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At school level, which is also vital, we have four priorities. The first is to provide a safe and secure environment for children, in particular to tackle issues to do with bullying and hostile environments for children, which were raised so movingly by my noble friend Lady Howells and taken up by the noble Lord, Lord Elton. The noble Lord has huge experience in this area and raised a number of issues for policy development, all of which we are taking forward. He mentioned schools councils, and I am glad to say that more than nine in 10 secondary schools now have such councils. Professor Geoff Whitty, Director of the Institute of Education at the University of London, is about to report to my right honourable friend the Secretary of State on how we take the work of schools councils forward, including embedding their work in the development of behaviour and discipline policies in schools much more effectively.
We have the Education and Inspections Act passed last year which includes a requirement that behaviour policies must be devised after full consultation with the whole pupil body in schools, taking up the theme explored by the noble Lord, Lord Elton, that discipline in a school must belong to the children. Unless it is owned by them it will never be effective in tackling the root causes of poor behaviour, bullying and disaffection in schools. The Education and
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The second theme is to provide truly personalised learning for all children which develops their talents to the fullest extent possible, with parents acting as true partners with teachers in their childrens education. More than £1 billion has been earmarked for personalised learning up to 2008, weighted towards schools with pupils from deprived backgrounds or with low prior attainment, and for the first time in this country we are developing new vocational education diplomas which will ensure that pupils who have particular vocational aptitudes but who historically have been poorly served by the education system are given the opportunity in due course to attain the qualifications they need. We believe that this will lead to a significantly higher proportion of them staying in full-time education and training after the age of 16, including apprenticeships.
The third theme of the debate is the need for schools to be more than simply nine-to-four institutions by providing a much wider range of social support for parents and children in the holidays and after school. We have the Extended Schools Programme, which seeks to ensure that over time all schools develop into extended schools and so are able to provide those services.
The fourth theme I want to highlight as vital to the development of effective schools which educate the whole child is the one raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Bottomley. It is the importance of schools focusing not just on learning programmes, important as they are, but on values by engaging young people in support of the values of duty, obligation and mutual responsibility which are so vital to the young people themselves becoming effective parents. I agree with the noble Baroness that the churches and faith communities have a part to play in this, but schools of all affiliations take these responsibilities increasingly seriously.
The noble Lord, Lord Avebury, raised the issue of alcohol abuse. Let me say that I fully accept the gravity of these matters. The figures he gave are broadly correct. I would set against the fact that there is a certain amount of serious alcohol abuse taking place the fact that a Department of Health survey published today shows that the proportion of young people who said they never drink has been rising since 2001. Last year 46 per cent said that they had never tried alcohol, but that is not in any way to minimise the importance of the minority for whom alcohol abuse is a really serious and in all kinds of ways life-threatening issue for them.
Young people are one of the three priority areas in the revised alcohol harm reduction strategy, which is due to be published this summer. We are mindful of many of the noble Lords points about the effectiveness of that strategy, and I will keep him in touch with its
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Parenting poses universal challenges irrespective of wealth or background, but while there are many challenges there is also much cause for encouragement. The attitudes of young people themselves are largely positive. Surveys show that most parents today spend more time with their children than their own parents spent with them. Education and standards are far higher than a generation ago, and mothers and fathers today want greater involvement in their childrens lives. For our part as a Government, we recognise that parents need steadily more and better support. Our policy, as set out in Every Parent Matters, is to provide that, especially to families with the fewest independent resources. While we have more to do, there are also grounds for optimism, which was reflected fully in the contributions today.
Lord Northbourne: My Lords, that was a fascinating and interesting debate, well informed and wise. It would be impossible to summarise it, and it is not my job to do so, but there were three words that I heard come up many times: love, relationships and community.
The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Scotland of Asthal) rose to move, That the draft regulations laid before the House on 15 March be approved. 13th Report from the Statutory Instruments Committee and 15th Report from the Merits Committee.
The noble Baroness said: My Lords, these regulations are the final step in implementing the new charging model for immigration and nationality services. Before I turn to the detail of the contents, I thank noble Lords for their engagement in the process. In particular, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, who has made insightful and informed queries, both earlier this month in the House and in subsequent correspondence. I have written to him today seeking to answer many of his points. I hope that that will give him the information he requires.
These regulations relate only to those applications that we propose to charge at levels above normal cost recovery. The fees for the other routes at or below cost-recovery levels are set out in regulations subject to the negative process that were made last week by the Minister for Immigration, Citizenship and Nationality, and which have been laid before Parliament.
The regulations before us cover applications made in respect of: indefinite leave to remain; limited leave to remain for work routes such as a work permit, the Highly Skilled Migrant Programme and investors; the Highly Skilled Migrant Programme approval letters; work permits; naturalisation as a British citizen or a British overseas territories citizen; and registration as a British citizen, British overseas territories citizen, British overseas citizen or British subject, excluding registration as a British citizen under Section 1 of the British Nationality (Hong Kong) Act 1997.
We have set fees in these regulations above normal cost-recovery levels on the basis of the value of a successful application to the migrant or, in the case of work permits, the value to the UK-based employer, in reliance on the power in Section 42 of the Asylum and Immigration (Treatment of Claimants, etc.) Act 2004.
Taking into account the benefits which will accrue in respect of a successful applicationwhich we assess on the basis of entitlements that will accruewe have decided to seek the greatest contribution to the costs of the end-to-end immigration system from those who are seeking to work in the United Kingdom or to stay here permanently.
The entitlements we believe to be the most valuable include the ability to work; whether dependants can accompany the migrant to the United Kingdom; whether there is a route to settlement; the length of leave granted; access to benefits; eligibility for a UK passport; and the right to vote. We then looked at other factors, supported by extensive research and consultation, to consider whether to reduce the level of over cost charge, and in some cases we have done so. We have also ensured that certain applications such as those for limited and indefinite leave to remain made on the basis of humanitarian protection remain exempt from fees.
Noble Lords will want to know how we plan to treat applications received in the period immediately after the introduction of new fees and, in the case of settlement applications, after we introduce the new requirements to demonstrate knowledge of language and life in the United Kingdom. We recognise that, despite communicating the changes, it is likely that some applications received immediately after the proposed fee changes may be accompanied by an incorrect fee. So that we do not disadvantage applicants for leave to remain, and to ensure they are afforded all opportunity to regularise their stay, we have made specific provision in the fee regulations. In these circumstances we will write to the applicant and request any outstanding moneys. If such moneys are paid within 28 days of that letter having been sent, we will proceed to make a decision. These transitional
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Applicants for settlement after 2 April will also be required to submit evidence to demonstrate knowledge of language and life in the United Kingdom. Again, some applicants may not be aware of the new requirements and will not qualify for settlement. We want to prevent the situation where they have no valid leave to remain in the United Kingdom. Accordingly, we have introduced proposals to amend the current Immigration Rules so as to treat such applications as being for further leave to remain. Where this occurs, and the applicant has submitted the proposed new fee of £750 for settlement, we will refund the difference between this and the relevant leave-to-remain fee. We will operate this transitional policy until 31 January 2008, by which time we would expect all future applicants to be aware of the new requirements and to have made provision to take the necessary tests.
I stress that we continue to welcome legal migrants, who, we all know, contribute significantly to the United Kingdom's economic, social and cultural life. However, in order to operate a truly flexible charging system that provides some degree of protection to those routes that are most price-sensitive, or where wider policy considerations mean that a lower fee is appropriate, we need to set some fees at above cost-recovery levels. We also need to do so to raise additional revenue, which will be used to recover the costs of the step change in enforcement activity and border security set out in the IND review published last summer, but most recently in the comprehensive and radical cross-government enforcement strategy published earlier in the month.
The applications specified in these regulations are the most appropriate from which to seek the additional revenue as, importantly, successful applicants accrue significant benefits. Accordingly, I commend the regulations to the House. I beg to move.
Moved, That the draft regulations laid before the House on 15 March be approved. 13th Report from the Statutory Instruments Committee and 15th Report from the Merits Committee.(Baroness Scotland of Asthal.)
Viscount Bridgeman: My Lords, I am most grateful to the Minister for her explanation. We on these Benches note the work that the Government have put in. I also take the opportunity to express our congratulations to the noble Lord, Lord Avebury. He beat the gun slightly on the previous occasion, and I have no doubt that we shall be treated to a second instalment this evening. However, his work is certainly recognised by us.
In welcoming the regulations, I have some general questions. What revenue will accrue from the new fees? Is there a time limit on the fees? Have the Government in mind a reviewing date? We are concerned to ensure that this increase in fees is not regarded as a stealth tax.
Lord Avebury: My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness most warmly for leaving behind the upheavals taking place in Marsham Street to come here to explain the regulations. I hope that she will still be replying on these matters once the dust has settled, because we value her wisdom and guidance on important questions of immigration and nationality, on which she is so expert.
I thank her also for her long letter to me. Unfortunately, I did not receive it until just now, because I have been sitting here since 11 am. I had an opportunity to look cursorily at it. It would be helpful if it were placed in the Library, because it appears to contain quite comprehensive answers to the questions that I put on the previous occasion which it would be useful for others to know. I only regret that in the Library it is available only to those who seek it out. Perhaps the Minister will find some way of putting the substance of it in a suitable location on the Home Office website.
As the Minister is aware, we on these Benches have serious concerns about the fee increases. I raised them when we debated the paving order on 8 March, when we had had only had some 24 hours to look at the fees, but that was enough to satisfy us that the Government were abusing the powers given to them under Sections 51 and 52 of the 2006 Act. We now repeat that charge, while recognising that, because of the way in which the legislation has been structured, we are powerless to stop what I consider to be extortion and what the noble Viscount has just referred to as a stealth tax. I shall amplify that comment later.
The 2006 Act enabled fees to be charged for any service provided in connection with immigration or nationality, overriding the normal Treasury cost-recovery rules. We had no proper answers to the Governments reasons for doing this in the previous debate, so I ask noble Lords to reflect on the precedent that we are creating in allowing the state to charge whatever the traffic will bear for services of any kind rendered to the public. There can be little doubt that, now that the principle has been given parliamentary sanction, this and future Governments will see it as a new and fruitful means of revenue-raising, which will not be confined to the sphere of immigration and nationality.
I said that we had no objection to fees as such, and indeed it would be a bit too late to do so, as some of the fees referred to in the order date back to 1981. I also said that we had no option but to accept the order on which these regulations are based. We would need very strong grounds for voting against any order at this end of the Buildingpace yesterdays events in your Lordships House. I meant that we were allowing
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The Minister, for perfectly good reasons, did not respond to our major reservations. She contented herself by remarking that what I said would be helpful in preparing for this debate. I could have interpreted that as meaning that we should have negatived the previous order, because now we could be held to have approved the idea that the Government have complete discretion to charge whatever they like, the only constraint being the ability or willingness of the applicants to cough up. In this order they intend to recover the cost of enforcement, some of the costs of the appeal systemand we are not told how that element is determinedand the cost of future capital investment in the provision of services. Up to now there have been nine sets of regulations for immigration and nationality applications, and this is the first occasion when the amounts charged exceed the administration costs, as permitted by Section 42 of the Asylum and Immigration (Treatment of Claimants, etc.) Act 2004. The power is exercised only in respect of services for which charges are already made, but the Treasury is certain to be thinking about how to make money from other public services if this order goes through without too much fuss.
The Governments response to the consultation on the new charging regime for immigration and nationality fees, attached to the Explanatory Memorandum, shows that almost all the respondents were employers and educational establishments, which will have to bear the costs themselvesalthough universities may pass the costs on in student fees. In the case of employers, the regulatory impact assessment shows that, of the £5.7 million that the IND will receive from the new charges, £2.7 million will come from public sector employers, largely from the health service. The exercise appears to have been designed to recover a comparatively small amount, without taking into consideration the cost already incurred by the RIA itself, the consultations or the considerable extra paperwork imposed on the employers and the IND itself.
As the Minister is aware, our main concern is for those who come here to join spouses, or as children or elderly dependants of persons who already have indefinite leave to remain. They have no option but to pay whatever is required if they are to maintain their fundamental right to family life, and there is no elasticity of demand, a term that the Government love but which is so out of place when thinking about family relationships. I see in the documents accompanying the Explanatory Memorandum a graph that purports to describe the elasticity of demand for indefinite leave to remain, showing that if fees exceed £700 the demand will decrease to something like 30 per cent of its previous level. I cannot believe that that could be accurate because most people who come here as spouses or dependent
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As I said, the overwhelming majority of respondents to the consultation were educational institutions, employers, job agencies and representatives of sporting or cultural interests. ILPA, the IAS and JCWI are the only ones in the list of 340 respondents that I could identify as possibly having said anything about family concerns, although I noted from my swift canter through the Ministers letter that another 13 respondents made some reference to spouses and families. I take ILPA as an illustration. It says that,
The set questions did not include any that might have elicited reference to family unity. It appears that the Government decided to load the biggest increases on to this category of applicant because they did not object during the consultation and because they had no powerful representatives to speak up on their behalf and cause adverse publicity in the media. As the noble Baroness is aware, Mr J A, a foreign national married to a British woman, writes concerning the £415 increase in the settlement fee,
I sent the Minister another letter from a British citizen married to a foreign national, Dr R O, pointing out that immigrants are not the only beneficiaries of the immigration system, as the Government acknowledge in other contexts, such as the Treasury estimates cited in your Lordships European Union Select Committee report Economic Migration to the EU, which show that the UK owes 10 per cent of its growth rate to migrants. Dr R O goes on to say that while some components of immigration may have some resemblance to a market economy, this is certainly not the case with spouses and relatives.
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