Visitor bond scheme to be scrapped by government

 
Home Secretary Theresa May meets passport officials at Heathrow in 2010 Home Secretary Theresa May announced the proposal in June

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Plans for a £3,000 "security bond" for some "high risk" overseas visitors to the UK are to be abandoned, the Home Office has confirmed.

The visa bond scheme was announced by Home Secretary Theresa May in June and was set to be introduced this month.

A Home Office spokesman confirmed a Sunday Times report that the policy would be scrapped.

The decision is thought to have been taken after Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg threatened to block it.

The aim of the scheme was to reduce the number of people from some "high risk" countries - including India, Pakistan, and Nigeria - staying in the UK once their short-term visas had expired.

Visitors would have paid a £3,000 cash bond before arrival in the UK - forfeited if they failed to make the return trip.

'Chaos'

Mr Clegg initially proposed the idea of a visitor bond in March, but under his version of the policy it would only apply to people from "high risk" countries who had been refused a visa through the normal route.

Analysis

The scrapping of this bond will certainly prove embarrassing for Home Secretary Theresa May - and Labour will be keen to label it a U-turn.

The "visa bond" policy has been somewhat divisive in the coalition government, but was intended to be a flagship policy to show the government was getting tough on immigration.

It's an issue it is keen to puff its chest out on in the face of the growing popularity of UKIP.

But for now, the Home Office's immigration policy has hit a rough patch.

Less than two weeks ago, a roll-out of Home Office vans emblazoned with posters warning illegal immigrants to "go home or face arrest" was cancelled.

The home secretary herself was driven to describe them as a "blunt instrument".

Business Secretary Vince Cable later claimed the deputy prime minister's plan, which had suggested a bond of £1,000, had been deliberately misinterpreted by some of their Conservative cabinet colleagues.

Mr Cable also criticised the level at which the bond was set and said that it had caused "outrage" in India.

Among the departments understood to be opposed to the plans are the Foreign Office, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, and the Department for Communities and Local Government.

"The Home Office version of the policy was not acceptable to the Liberal Democrats and was not support by other government departments," Lib Dem sources said.

"They have seen the writing on the wall and binned it off.

"We have been clear from the start that the version was just not acceptable to us."

The bond idea was also floated several times by the previous Labour government but never implemented.

But that did not stop Labour's shadow immigration minister David Hanson launching an attack on the U-turn, accusing Mrs May of being "all over the place and presiding over an immigration policy in chaos".

'Go home' vans

He added: "Investors in India are now put off from investing in the UK whilst the Home Office fail repeatedly to do anything about their failure at our borders to stop and return illegal immigrants, failure to tackle backlogs in processing delays or enforcement of immigration rules within the UK."

Start Quote

We are building an immigration system in the national interest by tightening areas where it was abused”

End Quote Mark Harper Immigration minister

Labour MP Keith Vaz, chairman of the Commons Home Affairs committee, said: "During this shambolic process the Home Office has managed to upset a number of foreign governments and confuse millions of potential visitors.

"This is not the way to fashion a strong and effective immigration policy."

The announcement comes two weeks after a roll-out of Home Office vans with posters warning illegal immigrants to "go home or face arrest" was cancelled.

Mrs May told MPs she accepted they had "not been a good idea" and were too much of a "blunt instrument".

Immigration minister Mark Harper defended the government's approach, saying: "It is clear our reforms are working because net migration is down by a third since its peak in 2010.

He added: "We are building an immigration system in the national interest by tightening areas where it was abused.

"The Immigration Bill will reduce the pull factors and ensure those people who do come to the UK are here to contribute, and not access public services they are not entitled to."

 

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  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 264.

    This idea sounds good, makes a good soundbite and probably wins votes, but it will scare of some legitimate visitors; visitors who come to and spend lots of money in this country.

    The government have decided that it will cost more money than it saves, they are probably correct, but they should have realised that long before they announced the policy.

  • rate this
    +16

    Comment number 20.

    How many schemes and policies have had to be abandoned by this government for being either illegal or incompetent? Must be pushing into the hundreds by now. Ridiculous.

  • rate this
    +14

    Comment number 11.

    It seems like a good idea to me, the only reason that i can think of for the government dropping the idea is that they believe it may cost them votes at the next general election. don`t they realise that it may have gained them far more votes than they may have lost?

  • rate this
    +23

    Comment number 7.

    It’s odd that an awful lot of people don’t like mass immigration but when the government does try to do something about it they don’t like that either.

 
 

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  19.  
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  20.  
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  21.  
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    David Cameron pledges a new British Bill of Rights under a future Conservative government, and the abolition of Labour's Human Rights Act.

     
  22.  
    12:34: Migration statistics

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  24.  
    Text: 61124 12:32: Get involved

    BBC News website reader: Wow a tax cut for middle income earners. I must be dreaming. Now that would make a huge difference

     
  25.  
    @JohnRentoul 12:32: John Rentoul, Columnist, Independent on Sunday

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  26.  
    12:31: Unemployment

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  27.  
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    David Cameron has promised to cut the deficit and achieve a government surplus. Here is the official projection for the next five years.

    Structural deficit and surplus
     
  28.  
    @JamesManning4 12:29: James Manning, Head of Social at @TheSunNewspaper

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  29.  
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  30.  
    12:28: NHS

    David Cameron accuses Labour of spreading "lies" about the NHS - and says Labour is the party of the scandal of Mid Staffordshire NHS Trust. He recalls his experience of the health service with his late son, Ivan, and tells conference: "How dare they suggest I would ever put that at risk for other people's children." The party rises to its feet in support.

     
  31.  
    12:26: Pensions

    David Cameron hails the government's pensions reforms, which meets with applause from party activists.

     
  32.  
    @DuncanWeldon 12:25: Duncan Weldon, Economics Correspondent, BBC Newsnight

    tweets: Raising the higher rate threshold to £50,000 would cost around £5.5bn. So this tax package has a total cost of approx £17.5bn.

     
  33.  
    12:24: Teenagers

    David Cameron praises the National Citizens' Service - and pledges that a future Conservative government would guarantee a place on the scheme for every teenage in the country.

     
  34.  
    12:23: Unions

    Some more Labour attack from David Cameron - as he criticises the party's links with the unions. He says the Conservatives are the trade union for ordinary hard-working people and families.

     
  35.  
    @patrick_kidd 12:23: Patrick Kidd, Editor of The Times Diary column

    tweets: This is a really good speech. Unless you viscerally hate Cameron and the Tories in which case nothing he could say would change you.

     
  36.  
    Tweet: @BBCPolitics 12:22: Get involved

    @Brynleydm tweets: @BBCLouise @BBCPolitics Cameron speech full of what no mention of how

     
  37.  
    12:22: Education

    David Cameron tells activists the education system has improved significantly thanks to the Conservatives' education reforms - "with teachers who feel like leaders again". But Labour would risk all this, he claims. He attacks shadow education secretary Tristram Hunt, who he claims is trying to restrict the educational advantages he had has a child - whereas "I want to spread them to every child" in the country.

     
  38.  
    12:21: Samantha Cameron hears her husband talk about their daughter
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  39.  
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    David Cameron turns to housing. He says planning reforms and the Help to Buy scheme have boosted housing supply and helped first-time buyers to get on to the housing ladder. Labour was wrong to oppose these policies, the PM adds. He reiterates the Conservatives' plan for 100,000 new starter homes for first-time buyers under the age of 40 at 20% off the market value. The Conservatives are the party of home ownership once again, Mr Cameron declares.

     
  40.  
    @paulwaugh 12:18: Paul Waugh, Editor of PoliticsHome.com

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  41.  
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  42.  
    @rosschawkins 12:16: Ross Hawkins, BBC

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  43.  
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  44.  
    12:15: PM: Minimum-wage earners to pay "nothing"
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  45.  
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  46.  
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  47.  
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  48.  
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  49.  
    12:11: Taxes

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  50.  
    12:10: 'Yorkshireman' trending on Twitter

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  51.  
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  52.  
    12:05: Corporate taxes

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  53.  
    12:05: If a selfie isn't possible...
    Audience member taking a picture of David Cameron
     
  54.  
    12:04: Commitments

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  55.  
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  56.  
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  57.  
    11:58: Future

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  58.  
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  59.  
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  60.  
    11:57: William Hague laughs at David Cameron's impersonation
    William Hague laughing
     
  61.  
    11:56: Prime mimicker

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  62.  
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  63.  
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  64.  
    11:52: The cabinet stands to applaud
    The Cabinet applauds David Cameron
     
  65.  
    @janemerrick23 11:51: Jane Merrick, Political Editor of @indyonsunday & columnist for @independent

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  66.  
    11:50: David Cameron gets standing ovation
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  67.  
    11:50: Scottish referendum

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  68.  
    11:47: PM is here

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  69.  
    @BBCRichardMoss 11:46: Richard Moss, BBC

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  70.  
    11:45: Daily Politics Live on BBC Two

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  71.  
    11:44: Not long

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  72.  
    @BBCLouise 11:43: Louise Stewart, BBC

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  73.  
    @BBCNormanS 11:42: Norman Smith, BBC

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  74.  
    11:41: Miliband

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  75.  
    11:40: Gove warms up crowd
    Michael Gove
     
  76.  
    @Tinglepolitics 11:39: Len Tingle, BBC

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  77.  
    11:38: Social justice

    Michael Gove says society is fairer, with the gap between rich and poor "closing". He brands the Conservatives as the party of social justice and progress - as "only we know" the importance of a secure economy and a strong leader. Labour is unfit to govern, he adds.

     
  78.  
    11:36: Praise

    Michael Gove praises David Cameron and George Osborne's "guts" for sticking to their long-term economic plan. Britain is on the rise again and we must not let Labour pull us back down, he tells activists.

     
  79.  
    @nigelfletcher 11:35: Nigel Fletcher, ex-Conservative adviser

    tweets: Didn't even try to get into the hall for the PM's speech- watching instead in the #LondonLounge, my conference home from home. #CPC14

     
  80.  
    11:34: What we've done

    Michael Gove is listing the government's achievement, including on the economy, housing and pensions.

     
  81.  
    11:34: Tax pledge? Daily Politics Live on BBC Two

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  82.  
    11:33: Gove love

    David Cameron's warm-up act is Michael Gove - former education secretary, now Conservative chief whip. He's a huge hit with activists - who stand, whoop and wave their papers as he enters the hall.

     
  83.  
    Tweet: @BBCPolitics 11:32: Get involved

    @ultramodtro tweets: Just watchin' the @daily_politics while I finish my tea, before going into the spillover hall to watch the PM. #CFC14. See photo

     
  84.  
    11:32: Let the music play

    The hall is full and the press pack is huddled along the front of the stage. The Electric Light Orchestra's Mr Blue Sky plays through the speakers.

     
  85.  
    11:31: Cheers

    A standing ovation for Philip Hammond, as the hall readies itself for David Cameron. First up, though, is Conservative Chief Whip Michael Gove.

    Audience
     
  86.  
    11:30: Hammond concludes

    Britain cannot afford five more minutes, let alone five years, of Labour, Philip Hammond asserts. He tells conference only the Conservatives can deliver growth, jobs and an in/out referendum on the EU, as he brings his speech to a close.

    Philip Hammond
     
  87.  
    11:27: EU negotiations

    The foreign secretary says his priority between now and the general election in May is to lay the groundwork for EU reform negotiations, so that the Conservatives will "already be in pole position" if they win power.

     
  88.  
    11:26: Lib Dems attacked

    Philip Hammond quotes Margaret Thatcher now - which goes down well in the hall. He says slowly but surely other EU states are "coming round" to the need for change. Mr Hammond attacks Labour for "surrendering" sovereignty and taxpayers' money to EU - and counters that the Conservatives have started to "reverse that trend" - noting David Cameron's success in securing an EU budget cut. "All that in coalition with the most Brussels-loving bunch of Europhiles you could ever wish to meet," Mr Hammond says, and adds: "Just think what a proper Conservative government could do."

     
  89.  
    11:24: Daily Politics Live on BBC Two

    Treasury minister Priti Patel MP tells Andrew Neil she "will not speculate on other departments' budgets and cuts" at this stage, in a discussion about ring-fencing the NHS budget under a future Conservative government.

     
  90.  
    11:23: EU concerns

    Philip Hammond says foreign policy must support the government's long-term economic plan. He tells conference that worldwide exports are up 28% since 2009. Turning to the EU, the foreign secretary says he has been "aghast" as the common market has "morphed into an institution with the aspirations of a superstate" and "hoovers up" powers that belong to member states. It's not what the British people signed up to, he says.

     
  91.  
    11:20: Ukraine

    Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond says the UK has extended its hand to Russia over recent decades but President Putin has "torn up the rule book and chosen the path to confrontation" through his "illegal behaviour" in Crimea and eastern Ukraine.

     
  92.  
    11:18: Assad

    Philip Hammond rejects suggestions that a deal should be done with Syrian President Assad to defeat IS: "Assad is the problem and he cannot be part of the solution," he says, to applause.

     
  93.  
    11:18: Iraq action

    Philip Hammond talks about the "twisted ideology" of Islamic State and says the organisation is the "antithesis of everything we stand for". Britain must defeat it, he tells conference. As a defence leader in the world, it is right that Britain is taking part in international military action against IS militants in Iraq, Mr Hammond adds, and says it should be "proud".

     
  94.  
    @afneil 11:17: Andrew Neil, BBC

    tweets: We are on BBC2 now with two hour special from Tory party conference. Including Cameron speech #bbcdp

     
  95.  
    11:15: Hague quip

    Philip Hammond says William Hague is a very hard act to follow as foreign secretary - but quips that he has one thing that Mr Hague doesn't, and brushes a hand through his hair.

     
  96.  
    11:14: Philip Hammond, the foreign secretary, is addressing the conference
    Philip Hammond addressing the conference
     
  97.  
    11:13: Hammond time

    Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond now has the stage - and begins by paying tribute to his ministerial team, and his predecessor William Hague - "who will surely go down as one of the truly great British foreign secretaries". Activists show their appreciation.

     
  98.  
    11:12: Safety promise

    Michael Fallon concludes by assuring conference that "this party, this government" will ensure the armed forces have all they need to help keep Britain safe.

    Michael Fallon
     
  99.  
    11:10: Trident

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  100.  
    11:09: David and Samantha Cameron arrive at the conference centre
    David Cameron arriving with his wife Samantha
     

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