The House of Lords read for the second time the new Immigration Bill 2015/2016 this week. The second reading of a bill allows for the Lords to debate the key parts of the bill and to flag up any concerns they have and recommend any changes. The bill aims to tackle illegal immigration, reduce the pressure on public services and to assist migrants who in need and offer those who are in the UK greater protection.
The debate surrounding the bill attracted a wide range of conflicting views of within this hot topic currently in the UK. The principal arguments relate to the effects that immigration may have on the UK job market, housing and social services as well as humanitarian concerns. However, there were also grave concerns over the scope that the bill offers, particularly in relation to indefinite detention of deportees, a lack of protection for exploited illegal workers and a concern over a lack of evidence to support the proposals.
Baroness Hamwee said, “My Lords, from these Benches we find little that is positive in the Bill. We fear that it will increase discrimination, exploitation, destitution and homelessness […] What should our immigration policy say about our Government? Should it say it say they are responsible and humane, show leadership and are closer to Trudeau than Trump? Will pulling up the drawbridge make us a better nation? The movements of people that we are seeing now will be as nothing if, or when, climate change drives even bigger movements. What will we do then?”
Lord Hylton suggested that, “Turning to the Bill, there are two things that are complete abhorrent to English public opinion and to our law and traditions: destitution and indefinite administrative detention.”
However, it was generally agreed that the nation has a duty to protect its boarders from illegal migration and that overseas the UK should be focusing on diplomatic and military solutions including increased international aid to prevent states from failing. It was also suggested that the UK distinguish between genuine asylum seekers and those who seek to migrate for economic reasons.
Lord Wallace of Saltaire highlighted his concerns over the high net worth Tier 1 Visa, “The Tier 1 (Investor) Visa is worthy of a tax haven, not a self-respecting sovereign country; it fits in with a housing regime which promotes sales of newly-built homes in London to overseas buyers before they have been offered to British citizens, and allows them to be bought through anonymous offshore companies.”
Other Lords raised concerns that the bill will place already vulnerable people under further pressures, especially children. Equally so, some criticised the lack of evidence submitted by the government to support the new bill and a lack of evaluation of the immigration bill 2014.
Baroness Afshar recognised the need to incorporate migrant workers into professions that needed extra staff, “We are short of doctors, nurses and carers—and these are people who have done their qualifications and very often do not need retraining.”
Overall, it seems that the negative reception to the bill will certainly force the government to clarify and amend certain proposals. The overall reception to the bill may be alarming for the government as the Lords called into question many of the key proposals. Going forward it seems likely that the bill with face additional scrutiny and the government will be keen to get the bill passed.