Stephen asks Urgent Question on TOEIC

Earlier today, Stephen Timms secured an Urgent Question in the Chamber on the TOEIC scandal. He used the opportunity to press Home Office Minister Caroline Nokes on when the Government would announce a decision on the TOEIC victims - international students wrongly accused of cheating in their English Language tests.

Speaking after the exchange, Stephen said: "On 1 April the Home Secretary promised to announce a decision about the TOEIC students. One month on, there is still no information. For those who have been wrongly accused of cheating, this wait is intolerable. These are people who are unable to study or work and are totally dependent on the kindness of friends. Their lives are effectively in limbo while they wait for the Home Office's decision".

The Government has commissioned a National Audit Office report into the matter which is due to publish findings next month. Following this, the Home Secretary is expected to give a statement to the House of Commons.

Stephen welcomes NAO investigation

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Stephen has welcomed a decision by the National Audit Office to launch an investigation into the Home Office’s decision to accuse about 34,000 international students of cheating in English language tests. It will scrutinise the thinking behind the subsequent cancellation or curtailment of their visas.

The National Audit Office (NAO) has been making preliminary inquiries into the government’s handling of the issue since the beginning of the year, and has now announced that it will proceed with a formal investigation. The body is expected to report its findings in late May or June.

“In 2014, a BBC Panorama documentary drew attention to fraud in the UK student visa system, including widespread cheating in English language tests. The Home Office revoked student visas where there was evidence of cheating, but its decisions have come under renewed public and parliamentary scrutiny in the wake of the Windrush scandal,” the NAO said. “The NAO is looking at the information held by the Home Office on the number of people alleged to have cheated and the action the Home Office has taken to date.”

Speaking about the investigation, Stephen said: “I welcome the NAO’s decision to investigate the Toeic scandal on behalf of parliament. I hope we might finally find out why so many innocent students have been treated so disgracefully.”

Stephen urges Government action on TOEIC victims

Earlier on today, Stephen appeared on the BBC's Victoria Derbyshire programme amidst mounting pressure on the Government over their treatment of English Language students.

The Home Office have accused 33,000 people of cheating in English Language 'TOEIC' tests - a figure that Stephen believes to be grossly inflated.

Appearing alongside two such students - Fatema Choudhury and Wahid Rahman - Stephen urged the government to allow students to resit the test and prove their innocence: "I think that the treatment of these students has been a disgrace. They trusted Britain to provide them with a decent education, instead they have been falsely accused of cheating. They have been given no chance to appeal, their visas have been cancelled and they have been left in limbo for years. I think what should happen now is that the Home Office should allow the students to take a reliable English test".

Home Secretary Savid Javid is expected to announce a decision on the TOEIC students in the coming days.

Stephen pressed Home Secretary on TOEIC

Yesterday, Stephen asked the Home Secretary for an update on the position of overseas students who have sat TOEIC English Language tests.

Following a Panorama report in 2014 exposing some instances of cheating, the Government issued a blanket response to all those students who had sat the TOEIC tests - taking steps to suspend them from their degree courses and remove them from the country. Home Secretary Sajid Javid said that he had held meetings about this matter last week and would be in touch with Stephen shortly.

Speaking after the exchange, Stephen said: “The Government's approach towards these students has been extremely severe. All have been deemed guilty of cheating based on scant evidence and those who protest their innocence have never been allowed the opportunity to resit the test.

“The Secretary of State has assured me on several occasions that he is taking this matter seriously and from his answer today it looks as if new decisions may have been made. I very much hope to hear from the Home Secretary without delay; and I hope too that measures have been taken to end the years of hardship endured by those students falsely accused of cheating on their English Language tests.”

Stephen tables EDM on TOEIC

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Last week, Stephen tabled an Early Day Motion calling on the government to allow over 35,000 students the chance of re-taking the Test of English International Communication. Many of the students had their visas curtailed having been accused by the Home Office of cheating when sitting the original test.

The EDM comes ahead of the planned launch of an All Party Parliamentary Group to look into the actions taken by the government and how they have affected the lives of the students. The APPG will aim to take testimony from students as well as from legal professionals and mental health practitioners, and will produce a report that will include recommendations for changes in Government policy.

The decision taken in 2014 by the then Home Secretary Theresa May to revoke or deny the visas of 35,870 students has been seen by many across the legal and political professions to be an overreaction. In 2016, the Home Affairs Select Committee was highly critical of the actions taken by May’s department in the TOEIC case, saying that the scandal “raises serious questions about the conduct of the Home Office”.

Having tabled the EDM, Stephen said: “I hope this motion can help persuade the Government to re-think its handling of this issue. The treatment of these students has been appalling.

“Supporters of our campaign should ask their local MP to sign EDM 2061. The more MPs who sign, the stronger our case for students affected to sit another test in the UK, and to be permitted to complete their studies.”

Migrant Voice’s Executive Director Nazek Ramadan, added: “This is the next step in the campaign to get justice for the students. I encourage all MP’s to sign this EDM. I hope the Home Secretary and the Prime Minister take note of the awful situation they have put the students in and take action immediately.”