On the 22 October, I joined 19 other Members of Parliament in the “No” lobby of the House of Commons to oppose the 2nd Reading of the Immigration Bill, a piece of legislation which has very few redeeming features.
Some of the headline provisions in the bill have received a fair amount of media attention, predominately the proposals to force landlords to check the immigration status of potential tenants and to charge temporary migrants and foreign students up to ?200 a year to use the NHS, even those who have private health insurance or who don’t use any NHS services. Both of these policies are riddled with problems and are incredibly short-sighted.
Forcing landlords to perform the role of immigration officials is an unwarranted extension of the state that could have serious consequences. Instead of tackling the problem of rogue landlords, there is a real possibility that the only result of these checks will be that anyone who happens to look or sound a bit foreign will find it increasingly hard to find accommodation and will be forced into overcrowded and unsanitary housing. And the health levy is designed to tackle a problem that the Government has repeatedly failed to define, while ignoring the considerable contribution that migrant workers make through the tax system and the ?13bn foreign students add to the economy each year.
Beyond the headlines, there are contained within the bill plenty of other changes to the way we as a country treat visitors and would-be visitors that should be of concern to anyone who believes that the immigration system should be humane and fair.
Among these worrying changes is the dramatic constriction of the ability for individuals to challenge decisions taken by the Home Office. The bill, if it becomes law, would mean that people could only challenge a decision if it is related to asylum or humanitarian protection, or if there were Article 8 (the right to family life) grounds for appeal. The ability to appeal against a decision because of an error in applying the immigration rules would be taken away in nearly 40,000 cases, despite the Impact Assessment for the bill showing that half of the appeals against decisions are currently successful.
The high success rate of appeals is a symptom of exceptionally poor quality decision making, which report after report has shown to…