A plan for a £3,000 bond to deter illegal immigrants has been dropped, after it was vetoed by Nick Clegg, the Home Office confirmed last night.
Under the proposals, temporary migrants from high-risk countries – such as Sri Lanka, Nigeria and Ghana – would have paid a surety before coming to Britain, and have it seized if they failed to leave when their visa expired.
The proposal, a Tory manifesto commitment, was to be tested later this month.
In a speech in March Mr Clegg tried to take credit for the idea but later disowned it.
Backbench Tory MP Peter Bone said: ‘Nick Clegg has made it quite clear where the Lib Dems stand on immigration.
‘This is yet another example of the problems of being in coalition with the Lib Dems who you cannot trust with anything they say.
‘Clearly this measure was going to make it more difficult for illegal immigrants to come to the UK, and that has be vetoed by the Lib Dems.
‘They want uncontrolled and unrestricted immigration.’
The scheme was expected to apply to visitors from India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Ghana and Nigeria who would have paid up for a six-month visa.
In March Mr Clegg appeared to back the policy in a speech in which he said there should be ‘zero tolerance’ of those who abuse the immigration system.
But later this year he threatened to block the scheme if bonds were applied in an ‘indiscriminate way’.
‘I am absolutely not interested in a bond which becomes an indiscriminate way of clobbering people who want to come to this country, and in many respects bring great prosperity and benefits to this country, of course not.’
Business Secretary Vince Cable had suggested the policy could be used as a way of allowing in visitors who had been refused a visa.
This stance was ridiculed by Home Secretary Theresa May in her Tory party conference speech.
She said Mr Cable’s idea amounted to paying for ‘more immigrants to come here’.
She said: ‘Our drive to cut immigration has been so successful, even the Liberal Democrats are boasting about it in their campaign handbook.
‘I don’t remember their enthusiasm for cutting immigration when we worked on the policies – so I’m going to take this with me next time they try to block our reforms.
‘Bonds were in our manifesto at the last election. But the Lib Dems suddenly announced that it was their idea. Then they said they were against them.
‘Then they said they were for them – but only to help more immigrants to come here. Now they say they’re against them after all.
‘They were for them, then they were against them… then they were for them, and now they’re against them.’
‘Confused? Don’t be – the simple conclusion is you can only trust the Conservatives on immigration.
Lib Dem sources said the policy was ‘not acceptable to the Liberal Democrats and was not supported by other government departments.’
One said: ‘We have been clear from the start that the version was just not acceptable to us.’
A Home Office spokesman said: ‘The Government has been considering whether we pilot a bond scheme that would deter people from overstaying the visa. We have decided not to proceed.’
Tory ministers are trying to cut net migration – the difference between the numbers arriving and those leaving – to below 100,000 by the time of the next general election.
Labour MP Keith Vaz, the chairman of the Home Affairs Select Committee, described the scheme as ‘unfair and discriminatory’.
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