The chair of the Home Affairs Committee (HAC) the Rt Hon Keith Vaz MP has raised a multitude of concerns in his report about the Coalition government’s immigration cap. The terms of reference of the HAC were “to examine the expenditure, administration, and policy of the Home Office and its associated public bodies.”
In the report published on 3 November 2010, the chair’s broad observations were that:
1. Successive governments have bypassed parliamentary conventions and have rushed changes to the immigration system with almost immediate effect;
2. Such unnecessary haste has inevitably lead to poor decision-making which is susceptible to challenge in the courts;
3. Parliament be given the opportunity fully to scrutinise all significant changes to the immigration system before their introduction and the government must ensure that Parliament can perform its role;
4. There are particular concerns about the potential effect on international students of a reduction in immigration given that these students account for around 25% of total long-term immigration each year;
5. Evidence before the HAC disclosed the crucial importance of international students to the cultural and intellectual life, as well as the finances, of UK educational institutions;
6. The government’s efforts should be directed at tackling those who abuse the system – bogus colleges and visa overstayers – rather than penalising genuine bonfide students.
It was further found by the HAC that under the government’s immigration policy “over 80% of long-term immigrants entering the UK would not be affected by the Government’s proposed annual cap on immigration.” It was additionally explained by the HAC that if no further visas were ever granted to non-EU nationals then even in that situation the reduction in immigration to a “tens of thousands” level would not be achieved to reduce the total number of migrants by 20%. In fact it is the case that even the 5% cap in place now translates only into a 1% reduction in total immigration.
The home secretary has already stated in her speech to the Conservative Party Conference her intention to axe the Tier 1 (Post Study Work) visa for international graduates from UK universities and she has stated that students will not be able to stay in the UK indefinitely and their right to settlement will be extinguished.
What is most striking is that the government is proceeding with the introduction of the above changes without any real plans or numbers for the future. The HAC admitted expressly that owing to:
“[T]he technicalities required for compiling and verifying such complex data, the Government will not have finalised data to show that it has met its target of reducing immigration to ‘tens of thousands’ by 2015, but will have to extrapolate from the latest verified data available, which will be for the calendar year 2013.”
Some of the other findings of the HAC were very much to the point. The HAC presciently noted “that the UK produces nearly 10 per cent of the world’s scientific output with only 1 per cent of its population” and Nobel laureates have highlighted the obtusity of the exemption from the cap for international sportspeople because this “is a sad reflection of our priorities as a nation if we cannot afford the same recognition for elite scientists and engineers.” Therefore, the HAC was pretty much forced to accept that:
“We consider it totally illogical that professional sportspeople should be exempted from the cap but elite international scientists are not.”
The HAC raised very serious concerns because the immigration cap has been introduced without sufficient attention as to its operational dynamics.
What is most worrying in this regard is the fact that the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) must propose a numerical limit for the cap prior to the Government determining which groups will be included in the cap and how limits will be applied to different sectors of the economy. This approach has stymied the MAC’s ability to predict the effects the cap on different industries and geographical regions.
The full report of the HAC can be viewed here.
Very interesting memoranda of unprinted written evidence submitted by stakeholders are available here.
There is just too much happening. Hope to catch up with it all soon.