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Stroke Strategy for England

The Secretary of State for Health (Alan Johnson): The Department is publishing today a new national strategy to modernise service provision and deliver the newest treatments for stroke. Between 9 July and 12 October 2007, a consultation on a draft document was held, and over 1,000 responses were made, of which more than 800 were from individuals who had experienced stroke and their carers. These responses have helped to shape the development of the new strategy.

The strategy is constructed around twenty “quality markers” of a good stroke service covering four key areas: raising awareness and prevention; the importance of rapid assessment and treatment; provision of rehabilitation and care after stroke; and developing the workforce to meet these markers.

The strategy has been placed in the Library and copies are available for hon. Members in the Vote Office.

“Valuing People Now”

The Secretary of State for Health (Alan Johnson): The Department has published the consultation document “Valuing People Now—From Progress to Transformation”. The document has been placed in the Library and copies are available for hon. Members in the Vote Office.

The document seeks people’s views on the priorities for learning disability for the next three years, 2008 to 2011. It builds on the vision set out in “Valuing People” (2001) which was the first White Paper on learning disability for 30—a vision based on the four main principles of rights, independence, choice and inclusion. The consultation document recognises that the vision set out in “Valuing People” was right; it also recognises that consideration needs to be given to new issues that were not covered in “Valuing People” and how we keep the agenda moving in the right direction as we move to tackle some of the key challenges in reaching equality of access and citizenship.

“Valuing People Now—From Progress to Transformation” is a cross-government consultation setting out the agenda across a range of issues including health and well-being, housing, employment, education and community inclusion. The House is aware of some of the deeply disturbing and unacceptable reports that there have been about the treatment of people with learning disabilities and the failure to ensure their fundamental rights and choices as members of our society. It is vital that not only do we see an end to cases such as those, but that real change is achieved to ensure that people with learning disabilities have equality of citizenship through independent living. This consultation
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seeks people’s views on what the priorities should be over the next three years, how we can deliver on those priorities and how we will know that we are achieving change.

The consultation will run until 11 March 2008 with a view to my Department setting out proposals for the next three years, based on the responses that we receive to the consultation, in a document to be published by summer 2008.

Home Department

Animal Procedures

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Meg Hillier): I am pleased to announce that Dr Judy MacArthur Clark CBE DVMS DLAS DipLAM FIBiol MRCVS has been appointed as the next Chief Inspector of the Home Office Animals (Scientific Procedures) Inspectorate. She will succeed Dr Derek Fry BA MA DPhil BM BCh, who is retiring. Dr MacArthur Clark is a distinguished veterinary surgeon whose past appointments include Chair of the Farm Animals Welfare Council and President of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons. I would also like to record my thanks to Dr Fry for his many years of dedicated service to the Inspectorate. Dr MacArthur Clark will take up appointment on 10 December 2007.

Immigration (Migration Reform)

The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Jacqui Smith): Over the next year, the Government will bring in the biggest shake-up of the immigration system for over 40 years. As part of this, key aspects of our migration reform programme are being announced today, including: a statement of intent which sets out how the points system will work for highly skilled migrants; two consultation documents—one on proposals to tackle forced marriage, and another on proposals to introduce a pre-entry English language requirement for spouses; and the results of an initial consultation on simplifying immigration law.

Statement of intent for highly skilled migrants:

One of the key changes to reform migration will include a firmer, faster and fairer Australian-style points system. The new system will be simpler and more transparent, ensuring that only those migrants Britain needs can come to work or study in the UK. We are creating a unified border force, bringing together the Border and Immigration Agency, Customs and UK Visas. The new agency will provide tougher policing at ports and airports with a highly visible uniformed presence, counting all migrants in and out of the UK; and we are introducing compulsory identity cards for foreign nationals, meaning that we will know who is here and what they are entitled to do.

We will launch the points system in under 100 days, beginning with highly skilled migrants and sponsor registration. The statement of intent sets out how the
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points system will work for highly skilled migrants, showing how points will be awarded and the robust checks that will be made on applications.

The economic benefits of migration are clear. Migrants put far more into the treasury purse than they take out; migrants contributed an estimated 15-20 per cent. to the UK’s growth in 2001-2005—worth around £6 billion to output growth in 2006. Highly skilled migrants are key to Britain winning these benefits, filling crucial roles in financial and public services, education and health, ICT and business. Following the success of the existing highly skilled migrant programme, the purpose of the highly skilled tier of the points system is to attract and retain the most talented migrants who have the most to contribute economically.

The points system will simplify around 80 immigration routes into just 5 tiers:

Tier 1

Highly skilled individuals to contribute to growth and productivity.

Tier 2

Skilled workers with a job offer to fill gaps in the UK labour force.

Tier 3

Low-skilled workers to fill specific temporary labour shortages. This tier will be introduced only if there is a specific need.

Tier 4


Tier 5

Youth mobility and temporary workers: people coming to the UK to satisfy primarily non-economic objectives.

The highly skilled tier will replace eight current immigration routes. This tier is designed to admit highly skilled individuals who wish to come here to work, to set up or join a business, investors, and international students who have studied here and wish to seek employment. It will embrace:


incorporating the highly skilled migrants programme.


combining the current “Business People” and “Innovators” categories.


incorporating the current “Investors” category.

Post Study Work

bringing together two staying-on schemes for international graduates who have studied in Scotland and the rest of the UK. This will boost the UK's attractiveness as a place to study, bringing benefits to our educational establishments.

The points system replaces subjective decision making with an objective transparent process that is more robust against abuse. Highly skilled applicants will need to show they have enough points to qualify to enter or remain in the UK. Highly skilled applicants will earn points for their skills and potential for economic success, competence in English language and ability to support themselves and their dependents. The points pass mark for the highly skilled tier of the points system will be informed by the work of the Migration Advisory Committee on economic needs and that of the migration impacts forum on the wider effects of migration.

We are publishing this document today so that those affected can prepare. The document explains the transitional arrangements that will be put in place to handle the transfer from old to new systems. We are also giving people the opportunity to comment on them. Statements of intent about skilled, temporary and student migrants will follow next year.

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Marriage to partners from overseas

The consultations on proposals to tackle forced marriage and to introduce a pre-entry English language requirement for spouses fulfil the promises made in our strategy “Securing the UK Border”, published in March 2007, to consult on new arrangements for marriage visas, including an English language requirement. Copies of the consultation documents have been placed in the Library of the House.

Forced marriage is a form of aggression that puts women in particular at risk of harm and of being exploited. The Home Office together with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office has already made progress in tackling forced marriage by creating the forced marriage unit in 2005. The unit handles up to 300 cases per year. Around a third of the cases involve children, some as young as 13. We believe that increased protection against coercion and potentially violent or abusive situations is called for. The problem of forced marriage has not disappeared and so we feel it is right to take measures to protect vulnerable people from these pressures.

The Government are aware that this is a topic with many sensitive aspects but three principles stand out as important. First, no one should be pressurised into sponsoring a marriage visa. Secondly, those who wish to sponsor a marriage partner from overseas should be encouraged to establish an independent adult life here first and to see that as an important way of helping their partner integrate. Thirdly, spouses who are abandoned by a person they have sponsored are entitled to an assurance that their sponsorship will not be abused for further advantages.

We recognise that forced marriage is not the same as arranged marriage. The Government are not expressing any concern about arranged marriages, which we know to be a part of many cultural traditions, and which involve the consent of both parties. But young British citizens must never be forced into relationships they do not want at a time in their lives when they could be establishing themselves as adults through further education or through work.

For this reason, one of the proposals we are suggesting is that the minimum age at which a person can sponsor a marriage partner from overseas should be raised from 18 to 21. The same minimum age would apply to the person being sponsored.

We are also considering introducing a code of practice which would say how an application for a marriage visa should progress if one of the parties is identified as vulnerable. This would build on work carried out by entry clearance officers in relation to in-depth interviews with couples. It would enable views to be given in confidence and assess whether sufficient scope had been given to protect the potentially vulnerable party.

We are also looking at whether we should do more to investigate allegations of abuse of marriage for immigration advantage after entry; how this might be investigated and what other provisions might be necessary for safeguarding women in particular after the entry of a sponsored spouse.

The consultation on the proposal to introduce a pre-entry English language requirement for spouses discusses the key issues around how a requirement of
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this nature might work in practice. People who apply for a marriage visa principally do so with the intention of joining their loved ones in the UK on a permanent basis. They are given full access to the labour market on arrival and are able to apply for full settlement after 2 years providing they meet the criteria in the immigration rules. It is right therefore that we should consider ways to assist a spouse integrate into life here, which includes promoting the development of English language skills at an early stage.

We are seeking views on the proficiency level at which the requirement would be set, on how we would make language learning accessible universally and on how the spouse might demonstrate that a language requirement had been met.

The consultation periods will run for 12 weeks and the final date for responses is 27 February 2008. Once the process has concluded, and views considered, we will report on the results of both consultations and any proposed changes to the immigration rules relating to marriage.


In June 2007 my hon. Friend the Minister of State for Borders and Immigration published an initial consultation paper on simplifying immigration law. Simplification of the legal framework will support the wider development and transformation of the Border and Immigration Agency, and assist in the achievement of its strategic objectives.

Detailed analytical work is now underway to examine the existing law and the options for change. Next year we will consult on more specific issues and publish proposals for pre-legislative scrutiny.

Copies of the statement of intent, the consultations on tackling forced marriage and introducing a pre-entry English language requirement for spouses and responses to the simplification consultation have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses. The documents are also available on the Border and Immigration Agency’s website at:

Justice and Home Affairs Council (6 - 7 December)

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Meg Hillier): The final Justice and Home Affairs (JHA) Council under the Portuguese presidency will be held in Brussels on 6-7 December 2007. My right hon. Friend the Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice (Jack Straw), my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary (Jacqui Smith), my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice (Bridget Prentice), the Solicitor-General for Scotland (Frank Mulholland), and I will represent the United Kingdom. The following issues will be discussed at the Council.

The Council will begin with a joint meeting of the JHA and Employment Councils looking at migration,
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employment and the Lisbon strategy. The Lisbon strategy aims at making the EU the most competitive economy in the world and achieving full employment by 2010. The strategy is based on three pillars: economic, social and environmental. The focus of the Lisbon strategy is therefore growth and jobs. The Government support this approach but want to emphasise that a balance needs to be struck between stimulating labour migration and the management of integration and cohesion, enforcement of the rules and combating illegal migration.

It will then move into Mixed Committee with Iceland, Switzerland and Norway. That session will begin with a discussion on the full application of the provisions of the Schengen acquis to the member states who joined the European Union in 2004. A formal decision will be made on lifting the internal borders of nine of the 10 countries involved. There will also be updates on the Schengen information system (SIS) communication network and the SIS II programme.

There will also be a state of play report on the directive on common standards and procedures in member states for illegally staying third-country nationals. The directive is based on the premise that an effective returns policy is a crucial part in the fight against illegal immigration. The UK has not opted into this as we are not yet convinced of the need for common standards in this area.

There will be a discussion on the weapons directive in both the Mixed Committee and subsequently under the main agenda. The presidency will be seeking a political agreement on a First Reading deal with the European Parliament. The Government are happy with the text as it stands having secured some important amendments, particularly in relation to the application of criminal sanctions and the arrangements for allowing young persons under 18 to continue to shoot with parental permission or at approved centres. We are aware that the House of Lords Select Committee on the European Union have yet to clear this from scrutiny but hope they will be able to do so on the basis of the further information we have recently provided.

Under the main Council agenda, the presidency is hoping to adopt Council Conclusions on mobility partnerships and circular migration in the context of the Global Approach to Migration. The Government support the Council Conclusions and are keen for progress to be made under the EU’s Global Approach to Migration. We believe it is important to build effective partnerships with third countries to help manage migration issues more effectively. These partnerships should cover all aspects of migration: legal, illegal, and migration and development. Mobility partnerships and circular migration are only two aspects of the Global Approach to Migration.

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