Immigration Bill

Written evidence submitted by Christopher Millbank (IB 17)

Firstly, I am concerned that this Immigration Bill follows the pattern of so many other Bills presented to Parliament nowadays by the Executive. Namely, that much important information is omitted. This makes it an 'Enabling Bill' with much important information revealed only after the Bill is passed.

This approach is not conducive to good government and I fail to understand how it complements democratic accountability or how conscientious elected MPs can possibly evaluate the Bill and vote for (or against) it, whilst seeking to protect the interests of their constituents and holding the Executive to account by preventing poorly drafted and secretive legislation from being passed into law.

On this occasion, the approach to drafting Bills has created a contradiction (or wording inconsistency) between the Immigration Bill as currently drafted and "Factsheet 08 National Health Service" issued by the Immigration Minister, Mark Harper, on or soon after the Bill was published on 10th October.

Specifically, the Factsheet says the following about implementing the NHS health charge:

"How we are going to do it:

• Ensure that a person subject to immigration control who applies for limited entry clearance or limited leave to remain in the UK for more than 6 months will be required to pay a health surcharge as a precondition of entry. The surcharge will be paid at the same time as the fee for an entry clearance application or a fee for a leave to remain application. It will be refunded only where an application for leave to enter or remain is refused."

I understand the Factsheet statement to mean that visitors to the UK for periods of less than six months are explicitly exempt from this new NHS Immigration Health Charge. This will generally be tourists, short-term visitors, stop-over travellers, in-transit travellers, business people, academics attending meetings etc, who either apply to a British Consulate for a short-term visitor visa in their home country before travel where required OR upon arrival from countries where pre-travel visas are not required.

However, the Immigration Bill as currently drafted seeks to confer the power on to any Home Secretary to include any visitor from any country for periods of less than six months (ie: all the visitor groups mentioned above), thereby requiring them to pay the NHS health service charges fee/tax.

As we know, it is a Bill which gets voted on and passed into law, not a Factsheet.

For travellers from countries who currently do not require a visitor visa before travel, this would introduce that new requirement, since the NHS fee must be paid before travel according to Factsheet 08.

This would be a grave error of judgement in my opinion and would cause serious damage to UK tourism.

Many foreign tourists would see this fee as a 'tourist tax' and would choose to 'Give Britain A Miss' if it were introduced. Let alone the logistical difficulties it introduces for many people in obtaining such a visa.

In my opinion, the Bill should be modified to contain the same explicit exemption for visitors of less than six months to bring it into line with "Factsheet 08 National Health Service".

November 2013

Prepared 6th November 2013