I’m looking at Monday’s Home Office oral questions… I didn’t make it onto the order paper so I’m looking to see if there’s a question I can ask a supplementary on. Last week I met with Dr Peter Heffer, the new Chair of the Avon and Somerset Police Authority and, separately, with Superintendent Ian Wylie, so there are a few issues arising from those conversati0ns….
Interesting to note that a number of Tory backbenchers have asked the same question – i.e. it’s a whips’ handout – “What steps she [the Home Secretary] is taking to prevent abuse of the family migration route into the UK?” That’s at question 5, 6 and 8. This usually signals that the Government is about to make an announcement on something along those lines, and wants an opportunity to promote it. I might try to come in on that.
There’s no doubt that this is sometimes abused… with ‘chain migration’ flowing from one family member to another and then yet another… But it’s difficult to draw the line between respect for the right to family life and abuse of the system. If, for example, someone gains employment in the UK – because their skills are needed and in short supply within this country – then it’s understandable they might want their children to join them at some point. But what then if they ask for, say, their mother or their sister to join them too, to help with childcare? Or if their elderly parent needs looking after and there are no relatives back home to do so? These are fairly common scenarios. This could also be about marriage, and people bringing spouses here from overseas. Again, this is very common in certain communities. But can the Government dictate that an arranged marriage has to be with someone from this country? You do already have to show that it’s a genuine and subsisting relationship, although sometimes applicants struggle to do this when it has been arranged. They may well not have spent much time together or known each other for very long.
Oh, and by the way, there is also a ‘no recourse to public funds’ rule, which means that applicants have to show that they would be supported by the person they’re hoping to join, or have a promise of work, so this isn’t about people coming here to get benefits – though they would have access to public services… It will be interesting to see what the Government has up its sleeve.