HC Deb 24 October 1996 vol 284 cc1-2W
Mr. Dykes

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what is the outcome of the programme of work arising from the scrutiny of enforcement of immigration laws which he announced on 18 July 1996. [230]

Miss Widdecombe

The programme of work announced by my right hon. and learned Friend in July 1995 was designed to implement the findings of an efficiency scrutiny which examined ways in which the Government as a whole could work more effectively to strengthen immigration control and to prevent those temporarily or illegally in this country from receiving state benefits to which they should not be entitled.

I am pleased to say that the scrutiny process is now complete. It has successfully: created a coherent legal framework which bars immigration offenders and temporary visitors from access to important and expensive benefits such as child benefit, family credit and publicly subsidised housing assistance; made it an offence under the immigration laws for temporary visitors to have unauthorised recourse to public funds; established a general policy on the identification of persons subject to immigration control who claim benefits or services to which they are not entitled through the revision of departmental instructions, the production of a guidance booklet and the opening of the immigration and nationality directorate's status inquiry service to more registered users; strengthened the arrangements, within existing data protection legislation, for the exchange of information between Government Departments, agencies and local authorities in order more effectively to administer benefits policy and more quickly to identify and locate immigration offenders. A copy of a circular about the exchange of information with IND issued to local authorities has been placed in the Library.

Exchanges of information with IND are all conducted within the provisions of the data protection laws. The Commission for Racial Equality has been consulted about proposals on which its advice was important to ensure the maintenance of good race relations in this country. The measures taken have laid the basis for anticipated public expenditure savings of over £100 million in the next three years. They will strengthen our immigration control and will greatly reduce the incentives for those seeking to enter or remain unlawfully in the United Kingdom.

Some of the work is incomplete because it will necessarily stretch beyond the normal time limits of the scrutiny process. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Employment is considering linking eligibility for both student awards and home fee status classification to those who are lawfully settled in the United Kingdom under the immigration laws. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Health is considering better ways to identify those persons from abroad who are not eligible for free medical treatment. Such work will be taken forward by the Departments concerned.

The Government believe that it is wrong that people who are admitted to this country on the basis that they can provide for themselves or who are here illegally should receive benefits paid for by the taxes of lawful residents. The measures we have now taken and the work currently in hand will see that they do not.

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