Immigration is currently taking centre stage in the Houses of Parliament in London as Her Majesty the Queen gives her annual Queen's Speech at the State opening of Parliament.
The event is steeped in history and tradition, with the Queen wearing the Imperial State Crown and the Robe of State and leading the procession into a packed House of Lords. 'Black Rod' is sent to summon the House of Commons and, in a tradition stemming from the English civil war, the door is shut in his face symbolising the Commons' independence from the Monarch. After knocking three times, the door is opened and the members of the House of Commons (MPs) follow Black Rod into the House of Lords to listen to the speech.
Amongst the history, tradition and symbolism, there is a very modern element. The Queen reads out from the Throne a speech prepared by the Government of the day outlining their plans for legislation in the coming year.
This Queen's Speech has been dominated by some very controversial proposals relating to immigration law. In brief, the proposals are:
- Legislate to make private landlords and letting agents check and retain copies of tenants' passports and fine those landlords who do not comply;
- Tighten regulation on housing associations and their ability to provide homes to migrants;
- Restrict migrants from accessing the NHS;
- Prevent migrants from accessing legal aid for any legal matter;
- Restrict access to human rights protections for overseas foreign criminals.
The proposals raise a number of queries and those relating to landlords and housing will affect swathes of buy-to-let owners who currently let flats out, for example in student towns and cities.
How any of these proposals will work in action is yet to be laid out. However, it is clear that many landlords and letting agencies will be at risk of hefty civil penalties should they not comply with the rules. Many of the proposals also raise complicated human rights issues and will no doubt be liable to challenges in the courts.