Teather, Rogerson, Beith and Huppert speak against new family migration rules

Last week I wrote about a new report, contributed to by Liberal Democrats Sarah Teather and Sally Hamwee, which outlined the heartbreak and suffering the new family migration rules are causing. The income threshold of £18,600 with extra for each child, and the narrow methods by which this is calculated is stopping many people from being able to live with their spouses in this country.

Earlier this week, four Liberal Democrat MPs took part in a Westminster Hall debate to try to persuade Home Office minister Mark Hunter of the inequity of these plans. Here are some extracts from their speeches.

Sarah Teather first turned her attention to the welfare of children caught up in this and perhaps separated from a parent:

That is not to mention the hidden costs, which were highlighted by hon. Members in a number of interventions—the costs that are incurred by refusing someone permission to come to the UK. The obvious ones that we heard about during our inquiry were around caring burdens, particularly if the person who is here in the UK has some health problems, or if they have very young children and they have been separated from their partner. They might be able to go back to work if their partner was here in the UK to share child care. Without the partner, however, it is much more difficult.

Then there are the obvious things that the rest of government knows about. For example, if people are separated from their partner and families are divided up, the effects on mental health and on children failing to bond with one parent or another have a wide-ranging impact on behaviour and educational attainment. Of course, none of those more subtle things is taken into account either.

She then went on to talk about the unfairness of the rules regarding bringing in sick family members. They have an inherent Catch 22. If you have too little money, you won’t be able to do so. However, if you have enough money, you will be told that you can pay for care in their home country. That completely ignores the need for families to be together at these sorts of times, giving each other comfort and support. Sarah said that the new rule had been described to her as a ban masquerading as a rule:

Almost nobody will meet those criteria. One lawyer said that he had been thinking through all the possible scenarios and the only example that he came up with where somebody might meet such criteria was if they had an elderly dependent relative in Monaco and had enough money here to meet the first part of the rules, but because care is so expensive in Monaco they would not be able to afford to pay for it there. That would probably be the only way we would allow such people to come to the UK. If we are going to have a ban, let us at least be more honest about it.

Julian Huppert intervened while she was speaking to make the point that we were losing good people from Britain because they weren’t able to bring their spouses in:

The response of a number of people in my constituency has been simply to leave the country. These are successful entrepreneurs, those at early stages of what will be well-paid careers, and people coming back, as the hon. Lady said. We risk losing some of our best people, who are internationally experienced, as a result of the rules.

Dan Rogerson elaborated on this in his remarks, citing examples from his constituency:

In another case, a woman who was born in the Caribbean married a British man. She had children here, and she has been here for more than 20 years. Unfortunately, the marriage came to an end. A number of years later, she got back in touch with someone from her home country. They formed a relationship, and they have married, which is a source of great happiness to them and her family, because she has children and a grandchild in this country. However, if the couple are to live together, she will have to leave her children and her grandchild, taking away the support that she could offer them as a grandparent, and return with her new husband to the country in which they grew up.

Sir Alan Beith also made the point that the problem is worse in his constituency where wages are lower than in the south east:

That fact has led people in my constituency to say—although this would not suit the hon. Gentleman’s area—that there should be some regional recognition of the fact that in low-wage areas, the problem is even worse.

This gives us an insight into the problems our MPs are hearing about every day. Sadly, the Minister just didn’t get it so more work is required to get these rules changed. If you feel that this system is unfair, the Migrants’ Rights Network has a letter for supporters to sign.  They are also organising a Day of Action in Westminster on 9th July, the first anniversary of the rule change.

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

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  • Roger Roberts/Wales 22nd Jun '13 - 5:00pm

    Every action taken by this govt seems aimed at making it more and more difficult for folk to enter the UK – family rules, unaffordable fees, stopping Asylum Seekers from working,the nonsensical Citizens Test (eg How high is the London eye, when did the Emperor Claudius invade Britain ?). The Liberal contribution to this Coalition must include human rights and liberties. Let the Tories snuggle up to UKIP if they wish ! That is not a Liberal way.

  • Roger Roberts/Wales 22nd Jun '13 - 5:22pm

    Every action taken by this govt seems aimed at making it more and more difficult for folk to enter the UK – family rules, unaffordable fees, stopping Asylum Seekers from working,the nonsensical Citizens Test (eg How high is the London eye, when did the Emperor Claudius invade Britain ?). The Liberal contribution to this Coalition must include human rights and liberties. Let the Tories snuggle up to UKIP if they wish ! That is not a Liberal wa

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 22nd Jun '13 - 7:31pm

    Rebecca. there was an example of a woman on the BBC website who is expecting a baby next month and whose husband may not be able to continue to live here because of the threshold. She owns her own company and property but on paper doesn’t have an income of £18,600. See her story here. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-22806941. They don’t allow the guarantor idea.

    This is most often going to affect women more than men as they are more likely to be taking time out of the labour market to have children. I have a friend whose Japanese husband has more than enough earnings potential for both of them, but because she is looking after the children, they can’t come and live here. Desperately unfair.

  • A foreign kept man 22nd Jun '13 - 11:41pm

    # Caron, there is always, always, always good reasons to extend benefits and favourable rules to another group of “victims”. First it is the “discrimination” towards women, always a good angle in this country, tomorrow, it will be someone with something else, a disability, a cat or even better a cat with a disability. However, somewhere, countries have to draw a line. If the UK, for any kind of reasons, does not want me and my family to stay here I would be totally fine with it. The world is big enough. And no, I would not be a “victim”.

  • patrick murray 23rd Jun '13 - 7:21am

    Here’s some questions- why should the government tell me who I can and can’t marry? Why should I, as a British born citizen who has lived and worked and paid taxes here be forced to leave this country to be with the person I love? That is the situation of a British friend of mine, who had to move to Lebanon with her 3 month old child. My wife has come to this country legally and spent 8 years studying (at a great cost) and working. Now if I lose my job just before we go and get reassessed by the UKBA I will have to move to Russia.

    What kind of government is it that says everyone should be allowed to marry unless you are poor and marrying a foreigner? We have rightly made great play of equal marriage, but it doesn’t extend to everyone. I can’t think of a more interfering, illiberal instinct of a state than to dictate who people love and spend their lives with. I am glad these 4 MPs have spoken up, but we should never have passed these changes in the first place.

  • David Lowrence 23rd Jun '13 - 9:05am

    This government is hiding behind a spurious defence of “We must have austerity to balance the books, and it’s all the last government’s fault.” (see today’s Observer comment about our world ranking in terms of debt safety), to introduce some of the most draconian, right wing, selfish corporate-loving backwoods policies seen since before the first war. Nick, for God’s sake expose the myth before we all go down with Cameron and lose our hard fought for reputation as a reforming party of social justice.

    I have almost had enough of this party’s so called “Leadership”

  • @patrick murray: Do pay attention!
    The government isn’t telling you who you can and cannot marry, only that if YOU CHOOSE to marry either a non-EU or non-EEA citizen than there are some conditions that must be satisfied before that person can permanently reside with you in the UK.

    Now I accept that these conditions imposed by government may be questionable, but we need to understand why they exist and the “family” migration rules do exist for good reason…

    By the way Russia, isn’t such a bad place to live – there is civilised life outside of the UK…

  • It is great to see our MPs fighting this. It is disgusting that we are de facto deciding who people can and cannot love. I lost my own partner because of the insane rules set down for immigration in this country.

  • A Social Liberal 23rd Jun '13 - 10:33pm

    Why should it rely on a persons earnings to determine whether they can be with the person they love. Why should it be confined to those who earn over a certain amount. Why should I, as a person well under the line drawn by this government, be denied the right to happiness if I fell in love with someone who doesn’t happen to be British.

    Well done those Lib Dems who speak out against this inequity.

  • I would also like to point out as someone said above , non EEA spouses have no access to public funds either on their visa/passport , so how would they be a burden on the tax payer as the minister keeps saying , its utterly ridiculous this income threshold rule. My spouse should be able to enter into the UK and look for work , also if he was here child care could be split so I could do more hours hense less tax credit, it works both ways. Many people would find that if their non EEA spouse was here they would indeed probably meet the income threshold and wouldn’t get any work tax credits anyway , but no the assumption is there that they would be a burden on the tax payer. Talk about being accused of something without actually doing it.
    Many EEA nationals are now looking at exercising their treaty rights by going to another EEA country with their non EEA spouse to gain a EEA family permit myself included will also be doing that if the rules do not change in our favour, and on our return not only can my partner work he could also claim benefits too ( not that he would ) ., and the EEA permit is free compared to the crazy visa prices , then it can be switched to a 5 year residence permit simple compared to the difficulties of getting ILR etc, i think the government is missing something here we can go round and do that, but why should I as a British citizen have to leave the country where I was born for a couple months just so I can bring in my non EEA spouse as I do not meet the 18.600pa that not even half the population earn. Also other EEA nationals are coming here and can bring in their non EEA spouse with no income restrictions what so ever and can claim benefits from day one, whose the burden on the tax payer? Not me , not my partner who simply would like to join his partner and work , and nor the rest of people in my situation who simply want and should have the right to a family life.

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