|Previous Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|
I shall not repeat all the questions that I put to the Minister on the previous occasion, as I am sure that most of them will be answered in her letter, but I hope that it answers the questions about the treatment of applicants denied their lawful appeal rights, and the 18.4 per cent of visa applicants who, according to the entry certificate monitor, are wrongly refused. It really would be outrageous if they were made to pay twice for the errors which persist even after four successive reports by the monitor and her predecessors. I see that a paragraph in the noble Baronesss letter mentions the right of people who are found to have been erroneously refused by the entry certificate monitor to
29 Mar 2007 : Column 1850
The regulations come into effect immediately, leaving no room for the round table discussion which I suggested last time, at which there might have been scope for moderating the scale of the most extortionate increases, notably those applying to visas for settlement, indefinite leave to remain and citizenship. The total of these three amounts is more than doubled from £863 to £1,825. I wish that the Minister, who, I am sure, knowing her, dislikes what she is doing, could think again about the enormous penalty the Government are now imposing on marriage and partnership.
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, first, I thank the noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman, and the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, for their kind comments. Of course I do not know the Prime Ministers mind, but I am very hopeful that in times to come I will still have an occasional appearance on the Front Bench on behalf of the Home Office. If the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, retains his vigour, I am sure that I will. He does not need to respond to that.
I am very happy to put a full response to the questions raised with me by the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, either in the Library or on the website, as he suggested, perhaps in terms of the substance of the information as opposed to directly answering the questions he asked. That may be the most helpful form for others who will read it. I would be happy to share that with the noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman, and others in the House.
I absolutely understood that the assent given by the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, to the previous order was simply on the basis that it set the framework and not the detail. I expected and accepted that, when we came to discuss the regulations, that would be the appropriate time to have the discussion. There was absolutely no doubt in my mind that he was not agreeing in those terms.
I thank the noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman, for his agreement to the regulations. The fee level agreement is an annual agreement that is set and renewed annually with Her Majestys Treasury. The issues will be looked at carefully. Noble Lords will know that a great deal of research went into ascertaining where to set the fee level, so that we could differentiate between the different routes and the different benefits that would accrue to an applicant by virtue of the granting of the necessary visa or permission to stay. That research has been placed in the Library. It has details of both in and out-of-country research. It is very helpful because, not for the first time, it shows a clear methodology to assess where the fee levels should be, and it gives a clear understanding of the factors that were taken into consideration before the levels were reached. The noble Lord, Lord Avebury, and the noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman, will find that of some help and assistance.
The noble Viscount asked about the revenue from the fees. We are, as I indicated, working within those strict limits. Our forecast for the IND is as follows. We are raising £100 million to fund the forecast enforcement strategy costs for the IND, and recovered fees are about £240 million. Overseas forecast costs are around £350 million, with costs and fees now including the costs of commercial partners. So in future a single fee will be paid by migrants. The total is £655 million, including the £100 million.
I know that the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, is concerned that this could somehow be distorted into a general way of raising revenue to meet those fees. The new powers will not be used to generate unlimited fee income. They can be used only for immigration and nationality applications listed in Section 42 of the Asylum and Immigration (Treatment of Claimants, etc.) Act 2004. There has to be a relationship to the cost. It is not in our interest to see volume fall. I agree with the noble Lord that migrants are hugely beneficial to our country and we have been advantaged by them.
Lord Avebury: My Lords, my suggestion was that if the Treasury found that there was no vociferous objection to this provision in the treatment of claimants Act, it could easily adopt the same practice in other areas of public services that are provided, where it could charge over the odds to recover some costs that were not directly associated with the service in question.
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, although I appreciate what the noble Lord is saying, the reason I said that it is unlikely that it can be done is that the framework constructed for the laying of the fees directs those fees to the service they provide. We are discussing the fees relating to over-cost recovery. Other fees are below-cost recovery and we do not make any charge for them. So we must look at the system as a whole and identify the cost of maintaining a system. The noble Lord will know, as will the noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman, who is also familiar with this issue, that we have to do better on enforcement if we are to allow applicants who legitimately want to come here to do so safely and appropriately.
One of the other advantages is that, as we have improved the process, we have improved its efficiency. As we improve the efficiency, there is a better chance of reducing the cost to make it faster and cheaper; so we will be able to monitor those issues. I understand why the noble Lord is anxious about the matter, but the process that has evolved in setting the fees is very interesting and successful. It has been predicated on good, solid research; it has very broadly engaged stakeholders; it has tried to better understand the market and the different migration flows; and it has
29 Mar 2007 : Column 1852
We think that there is a real coherenceand I will not say for oncein the overall research and pattern of how this has been structured. I am very grateful for that. As noble Lords should know, a number of agencies have contributed here. A number of noble Lords have participated in the consultative group and have really honed the model to make it much better than it would otherwise have been. Although I understand the noble Lords concern, I say that the concern is reduced as one looks at the matter in greater detail.
The other issues mentioned arise from the same theme. I am happy to include in my more comprehensive account which is to be put on the website the detail underpinning the general statements I have made. The public consultation took account of a broad spectrum of issues. It was very extensive and ran from 30 October to 22 December last year. The document was sent to over 3,000 people, and all of the 340 responses received, including those from ILPA, were included in the overall assessment of the proposed policy on fees, and nearly 86 per cent of the responses were in favour of the current proposals. The consultation was broad-based. We think that the outcome is fair and balanced. This is not a penalty but a recognition that a real benefit flows from it.
Indefinite leave to remain fees can be justified at levels above cost recovery on the basis of the entitlements that will accrue to the applicant. We therefore believe that the fees are justified and that it is a lawful expense.
I know that the noble Lord rightly will continue to express concern about these issues and I anticipate that he will continue to scrutinise them. I thank him because, by virtue of that scrutiny, we look with ever-growing care to ensure that we are in a position to give him cogent answers. So, if I may respectfully say so, it has a beneficial effect. I know that others will quake at the fact that I have said that, but it is the truth.
I hope that, as a result of what I have said, noble Lords will be content to approve these regulations. As the House is almost empty, I thank them for staying on the last day of term and I wish them a very happy and peaceful Easter.
|Next Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|