“Our intention is clear – we will reform the system because the current rules aren’t right.” – Office of David HansonMP, Shadow Immigration Minister, Labour Party
On 9th July 2014, as part of a discussion of UK’s Adult Dependant Relative rules, David Hanson MP Shadow Immigration Minister, confirmed that come 8th May, if Labour is in government, and if he is Immigration Minister, he will immediately launch a review of the family immigration rules. Although there was no mention of what they would be changed to, and there were too many ifs for my liking, this was still a big step forward given it was made as a public statement from a frontbench politician of one of UK’s main parties.
In January 2015 I followed up with David and his office in order to get more clarification. David, in his position as Labour spokesperson with the decision making power on Labour’s immigration policy has confirmed that “if elected to government I will be undertaking a review of the spousal rules as I confirm they are unfair and we wish to change them. Only a Labour government will do this as the current Coalition support the rules and no other party will be able to form an alternative government in May”. (We have asked David for Labour's view of the ADR rules as well, and will update readers once we have a response.)
This is in line with what David has been saying to me since my first meeting with him; that in his view UK’s family immigration rules are unfair and unjust, hence his working with others in the Labour party to making a pledge to change these rules.
The commitment to change the family immigration rules, at least as they impact British citizens and residents with a non-EEA partner, is no longer contingent on David being Immigration Minister. It is a party pledge, with the purpose of the review not to see whether the rules should change – they are clear that the rules must be changed - but rather to assess what a reformed set of rules and systems, to bring about fairness to families, would look like.
Some readers may suggest why not just revert to the pre 9 July 2012 rules. Others will express cynicism as to whether this is just another hollow promise. Politicians after all don't have a great track record in following through on their promises - just compare the 2010 election manifestos to how families have actually been treated under this government, despite all parties claiming families were the 'bedrock of society'. Labour is not blameless either. As Opposition, they did not even put up a fight against these rules in 2012.
However, having liaised with David and his office for about a year now I have some faith that in David perhaps we're seeing a politician as they should be. He comes across as genuine and caring. Having grown up in an extended family, where grandparents, aunts, uncles formed part of the same household, David appears to understand the need for kids to have both their parents; the value grandparents bring to the lives of young ones; and that family is not always just a nuclear unit. We hope David's commitment to families remains as firm if he is in government, as it is as the opposition.
Note: BritCits has approached all the main political parties to garner their views on family immigration. Watch this space!
From: Frontbench <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: Mon, Jan 19, 2015 at 5:10 PM
Subject: Response from the Labour Party
Subject: Response from the Labour Party
Thank you for your email from December regarding spousal visas. We appreciate you taking the time to contact us, and apologise for the delay in responding.
At a time when our national finances are hard-stretched, it is only fair that anyone wanting to bring someone new to this country should be able to prove that they can provide for themselves, and not be a burden on the state. But Labour is concerned that the Government’s policy, of requiring an income upwards of £18,600 before a spouse or dependent can move to Britain, will not achieve what it hopes. We are also worried that the Government have rejected other options that could be fairer for families and provide better protection for the taxpayer.
We are living in an increasingly globalised world, where more and more people are travelling abroad and developing relationships across borders. There is a danger that the Government’s policy could be unfair on people with modest incomes who genuinely fall in love overseas, perhaps with someone whose income does not meet the Government’s criteria. And in the current climate, even someone earning £40,000 today could find themselves out of work and earning nothing tomorrow, so simply relying on income as a guarantee may be a mistake that can still leave the taxpayer exposed.
That’s why there might be other ways of doing it, such as considering the income of the person who is entering as well as the person who is already in Britain. Or, it might be fairer and more effective to insist that anyone sponsoring a partner to come to this country should deposit a financial bond that could be used to meet any unforeseen costs, and which would be redeemable after a fixed period. Yet the Government didn’t even consult on this option. A Labour Government will review the changes to the spousal visa system.
The system for legal migration needs to be much more effective. For example, huge delays for visitor visas mean that British families’ overseas relatives end up missing weddings and funerals. And we know the quality of decision making on family visitor visas is simply not good enough, as almost half of the decisions are overturned on appeal. That is why Labour opposes the Government’s plans to abolish the appeals process for family visitor visas.
The Government’s net migration target isn’t targeting the right things, and illegal immigration is getting worse as a result, with fewer people stopped, more absconding, fewer deported and backlogs of cases not pursued. There needs to be a mature recognition that there are different kinds of immigration – some types that work for both migrants and for Britain, and some that do not. Labour will not engage in an arms race on immigration rhetoric, or pander to prejudice or populism. We want a sensible debate on policies to make sure immigration works for all.
Labour have a progressive and fair approach to immigration, based on fairness and contribution. You can read more about Labour’s plan for Britain’s future in our Changing Britain Together booklet.
Thank you again for taking the time to contact us.
With kind regards,