Clause 59 - Processing of visa applications from nationals of certain countries

Part of Nationality and Borders Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am 3:30 pm ar 2 Tachwedd 2021.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Craig Whittaker Craig Whittaker Assistant Whip, The Lord Commissioner of HM Treasury 3:30, 2 Tachwedd 2021

Starting with amendment 151, I reassure the hon. Member for Sheffield Central that the penalties are there to encourage countries to co-operate. There is international precedent for countries to have the power to impose penalties on countries that do not co-operate on the matter of returns.

Both the United States and the EU have similar powers to those we are seeking. Recently, the Council of the EU decided to suspend temporarily the application of certain provisions in the visa code to nationals of The Gambia, owing to the country’s lack of co-operation on readmission of third-country nationals illegally staying in the EU. The new powers in the Bill will bring the UK into line with our international partners and ensure that we are no longer lagging behind other countries.

I assure hon. Members that, given talk of penalties and exemption, family reunion will be an exemption to the penalties, as discussed.

Turning to amendment 151, I can assure the hon. Member for Sheffield Central that the power to impose visa penalties will be exercised only after consideration of the potential economic impact on the UK, and with full agreement across Government. Contrary to the hon. Member’s assertion that there is another Government leak, there is no current list: this will be done on a case-by-case basis, based on the impact across areas such as the economy, but also taking each Department into account. I also draw the hon. Member’s attention to new clauses 9 and 10, which—as we have already touched on—set out those visa provisions in more detail. I feel that this is a fairly straightforward part of the Bill, with no need for the hon. Member’s amendment.

Turning to new clauses 9 and 10 and Government amendment 80, a key function of the Home Office is the removal of individuals who have no legal right to be here, either by deportation or administrative removal, usually to the country of which they are nationals. We expect our international partners to work with us, as they expect us to work with them, to remove such individuals, as the UK does where our own nationals in other countries should not be in those countries. This is a critical component of a functioning migration relationship, and the vast majority of countries co-operate with us in this area. However, a small number do not.

As has been said, new clause 9 is designed to give the Government the power to impose visa penalties. Countries should no longer expect to benefit from a normal UK visa service if they are unwilling to co-operate with us on the matter of returning nationals. We will be able to slow down or suspend visa services for that country, and require applicants to pay a surcharge of £190 when they apply for a UK visa. Specifically, new clause 9 sets out when a country may be specified as unco-operative and the factors that will be taken into account when imposing visa penalties. Additionally, the new clause provides detail on the types of penalties that may be applied. It is a critical step in taking back control of our borders.

Briefly turning to new clause 10, visa penalties are intended to be a matter of last resort, and must not be in place longer than necessary. The new clause requires the Secretary of State to review the application of visa penalties every two months and revoke those penalties if the relevant country is no longer unco-operative. This provision is a safeguard to ensure that any visa penalties applied do not remain in place by default. Government amendment 80 is consequential on new clauses 9 and 10, providing that they will come into force two months after the Bill receives Royal Assent.

I commend new clauses 9 and 10 and Government amendment 80 to the Committee, and by your leave, Ms McDonagh, I request that the hon. Member for Sheffield Central withdraw his amendments.