Thursday, 24 October 2013

Liberal Democrats and Immigration

The Liberal Democrats have worked hard in the Coalition to create a Bill which tackles the problems of our immigration system, but does not unfairly discriminate against legitimate migrants. We believe the Bill is tough on illegal immigration but protects an individual's fundamental rights.

The Liberal Democrats are concerned about the historic mismanagement of the immigration system, and the successive failures of Labour governments to control legal and illegal migration.

This Bill goes some way to addressing these failures but the Liberal Democrats want to see further action - our border systems need to be improved as a priority. The recent reports of John Vine, the Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration, reflect this problem. This is why we are working in the Coalition to reintroduce exit checks, so we know who is coming in and who is going out.

We are also working in Government to ensure that the UK attracts skilled and talented people who want to work hard and contribute to economic growth.

On requiring landlords to check status of tenants

The Liberal Democrats have expressed concerns that this policy may discriminate against people with a legitimate right to rent private accommodation. We are also concerned with the practical difficulties of implementation and the burden of increased regulation on small businesses.

In responding to the policy consultation a significant number of charities, housing associations and civil society groups expressed concerns that some groups, such as homeless people or ethnic minorities, may be denied legitimate access to private rental accommodation. We also believe that this policy will not achieve its stated aim of identifying illegal immigrants nor will it discourage illegal migrants from continuing residence in the UK. We suspect that this policy will simply move many illegal migrants into the black market and hands of rogue landlords.

As a result of our concerns, the Coalition has negotiated to start this proposal in one geographic location (to be agreed). This initial pilot will start in October 2014, and will be followed by a full review. Further roll-out of the scheme beyond the pilot will be subject to a vote in both Houses of Parliament after the General Election.