HC Deb 24 July 2000 vol 354 cc754-5
9. Helen Jones (Warrington, North)

What assessment he has made of the effect of the employment concession on the total number of applicants for asylum in the UK. [130330]

The Minister of State, Home Office(Mrs. Barbara Roche)

We believe that the concession, which has operated since 1986, acts as a pull factor for applicants who wish to find work in this country but do not qualify for asylum. Several other European countries have no such concession to allow asylum seekers to work. We are keeping the need for the concession under review, especially in the light of the substantial progress we are making on speeding up asylum decisions.

Helen Jones

I thank my hon. Friend for that reply. Does she agree that, while the employment concession can operate in favour of traffickers by allowing people with unfounded claims to work—often to pay their debts—it is also true that there are many genuine refugees, who need help and support to find work? They have valuable skills that they can contribute to this country. Will she ensure in any review she undertakes that their interests will be protected and that their skills will not be lost to the nation?

Mrs. Roche

I agree with my hon. Friend. We must ensure that we have a firm response to those who, by trafficking and other means, try to undermine the honourable concept of asylum. My hon. Friend is right to mention refugee integration. Later in the year, I hope to announce a full programme for that and to illustrate the wonderful contribution that refugees have made to this country over the decades.

My hon. Friend is also right to highlight the contribution that those seeking to migrate legally to the United Kingdom may make. I am happy to say that tomorrow I shall announce a new innovator scheme to attract people with creative business ideas to the United Kingdom. The scheme will create a route of entry for individuals who can bring economic benefits to our country, but do not qualify for entry as entrepreneurs under the existing rules.

Mr. Andrew Robathan (Blaby)

I am interested in what the Minister has said because it seems to fly in the face of what the Government are pleased to call joined-up government. My constituents are worried about congestion on our roads, the number of houses that will have to built on the green belt, the great pressure on hospitals—[Interruption.] I am glad that Labour Members find pressure on the hospitals interesting.

Madam Speaker

Order. Let us have the question.

Mr. Robathan

My constituents are worried about the great pressure on hospitals and schools and that, if they are over 45, they cannot get a job. I do not understand how letting more economic migrants into the country is likely to change my constituents' perspective. Will the Minister comment on that?

Mrs. Roche

Clearly the hon. Gentleman came into the Chamber without reading the question, which is about the work concession for asylum seekers. I respectfully remind him that the concession was introduced in 1986.