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Government whips in the Lords don't just corral the troops or sit and watch impotently as debates drag on way past their allotted time. They can also answer questions or debates in place of a minister, so long as the occasion isn't too crucial. Tory Earl Attlee, grandson of Labour Clement, is at his happiest when answering on heritage vehicles or the military, but sometimes stands in for the Home Office. On 20 March he is explaining how the government's new immigration rules will work.
Earl Attlee: A scientist or philosopher will enter generally through tier 2. Here they must be paid at least £20,000 per annum, and if they are not earning £20,000 per annum it is not clear to me how they will support themselves.
On the opposition bench, Lord Rosser picks up on this line and the next day submits a written question to the Home Office. It is answered by the minister, Baroness Neville-Jones, who sensibly concentrates on the figure that must be paid, rather than on Earl Attlee's genial gaffe.
Visas

Question

Asked by Lord Rosser


To ask Her Majesty's Government whether the comments by Earl Attlee on 10 March (Official Report, col. 1853) in the debate on the points-based visa system saying that a scientist or philosopher entering through tier 2 "must be paid at least £20,000 per annum, and if they are not earning £20,000 per annum it is not clear to me how they will support themselves" were a correct statement of government policy.[HL7830]

The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Neville-Jones): From 6 April 2011, new entrants through the tier 2 (general) category of the points-based system must be paid at least £20,000 per annum or the appropriate UK rate for the job in question, whichever is higher, as stated in codes of practice published by the UK Border Agency. Tier 2 migrants must be able to support themselves as they do not have access to most public funds. [Hansard]

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