HL Deb 08 May 1980 vol 408 cc1759-62

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government how many language students obtained temporary admittance to this country in 1979 and how many are expected this year.


My Lords, I regret that the information requested is not available. The number of overseas students given leave to enter the United Kingdom in 1979 for studies of all kinds is given by nationality and citizenship in the annual publication of the Control of Immigration Statistics, the most recent issue of which relates to 1979 (Cmnd. 7875). But these do not distinguish between those intending to study languages and those planning to study other subjects; nor is it possible to estimate how many may qualify for admission under the Immigration Rules this year.


My Lords, I thank the noble Lord the Minister for that reply. Arising from it, is it possible for Her Majesty's Government to have any check on those who attempt to extend their permitted stay? May I also ask whether they are satisfied that most of the overseas students do return to their countries with goodwill, having definitely achieved some qualification?


My Lords, the computer which I have mentioned in previous immigration debates is due to become operational this year. It will produce information more reliably and quickly than at present about cases in which overstaying may have occurred.

Baroness DAVID

My Lords, is the Minister aware that language students do bring in a great deal of foreign currency to this country? We would not wish to have them restricted in any way. Is the Minister aware that if the numbers were restricted a number of teachers might be out of work, and the teaching profession has the largest number of people unemployed at the moment, according to the Minister's list of professional people?


My Lords, I am aware of what the noble Baroness has said. There are conditions on the admission of students in the changes in the Immigration Rules which were laid before Parliament on 20th February, but I think those conditions are fair and reasonable.


My Lords, is the noble Lord the Minister aware that there is a strong belief that a lot of these students attend perhaps one lecture, or book in at one of these language laboratories, and are never seen again? Would it not be possible for some check to be made as to whether they do in fact learn the language and pursue their studies?


My Lords, under Rule 97, a student wanting to be admitted to this country must satisfy the immigration officer that the intention is to come for a full-time course and that the student will leave when the studies are completed. In answer to my noble friend, the checks on a student's attendance set out in the Immigration Rules for control after entry enable the immigration and nationality department to require educational establishments to produce their attendance registers for inspection, as a prerequisite to their overseas students receiving any extensions of stay.


My Lords, what the noble Lord has just said is very important. What he has just said is that there is a possibility that a very large number of bogus language students are in this country. Could he give an estimate or has his department any estimate of the number of any bogus students that there may be?


No, my Lords.


My Lords, would my noble friend not agree that to opt to come as a language student is something that takes no account of age, and people of well above student age are more likely to be accepted if they say they are coming to learn the English language? Could he say when this computer is going to be in operation?—because this has been such a universal method of abuse, to come in as a student and stay on for ever without checks, that it really is time we knew the destination of some of these people who come in under the cover of being students.


My Lords, I am afraid I cannot tell the noble Baroness when the computer will come into operation. I can understand the concern she is expressing, but may I just say to her that the control in the new Immigration Rules is tighter, although, as I have just told the House, I think it is fair. Perhaps I might partly repeat myself and say that there are three criteria on which a student, be it a language student or a student of any other kind, must satisfy the immigration officer; among other things, that the student is coming for a full-time course, that a student can accommodate himself or herself and any dependants during the stay and that the student will leave when the studies are completed. If those criteria cannot be satisfactorily fulfilled to the immigration officer, then the student is not admitted.


My Lords, would noble Lords please not engage in a witch hunt against students coming from abroad? Many of them afterwards play a most important part and are good ambassadors for this country.


My Lords, I entirely agree with what the noble Lord has said. None the less, I think that the control of people who wish to come to this country should be firm but fair.


My Lords, following the previous question, may I ask my noble friend that it should be carefully borne in mind that, to my knowledge, many of these students who have come here attain a scientific training in engineering and so on, and they go back to their own countries and probably bring orders for British industry?


My Lords, I entirely agree with what the noble Lord has just said.

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