Do you know your other half’s National Insurance Number?

I am a bit of a swot, but I do actually know my husband’s NiNo, but that’s because, for many years, the form-filling in our house has been my job, not least because his writing would make most doctors look like great calligraphers. Similarly, I am fairly well acquainted with his clothing and its size because I do most of the washing.

Why, I can hear you asking, is this even relevant? Well, the Daily Mirror covered Alistair Carmichael’s reaction to a particular paragraph in Stephen Shaw’s review into the treatment of vulnerable people in immigration detention.

Shaw visited Dungavel House, in Scotland, where he was told by detainees of some of the ridiculous questions they were asked (page 52, paragraph 3.71) in order to prove that their marriages were genuine:

The questions they said they had been asked by caseworkers to ascertain whether their marriage was a sham included their knowledge of their wife’s National Insurance number, the colour of her underwear, and her bra size. If this was indeed the case, it is questionable whether such questions were either appropriate or useful.

Of course, the Mirror used this as an excuse to print a photo of women in underwear. That’s so 20th century.

Our Home Affairs spokesperson’s response was vintage Alistair:

The Government must build on the work the Liberal Democrats did in Coalition to crack down on sham marriages.

But if their idea of doing this is going around asking potential suspects if they know their wife’s bra size or what colour underwear she wears then I suspect that they’ll end up catching very few people trying to play the system and just a lot of bewildered men who haven’t the faintest.

I have been in a genuine marriage for over 28 years and would not know the answer to these questions.

I remember the look of horror on my cousin’s husband’s face when my cousin asked him, for devilment, to describe her wedding dress. This wasn’t actually that long after their wedding, and there are photos of the day  all around their house. He managed to mumble something about it being white (it was actually ivory, but never mind), but that was about it. It was a fairly excruciating few minutes until he realised that she was actually joking. It’s quite instructive to know that these details aren’t taken in by everybody. It’s absolutely appalling that they are being used by our immigration services as determiners of whether a marriage is genuine.

There are many reasons to be utterly ashamed of the way we treat people who want to live here for the most understandable of reasons. The immigration system is simply not fair and causes much misery. More needs to be said about the reality of the situation, which is that families are being split up and people are not treated with the dignity and respect that they deserve as human beings.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • good old fashioned sexist first paragraph

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 20th Jan '16 - 10:33am

    Why sexist? Just describing how things work in our house.

  • “being white (it was actually ivory” there needs to a research project into differences in male and female colour perception. Having spent many hours wandering the corridors of B&Q paint shelves (Wednesday pensioner day) while other half tries to decide between Peach, Magnolia and various other named colours thought up by someone with too much time on their hands I have come to the conclusion that males only see primary colours while females can distinguish between tiny shade differences. Is it genetic?

  • Marriage is a vital part of our social structure. The authorities need to stop playing silly games like this and crack down on the problem of sham so-called arranged marriages. Anyone involved in anyway with the process of an ‘arranged’ marriage should go to prison.

    Marriage involves the freely given consent and choice of two people. It is not ‘arranged’ by someone else.

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 20th Jan '16 - 11:13am

    Hang on, Chris, are you saying that there should be no “arranged” marriages at all? Forced marriages and arranged marriages are two very different things.

  • Christine Headley 20th Jan '16 - 12:48pm

    Know your other half’s NiNo? Isn’t knowing your own achievement enough? If you can’t remember phone numbers, a NiNo is really difficult (being as long as a non-metropolitan phone number with letters fore and aft). Knowing that they have one is reasonable, what it is is not.

  • Chris
    “Marriage involves the freely given consent and choice of two people”
    And the choice can be someone of another nationality.

  • I’ve done all the official form filling in our house and still have to look up our NI No’s. Whereas my partner who because of various employments in her teens and early 20’s knows her NI No.

    I don’t see the connection between doing the washing and knowing someone’s clothing details beyond the basic’s, necessary to return washing to the right individual.

    However, I can see good reason for the question being asked; when there is no a right or wrong answer, because it is the nature of the answer that informs. Hence the concern has to be that the question is asked in a way that permits only a straight Yes/No; thereby permitting the questions to be asked and answers recorded by an unskilled person. I suspect this is the real cause of the problem as if informed questioning were to be permitted and hence required the interviewer to make a judgement based on their evaluation of the answer, this would leave the door wide open to legal appeals…

  • Roland
    The officials from the Home Office visit and look in the wardrobe to see if his and her clothes are kept together. The first time they came to my cousins’s place was on a Sunday. My cousin thought they were Jehovas Witness and didn’t answer the door.

    It’s coming up to that time of the year so, Sing jia yu ee (Happy Chinese New Year) to you.

  • Richard Underhill 21st Jan '16 - 10:34pm

    Only one strap on our niece’s wedding dress, but somehow it stayed secure, even when she and her husband were being thrown into the air by some of their energetic friends.

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