My Lords, I support Amendment 183 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Saltaire, which I am cosponsoring along with the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett, and the noble Lord, Lord Rooker. I do not always agree with the Lib Dems, but I think the noble Lord’s arguments were very powerful and need to be listened to. The effect of this route is to sell permanent residence in the UK, and later even citizenship, to anyone who turns up with a couple of million to spare, with no questions asked about where that money came from. It is an extraordinary outcome. I can see why one might have thought this was a good idea initially, but it has turned into a nonsense.
As the Committee may know, this route is for individuals able to make an investment of £2 million. The applicant does not need a job offer or sponsor, and the visa includes all immediate family members. The tier 1 investor visa is initially granted for three years and four months and can then be extended for another two years by providing evidence of an investment of the required amount. The funds must be invested in UK gilts, bonds and equities only—of course, the money can be taken out of those afterwards, so it is a very convenient little entry for your money.
Currently, if you invest—so called—£2 million, you will get your permanent residence in five years; if you have £5 million to spare, it is three years; and if you have £10 million in your pockets, it is two years. The whole thing is just absolutely absurd, frankly. Indeed, between 2008 and 2020 it has led to a total of more than 12,000 such visas being issued. There is not even any economic benefit to the UK in this. According to Sir David Metcalf, a former chair of the Migration Advisory Committee, in 2014,
“the main beneficiaries are the migrants. Investors benefit from, for example, rule of law, property rights and access to efficient markets. Second, at present, the investment is a loan, not a gift.”
A MAC report from 2015 noted that the main proponents of this type of visas are—guess what—law firms, accountants and consultancies that help organise the affairs of such extraordinarily wealthy investors. There are also speculative concerns around whether this investor visa is being used by criminals. In an October 2015 report, Transparency International UK argued that it was highly likely that substantial amounts of corrupt wealth stolen in China and Russia had been laundered into the UK via this visa programme.
It is not clear what will happen to the tier 1 investor visa under the new points-based system—at least, it is not clear to me—but it seems that it will remain in place. I suggest that a thorough review is in order and, meanwhile, the route should be closed, as set out in this amendment.