Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 1:14 pm on 26th June 2019.

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Photo of Stuart McDonald Stuart McDonald Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Immigration, Asylum and Border Control) 1:14 pm, 26th June 2019

Every individual must make their own call about whether they want to apply. I, for one, would certainly encourage all my constituents and all the EU nationals watching this to sign up for the scheme, but that does not take away from my essential point that they should not be asked to apply to stay in their own home in the first place. These rights should be enshrined in law right now.

It is not just in terms of the 3 million that we need radical change. All across the field of immigration, there is a massive job of work to do to help to fix the lives that have already been messed up by migration policies and to ensure that we avoid messing up so many more—to build a system that actually benefits our economy and society instead of undermining them and sowing division. Everyone in this House will have had many cases, as we have already heard, where we think that the rules are unfair.

This debate provides an opportunity to make the case for reform as we look ahead to the next chapter in immigration law form. I want to mention four areas very briefly, but there are a million more that I could flag up. First, I turn to the issue of families, which has already been raised. In pursuit of the net migration target, this country has adopted almost the most restrictive family rules in the world, with an extraordinary income requirement and ludicrously complicated rules and restrictions on how that requirement can be met. Over 40% of the UK population would not be entitled to live in this country with a non-EU spouse. The figures are even worse for women, for ethnic minorities, and for different parts of the UK. The Children’s Commissioner previously wrote a damning report about the 15,000 Skype children—there must now be many, many more—who get to see their mum or dad only via the internet, thanks to these rules, which force too many to pick between their country and their loved ones. It is appalling that the Home Office seems determined to extend these rules to EU spouses so that many more thousands of families will be split apart. We should be ditching these awful rules, not making more families suffer.

Secondly, there is citizenship. I have met with the Minister representatives of the Project for Registration of Children as British Citizens, and I know that last week she met the organisation, Let Us Learn. The Home Secretary has acknowledged in evidence to the Home Affairs Committee that over £1,000 is an incredible amount to charge children simply to process a citizenship application when they are entitled to that citizenship. The administrative cost is about £400, so over £600 is a subsidy for other Home Office activities. There is no excuse for funding the Home Office by overcharging kids for their citizenship. At the very least, the fee must be reduced to no more than the administrative charge. More broadly, we need to reduce the ridiculous fees that are being charged across the immigration system, especially to children.