Immigration and Nationality Application Fees — [Steve McCabe in the Chair]

Part of Backbench Business – in Westminster Hall at 2:17 pm on 25th March 2021.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Alistair Carmichael Alistair Carmichael Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Home Affairs), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Northern Ireland), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Cabinet Office) 2:17 pm, 25th March 2021

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr McCabe. I congratulate Meg Hillier on securing this debate. She gave a comprehensive exposition of the issues, as have others over the course of the debate, and I do not intend to repeat them.

I observe in passing, though, that I have noticed among my own constituency casework a significant increase in the number of people, previously here as EU citizens under the right to remain from the treaties, who are now looking to take on citizenship. They feel that it gives them greater certainty than would be the case if they were to go down the route of the other schemes that are available. I suspect that, in relation to citizenship and nationality, this situation is only going to become more acute.

The point that I want to put before the House and, in particular, the Minister is that the fees for immigration and nationality applications are not the only costs that are faced by people in my constituency. The Home Office has refused from day one to offer the biometric enrolment process in Lerwick or in Kirkwall, because it says that there are not enough people there to justify the provision of the service. I understand that the numbers are not high, but the consequences for my constituents are severe.

My constituents are required to go to Aberdeen or, on one occasion where the machine in Aberdeen was not working, to travel on to Dundee to enrol their biometric information. Over and above the cost of the fee for enrolling biometrics, if someone lives in Shetland, they would have to get the 5 o’clock overnight ferry to Aberdeen, which will get them in to Aberdeen at 7.30 am. They have their appointment and enrol their biometrics, and are back at the ferry terminal in Aberdeen at the end of the day to get the overnight ferry back. They leave at 5 pm on a Monday, and they are not back home until 7 am on the Wednesday. That is the actual commitment that is required. They could take a day trip on a plane. I have just checked the service on Loganair’s website, and they can get out at 8.30 am in the morning and come back at 10 past 3 in the afternoon, so it is just about doable, because enrolling biometrics is not a long process. The cost of that is £492. That is the extra charge that we pay over and above all the fees about which every other person in this debate has rightly complained.

To put it in terms that the Minister might understand, he asks of my constituents the same as he would be asking of his own if he were to say to them that they should go from Torbay to Stoke-on-Tent to enrol their biometrics. I suspect that his constituents would not be keen on that, never mind the possibility that the machine in Stoke-on-Trent might be broken so they might have to carry on and enrol their biometrics in Manchester. He would not accept that for his constituents, so why do he and his predecessors seem to think that I should accept it for mine? I will leave him the extra 45 seconds to give that answer in his reply.