A NEW BILL, which is intended to crack down on illegal immigration, has cleared its Third Reading in the House of Commons, by a margin of 62 votes.
The Home Secretary, Theresa May, who opened the debate on Tuesday, said that the Immigration Bill 2016 would bring a system that was “fair to British citizens” and legal migrants, and would be in the “national interest” of the UK.
The legislation proposes to confiscate driving licences and “restrict access” to public services for illegal workers, as well as increase immigration officers’ power. It would also give landlords the power to evict illegal tenants, and sanction those who “repeatedly rent to illegal immigrants”.
Mrs May said that the Bill sought to protect “national security” and would give more power to Border Force officers to stop “dangerous individuals” entering the country, while penalising airlines for poor immigration control. The Bill was given its First Reading in September.
The Labour Shadow Home Secretary, Andy Burnham, said on Tuesday that the Bill continued to “erode public trust” through its hard rhetoric, and “camouflage a record of failure” by the Conservatives.
Although he agreed with some aspects of the Bill, such as English-language requirements in public services, he opposed plans to criminalise the employment of illegal immigrants, which he said could “deter vulnerable people”, such as victims of trafficking, and profit the black market. He said that working to feed your children “should never be a criminal offence”.
Mrs May denied that the Bill would “punish the vulnerable”. The Modern Slavery Act 2015 would provide protection for victims. She said that only employers who “facilitate illegal working” would be targeted.
Several amendments by the SNP, tabled by Stuart McDonald MP to express the party’s “hostility” to the Bill, were rejected by a margin of 56 votes. They included preventing the criminalisation of landlords who were unable to evict persons without a “right to rent” within 28 days, and reducing the power given to immigration officers.
The Liberal Democrats also oppose the Bill.