On 8 May 2013, during the State Opening of Parliament, the Queen set out the legislative priorities for the forthcoming session. In her speech she announced unsurprisingly that immigration will play a key role in its legislative programme over the coming year. She announced the introduction of a new Immigration Bill which will tighten immigration law, strengthen enforcement powers and prevent abuse of public services by migrants.
The Immigration Bill set out by the Queen stated the following:
- legislation will be introduced to strengthen current Government policy to ensure Article 8 (the right to respect for family and private life) is not abused so courts balance the crime committed against the right to remain in the country;
- private landlords will be obliged to check the immigration status of tenants and face fines (potentially of up to thousands of pounds) if they do not;
- migrant access to the NHS will be strictly regulated, ensuring that temporary migrants make a financial contribution for any treatment; and
- •provisions which enable tough action against businesses that use illegal labour will be introduced, including more substantial fines.
In addition to the details in the Bill, the Government is continuing to push for reforms of the immigration system by:
- limiting access to certain benefits for EEA national jobseekers and retained workers to six months. The Government is looking to amend the Immigration Regulations (2006) to ensure that EEA nationals cannot claim certain benefits for more than six months if they do not actively seek work and show they have a genuine chance of finding employment. If passed, these changes should come into effect in January 2014;
- allowing only those with well-established local links to qualify for social homes in their area. This will mean that a person applying for social housing would need to be resident in the area for a reasonable period of time, probably between two and five years, if they are to be allocated housing in that area. This will have a dramatic effect on migrants, both from inside and outside the EEA, who are looking for accommodation; and
- introducing a requirement that an individual must be lawfully resident in the UK for at least 12 months before they can get access to civil legal aid.
To read the speech in its entirety, please click here.