Nick Clegg stops Theresa May’s £3000 immigration bond

nick cleggWay back in March, in a speech that, to say the least, was not well received in the party, Nick Clegg proposed that some people visiting Britain from “high risk” countries should pay a bond. He said:

One idea, which appeals to me, is a system of security bonds. And so I’ve asked the Home Office to do some work on it with a view to running a pilot before the end of the year.

The basic premise is simple: in certain cases, when a visa applicant is coming from a high risk country, in addition to satisfying the normal criteria, UKBA would be able to request a deposit – a kind of cash guarantee. Once the visitor leaves Britain, the bond will be repaid. Clearly, we need to look into the detail and seek a wide range of views, including from the Home Affairs Select Committee.

The bonds would need to be well-targeted – so that they don’t unfairly discriminate against particular groups. The amounts would need to be proportionate – we mustn’t penalise legitimate visa applicants who will struggle to get hold of the money. Visiting Britain to celebrate a family birth, or a relative’s graduation, or wedding should not become entirely dependant on your ability to pay the security bond.

And I would want a system that is welcomed by legitimate visitors rather than place a great burden on them. Done right, this would speed up the application process, giving UKBA greater confidence about people’s intentions, allowing them to make better, faster decisions.

At the time, it’s fair to say that I was less than impressed with this idea. At leat, though, I recognise that Nick was at least trying to make it easier for people to get into the country for a specific event. It was an alternative to a months-long appeals process which might mean that people would miss the event anyway. However, Theresa May decided to introduce a much more draconian version of it, a £3000 charge for everyone. This was about as close to Nick’s original idea as your average lettuce leaf is to an onion.

It’s hardly surprising, then, that Nick has put his foot down and blocked May’s plans, as the BBC reports.

A Home Office spokesman confirmed a Sunday Times report that the policy would be scrapped.

The decision is thought to have been taken after deputy prime minister Nick Clegg threatened to block it.

The BBC report contains Vince Cable’s criticism of the idea, too.

Let’s hope that this intervention by Nick Clegg, coupled with the scaling back of Tory plans to make landlords responsible for checking people’s immigration status and the scrapping of the awful Go Home poster vans is a sign of a more robust approach to Theresa May’s Home Office now that Norman Baker is ensconced there as Minister. While I remain uncomfortable with most, if not all, of the Immigration Bill going through Parliament, I recognise that Liberal Democrats are holding the Tories back in the policy areas where the two parties are a million miles apart in approach and policy.


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

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  • Tony Dawson 3rd Nov '13 - 10:39am

    I, too, am delighted at the removal of this bureaucratic nightmare. But it is unfortunate that some form of ‘voluntary bond’ is not being left as an option, with the bond being (a) substantial and (b) put up by the host. A considerable number of prospective visitors to these shores are denied visas at the moment purely because they are considered by UKBA/Home Office to be too poor to be a ‘good bet’ to return to their homeland without force. This precludes an awful lot of wedding guests, people who have provided hospitality to UK travellers abroad etc.

  • Tony, while I can appreciate your idea of voluntary bond, but in practice, I fear that it would basically be mandatory due to the draconian way it would be administered. The Home Office would basically say you can apply without it, but if you do, we are 99.9% likely to reject you – and the 0.01% we accept must be super rich, anyway.

    This would basically exacerbate the horrific de facto dichotomy that we have in this country where those wishing to come here – or have friends come here – to visit are split into two groups based purely on their economic variability.

  • Bravo Nick Clegg! (not so often I write that).

    I hope the scaling back of landlords responsibility to be immigration officials will be total. It is the wrong road to follow!

  • “Well I can’t spot the difference between what Nick Clegg proposed and what he rejected. Perhaps someone can explain ? Surely its not that Nick thought the bond was a good idea at £1000 but bad at £3000 ?”

    They could hardly put out an article entitled “Nick Clegg stops Nick Clegg’s immigration bond” now, could they?

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