The 17th Tory policy Lib Dems have blocked: Clegg rejects Theresa May’s plans to impose new immigration regulations on private landlords

Perhaps the silliest proposal in a generally thread-bare Queen’s Speech in May was the Conservatives’ plan to ‘look busy’ on immigration.

Yes, the party that claims to want to cut back red-tape for small businesses decided to try and tie-up private landlords in it by imposing a legal duty on them check the immigration status of new tenants and lodgers. It’s an, erm, interesting approach to regulation, I guess: out-sourcing it to people who’ll have no way of validating the information they’re given.

However, the Tories’ grand plans have been scuppered thanks to the Lib Dems, as The Guardian reports today:

Theresa May’s scheme requiring all private landlords to check the immigration status of new tenants and lodgers has run straight into trouble with the Liberal Democrats, who have voiced concerns that it will increase homelessness and drive migrants underground into the hands of unscrupulous landlords.

A spokesman for Nick Clegg said the home secretary had been forced to agree to restrict the proposal this side of the next general election to a trial scheme in a single area, as the government introduced the immigration bill in the Commons.

“The Conservatives want to roll this out nationally but because of our concerns we will not agree to that. This will be piloted in a single area,” the spokesman for the deputy prime minister said. …

It is not the first time that the Lib Dems have secured concessions from the Conservatives during eight months of tortuous coalition negotiations over the bill. A move to require headteachers to carry out immigration checks on new pupils was also dropped.

The Home Office issued a face-saving response, saying the proposal is simply being phased in. It is, of course, a coincidence that only this first phase will happen this side of the 2015 general election.

Hopefully this daft plan can be added to the list of 16 Tory non-starters Nick Clegg has already rejected in this parliament.

* Stephen was Editor (and Co-Editor) of Liberal Democrat Voice from 2007 to 2015, and writes at The Collected Stephen Tall.

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  • Landlords are the least of the problem in this bill. Why didn’t the Lib Dems try to kill the whole thing?

  • Martin Lowe 11th Oct '13 - 2:03pm

    It’s hardly “scuppered” when the plan to have landlords-as-immigration-officers is scaled back to a pilot study, is it?

  • So if there is no legislation, does this mean that landlords in the pilot area have to voluntarily participate? Ie. they can refuse to participate and no sanctions can be taken against them. Can’t see many landlords/lettings agencies/property management companies signing up for extra work when it may deter prospective clients.

  • Theresa May is looking more and more strained with every passing day. Perhaps she should take an extended holiday and leave the department in the capable hands of Norman Baker?

  • “The 17th Tory policy Lib Dems have blocked”

    So, now we’re the kings of negativity!

    It’s a nice trick. All governments, quite sensibly, frequently go “kite-flying” with speculative ideas to see what people think. The ideas that get laughed at get quietly dropped. Now, along comes Nick, ready to claim the credit for opposing everything that gets dropped.

    Well, I suppose it makes sense. There’s s*d all else we can claim credit for.

  • Andrew Colman 13th Oct '13 - 2:54pm

    This is one area where I sympathise with the Tories. I have no problem with private landlords and employers having to check the immigration status of potential tenants/employees, as long as its “easy to do”. To this end there should be a trial period so any technical bugs are fixed. I often travel abroad and when I stay somewhere, I normally have to show my passport. I don’t find this an inconvenience

    What I do find inconvenient is having to queue up at border checks to travel from the EU to UK when most EU citizens can just walk through thanks to the Schengen Agreement. To much emphasis has been placed on border checks, which only need to be breached once! However, immigrants need a place to live and work.

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