In a passionate debate, Romford MP Andrew Rosindell said “a Commonwealth nation should count for something when looking to visit, work, study or live in the United Kingdom. At the moment it appears to count for little.”
The crux of the matter, the MP said, was that “successive governments have made it harder and harder for citizens of the Commonwealth, and particularly those of the realms, to come into this country. At the same time, anyone from any country that happens to join the EU can just walk in unrestricted. Surely … that that is an unfair situation and that we need to redress that balance.”
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department Karen Bradley said that she appreciated links with the Commonwealth, “particularly through world war one”.
She went on, “On Holocaust memorial day, we should remember the links we need to have across the world, adding that he Commonwealth and the EU both had “an important role to play”.
However, the Minister said she did not agree with Andrew Rosindell’s contention that the immigration system was broken. “We inherited a broken system of open-door immigration … but this Government have taken significant steps to address the important issues of EU and non-EU immigration.”
She said that work was under way to streamline visa policy “and consolidate the routes that will make the system even more accessible and provide greater flexibility.
On border control, Ms Bradley appeared to rule out suggestions made by Andrew Rosindell and Norfolk MP Henry Bellingham for separate entry for “Commonwealth realm countries for which Her Majesty the Queen is Head of State”. She said it was “key to ensuring that any benefits to a limited number of individuals are not outweighed by a negative impact on border security operations”.
Rosindell countered, “The Minister seems to be saying that people from countries in which the Queen is Head of State—the realms—must go through security checks that are perhaps more stringent than those for an EU citizen. I find that strange, because Australia, New Zealand, and Jamaica, which she mentioned, are countries that have fought for King, Queen and country and stood behind us.”