister flies out to the far east and attempts to reassure people that while he is determined to bring down net manufacturing exports, there is no cap on the export of Minis! Such a policy would be barmy, way beyond swivel-eyed, and yet economically that is exactly what the cuts in overseas students amount to.

Roberta Blackman-Woods (City of Durham) (Lab): My right hon. Friend is making a powerful speech. Does he agree that it is simply no good for the Prime Minister to be going on these visits overseas supposedly to increase our exports when one of our very best exports, higher education, is being undermined by the Government’s policy?

Mr Smith: Indeed. That the Prime Minister felt he had to say that was a tacit acknowledgement of the damage done to the UK’s reputation.