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I hope that your Lordships will disapprove these changes, thereby giving us all the opportunity to explore ways in which we can improve the humane immigration controls that the Minister and the Government desire.
Baroness Sharp of Guildford: My Lords, I rise to speak on behalf of the universities that have been affected as one of the unintended consequences of this legislation. The right reverend Prelate mentioned that working holidays for younger people visiting this country were now effectively at an end. It should also be recognised that the long tradition of visiting fellows, whereby academics and scholars from other countries have visited this country to work in our laboratories and libraries alongside academics from this country, is now also effectively at an end. The briefing that I received from the University of Cambridge says that:
From 27th November ... there is no functional mechanism to continue to receive them, because the new regulations require a national-level body independent of the host universities to sponsor them, and no such body exists for the HE sector.
As my noble friend Lord Avebury mentioned, under the new system, sponsored researchers are to be covered by the government-authorised exchange route under tier 5. That will be unworkable for higher education. The proposal requires a third-party organisation to act as sponsor, not the higher education institution itself, which currently acts as sponsor, and would require the mobility to be linked to government department objectives.
Despite the imminence of the new systems implementation, there is no existing third-party organisation that can act as sponsor for these migrants.
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Organisations such as the British Council, research councils, learned societies, the Royal Society and similar organisations only fund a small number of these migrants in total, so have no interest in taking responsibility for all privately funded or overseas government-funded researchersnor would it be appropriate or workable for Universities UK to act as such a sponsor. Transferring sponsorship duties to a third party, in any case, is less secure and less efficient than the universities themselves acting as sponsors. They are the people who know these scholars, know what they have been doing and can justify their visits. The third party will not be where the migrant is based and information will have to be duplicated between the university and the third-party sponsor. The creation of a new organisation to handle sponsorship of these migrants will create quite unnecessary and additional bureaucracy, as well as being contrary to the wider drive for better regulation.
I find it extraordinary. Here are a Government anxious that our universities should welcome overseas students and bring more of them to this country. They are anxious that our universities should forge links in research with industry, including multinational companies based overseas, and bring their researchers to this country to find out what we are doing, so that we can add to our research. They are anxious to promote the UK itself as a global leader in research, yet they are not only making it difficult for such researchers to come here, they are creating an almost total bureaucratic nightmare for any such researcher trying to come to this country as a visiting fellow. Universities UK has been pressing the UK Border Agency for a long time for discussions to resolve this problem, but so far such discussions have got nowhere. It has had very little co-operation indeed from the UK Border Agency. It is an absurd situation. It is not one, I am quite sure, that the Government wish to see and I hope that the Minister can give us some reassurance that it will not take place.
Baroness Williams of Crosby: My Lords, I intervene briefly to say that this is a spectacular own goal by the Government. The point made by my noble friend Lady Sharp of Guildford is central: looking at the development of universities as they come to terms with global research and the global exchange of information, it seems incredibly absurd to make it so difficult to exchange fellowships and scholars between universities. Indeed it has long been the pride of the United Kingdom that it was more open to people from other universities throughout the world than almost any other country. We gained immensely from that in scientific research, in cross-cultural new ideas and innovation, and not leastand this may appeal to the Governmentin very strong links with educational
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The right reverend Prelate and his colleagues drew our attention to the difficulty of bringing religious teachers and religious priests to this country. I find it incredible. If one wants to cross racial and cultural barriers, the commonality of beliefin Christianity in this case, but there are other examples such as Buddhism, to which my noble friend Lord Avebury referredis one of the central ways in which globalisation can become civilised and values become commonly held. It is extraordinarily short-sighted that we should make this so difficult as well. I know of no evidence showing that people in this situation have exploited their position, become illegal immigrants or acted as people bringing in other persons.
I refer briefly to the remarks of the noble Baroness, Lady Turner of Camden. For many years I lectured in the United States, at the John F Kennedy School of Government of Harvard University, on the subject of migrants who took up roles in domestic service. One of the largest groups in this category was people from the Philippines. There was a necessity for these people to find jobs outside those islands because the birth rate and the rate of job increase simply did not match one another. There were many extremely disturbing true stories about what had happened to domestic servants from the Philippines, many of them educated young men and women who went to other countries, including some very wealthy and developed countries, as domestic servants. I could regale the House, though will not, with statistics on the number of Filipino domestic servants who came back not alive but in coffins because of the way in which they had been treated by their employers. It is incredible that we should not only allow that but make it easier for people to exploit their domestic servants whenin another part of the Government, and I pay due respect to thisthere has been a huge attempt to deal with the trafficking of young women for sexual or other purposes.
You do not need to know a great deal about domestic service to know that it opens the door to an explanation for trafficking that is just as bad as trafficking itself. There are many examples of misuse and abuse of domestic servants, not least in diplomatic embassies, though I hate to say so. I will not address any specific cases though some may spring to mind.
The Government have a responsibility for those who are the most vulnerable and least protected and who have the fewest rights among us. Domestic servants a round the country can continually be threatened and put under intimidating pressure so that if they complain, ask for proper wages or make it clear that they want their legal rightsto holidays, to Sundays and all the rest of itthey can be blackmailed with the threat that they will have to go back whence they came, and often they are the main supporters of their families. That case comes up time and time again. That this exploitation should be allowed to happen by a Government who have committed themselves to trying to treat fairly all groups in society is appalling.
I hope that the Government will stop and think again and that the other departments of government which have a great commitment to our own country's position internationallythe departments dealing with trade, business, foreign affairs and, not least, international developmentwill bring pressure to bear on the Home Office to rethink this. In the long run this will only bring a great deal of contumely, and deservedly so, on this country.
Lord Bew: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, for again bringing this issue before the House. I wish to speak in the same spirit as the noble Baronesses, Lady Sharp and Lady Williams, particularly with respect to how this legislation affects higher education. The point has already been made that by placing sponsored researchers in tier 5, there will be a requirement to find a third body to sponsor them. I accept that this can be done in certain casesthe British Council might play a rolebut for the majority of cases it is, frankly, not at all practical. It creates a major problem for our universities because these regulations come into effect in a few days time and, as the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, said, there are at present no arrangements in place by which they can see their way to reproducing the number of sponsored researchers that we currently have. One way of doing it would be to extend tier 2 to include that group of people.
Today there were discussions on this issue in Downing Street. I hope that we are on the way to reaching a benign resolution of this problem because one is certainly required. We are talking about several thousand talented people in our university system, whose work this country cannot afford to lose. Cambridge University alone has 200 sponsored researchers. The measure affects dozens of people in my university, Queens University, Belfast. Cambridge is also concerned that the more restrictive arrangements for academic visitors will negatively affect the work of the Isaac Newton Institute, a world-class centre for mathematics. This is not simply a Cambridge issue. Today I talked to my own vice-chancellor in Belfast, who said that throughout the world of higher education there is alarm about the implications of these new proposals.
As other noble Lords have said, there is no question about the quality of the work carried out by sponsored researchers in our universities, which is frequently of economic benefit to this country and to the world more generally. I illustrate this with what I hope is a suggestive and pertinent example. The Foreign Secretarys Written Statement of 13 March announced, in effect, that there would be no further FCO scholarships for PhD work from the developed Commonwealth countries. This aroused controversy in a debate last week. It is interesting to note the reason given by the Foreign Secretary in the Statement; namely, the desire to shift £10 million towards engaging with China on matters such as climate change and economic development.
There is every reason to respect the way in which the Foreign Secretary has tried to focus keenly on China, and it is a realistic aspect of current British foreign policy; therefore, the idea is to transfer £10 million in favour of this new engagement. However, we should look, as I did today, at Cambridge Universitys list of
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I hope that the Minister, who has an academic hat as a chancellor of one of our universities, can bring himself to feel sympathy for the genuine plight of these sponsored researchers and for this whole project and what it means for our economy. I suspect that we are dealing with the unintentional side effect of very complex new rules, which would create genuine problems for any Government, but we cannot afford to take any steps which casually damage the research competitiveness of our universities.
Lord Norton of Louth: My Lords, I declare an interest as an academic, like the noble Lord, Lord Bew. There is little that can I add to the excellent contributions that have been made. I just want to reiterate the point about the quality of the universities in this country and how important that is. Our universities are world class in their research and they manage to be so on the basis of funding that is relatively limited when compared with that in our competitor countries. We do extraordinarily well. Therefore, to promote research, it is essential that our universities are encouraged, not hindered, in facilitating the quality of their research.
Hosting sponsored researchers is a small but important part of research in our universities. That international exchange is absolutely crucial to the type of work that is undertaken, as the noble Lord, Lord Bew, mentioned. As all the speakers so far have said, the problem is that these rules hinder, rather than assist.
All the points that I would have made have been made for me, so I do not want to repeat them. However, I have three questions for the Minister. First, can he confirm that sponsored researchers are not high-risk migrants? Secondly, what have universities done so far that is deemed inappropriate in respect of sponsoring visiting researchers? Thirdly, what guidance have government departments given to develop appropriate schemes for hosting visiting researchers?
Baroness Hanham: My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, beat me to it on this debate, although my right honourable friend the Leader of the Opposition has tabled an Early Day Motion in the other place, where he beat the Liberal Democrats. He put down the Motion so that this extremely important change in the Immigration Rules could be debated, because it was not going to be debated; it was going to pass through both Houses on a waft, without consideration. The fact that the Early Day Motion has been tabled,
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The concerns raised by other noble Lords have been raised by many bodies. In particular, I have been briefed by the Immigration Law Practitioners Association, which, I am sure, has written to other Members on the effects that the implementation of the changes to Immigration Rules under HC 1113 will have on the immigration system for those wishing to come to this country from outside EEC countries.
In general, from this side of the House, while having some reservations about the limitations of the new points-based system, we have supported the principles behind it because it brings some control of immigration to this country. However, it is clear from the briefings that we have received and the speeches that we have heard that the speed at which this is being done and the bureaucracy that is entangling it are causing trouble. I am sure that the Ministers ears will have heard that tonight. The essential ingredient of the scheme is the licensed sponsor aspect, which replaces work permits. If that does not work, the whole pack of cards will come down.
Supplementary to an Oral Question put a couple of weeks ago, the Minister may recall that I asked how many sponsors had been licensed by the UK Border Agency. Unfortunately, he was unable to answer the question on the hoofI am not entirely surprisedbut he did say that he would write to me. I am still waiting for the answer to that question, because it becomes immediately relevant again today. The noble Lord need not write to me, because I now have the answer: it is 745. That needs to be set against the number of employersI do not know it, but the Minister may be able to tell mewho currently employ people with work permits and who will need to become sponsors for future employees or further employment of those who are here.
Entry to this country is severely limited by the points-based system. Under tier 2, for skilled workers, tier 4, for students, and tier 5, for youth mobility and temporary workersall those who would previously have applied for a work permitit is now a requirement to hold a certificate of sponsorship from a licensed sponsor. The fact that there are fewer than 1,000 sponsorswe know that there are 745and the expectation that tier 2 alone will have a requirement of at least 14,000 will prove to be insuperable barriers to entry to the country even for those to whom the Government are reasonably welcoming.
For tier 4, is the Minister concerned that, by 16 October this year, only 19 universities had applied for licences to sponsor foreign students, even when, by common consent, overseas students provide a handsome income for those bodies? The noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, made the point about our need to bring researchers into this country. My noble friend Lord Norton of Louth reminded us of the need to ensure that universities are not hindered in what they do. Tier 4 is due to come
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Tier 5, which enables young people to travel, was discussed by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Ripon and Leeds. It will bring people to this country for cultural exchanges, working holidays and sporting events. Temporary workers, such as sportsmen and professional musicians, will have to be sponsored under the licensed sponsorship scheme. Where are the sponsors and who are they? They are not evident at the moment. I am sure that the Minister will remember from his own experience, or that of family or friends, the immense benefit to young people from being able to travel, mix and take part, with people from other countries and cultures, in projects, and have experiences. What a pity if that were denied to them because of the complexity for them and their possible sponsors in the system that has now been dreamt up.
Will the Minister also explainpossibly not for the first timewhy these young citizens visits are limited to those from just four countries: Australia, Canada, Japan and New Zealand? When will the scheme be extended to other Commonwealth and non-Commonwealth countries, or is it anticipated that those are the only young people whom we will be able to welcome to our shores?
What is the problem? Much of it seems to be a reluctance by employers to carry out the role of unpaid immigration officers because of the lack of clarity of the full extent of their obligations under the scheme, with the disincentive of having to deal with, as the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, said, 130 pages of guidance and the 35-page, 58-question application form. The new points-based system was meant to be clearer and simpler for employers and prospective immigrants, so how is it that the system has been allowed to become so bureaucratic? What ministerial oversight and approval were given to this process, or was it just left to the UK Border Agency to carry on blithely on its own? Will the Minister outline what measures are being taken to promote take-up of sponsorship licences? Are they able to address this dearth of sponsors with sufficient urgency?
Like other noble Lords, we welcome the provisions that increase from 18 to 21 the age at which a marriage visa licence can be granted. We hope that that change will help to tackle the problem of British residents being forced against their will into marriage overseas. The evidence seems to show that the vast majority of such cases occur among those under the age of 21 and decreases from that age onwards. Forced marriage and human trafficking are anathema in this country and we support all measures to counteract them.
However, much less welcome are the changes, mentioned by the right reverend Prelate, which will stop retired persons of independent means who have close connections with this countrythat is, family and friendsbeing able to apply to retire and spend the rest of their lives here, while elderly dependent relatives will still be able to come here if they live alone abroad and are in what are described as compelling compassionate circumstances.
By what logic has it been decided that there should be a difference between those who, late in life, can support themselves financially and wish to come to live close to their relatives but will not be allowed to do so, and those who cannot support themselves and will be dependent on family when they get here but will be allowed to come? The Minister will know that, in response to a question about this matter posed in the consultation carried out by the UK Border AgencyI repeat, the UK Border Agency and not the Governmentnearly 60 per cent of the respondents were against this change. Can the Minister tell us what weight was given by the Home Office and the Government to these views before the policy, which now appears in these changes, was adopted?
There are a great many unanswered questions about this wholly unsatisfactory process. We believe that a socially responsible immigration policy needs proper controls to build public confidence in the system, but the flaws in what is happening under the current changes are becoming more and more evident.
We do not want to hold up the proposed changes and, if the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, takes this to a vote, I can tell him that we will abstain. However, we ask the Minister to consider carefully the points that have been made tonight and which, I am sure, have been made to the Home Office in many statements from a great many bodies. Perhaps he will be able to announce some helpful changes today. The most helpful one would be that these changes will be taken back to the Home Office and scrutinised by the department, not by the UK Border Agency. If not, I hope that he will make such an announcement shortly.
There seems to be little virtue in ploughing on regardless with a system about which so many questions are being raised and from which, as the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, said, there are so many unintended consequences.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord West of Spithead): My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, for the opportunity to debate this Motion. As he said, there have been a number of debates on immigration, and it is a key and important issue. I also appreciate the views expressed by colleagues in this House on a number of wider concerns affected by the changes in the Immigration Rules.
These rule changes enable the Government to introduce key parts of the most far-reaching reforms of the United Kingdoms immigration system for 45 years. Far from being labyrinthine or a recipe for bureaucracy, they simplify what were 80-plus routes into five tiers. If we were setting up the system now, we would consider what we have at the moment to be unbelievably bureaucratic and labyrinthine.
Lord Avebury: My Lords, although applications are concentrated within the five tiers, as the noble Lord has just said, does he not acknowledge that beneath the tiers are other tiers and then tiers beneath those tiers, so that the simplification is more apparent than real?
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