Examination of Witnesses (Questions 392
TUESDAY 7 NOVEMBER 2000
MP, AND MR
392. Home Secretary, thank you very much for
coming to see us. We aim to make this the last of our evidence
sessions on an inquiry which we are doing into border controls.
We are grateful for your willingness to come and give us evidence,
not least in this extremely important inquiry. It has probably
taken longer than we meant it to but I think the more we went
on, the more questions we asked and answers we got, the more the
boundaries disappeared. May I just start by asking you to comment
on the speech which your Minister of State, Barbara Roche, made
in September to the Institute for Public Policy Research raising
the prospect of the need of our economy for more migration to
provide the hands and the heads which we need to do the jobs which
need doing in the economy. Is this likely at some stage to lead
to a White Paper on the subject to try and get an informed public
debate and, if that is the case, can you say when that is likely
(Mr Straw) Yes. Chairman, first of all,
thank you for the invitation. I am, in turn, very grateful to
the Committee for conducting this inquiry because I am looking
forward to the insights which I am sure you will have. If I may,
I would like to introduce Stephen Boys Smith.
393. Sorry, I should have welcomed Mr Boys Smith.
(Mr Straw) He is the Director-General of the Immigration
and Nationality Directorate. As far as Barbara's speech is concerned,
the one she made in September, this was an attempt, which I think
was very successful, to open up the debate and to begin a more
positive focus on the benefits which immigration, migration have
brought to the United Kingdom, not only in recent decades but
over the centuries. Barbara, as you will know from her speech,
provided a good deal of historical background about movements
into this country and outside and the criteria under which those
changes in migration patterns have taken place. There is not any
plan at the moment to produce a White Paper on this. We see this
more as a progressive approach. We have opened up a debate through
Barbara's speech and it led to a lot of interesting comments by
experts and also by the newspapers. I think it has helped to shape
the terms of the debate with a lot of people saying "Well,
yes, let us hang on a second, it is true that this country has
been well served in the past by migration into the country"
and it may also be the case that Barbara's thesis that we have
strong economic needs for further migration of particular kinds
of people, that is a well founded thesis on top of it. Can I just
say, we have made already some changes in the immigration rules
to make it easier for people to come here for work and that included
the Entrepreneurs Scheme, the shape of which was announced on
4 September, and some of the changes in the Work Permit Rules.
394. Can you say, briefly, what are the implications
for that debate she was opening for the Government's policy on
asylum and border controls? How does that fit into that?
(Mr Straw) One of the things we were anxious to do,
not least by Barbara's speech, was to try and get a separation
between debates about immigration policy and the question of asylum
and asylum seekers. Certainly it is the case for sure that a lot
of people in the past who have sought asylum here and who have
been recognised as refugees have gone on to make a very important
contribution to our economy and our society. That is without question
and that remains the case. Also, it is a truth that the debate
about immigration, its pros and cons, has been sullied and overshadowed
by the debate about asylum applications which are unfounded. We
were trying to seek a separation in those two debates. Of course
the point about many, not all, but many, of the unfounded asylum
seekers is that they are seeking to evade immigration control.
As Barbara made clear, virtually every country in the world operates
immigration controls of some kind. Certainly we can foresee no
circumstances where there will not be immigration controls. The
question is how those rules should operate and what the criteria
395. Given the interests of other Government
Departments in a policy which acknowledges the need to enable
more people to come and settle here with the skills the economy
needsthe Department of Trade and Industry, the Department
for Employment and Education and so onI am trying to avoid
the use of the words joined-up government but that is what I mean
(Mr Straw) We are very joined-up. Please use the word.
396. Thank you. Just tell me, how joined-up
is it then?
(Mr Straw) It is reasonably joined-up I think is the
answer, but we can always do better. Barbara's speech, as I think
people will have spotted, was not written on the back of an envelope,
it was her speech. I might say this anyway but I think she did
extremely well with the speech. As you might imagine, it was circulated
widely within Government in draft and a lot of other Departments
contributed to it. Plainly the Foreign & Commonwealth Office
have an interest in the matter and the Department for Education
and Employment do because they run the Work Permit Scheme but
so do DTI, DETR and many other Government Departments. There are
arrangements made when there are changes in immigration rules
for those to be discussed, usually but not always by correspondence
either within the HS Committee or within the Economic Affairs
Committee. We had a meeting of the EA Committee earlier in the
397. The EA Committee?
(Mr Straw) Economic Affairs, which is chaired by the
Chancellor, on migration.
398. Home Secretary, can you give us a bit more
detail about how this plan of your Minister of State is going
to work in practice? The House was not sitting on 14 September
when these new regulations she announced were made. Can you tell
us what kinds of numbers we are talking about, what sorts of skills
people are expected to have and on what terms they will be admitted?
Will they be given work permits? Is it intended they should stay
for five years and then leave?
(Mr Straw) There were two sets of changes that occurred,
indeed, while the House was not meeting. One which came into force
on 4 September was the Entrepreneurs Scheme, and I will have to
ask somebody to pass me the details, but from recollectionThe
Director-General will give you the information.
(Mr Boys Smith) The Entrepreneurs Scheme, which is
not one limited to specific numbers, is an arrangement for people,
in addition to the existing arrangements for people to come in
and set up businesses with their own cash, who will be able to
come in if they have ideas which will run in the market for which
they will be able to raise the money.
399. Who determines whether they have commercially
(Mr Boys Smith) They will have to present that information,
that is to say their capacity to raise the funds to start a business