Private landlords will be legally responsible for ensuring that they only let properties to people allowed to be in Britain under immigration laws to be announced in tomorrow’s Queen’s Speech.
Almost two million buy-to-let property owners will be responsible for checking the immigration status of potential tenants, with fines running into thousands of pounds for those breaking the law. Employers will also face “more substantial” fines for taking on illegal immigrants.
The measures are likely to prompt questions over whether ordinary people and employers are being made responsible for policing the immigration system after repeated failures by the UK Border Agency. They are included in an Immigration Bill which will also limit the ability of European immigrants to claim benefits and ensure that the right to reside in Britain on the basis of family commitments is not abused by criminals.
Temporary migrants will also be charged for using the NHS and only those who have lived in an area for at least two years will qualify for social housing.
The legislation has been drawn up as the Coalition struggles to contain the electoral threat posed by the UK Independence Party, which has wooed voters with its hard-line immigration policies.
In the document setting out the package, David Cameron and Nick Clegg will acknowledge that their experience of Government has been “tough”.
They will add: “But three years on, our resolve to turn our country around has never been stronger. We know that Britain can be great again because we’ve got the people to do it. Today’s Queen’s Speech shows that we will back them every step of the way. It is all about backing people who work hard and want to get on in life.”
The details of how the measures will be implemented will be set out later in the year. The plans will be the subject of a formal consultation in the coming months.
Ministers are expected to say that the legal requirements on landlords will affect those letting rooms in multi-occupancy properties. However, the measure will be universal and it will be the responsibility of all landlords to seek copies of passports and appropriate visas.
It is unclear how people are supposed to establish the authenticity of the information. The level of fines is also yet to be set but will run into “thousands of pounds”. The Immigration Bill will also contain provisions to ensure human rights laws giving people “the right to stay in the country because of family connections” are not abused by criminals. Courts will be ordered to “balance” the seriousness of the crime committed against the right to remain in Britain.
Regulations will also be amended to ensure that European immigrants cannot claim “certain benefits for more than six months” if they do not actively seek work and show they have a genuine chance of seeking employment. Other measures will limit the right of immigrants to claim legal aid, closing a loophole which allows those here illegally to rack up taxpayer-funded bills fighting deportation.
Earlier this year, the Prime Minister said in a speech that immigration needed to be “properly controlled”. Many of the measures are designed to reduce the attractiveness of Britain for Bulgarians and Romanians who will be able to live and work throughout the European Union when immigration controls are lifted next year. Critics have said many of the proposals would have a limited impact and the only way to address European immigration was to renegotiate EU migration treaties or leave the single market.
A number of Bills were dropped from the announcement, including legislation to ensure spending on international aid, a register of lobbyists and “snooping” laws. Mr Cameron also refused to agree to demands for legislation ensuring a referendum on membership of the EU by 2018.
Source: The Telegraph