Angela Rayner asks ‘how many strikes before Suella Braverman is out’ over claims home secretary broke ministerial code – live

Angela Rayner asks ‘how many strikes before Suella Braverman is out’ during urgent question over ministerial code

Angela Rayner asks if Braverman did tell her officials to organise a private speed awareness course for her.

And she asks if Braverman told her special adviser to tell journalists that there was no speeding ticket, when there was.

Pointing out that Braverman has already broken the ministerial code once, she asks: “How many strikes before she’s out?”

In response, Quin says he will not discuss what happens.

He says Sunak is gathering information, before taking a decision, because he wants to deal with this matter “properly and professionally”.

Key events

Marley Morris, a migration expert at the IPPR thinktank, says targeting foreign students and their dependents as a means of bringing down net immigration does not make sense because the vast majority of them don’t stay anyway.

New govt announcement tightens rules for international students in attempt to bring down net migration.

But even on its own terms, this is a mistake – because we know most international students are temporary migrants and are not a major contributor to net migration in long run

— Marley Morris (@MarleyAMorris) May 23, 2023

The vast majority of people issued study visas end up with expired leave within a decade, as below Home Office chart shows.

And exit checks data confirm that nearly all are identified as departing on time.

— Marley Morris (@MarleyAMorris) May 23, 2023

The Russell Group, which represents 24 leading universities, has said the restriction on foreign students bringing dependants with them, announced by the Home Office today (see 1.17pm and 1.52pm), will make it harder for universities to diversify their foreign intake. In a response, Tim Bradshaw, its chief executive, said:

International students bring a range of benefits to the UK as well as vital income to support education for UK students and world-leading research that benefits us all, which is why they feature prominently in the government’s own international education strategy.

Global competition for international students is fierce and some of the announcements made today are likely to have a negative impact on universities’ plans to diversify their international student intakes.

Bradshaw also said students should not be included in the net migration figures as if they are permanent migrants.

A reader asks:

Do we know anything about the economic contributions of students/dependent families? I had to pay an NHS surcharge + paid taxes despite not having any access to public funds when I became a citizen. Surely students are a net bonus. And as a uni lecturer, international students bring £ but also a ton of insight to the classroom.

Universities UK, the lobby group representing universities (who are strongly in favour of foreign students, because they are a revenue bonanza for the organisation’s members) claims the figure is close to £42bn. It published a report on this earlier this month and in its summary it says:

The report, which was commissioned to explore the impact of international students to the UK economy, reveals economic benefits have risen from £31.3bn to £41.9bn between 2018/19 to 2021/22, an increase of 34%. The data also confirm that – even when accounting for the impact on public services (estimated at £4.4 bn) – the economic benefits of hosting international students significantly outweigh the costs with a total net benefit of £37.4bn to the UK economy.

The net economic impact of international students has seen a dramatic rise over the past few years – up 58% since 2015/16, (£23.6bn to £37.4bn). One reason for this is the 68% rise in the number of students (now standing at 350,145) from non-EU countries since 2018/19. Data from the report indicate that every 11 non-EU students generate £1m worth of net economic impact for the UK economy – or £96,000 per non-EU domiciled student.

Changes to student visa rules will have disproportionate impact on women, says Universities UK

Universities UK, which represents universities, has expressed some concern about the Home Office plan announced today to impose restrictions on foreign students being allowed to bring dependents with them to the UK. (See 1.17pm and 1.52pm.) It says women could be affected disproportionately.

In a statement, Jamie Arrowsmith, its director, said:

The rise in the number of dependent visas has been substantial and has likely exceeded planning assumptions in government. We recognise that, in some places, this has led to local challenges around access to suitable family accommodation and schooling, with implications for the student experience. Given this, some targeted measures to mitigate this rise may be reasonable, for example looking at eligibility for particular types of course (such as one-year taught postgraduate programmes) or enhancing the financial assurances that prospective students are required to provide.

While the vast majority of students will be unaffected by proposals that limit the ability to be accompanied by dependents, more information is needed on the programmes that are in scope before a proper assessment of the impact can be made. Yet we do know that any changes are likely to have a disproportionate impact on women and students from certain countries. We therefore urge the government to work with the sector to limit and monitor the impact on particular groups of students – and on universities, which are already under serious financial pressures. The review process that has been announced must consider these issues.

No 10 gives its backing to EHRC chair amid reports her support for amending Equality Act has triggered staff backlash

This morning the Daily Mail has splashed on a story saying staff at the Equality and Human Rights Commission are trying to force out its chair, the Lib Dem peer Lady Falkner. The paper suggests she is the victim of a “witch hunt” because she has told the government that in principle the EHRC favours tightening the definition of sex in the Equality Act so that it just means biological sex. As the Act is drafted, it seems to apply to gender too, because the two words are used interchangeably.

The government is pushing for this change, but the proposal is deeply unpopular with trans people who say it would limit their rights.

MAIL: Revealed: Plot to drive out equality chief who’s standing up for women #TomorrowsPapersToday

— Neil Henderson (@hendopolis) May 22, 2023

At the Downing Street lobby briefing this morning No 10 gave its backing to Falkner when asked about the story. The PM’s spokesperson said:

The government has enjoyed a constructive relationship with both the commission and the chairwoman on its important ongoing work relating to equality.

Braverman says net immigration expected to fall to pre-pandemic levels ‘in medium term’

Here are more details of the immigration measures announced by Suella Braverman.

  • Braverman, the home secretary, said there were six elements of the package she was proposing. She set them out like this.

1) Removing the right for international students to bring dependants unless they are on postgraduate courses currently designated as research programmes.

2) Removing the ability for international students to switch out of the student route into work routes before their studies have been completed.

3) Reviewing the maintenance requirements for students and dependants.

4) Steps to clamp down on unscrupulous education agents who may be supporting inappropriate applications to sell immigration not education.

5) Better communicating immigration rules to the higher education sector and to international students.

6) Improved and more targeted enforcement activity.

Downing Street said the new rule about foreign students not being able to bring dependents would take effect from January 2024.

  • Braverman implied there might be an exemption from the new rule about dependents for “the brightest and the best”. In her ministerial statement she said:

We are committed to attracting the brightest and the best to the UK. Therefore, our intention is to work with universities over the course of the next year to design an alternative approach that ensures that the best and the brightest students can bring dependants to our world leading universities, while continuing to reduce net migration. We will bring in this system as soon as possible, after thorough consultation with the sector and key stakeholders.

  • She said the government expected net migration to fall to pre-pandemic levels in the medium term. She said:

We expect this package to have a tangible impact on net migration. Taken together with the easing of temporary factors, we expect net migration to fall to pre-pandemic levels in the medium term.

According to the ONS, net immigration in 2019 was 313,000. In December 2019 the Conservative party won a general election on a manifesto saying that under the party “overall [immigration] numbers will come down”. Rishi Sunak has recently signalled that, if this meant getting net immigration below 2019 levels, he no longer feels committed to achieving that before the next election.

  • Braverman suggested the measures would have a minimal impact on UK growth. She said:

Those affected by this package will predominantly be dependants of students who make a more limited contribution to the economy than students or those coming under the skilled worker route, minimising the impact on UK growth.

  • She said that although the government welcomed the economic contribution made by foreign students, “this should not be at the expense of our commitment to the public to lower overall migration and ensure that migration to the UK is highly skilled and therefore provides the most benefit”.

Braverman announces restrictions on ability of foreign students to bring dependents to UK

While the urgent question was taking place, Suella Braverman, the home secretary, published a written ministerial statement confirming that the government will stop foreign students getting visas allowing them to bring their dependents to the UK, unless they are doing postgraduate research courses.

According to No 10, around 136,000 such visas were issued in 2022 – an eightfold rise from 2019.

Braverman is also stopping foreign students switching to a work visa before they have finished their studies.

These measures are being announced now because the government wants to show it is doing something to reduce net immigration numbers before figures are published on Thursday, which are expected to show immigration at a record high in 2022, at around 700,000 or more.

Jim Shannon (DUP) says we should all learn from the biblical quote, that he who is without sin should cast the first stone.

Pointing out that this is the last question, Quin says that is a good note on which to end.

Joanna Cherry (SNP) asks if the latest Independent revelations (see 12.26pm) will be investigated. She says that, as chair of the joint committee on human rights, she has been in correspondence with Suella Braverman on Rwanda, and Braverman has a “rather rosey-eyed view” of Rwanda’s human rights record. She suggests that is connected to Braverman’s undisclosed links with the Rwandan government.

Quin says he has not read the Independent story, but just seen a tweet about it. He says this was charity work carried out before Braverman became an MP.

Labour’s Andrew Gwynne also asks if the Cabinet Office’s proprietary and ethics committee was involved. (See 12.53pm.) He says, if officials had the integrity to seek advice on this, why has the PM not shown the same attitude and ordered an investigation?

Quin says the PM is seeking the facts as to what happened.

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