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Baroness Blatch: My Lords, it is not true that there is hostility within the Home Office against Poland specifically at all. There is considerable immigration pressure from Poland and therefore, it is thought, a real danger that the au pair scheme in particular would be used as a means of securing entry into this country in order to undertake full-time employment.
Lord Dean of Beswick: My Lords, will the Minister confirm that more people from Poland are admitted into this country by other means than from any of the countries mentioned in the noble Lord's Question? Does she agree that substantial numbers of people from Poland are admitted monthly to this country under various other schemes?
Baroness Blatch: My Lords, the Poles come in under student schemes, immigration schemes and, as the noble Lord said, other schemes. Whether there are more than from any other country, I am not sure. There is some doubt about the figure. Certainly, more come in than from Czechoslovakia and Hungary. Unfortunately, the au pair scheme has been used as a means to gain entry and for taking up full-time employment illegally. Indeed, one au pair agency told us that about three-quarters of the au pairs on its books worked illegally as well as carrying out their duties, often with the support of the host family.
Baroness Blatch: My Lords, I hope that nothing in any of my answers detracts from the relationship between this country and Poland; I acknowledge the particular points made by my noble friend. However, since the abolition of the visa requirement in 1992, the number of Polish nationals refused entry has risen considerably. In 1994, over 2,000 were refused admission, representing about 1.5 per cent. of those seeking leave to enter. Four hundred and seventy-two Polish nationals were detained as illegal immigrants; and 200 were found to have overstayed or to have been working in breach of their conditions.
Baroness Gardner of Parkes: My Lords, can my noble friend say whether there has been a great change in the situation? I had a Polish au pair 25 years ago and when I saw the Question I thought that perhaps au pair now meant something different. I had an au pair helping
Baroness Blatch: My Lords, there was a change in 1980 but this particular scheme is for young peoplemen or womenbetween the ages of 17 and 27. They must have no dependants whatever in their countries. They come here on a special contract with a family who will keep them as a member of the family, paying them up to about £35 a week and assisting them to learn English. It is a very good scheme.
Lord Bruce of Donington: My Lords, I acknowledge that a retreat into nostalgia can be a little dangerous. Will the Minister bear in mind, however, that those who drive along the A.40 pass at Northolt a memorial to the Polish squadron who fought very bravely on our behalf in the war? Are those considerations to be abandoned altogether in these modern times or are we sometimes a little guilty of base ingratitude?
Baroness Blatch: My Lords, I have absolutely no difficulty in recognising and agreeing with all that the noble Lord says. We are talking here about one particular scheme. The noble Lord, Lord Dean, made the very real point that there are many ways of coming into this country and visiting it. Many Polish people live here and many of their relatives visit; many of them come in on the schemes. In fact, to return to the normal immigration controls, 141,000 applied to come in last year. Of that figure, 2,000 were refused, but that still means that 139,000 were granted entry into the country. It is just that the level of those staying here illegally and the level of breaches of the scheme is higher in the case of people from Poland, sadly, than it is for those from, say, Hungary and Czechoslovakia.
Baroness Blatch: My Lords, this matter was raised in relation to another Question I answered the other day. It would be disproportionate to have a policing system on almost every house in the land to check up on what people are doing. Those involved come here on a two-year scheme; it is expected that they will go back. However, it is difficult to detect when a young au pair is working for a friend of the family. We know that there is widespread abuse of the scheme.
Lord Richard: My Lords, I am trying to understand the Government's position. In a sentence, is the Minister saying that the reason the scheme is not extended to Poland is that, in the Government's view, Polish citizens are more likely to cheat than are the citizens of the Czech Republic, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Hungary, Macedonia, the Slovak Republic and the 11 other European countries? Is that what the Government are saying?
Baroness Trumpington: My Lords, I understand that the BBC has no plans to reduce its output of educational programming. The BBC's own publication, People and Programmes, identified educational programming as an important area which the BBC aimed to develop and strengthen over the next few years. I believe that in this area, as in many others, the UK is fortunate to have the best quality broadcasting services in the world.
Baroness David: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply. I certainly support the BBC in its educational service. However, the Minister did not give us much information in that Answer. Can she say whether or not the policy has changed? I understood that it had. For instance, there is greater regionalisation. Can the Minister confirm that? Can the Minister say too whether or not there are more repeats of programmes than before? Also, can she say how many staff have already left and whether more staff are leaving, as is rumoured?
Baroness Trumpington: My Lords, dealing with the last point first, staff will be reduced by 40 from a total of 200 and future staffing levels are a matter for the BBC. It has developed a new educational strategy which identifies and aims to meet the educational needs of adults and children learning at home, at work, at school and in colleges. It will broaden the base of the BBC's output and involve the introduction of new services for further education colleges and children of pre-school age, and the Government intend that the new BBC Royal Charter will identify education as one of the BBC's continuing priorities.
Baroness Rawlings: My Lords, does my noble friend agree that the BBC World Service is not cutting down on its educational programmes? As technically there is freedom to broadcast to eastern and central Europe, the educational programmes have actually increased. There is more teaching of the English language and support for the Marshall Plan for the Mind of £1.5 million from the know-how fund. Will the Minister ensure that that continues?
Baroness Trumpington: My Lords, the Government and the BBC are strongly committed to the future of the World Service. The World Service will continue to contain a broad range of high quality educational programming, including those teaching the use of the English language.
Baroness Trumpington: My Lords, the BBC pays, not the institutions, except in the case of the Open University. The production costs for the programmes agreed between the BBC and the Open University are met by the Open University.
Baroness Trumpington: My Lords, the noble Baroness will be well aware that education can take many forms. The BBC recognises that reaching people who have not made the most of the formal education system can be difficult. They can be put off by programmes which are labelled "educational". The BBC is looking for ways of providing educational material through mainstream programmes. The Esther Rantzen show is one example and receives a contribution from the education budget to reflect the educational element.
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