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Lords Committee questions fairness of latest changes to immigration rules

Friday 29 March 2024

In its 20th Report of Session 2023–24, the cross-party House of Lords Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee has highlighted concerns about the Government’s plans to increase the income required for British citizens and settled residents to bring a partner to the UK, known as the Minimum Income Requirement (MIR). The report comes after the Committee considered the Home Office’s latest Statement of changes in Immigration Rules (HC 590).

The changes raise the MIR from £18,600 to £29,000, as part of a plan to increase it to £38,700 by early 2025. The Home Office argues that this will ensure that families with migrants are self-sufficient. However, it also suggests that the increase, alongside others introduced both in HC 590 and in an earlier set of changes (HC 556, commented on in the Committee’s 16th Report), will contribute to reducing immigration and supporting the Government’s ambition for the UK to be a “high-wage, high-productivity, high-skill economy”. The Committee noted that these various policy aims, although potentially pointing in the same direction, could generate different appropriate MIRs.

The Committee also raised questions about the fairness of the changes, as the increase in the MIR will tend to have a greater effect on those demographic groups whose average incomes are lower. For example, in the North East, the £29,000 MIR will be only just below average earnings, and, when the further increase to £38,700 is implemented, the MIR is likely to be well above average earnings. In contrast, in London, the MIR is, and is likely to remain, below average earnings. This means that a person living in London is much more likely to be entitled to bring their partner to the UK than someone living in the North East.

The Committee reiterated its concerns that the policies in HC 556 and HC 590 have not been accompanied by an impact assessment, making it impossible for Parliament to scrutinise the Regulations properly. As a result, the Committee invited the Home Office Minister, Lord Sharpe of Epsom, to provide oral evidence on its approach to providing explanatory material. The session was held on 26 March and the Committee will provide a summary in a forthcoming report.

Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd, Member of the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee, said:

“We recognise that these changes are aimed at reducing immigration. But the increase in the Minimum Income Requirement is also intended to make sure that migrants can pay their way – and that does not seem to be reflected in the way the policy has been implemented.

“Moreover, submissions we received expressed concerns about the fairness of the proposals. Groups such as women, those from ethnic minorities, those with disabilities, the young and the old and those from certain parts of the country are more likely have lower incomes and will therefore be more affected by the changes. We are not clear, for example, why it is fair that families in London are much more likely to be entitled to reunite than those in the North East, just because on average they have higher incomes.

The Home Office has failed to provide its assessments of the impact of the proposals, including on these equality issues. In fact, the assessments do not even seem to have been finalised. This is unacceptable not just because it hampers Parliament from properly scrutinising the legislation, but also because it casts doubt on whether the Home Office fully understands the effects of its own rule changes”.

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