Theresa May on the planned cap on immigration and science

Posted on November 2, 2010 by

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Yesterday at Home Office questions, Jo Swinson asked Theresa May about the impact of the proposed cap on non-EU immigration to the UK on science. Theresa May signaled her awareness of the possible negative impact a cap could have on research, saying “In looking at how we introduce our immigration cap, we will be making efforts to ensure that institutes and universities that require access to truly the brightest and the best are able to have it.” More background on the concerns over the proposed cap here.

Immigration Rules (UK Science Base)

8. Jo Swinson (East Dunbartonshire) (LD): What representations she has received from scientific organisations on the likely effects on the UK’s science base of proposed changes to the immigration rules. [20305]

The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mrs Theresa May): Our recent consultation on the immigration system fully involved scientific organisations, which have underlined the importance of being able to recruit the best scientists from around the world. I am aware of the case of the Beatson institute in my hon. Friend’s constituency, and I can assure her that the UK Border Agency is looking closely at this and related cases.

Jo Swinson: I thank the Home Secretary for that reply. She refers to the Beatson institute, which is a world-class cancer research facility that needs to attract the very best scientists in their field, regardless of their nationality. Previously it required about five tier 2 visas every year; that has been cut to just one under the new regime, so I welcome the fact that the issue will be looked at. Does she recognise the damage that could be caused to the Beatson, and to other scientific institutions, as a result of the unintended consequences of the immigration cap, and will she look again at whether an exemption could be made for science and research?

Mrs May: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for recognising that the UK Border Agency will look at the very real case that has been presented by the Beatson institute in relation to its particular requirements. We have a commitment, as a coalition Government, to reduce net migration into this country. I believe that it is important that we do that, but do it a way that will ensure that we can truly attract the brightest and the best into this country to do the valuable work that they do in places such as the Beatson institute.

Andrew Miller (Ellesmere Port and Neston) (Lab): I presume that there must have been some joined-up thinking in the Government on this matter. Will the Home Secretary therefore publish the cross-departmental analysis that brings together the impact on our science base and competitiveness of Lord Browne’s report, the comprehensive spending review, cuts in departmental science, and the immigration cap?

Mrs May: As the hon. Gentleman has an interest in these matters, he will be aware that the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills has made efforts to protect the spending in relation to research on science. In looking at how we introduce our immigration cap, we will be making efforts to ensure that institutes and universities that require access to truly the brightest and the best are able to have it.

Posted in: Policy