Politics Magazine

Thoughts on the Immigration Bill

Posted on the 01 November 2013 by Thepoliticalidealist @JackDarrant

Immigration policy, as it stands in the UK, is in desperate need of reform. Illegal immigration is visibly damaging British society, whilst, just as importantly, harming migrants themselves. Health tourism, though thought to take up less than 1% of the NHS’ budget, is a real phenomenon which undermines the co-operative values that underpin the service. On the other hand, I am very keen to emphasize that the proposals set out in the Immigration Bill should be designed to protect immigrants, legal or otherwise, from exploitation or harm. I will therefore look at each area covered by the Bill in turn.

Access to public services

In the UK, the Welfare State was, and continues to be, built on the contributory principle. Although social security tends to be based on means-testing or universal benefits today, there is still a social understanding that everybody who is able to contribute to the welfare system should do so through tax, and can expect state assistance should they fall on hard times. This noble concept is embraced by the vast number of immigrants, who in fact claim less in benefits per head than British-born citizens. 95% of people, be they UK-born or migrant, pay their share and do not abuse our benefits system. However, there is plenty of anecdotal evidence to suggest that a sizeable minority of EU migrants will come to the UK because our welfare system is more favourable to newcomers. This just isn’t fair. So I support the concept of a residency test for full social security rights and access to free healthcare. If all social security claimants had to have been resident in the UK for, say, two years, it would represent a balanced and reasonable approach to protecting our invaluable ‘safety net’.


When there is a genuine crisis with a shortfall of homes, forcing millions of families to live in overcrowded, overpriced accommodation, there is deep public resentment (as a political activist, I find this is a matter which crops up regularly when I am canvassing). People resent what they see as widespread practices of a) legal migrants further increasing demand for limited housing stock b) illegal immigrants living in illegally overcrowded, sub-let flats. This is the widespread public perception, and it is in part true. After all, illegal migrants can be exploited by shady landlords who know that if either party reports the other for breaking immigration or housing law, the other party will be exposed as well. So yes, right of residency checks for tenants would help eliminate a massive social problem and protect tenants.

But this ignores the greater problem: that of affluent foreign citizens buying up property, more often than not leaving homes vacant for the majority of the time, particularly in large cities like London, and the knock-on effect this has on housing prices and availability. I think that this is needs resolving urgently. That’s why I’d urge the Government to ban any individual from buying residential property unless they have lived and payed tax in the UK for five years.

Level of immigration

Britain does not have the capacity or the desire for any further substantial increase in population. Therefore I have no objection in principle to the annual cap on net migration to the UK as supported by the Conservative Party. I do, however, have concerns about how the apparent lack of a mechanism for allowing for skills shortages, such as in science and medicine. Why not adopt the principle used in American immigration applications of welcoming immigrants to the country based on the skills and professionals we need as a country rather than on arbitrary measures such as existing income?

Legal rights and fraud

Justice should be at the heart of British law, and immigration rules should be no exception. Therefore a reduction in bureaucracy and legal complexity in regards to immigration tribunals, agencies and regulations is to be welcomed, provided that the system is not weighted against those with genuine grounds with which to appeal Home Office decisions.


Moreover, much has been made of the Government’s crackdown on “fake universities” and “sham marriages”- devices that have been used by some to move to the UK under false pretences. Indeed, I understand that the Immigration Bill is to include new powers for the state to advance its tough line against rule breakers. Such measures are likely to enjoy widespread public support though, as ever, the devil is in the detail. Any extension of the powers of law enforcement agencies must be subject to the most exacting consideration of its merits and consequences possible, for an important principle of personal civil liberty is at stake, not to mention the importance that legitimate immigrants are not made to feel under permanent suspicion.


Immigration is a highly emotive issue, one which should always be navigated with rational, objective consideration rather than peer pressure and misrepresentation of others. On the whole, the proposals as set out in the Immigration Bill succeed in attaining the vital balance. Residency tests for entitlements to public services are an overdue and sensible measure that would ease pressure on our resource-poor services whilst ensuring fair treatment for everyone. Immigration checks will help avoid the exploitation of tenants and stamp out the nasty ‘slum landlording’ which is becoming all to common in a country that should have progressed beyond this half a century ago.

However, there is a subtle emphasis on tackling malpractice and social costs by poorer migrants than there is by richer ones. Proposals that I have not discussed in full, such as visa deposits, will not be effective against the very well-off, who will also be at an advantage in any immigration tribunal, given that being able to afford excellent legal representation seems to place one in a better standing. Furthermore, the immigration status checks that would apply in the private rented sector will not apply to purchases, which is a huge oversight. Yes, illegal immigrants are unlikely to have the money to buy a house, but it is far from impossible- and it only takes one such person to utilise this loophole.

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