New Clause 4 - Minimum Income Requirement: Family members of British citizens with a connection to British Indian Ocean Territory

Part of Nationality and Borders Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am 12:45 pm ar 4 Tachwedd 2021.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Tom Pursglove Tom Pursglove Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Ministry of Justice and Home Office) 12:45, 4 Tachwedd 2021

In fairness, the hon. Gentleman has intervened early in my remarks on the new clauses. Let me continue, but I hear the point he raises, and I of course take it on board, in the way I take all comments from hon. Members on the Committee on board.

We expect those coming to the UK on a family visa with only basic English to become more fluent over time, as a means of encouraging better integration into our society, to make it easier for families to access vital public services and to enable parents to support their children’s education.

New clause 4 would undermine the sound basis on which family migration to this country has been placed in recent years. It would circumvent the need for family migration to be on a basis whereby families are financially independent and able to contribute to the UK. It would also remove the English language requirement, which is fundamental to a migrant’s successful integration into British society. There is no justifiable reason to give preferential treatment to family members based solely on their sponsor’s nationality. Without a clear justification for doing so, that would also likely constitute unlawful discrimination.

The immigration rules on family migration, which new clause 4 would undermine, are designed to prevent burdens on the taxpayer, promote integration and tackle abuse, and thereby ensure that family migration to the UK is on a properly sustainable basis that is fair to migrants and the wider community. The rules are helping to ensure public confidence in the immigration system and, well intended as the new clause may be, it has the potential to reverse that.

In the same way, the introduction of a dual family migration system as required by the new clause would not be seen in a uniformly positive way by British citizens and persons settled here. It would lead to an undesirable two-tier system of family migration in which a group of family members whose sponsor is a British citizen with a connection to the British Indian Ocean Territory would be given preferential treatment over other sponsors. Furthermore, the Government have the power under the Immigration Act 1971 to set out the requirements for entry into and stay in the UK in immigration rules, which are laid before Parliament. The rules allow flexibility to amend policy as appropriate, and the Government continue to review them regularly to ensure that they are fair and effective. Work is ongoing on simplification of the rules following the Law Commission’s recommendations. The new clause would have the effect of undermining that process and prescribing the rules in primary legislation for one particular cohort.

I turn to new clause 15. We are already making changes through the Bill to address historic unfairness so that all those born on the British Indian Ocean Territory and their children are either automatically British citizens or have the right to acquire British nationality. The new clause, tabled by the hon. Members for Enfield, Southgate and for Halifax, seeks to go much further and would address what is seen as the consequences of historic unfairness. Although I am sympathetic with the aim, I am concerned that that is not the correct approach. The new clause would offer British citizenship in perpetuity to those born outside the UK and overseas territories regardless of their connection to the UK as long as they are descendants of someone born on the islands making up the British Indian Ocean Territory.