ENTRY FOR STUDY (12623/02)
Letter from the Chairman to The Lord Filkin,
CBE, Under-Secretary of State, Home Office
Sub-Committee F (Social Affairs, Education and
Home Affairs) of the Select Committee on the European Union considered
this draft Directive at a meeting on 29 January.
In principle the Committee welcomes the Commission's
programme of measures to harmonise the conditions of entry and
residence for different categories of legal migrants. Such measures
are an essential element in a common policy on immigration, which
the Committee has consistently advocated. Students are clearly
an important category of third country nationals for whom it would
be desirable to establish a common framework across the EU.
In general the requirements that need to be
met before a residence permit is issued seem reasonable (including
those, like compulsory health care insurance, which are not part
of the UK's current regime for students), and the draft Directive
strikes a sensible balance between control and facilitation. However,
there seems little point in our scrutinising the proposals in
detail, since we understand that the Government have decided not
to opt into the Directive.
We realise that this decision is consistent
with the Government's decisions on other positive immigration
measures, but we very much regret the Government's position on
this matter. We note that the Government had a number of specific
objections to this particular proposal, but they did not seem
to us sufficient to justify a decision not to participate in the
measure. Indeed, we found them internally inconsistent, since
the Government seem to be maintaining that the proposal is both
too generous and therefore inimical to UK immigration controls
and at the same time too restrictive for UK educational institutions
targeting foreign students. The perceived threat to the UK's competitiveness
also seems exaggerated, in view of the wide discretion that the
Directive leaves to Member States to maintain more favourable
provisions. We strongly believe that it would have been better
for the United Kingdom to opt into the Directive and seek to secure
changes to it through negotiation to meet the Government's concerns.
However, as the Government have decided not
to opt into the proposal, we have formally cleared it from scrutiny.
30 January 2003