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'Good news' that govt's 'ill-thought' visa bond plan axed

IN SEPTEMBER I wrote an article for this newspaper about a Government proposal to introduce a £3,000 Visitor Bond. In brief, it was an ill-thought out attempt by the Coalition Government to reduce over-stayers and recover some costs from health tourism incurred by the NHS.

It was ill-thought out primarily because of three reasons that one would have hoped experienced civil servants and politicians would have seen quite readily with a moment’s thought.

Firstly, it was overtly racist in its application. Visitors from the “High Risk Countries” that were to be targeted (Nigeria, Ghana, India, Pakistan, Sri-Lanka and Bangladesh) were all of darker skin tones.

Furthermore, this proposal was announced just weeks after the Home Office had been rapped on its knuckles and forced to withdraw their poster vans, which they had sent around the capital telling immigrants they were not wanted and to go home.

Secondly, this is an economic shot in the foot at a time when the economy is floundering. There is a cost to the tax payer for health tourism, but it is a fraction of a loss when compared to the income that foreign tourists bring into the UK.

Overseas shoppers will spend in the region of £2bn this year in London’s shopping districts alone. Nigerians as an example were the 4th largest overseas spenders in the UK in 2012. How many of them and the other supposed “High Risk Visitors” will continue to spend if they have to deposit £3,000 of their spending money at the customs’ gate before getting to the shops?

Thirdly, there is the sheer impracticability of the scheme. There is nothing in the proposal that will stop any visitor from first flying to any nearby European country and then entering the UK from there without the need to deposit £3,000 first. More importantly, what’s good for the goose is good for the gander as they say. How would we feel if those targeted countries were to reciprocate with a similar scheme and add £3,000 to our travel plans to those countries, which some are proposing to do?

So where are we with this scheme at the moment? Well when I first sat down to write this update it was to lament that even though the scheme had been rightly rounded upon by the business sector, the academic sector, Labour politicians, migrants’ rights groups, foreign governments and even David Cameron has sought to distance himself from it, that the Coalition were still going to press ahead with a watered down version in November.

Well the good news is that on November 3, the Home Office finally backed down to pressure and announced that they were abandoning the scheme for good.

This is good news of course, but it’s a situation that should have never arisen in the first place.

Sources quote that it was abandoned because the Deputy PM Nick Clegg was going to block it. A principled Lib Dem action you might think until you check back to discover who initially proposed the idea in the first place. Yes you guessed it - Nick Clegg himself in March of this year.

So another Lib Dem policy that has been conveniently consigned to the waste bin.

But they have surely become farcical when the leader of their party threatens to block his own policies if they are not withdrawn immediately?

Congratulations to everybody who campaigned with us and petitioned against this ill-thought out nonsense in the first place.

We may allow ourselves a little celebration, but remain vigilant for the next set of knee-jerk immigration policies Cameron and Clegg come up with.

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