Select Committee on European Union Forty-Ninth Report

ENTRY FOR STUDY (12623/02)

Letter from the Chairman to The Lord Filkin, CBE, Under-Secretary of State, Home Office

  Sub-Committee F (Social Affairs, Education and Home Affairs) of the Select Committee on the European Union considered this draft Directive at a meeting on 29 January.

  In principle the Committee welcomes the Commission's programme of measures to harmonise the conditions of entry and residence for different categories of legal migrants. Such measures are an essential element in a common policy on immigration, which the Committee has consistently advocated. Students are clearly an important category of third country nationals for whom it would be desirable to establish a common framework across the EU.

  In general the requirements that need to be met before a residence permit is issued seem reasonable (including those, like compulsory health care insurance, which are not part of the UK's current regime for students), and the draft Directive strikes a sensible balance between control and facilitation. However, there seems little point in our scrutinising the proposals in detail, since we understand that the Government have decided not to opt into the Directive.

  We realise that this decision is consistent with the Government's decisions on other positive immigration measures, but we very much regret the Government's position on this matter. We note that the Government had a number of specific objections to this particular proposal, but they did not seem to us sufficient to justify a decision not to participate in the measure. Indeed, we found them internally inconsistent, since the Government seem to be maintaining that the proposal is both too generous and therefore inimical to UK immigration controls and at the same time too restrictive for UK educational institutions targeting foreign students. The perceived threat to the UK's competitiveness also seems exaggerated, in view of the wide discretion that the Directive leaves to Member States to maintain more favourable provisions. We strongly believe that it would have been better for the United Kingdom to opt into the Directive and seek to secure changes to it through negotiation to meet the Government's concerns.

  However, as the Government have decided not to opt into the proposal, we have formally cleared it from scrutiny.

30 January 2003

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