Immigration Bill Update – The second reading at House of Commons

Following our last article ‘Overview of the Immigration Bill 2015’, the second reading of this Bill took place at the House of Commons on 13th October 2015 and was passed with a majority of 49 votes (323 to 274).

As a reminder, below is a summary of the Immigration Bill 2015:

  • To make provision about the law on immigration and asylum;
  • To make provision about access to services, facilities, licences and work by reference to immigration status;
  • To make provision about the Director of Labour Market Enforcement;
  • To make provision about language requirements for public sector workers; and
  • To make provision about fees for passports and civil registration.

The Bill will now face detailed committee-stage scrutiny from members of parliament. As expected, the Conservative Party are in favour of this Immigration Bill with Home Secretary Theresa May saying that measures embodied in the bill would mean “greater fairness to British Citizens and legitimate migrants”.

Two consultations were launched yesterday: Labour Market and Illegal Working, and Language Requirements for Public Sector workers. If you wish to reply to the consultations you can do so, they can do so via the links below:

  • Labour Market & Illegal Working
  • Language requirements for Public Sector Workers

However, also as expected, not everyone is in favour of the changes proposed in this Immigration Bill. Whilst Labour supports certain aspects of the Bill which seem fair such as, including greater sanctions against employers of illegal immigrations and the English language requirement for public sector workers, they are opposed to ‘Right to Rent’ requirements for private landlords who rent out properties to foreign nationals.

Andy Burnham from Labour referred to the Bill as “unpleasant and insidious”. He added it would make the UK a “more hostile and unwelcoming country”.

Mr. Burnham also raised another valid point: “Landlords are not border or immigration experts, they are not trained in reading official paperwork….they are not experts in spotting forged documents. On what basis are we planning to outsource immigration control to them?”

We feel this point is certainly an important one. Are landlords going to be given any support apart from a helpline which will give them a “very simple message” about what to do as stated by Mrs May? The main factor here is if a landlord misreads a document it will lead to someone being unable to rent a property.

Liberal Democrats and Scottish National Party are opposed to the changes proposed by the majority of the Immigration Bill.

The Scottish National Party spokesman, Stuart McDonald highlighted his view on the Bill as “regressive, iliberal, ill-considered and inhumane”. The Liberal Democrat spokesman, Alistair Carmichael remarked “This immigration bill is not fit for purpose”. He also mentioned “there had been seven immigration bills in the past eight years, and 45,000 changes to the immigration rules since Mrs. May became Home Secretary in 2010, but decision making by border agencies did not seem to have improved.”

The Joint Council for Welfare of Immigrations (JCWI) conducted an evaluation which showed 42% of landlords stated that ‘right to rent’ made them less likely to consider letting a property to someone who was not British. 27% were reluctant to engage with someone with a foreign accent or name and more than three quarters were not in favour of a national roll-out.

As expressed by a fair few people, the right to rent checks may result in landlords being branded as “racist” which will have a negative impact on them and the UK effectively.

Migrants coming to the UK will not only be subject to checks from landlords, but also be subject to assessments when they attempt to open a bank account, or apply for a driving licence.

The Bill also proposes the removal of support given to asylum seekers; at present available to single adult failed asylum seekers under section 4 of the Immigration and Asylum Act. Section 4(1) of the 1999 Act gives the Secretary of State the power to provide accommodation to persons with Temporary Admission (TA), those released from immigration detention and those on immigration bail. Under the Immigration Bill 2015, these rights would be removed.

Asylum seekers with children would also cease to qualify for section 95 support – assistance given to those meeting a destitution test, if their appeals are rejected.

Mr Burham expressed his views that if these measures are implemented, they would punish “vulnerable children” and that in 1999, when Labour were in Government, they had abandoned a similar pilot scheme which did not work.

Whilst it is fair to tackle people who are abusing the system there should be careful precautions taken to ensure that the system does not lead to discrimination, which will result in further issues.

Despite the Bill clearing its first hurdle there is still a fair way to go before the changes proposed in the Immigration Bill become laws.

What are the next stages of the Immigration Bill?

As stated there is still a long way to go before the changes in the Immigration Bill 2015 16 become law. The Members of Parliament will assume detailed scrutiny of the plans, thereafter the Bill will return to the House of Commons for MPs to consider further changes to the Bill. Once the changes have been considered it will then be passed to the House of Lords, where it will face further consideration and possible opposition.