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Immigration and Citizenship Bill (Draft)

Volume 703: debated on Monday 14 July 2008

My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for the Home Department (Jacqui Smith) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

I have laid before Parliament today a draft (partial) Immigration and Citizenship Bill to replace almost all of our current immigration laws with a single piece of legislation, together with plans to reform radically the path to citizenship for newcomers to Britain.

At the heart of the Bill are radical changes to nationality law to ensure that newcomers earn their way to citizenship with full access to benefits and social housing reserved for citizens and permanent residents. Full details of our policy are set out in The Path to Citizenship: Next Steps in Reforming the Immigration System—Government Response to Consultation which I am placing in the Library.

Economic migrants will need to speak English and prove they can hold down a job paying taxes to qualify for citizenship.

Committing even minor crimes will slow down citizenship. Serious crimes will trigger automatic deportation.

Citizenship will also be slowed down for those who do not make an effort to become an active citizen.

We will take powers to ask migrants to pay a little extra towards local public services.

In addition, our draft Bill sets out how we propose to ensure that the sweeping changes that we are making this year to our border security and immigration system stick.

Ten measures will sit centre stage in the Bill and the Immigration Rules made under it:

Strong borders

new powers for front-line UKBA officers at foreign ports and airports to cancel visas; and

bringing customs and immigration powers at the border into the 21st century, consolidating and strengthening civil penalties for bringing passengers without the right papers and clandestine entrants to the UK.

Selective migration

the Bill proposes a clear legal duty on migrants to ensure they have permission to be in the UK, for example under our new points system; and

the Bill introduces a single, streamlined power of expulsion for those without permission.

Earning the right to stay

migrants will now have to earn their right to stay in the UK; and

automatic bans on returns with new powers to exclude offenders and powers to require those who are expelled to repay costs to taxpayers if we allow them to come back.

Playing by the rules

the Bill gives a new power to require large bail bonds for those awaiting decisions or expulsion, part of a tough menu of conditions for immigration bail as an alternative to detention;

confirming tough measures to prevent organised illegal immigration by attacking illegal working with civil penalties for employers who do not make the necessary checks; and

simplifying our appeals system to cut red tape; ensuring that the system is properly sensitive to the needs of vulnerable groups; honouring our international obligations to refugees; and ensuring the UKBA safeguards and promotes the welfare of children.

Managing any local impacts

full access to benefits for citizens and permanent residents, with migrants contributing a little extra to the cost of local services.

Our earlier consultations show widespread support for our ambition to reform and strengthen the law. Polling which I am publishing today confirms that:

70 per cent of the public think that newcomers should earn the right to stay in Britain;

83 per cent think that immigrants in Britain should be made to learn English; and

69 per cent agree that newcomers should be penalised on the path to citizenship if they do not obey the UK's laws.

However, many want to see the detail to understand what we propose in practice. Today's draft Bill will help that debate.

The draft (partial) Bill is accompanied by a narrative document Making Change Stick which explains the Government's plans for further clauses which are not included in it at this stage.

The Government have also published today Explanatory Notes on the draft (partial) Bill, illustrative rules on protection and a partial impact assessment.

We have consulted widely in preparation for this Bill, including consultations published in June 2007 and February 2008. We want to proceed in the same spirit of openness. We invite views from Parliament and the wider public before finalising the full Bill for introduction.